Friday, 28 November 2008

Public Speaking

Guess what? I've been presented with a trophy for public speaking!!!! OK, it was only a 3-minute talk at my local speakers club, and I'm sure they took into account that I'm new to the club and inexperienced at public speaking. But, nonetheless, it was an ACHIEVEMENT for me, so I'm damn well going to be proud of it. I hold it for two weeks and then it will be passed on to the next winner.

At every meeting we each have to do a short talk on a topic we're given 'on the spot'. The trophy (a lovely sculptured figurine of a young woman reading a book) is awarded for the 'best talk'. Standing at the front of a room full of people and 'thinking on my feet' to give a totally unprepared talk takes me way out of my comfort zone. It's strange though. Sometimes, as happened this time, once I get going I feel like a different person. I become someone much more confident, someone who enjoys standing there and speaking out. Perhaps I'm really a secret exhibitionist at heart.

I was going to complete this 'blowing own trumpet' post (not that I'm a show-off) by including a photo of the trophy. But I still haven't figured out how to upload photos onto my blog. I size down the pixels, click on the picture icon, search for location... Nothing happens. Is there an easy way to do it, suitable for dimwits?

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Morning Pages

A couple of years ago, influenced by Julia Cameron's 'The Artist's Way', I bought a big spiral notepad, named it 'Morning Pages', and off I went. Over several months I wrote three pages (A4 in longhand) every morning about anything that came into my head. The content didn't matter, the standard of writing didn't matter, I just wrote. Even when I hadn't a clue what to write about I managed to keep the pen moving. Words came tumbling out. Proving what? That my mind is always brimful of clutter? Maybe I should have renamed my spiral notepad 'The Art of Writing Rubbish'. I grew cynical, thought 'What's the point?' and stopped doing them.

Are Morning Pages a useful creative tool, or a waste of time? I still don't know, but I'm going to start them again. Feeling free to write anything without the inner censor getting chance of a look-in, appeals to me now. I want to get back to writing my novel but I stare at blank paper, thinking 'I can't do it'. Of course, aiming for a high standard of writing and being ruthlessly self-critical is fine at the editing stage, but there needs to be something there on the paper to edit. Could doing Morning Pages help to unblock my creativity?

I'm wondering who else does Morning Pages. Do you think they are a useful exercise?

Thursday, 13 November 2008

What's it about?

Once people get an inkling that I've written a book and it's going to be published, some naturally ask, 'What's it about?' Shouldn't this be the question I'm hoping for? I mean, even if they're only asking to be polite and don't really give a damn, it's an opportunity to grab their attention. If I can tell them what it's about in a way that captures their curiosity, maybe they'll buy it. Why then do I dread that question? How am I going to promote my book, for heaven's sake, if I don't stop curling up in embarrassment when asked about it?

Oh, it would be so much easier for me if my 'first book' was something topical and reasonably non-controversial, humorous perhaps, a novel, a children's book, or just about, well, anything else. And then I wouldn't have to explain, 'It's about me. A memoir.' I try to sound confident as I say this, try to put aside a lifetime of conditioning that tells me only people with egos as big as the pyramids write memoirs. And then, of course, they might be thinking, 'Oh no, not another misery memoir.' I want to explain that, erm, no, it's not like that. But of course they'd have to read it to judge for themselves.

A short pause, and then the next question. 'Oh, a memoir? Which part of your life is it about?'
'My teenage years mainly. Teens and early-twenties.'
'Anything in particular about your teenage years?'
'Well, it's about other things besides, but, erm, well... ' Here it comes, the conversation stopper. 'I was diagnosed with schizophrenia.'
If the questioner isn't looking embarrassed and changing the subject, maybe they want to know more. 'It's about the treatment I received and... and things.'
Now they might be staring at me as if I've got two heads, and perhaps thinking, 'Schizophrenia. That's a split personality, isn't it?' (I've been asked that twice recently and no, no, no, it's not. Where did that idea come from? Films like 'Psycho'?). Worst of all, they might be thinking, 'Eeeek! Would I be safe alone in a room with you?' At this point I'd like to stand up for people who have schizophrenia, help dispel the myths and raise awareness about this distressing condition. But I don't know how it feels to have schizophrenia. I only know how it feels to be perceived and treated as such.
'It was a misdiagnosis.'
A nervous smile. Yeah, well they all say that, don't they?
'A misdiagnosis of schizophrenia? But how... ?' I got this one at the quiz night, and of course it's a reasonable question. 'How did that happen?'
'It's a long story.' I don't know what else to say. Ten people are waiting to get on with the quiz.
'You'll have to read the book,' someone says.
'Let's start the quiz,' I say, smiling and trying to look 'normal'.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Putting off housework

Even though it's Sunday (shouldn't it be a day of rest?) I'll have to get off my fat bottom soon and declare war on clutter. My living room is a tip and our local vegan/veggie group descends on us tomorrow. Some time towards the end of last December when discussing the next 'Programme of Events' it seemed a good idea to show willing and suggest a quiz night at our place. Not until November though. Aeons away. Forget about it for now.

Ping! A message sneaked into my computer: an invitation via Facebook (yes, the group is on Facebook now) to a quiz night at Ian and Jean's. Panic Stage Two. What's gone wrong with time? Months are whizzing by. So they're coming tomorrow. Here. To sit (Oh God, not enough seats or floor space) in our small (and at present embarrassingly untidy) living room.

Don't get me wrong. It's great having people round. They're a lovely bunch. But I've been neglecting housework even more than usual lately. Ian is going to write out some quiz questions and make a (vegan of course) cheesecake. And me? Well, I'd better stop procrastinating (I like that word), hadn't I? Frame yourself, Jean.

'Frame yourself'. That phrase appeared somewhere in my manuscript and my copy-editor circled it and wrote above it, 'Meaning?' She'd obviously never heard of it. I thought everyone knew what it meant. But I divert . . .

Why can't I be like the people who always have impeccably neat houses, even when visitors drop in unexpectedly? Does an untidy room denote an untidy mind, as my dad used to say (though I don't remember him doing much in the way of housework)?

Even my desk, my sacred place for writing, is usually full of clutter, where papers, books, coasters, a cup with cold coffee dregs in the bottom and (wait for it) a packet of bunion relief pads all vie for space at my elbow. Not now though. I've shifted my stuff from the side of my computer, and it looks so neat and empty. It's unnerving.