T is for today

Getting close to the end of the alphabet now – I don’t know why, but I always think T is it, it’s all downhill from there.

There are so many alternatives for T, and they’re all related. Time is important. Tomorrow is always tempting. But it needs to be today.

I still remember one line from a book I read as a young child: “It’s always tomorrow, and tomorrow never comes.” It took me a while to understand it, but it’s that idea that there’s always another excuse, always some reason why the time isn’t right.

Well the fact is that if you wait for the time to be right you could be waiting forever. The only thing to do is to declare that the time is now, today, not tomorrow, or next week, or when you leave school, or start work, or have a holiday, or retire.

I wrote a short story last night. I intend to do more writing tonight. There’s work I need to do, and other work that I’d like to do, but one blog I found during this year’s challenge posed the thought that creativity is a need, just as food is a need. It’s true that when I allow myself time to be creative I feel better, but I still tend to think of it as an indulgence, rather than something I need to do.

One thing that made me sad a few years ago was what happened when a group of us wrote our own book between us by sending a notebook around the world. Each person had to put down four New Year’s Resolutions, one as an indulgence, one as pushing our comfort zone, one to do something¬†for someone else and one to learn something, I believe – I tried to find the log for the book, but couldn’t. The book travelled round again at the end of the year, when everyone updated it, and almost without exception people recorded that they hadn’t completed the resolution to indulge themselves because they hadn’t done one of the others, as though they didn’t deserve to indulge themselves unless they had paid for it in some way. Why are we so bad at treating ourselves well?

So it’s time now to stop procrastinating, stop finding excuses and start being creative – today, not tomorrow.

 

S is for stubborn

In order to get anywhere, you need to be stubborn. You need to stick to your goal even when the going is tough. You need to keep going, ignore any problems and refuse to stop even when you don’t see the way forward, because the effort of sticking to it is what will find the way for you.

I can be stubborn. I don’t like giving in and I don’t like backing down. But what I’m not good at is maintaining that stubbornness for a long time. Just as I’m learning to make an effort for an extended time with my running, I need to do the same with my writing, and stick to one project for long enough to get somewhere.

I keep worrying about spending too much time and effort on a project that ends up going nowhere, but the truth is that if I get on with it properly, no one project should take more than a month or so to get the bones down, which is further than I usually get. Maintaining that effort will help build up my stamina so that it comes easier and easier, not only to complete projects but to pick suitable projects in the first place.

So enough of the losing interest and focus – it’s time to keep going, encourage that stubborn streak of mine and ensure I actually achieve something with my writing.

 

R is for repeat

Success is rarely achieved on the first attempt. It’s no good trying and then giving up. The only way to achieve anything worthwhile is to try, and then try again, and keep repeating the effort until eventually things improve.

It may seem pointless. It may seem like nothing changes. But still you keep repeating the effort.

It has to be something you enjoy – and enjoy even when you do badly. Because it’s only in the repetition that skill can be found.

On the other hand, sometimes you need to know when to stop – and avoid repeating yourself!

More stories from the workhouse

As Sunday is a day off from the A-Z challenge, I thought I’d better get back to stories from the workhouse.

A reminder – I’m researching our local workhouse, the Blean Union Workhouse in Kent, and these are notes taken from the minutes of the Guardians of the Board, the locals who were charged with overseeing the administration of the workhouse. The first collection of stories is here, and searching the workhouse category on this blog will discover other articles I’ve written about my research.

In February 1879 a fire was reported in the drying closet. The firm who installed the closet were called in to inspect, and discovered that a grating had been removed that should stop clothing falling on the pipes. They made it secure and advised that when used for airing purposes a smaller fire should be kept.

Later that year, a builder, Mr S. Stupple, was accused of theft of an iron bar belonging to the guardians. Upon investigation, the accusation was found to be unfounded, and made by an apprentice whom Mr Stupple had recently discharged for misconduct.

Around 1880, issues were reported with the contracted coffin maker, who caused “serious inconvenience and scandal” when a coffin supplied was larger than ordered, the hole then proving to have been dug too small. A further, similar complaint was made a few weeks later and he was told to pay any charges accrued from the inconvenience. He reported that the confusion was due to measurements not being stated as internal or external. By the end of the year he had lost the contract for workhouse coffins, the contract instead being awarded to Daniel Stupple, who was presumably related to Mr S. Stupple (above).

In January 1880 three boys in the school were “brought before the Board by the Master, two having absconded from the workhouse by getting through the dormitory window, visiting a public house and stealing therefrom a bottle of gin, which they brought and consumed with other boys in the yard, and the other having used grossly insubordinate language to the master; they were ordered by the Board to be severely flogged and confined to the Workhouse until further orders.”

An order was put in for about four tons of flints to provide work for the able-bodied inmates and vagrants.

Parcels were opened because it was believed that money was being sent and kept by inmates. The sender was admonished and the money was “appropriated towards the paupers’ maintenance”.

In September of 1880, a year after a trial change in diet had been initiated, it was taken to the Local Government Board for permanent approval, the change having proved beneficial for the children and aged at the workhouse.

I’m looking forward to getting back to the library and continuing my research – there’s still a lot more to read through!

 

 

Q is for quick

The a-z challenge continues… it’s always tempting to look for the quick fix. To resent spending too much time on something. To constantly move on to the next thing, before boredom sets in.

But very little in life can be done in a short time. Most really worthwhile things have to be worked on, and developed over time.

The problem with the allotment at the moment is that the ground where I’m digging is very hard, so digging is a slow, hard effort, and I’m getting nowhere fast. I’ve put in loads of seeds and a few plants, but I have to be patient and wait for them to grow. I want it all NOW, but even the quickest of plants takes weeks to grow.

With my writing, I need to put in time figuring out who everyone is, how the story goes, the best way to present it – then I need to actually put words down, and I need to edit it. Then it will need to be read by others, to get their feedback, which will need to be dealt with. Nothing about that is quick.

So it’s no good getting impatient and not settling because it takes too long – I need to accept that quick and good very rarely meet and be prepared for the long haul.

 

P is for plot

There’s two kinds of plot bothering me at the moment – there’s my allotment plot and the plot for my novel.

The allotment plot is fairly straightforward to deal with; there’s a lot of hard physical labour involved, but not a massive amount of thinking. In fact, I find it a good chance to listen to my Zombies, Run! missions (an app on my phone which plays out a story between music tracks and is designed to encourage running) and just let my mind wander. On the other hand I’m building up my muscles with lots of heavy digging.

The novel plot is less straightforward. I have a basic scenario, a world situation if you like, and I’m trying to plot out a story to fit in that world. I think that short scenarios set in that world might help clarify my view of the plot and help it all come together, but it’s definitely something that involves a lot of thinking. On the other hand, maybe putting in some hard work on it as it is now in my head will help it come clearer, rather than trying to get the overall picture before I start.

In my allotment, I have a rough idea of how it will be laid out eventually, and pick at different areas to work at in order to get there, but I don’t have to do it all at once, and having an overall plan doesn’t mean I have to know exactly what plant will go where before I start. So maybe in the same way I can pick at bits of my story and gradually build up an overall picture that can be developed properly. Building up my writing muscles in the same way that I’m building up my digging muscles.

 

 

O is for obsession

Are you ever obsessed? I usually have some kind of obsession on the go. Often it’s something that finds an outlet in fanfiction, or at the very least in stories I make up and keep to myself. Obsession can be a real positive. It can help you keep focus and achieve great things.
But become obsessed with the wrong thing and you become distracted. Your obsession works against you and holds you back.
So what’s your obsession and does it help you or hinder you? I guess my current one is my allotment, as I work on it and plan for it.

N is for now

Continuing through the A-Z challenge – looking forward to having time over the weekend to catch up with more of my fellow bloggers. It’s always fun to see what variety there is, given the same letter-prompt.

Now is the time. Enough of the procrastination. The best time to start all sorts of things is five years ago. The second best time is now. What’s the point in putting things off?

I’m a champion at putting things off. At school, during exams, I’d daydream my way through. But only if I still had work to do – I’m not sure why; was I worried about having nothing left to do? It would have been far more sensible to get everything done first, then relax and daydream, but somehow I couldn’t.

There’s always this feeling that the time’s not quite right; that I’m waiting for something. I’m never quite sure what, only that I’m waiting for it.

So am I holding off on the good things, saving them up so that I still have something to do? That’s pointless.¬†Better to make use of what I’ve got, and see where that leads me – it’s likely to open more doors, not come to an end.

So my answer is not tomorrow, or in a minute – it’s now.

 

M is for money

I have to admit, money is something that’s on my mind a lot these days. A year ago, I took the decision to give up a steady income because I decided I valued my self-respect and mental health better. For the past few months I’ve been working on building up my own business offering educational and publishing services.

It’s been going okay. It’s had its ups and downs. I knew it would be tough to start with, but right now I’m locked into a couple of things that will pay but in the long run not immediately, limiting my ability to earn money for right now, and I hate having to ask for money.

So things like a fence round the allotment have to take a low priority, and I’m slowly working through my savings and celebrating every invoice I send off. I need to work on marketing, but until I get this current project sent off I don’t have time to take on anything else anyway.

So I guess I’ll continue to work, and things will continue building up, until I reach a more comfortable level. And in the meantime I’ll continue reminding myself that money isn’t everything.

Anyone need an editor/proofreader? One who’s happy to work with all sorts of writing projects, fiction or non-fiction?

 

L is for luck

The A-Z challenge continues – one letter a day, with a break on Sundays. So now we’ve reached the letter L. K was for karma, the feeling that things in life find their own level, that good is rewarded with good and bad is rewarded with bad.

So is luck the opposite of karma? When you hit success in life, is it karma giving you what you deserve, or is it pure luck? When something goes wrong, is it payment for a past wrong, or do bad things just happen sometimes?

If a writer writes a book and it’s snapped up by a publisher, does this mean they’re a good writer? Or does it mean they happened to be in the right place at the right time? Or a bit of both?

There’s a saying: the harder I work, the luckier I get. I’m currently working through The Artist’s Way, which talks about synchronicity – the idea that if you are open to events, things will happen, that maybe look like coincidence or luck.

We watched the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel the other night, and one line really caught my attention: “It will all be alright in the end, and if it’s not alright then it’s not the end.” We’d all like to think that things work out; that there is some kind of narrative in life that ties all the ends together and makes sense.

So is the lottery winner lucky? Or is their fortune a part of some cosmic plan? Is luck purely random? Or can we influence it, or attract it?

One thing I’m sure about is that we can ignore it and drive it away . So given that, isn’t it just as likely that we can learn how to court it?

One of my favourite quotes about luck is “Luck is preparation meeting opportunity”. Because that sums it up for me – when the opportunity comes, you have to be prepared for it, and prepared to accept it.