Displaying items by tag: adventures in writing habits

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On the Write Track - Adventures with writing habits
Keeping going – novelist Rosie Garland on persistence and creative rituals

Three years ago Rosie Garland had pretty much given up all hope of getting her novels published. Her agent wasn't taking her calls, rejections were coming thick and fast, and she'd been diagnosed with cancer. She had spent 12 years writing four and a half novels – perhaps it was time to call it a day? As her second novel is published to great acclaim she shares her experience of keeping going through the tough times.

Overcoming creative self-harm

Rosie had an early taste of fame as a singer in post-punk band the March Violets. Grown up responsibilities soon got in the way and full time work as a teacher pushed her creative projects to the side. She wrote short stories and poetry, and performed her cabaret act Rosie Lugosi, then at the turn of the millennium she got an idea "that was too big to be a poem or short story." Rosie made the decision to work part time to shift the balance of her work and creative life, she landed an agent, and dedicated more of her time to writing novels.

However, after 12 years Rosie had pretty much given up all hope of being published. She said:
"My agent wasn't getting back to me and I felt I had to stop continually putting myself through the self-cruelty of writing and having it rejected. It felt like a bizarre form of creative self-harm."

She needed to protect herself and go to "the places that weren't harming me. That was the poetry and singing and performance. So I made a decision to do that and that was when I entered the Mslexia competition as a last ditch attempt."

Mslexia ran its inaugural competition for unpublished novelists in 2011. Rosie not only bagged the top spot with The Palace of Curiosities, but got a place on the shortlist with another (as yet unpublished) novel. From this came a bidding war between publishers and a six-figure two-book deal with Harper Collins. Her second novel Vixen has just been published to rave reviews.

The apprentice novelist

Rosie believes if success had come earlier she might not be where she is now. "I might have sunk without a trace – become one of those people who has one book." She refers to the years of writing as her apprenticeship, and doesn't resent the time spent refining her writing skills. "The amount of time I have had to work to become a novelist has paid off. I have learnt my craft, I have done my apprenticeship."
She learned from her mistakes, referring to the second novel she wrote as "awful". She said, "it's going to stay under the bed forever. I will keep it as a reminder to never get above myself. The second novel was a process of writing something really badly – I can point to it, as an example of how not to write."

Keeping going: habits and rituals to support creativity

Over the years Rosie developed tactics to support her writing. The first is being open to feedback. She told me:
"I try to give myself as much input as possible. That might be going on a writing course, or Arvon retreat, getting full, frank feedback from tutors, my agent or editors. I don't want to write in a vacuum – 'bring it on' is my mantra! Part of being a writer is always wanting to grow, always wanting to learn, never taking for granted that I am a writer. Because I think the day that happens is a really bad day for me."

Her other support mechanism has been creative rituals. This is vital to someone who admits to being terrified of the blank page and needs a routine each day to get words on the page and the creative juices flowing. Rosie starts the day with three pages of journaling – she says this isn't creative writing but "rubbing the crust out of my eyes" and getting out of the way all the 'what I did yesterday' stuff.

She continues:

"The next thing I do is write six images. What a snail looks like climbing up a leaf, what it felt like to stub your toe. I do it every morning without fail, if miss one I do a catch up session later. Coming out of the six images I write a haiku. Then I do the classic three pages of morning pages – free writing coming out of the six images or using a writing prompt."

These rituals sound like a lot of work, but taken individually they are small tasks and quick to perform, and that's the secret for Rosie. "For me it's all about small commitments. Don't set yourself up to fail. If had to write a full chapter I wouldn't be able to do it."

Dealing with an inner critic – silencing Mavis

Morning can be a special time for writers and artists, and for Rosie it's when she's open to more playful non-linear writing, but also because her internal critic hasn't got out of bed yet.

Throughout her writing life Rosie has battled with a vicious internal critic. A few years ago she gave this critic a name: Mavis. She found that naming her was a release; separating the cruelty from herself made it easier to deal with the criticism.

Rosie says "My rituals are there to nurture and support me. They enable my writing; provide nourishment, support and food for my writing. Yet Mavis will say to me, 'call yourself an artist when you enjoy rituals so much.' That's Mavis telling me an artist flounces around in clothes pulled together from a bunch of headscarves."

A weekly reflection inspired by Julia Cameron

The rituals are the foundations of Rosie's writing, a way of keeping in touch with her creativity. She's a big fan of Julia Cameron, though admits it took nearly a year to complete one 12-week programme and felt it "nearly killed me!"

Her final ritual was inspired by Julia Cameron from her creativity bibles The Artist's Way and Walking in the World. Rosie takes time each week to reflect on four things:

How have my morning pages been going this week?
Have given myself an artist date?
Have I gone on an artist's walk?
Other issues – what else has been going on?

Keep going

For most of her life Rosie has worked while writing. "I haven't had the luxury of being a writer as my full time job. I have had to hack out time for my writing in around all the things that put bread on the table and keep the rent man from chucking you out the time at the end of week."

Getting cancer made Rosie realise that life is too short. She told herself, "I'm not doing this any longer. I don't care what's in the future, I'll just trust." Rosie's advice to others struggling to find their creative balance is to just "keep going". It might take a long time, but it will happen.

I'm going to give the last line to one of Rosie's characters, Anne from Vixen who says "I shall live that life like the gift it is, and waste neither it nor myself. I am my own woman. I like her. She has stories to tell and all of them are interesting."

Vixen was published in July in hardback, and The Palace of Curiosities is available in paperback. You can find out what Rosie has been up to by following her on Twitter @rosieauthor and Facebook Click to go to Rosie's Facebook page

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  • 'Because goddess is never enough' - a new film-poem!
    'Because goddess is never enough' - a new film-poem!
    ‘Because goddess is never enough’ – revealing the new film poem, made in collaboration with filmmaker Jane Glennie.

    Absolutely thrilled to announce this new film poem – created over 2021 in collaboration with amazing filmaker Jane Glennie. Inspired by the life of dancer and choreographer Tilly Losch, the film explores notions of erasure, strategies for persistence and the centrality of creative expression for the life of a woman in perpetual motion.

    We are delighted with the reception the film is receiving! A list of film festivals is below.
    AND there’s a ‘Book of the Film’!

    'Because Goddess is Never Enough (Peculiarity Press, 2022)
    Available from Blackwell’s (Waterstones, Amazon, etc)
    https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/Because-Goddess-Is-Never-Enough-by-Rosie-Garland-Jane-Glennie/9781912384167

    Flick through the book here –
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/zzDN5KKbUccqPZsQ7

    Film festivals & events 2022 that have selected & featured 'Because Goddess is Never Enough'

    Moving Poems May 2022
    'Because Goddess is Never Enough' – selected as one of ‘the best poetry films on the web’
    https://movingpoems.com/2022/05/because-goddess-is-never-enough-by-rosie-garland/

    Fringe Arts Bath Festival 27 May - 12 June 2022
    Bath’s annual free festival of visual arts
    'Because Goddess is Never Enough' – selected for WORDPLAY programme
    https://www.fringeartsbath.co.uk/festival-2022
    https://www.fringeartsbath.co.uk/wordplay

    Tranås at the Fringe International Arts Festival 2-9 July in Tranås, Sweden
    'Because Goddess is Never Enough' – selected for the LIVING FEMININITY programme.
    https://www.atthefringe.org/film-program-2022

    Women X Film Festival 2-4 September in Darlington, UK.
    'Because Goddess is Never Enough' - Honourable Mention
    https://riannepictures.com/womenx

    Women Over 50 Film Festival
    'Because Goddess is Never Enough' – nominated for Best Experimental film, selected for the AT MY CORE programme
    https://wofff22.eventive.org/films/62e15892943cb70054a692d9
    https://wofff.co.uk/2022/08/wofff22-films-announced-find-out-more-about-our-fantastic-official-selections/

    Athens 10th International Video Poetry Festival 28 September - 1 October 2022
    'Because Goddess is Never Enough' – screened 29th September within 'Feminist Struggles' programme
    https://theinstitute.info/?p=5226

    HOME Manchester, Filmed Up 28th September 2022
    ‘Because Goddess is Never Enough’ selected for Filmed Up programme.

    https://homemcr.org/event/filmed-up-sep-2022/

    The Feminist Film Festival, Bucharest, 13-16 October 2022
    'Because Goddess is Never Enough' – Official Selection
    https://filmfreeway.com/TheFeministFilmFestival

    Sunderland Shorts Film Festival October 17th, 2022
    'Because Goddess is Never Enough' – selected for the Art & Experimental Films programme
    https://filmfreeway.com/SunderlandShorts

    Zebra Poetry Film Festival, Berlin 3-6 November 2022
    'Because Goddess is Never Enough'.
    We are very proud to be selected for Zebra, the oldest and largest international festival of poetry films.
    https://filmfreeway.com/ZEBRAPoetryFilmFestival
    https://www.haus-fuer-poesie.org/en/zebra-poetry-film-festival/home-zebra-poetry-film-festival/

    Still Voices Film Festival, Ireland 9-13 November 2022
    'Because Goddess is Never Enough' – Official selection Experimental
    https://stillvoicesfilmfestival.com/

    Written on Thursday, 29 September 2022 09:41
  • Sept 2022 - The March Violets announce 5 CD boxset release!
    Sept 2022 - The March Violets announce 5 CD boxset release!
    Announcing the Novemeber 18th 2022 release of 'The Palace of Infinite Darkness'

    It's 40 years since The March Violets released our 1st 7" EP (seriously, FORTY).
    So it’s a great time to announce that this tasty 5 CD Box Set is now up for pre order from Jungle Records!
    The Palace of Infinite Darkness - In addition to all the singles plus all the extended versions, the box has six excellent BBC sessions, 23 tracks with 9 unreleased songs (also reissued as Big Soul Kiss 2LP yellow vinyl after a sold-out RSD release). Then there are two whole discs of unreleased demo sessions – one from the early period 1982-84 and another from 1985-87. Founder-member Rosie Garland recounts the band’s story in a 44-page booklet.
    Check out the link:
    https://smarturl.it/MV5CDbox

    Written on Thursday, 22 September 2022 12:19
  • June 2022 - Queer Poetry for The Arvon Foundation
    June 2022 - Queer Poetry for The Arvon Foundation
    Residential Writing Week: Queer Poetry

    A wonderful experience – for the first time, I co-tutored a residential writing week for the prestigious Arvon Foundation! It was such a thrill to work alongside inspiring co-tutor Keith Jarrett and electrifying guest reader Jay Bernard.
    A very special week. I won’t forget it.

    Monday June 27th - Saturday July 2nd 2022
    Totleigh Barton, Sheepwash, Beaworthy Devon
    https://www.arvon.org/writing-courses/courses-retreats/residential-writing-week-queer-poetry/

    Written on Wednesday, 21 September 2022 15:16
  • June 2022 - 100 Queer Poems anthology
    June 2022 - 100 Queer Poems anthology

    Thrilled and honoured to have my poem ‘Now that you are not-you’ featured in this groundbreaking new anthology!

    ‘Mary Jean Chan and Andrew McMillan's luminous anthology, 100 Queer Poems, is a celebration of thrilling contemporary voices and visionary poets of the past. Featuring Elizabeth Bishop, Langston Hughes, Ocean Vuong, Carol Ann Duffy, Kae Tempest and many more.

    Encompassing both the flowering of queer poetry over the past few decades and the poets who came before and broke new ground, 100 Queer Poems presents an electrifying range of writing from the twentieth century to the present day.’

    https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/445204/100-queer-poems-by-chan-edited-by-andrew-mcmillan-and-mary-jean/9781529115321

    Written on Wednesday, 21 September 2022 15:14
  • Jan 2022 - 'Why I Write Poetry' (Nine Arches Press)
    Jan 2022 - 'Why I Write Poetry' (Nine Arches Press)
    ‘Why I Write Poetry’

    I’m honoured – my essay ‘Don’t Fence Me In’ is included in this wonderful collection! (Nine Arches Press, ed Ian Humphreys)

    ‘What motivates poets in the 21st century? How do they find their voice? What themes and subject matters inspire them? How do they cope with set-backs and deal with success? What keeps them writing?

    In Why I Write Poetry twenty-five contemporary poets reflect with insight, wit and wisdom on the writing life, each offering their distinctive take on what inspires and spurs them on to write poetry. Also - individual writing prompts to help you create your own new poetry.’

    https://ninearchespress.com/publications/poetry-collections/why-i-write-poetry.html

    Written on Sunday, 23 January 2022 10:00