Buried treasure

Buried treasure or buried rubbish ? 

Poems hidden in files, poems published

I’ve been writing since the age of 5. Poems at first – language was magical – I loved shaping it, trying to make it do what I wanted whilst writing quickly so not to miss any of the good stuff. I used to stay behind at lunch to write instead of going out to play. I was 11 when I won my first writing competition and got a cheque from the BBC for reading it on BBC Radio Stoke. I went to the same school as Carol Ann Duffy, though I didn’t know her, she was admired in the English Department even then. 

Published in Sheaf / Here Now

My dream was to make a living from writing, so I studied journalism after school, but I was never hard-nosed enough and I wanted to write creatively. I found my natural home with an English and creative writing degree, became a performance poet in Sheffield, and was published in local mags  like Sheaf, and Here Now, alongside Ian Macmillan, Penelope Shuttle, Michael Horovitz. (Yes really!)

What happened? By the age of 30, despite encouragement from other writers, I was frustrated.  I hadn’t made it to being a ‘writer’ and became depressed. I stopped sending stuff out, stopped calling myself a writer. Writing was so AHH! important to me I couldn’t bear the rejection. 

A lack of self-belief, fear of failure and a huge nagging internal critic meant I’ve at times struggled to get words on the page. Or I’ve written and not sent anything out for years. But I am serious about writing – this is my library of books about the subject.

Some of my writing pals

I’ve been involved in many writing groups over the years and have some great writing friends who sustain me. For the last three years I’ve been writing a novel, The Wish Bone, and I’m now on my second draft. I want to finish it and get it published. I’m in an editing stage which doesn’t feel much fun, so I need to connect again with my characters, and the work. 

I know many talented writers in these groups, who like me don’t send their work out. They think it’s not ready, it’s not good enough, or it’s not finished, or they’re not confident enough,  and all that sparkle and creativity on the page is lost. Their stories stay in the locked drawer.

Of course there has to be quality, as writers we want to polish our work to a high shine, but if we are too perfectionist or too defeatist our work is buried. 

This blog is about breaking through those barriers, kicking away the blocks that bind, re-discovering old work, and getting to the magic writing flow. I want to find ways to be a writer that cuts through the stuff that keeps work languishing and hidden, and to help writers stuck in negative patterns find more positive ways to work. 

I’m setting myself a challenge alongside 200 others with “Screw Work Let’s Play” . During the month of March I aim to re-visit old work to see if there’s any treasure within it, seek out writing opportunities, inspire others, write new work and send it out, to become a writer whose work is seen, whose voice is heard.  

This blog is the start. 

Manuscript of The Wish Bone

8 thoughts on “Buried treasure

  1. Hey, I’m honoured to be amongst those sent your blog. Compare you many achievements to my few succeses: won a tea company’s creative writing prize – PG Tips or Typhoo? – at about ten/eleven years and had an essay published in the Parish magazine the same year, just before leaving primary school; and went on to win my House verse speaking competition for some creative writing in sixth form and that’s it! My way of writing has only been if I have been given a deadline, a commission (or an exercise at a writing class, then I can produce something. In fact that was probably the secret behind Dickens and Hardy’s who had to serialise their work in periodicals for money; the pressure must have been immense but this process led to prolific writing: lots of stories, plots, cliffhangers and characters galore … Maybe that’s it – get yourelf a column or serialise a story online, so you have to fill it each fortnight, or month with something published… You can definitely write. I’m struggling currently with wanting to write and not being able to get on with a story that I’ve started. Amazingly, for once, I have the kernel of plot/idea that I like.Usually I’ve been unable to have an idea to hang a story around as my ‘plots’ only develop as I write. But I have no idea of how it will progress/end and that is stalling me. My excuses are many – that writing is a lonely business and may not lead anywhere; that I can’t write characters or dialogue, that I need to apply for jobs to pay my way, which at the moment is all-consuming …Anything but be creative…A familiar story? It strikes me that when I was privileged to share a draft of ‘Rabbit’ (I think it was entitled?) more than twenty years ago; I was moved and impressed and would like to read more of your work. So my advice is that if you have work you think has neared completion, show it to an agent or whoever -don’t hide it. Send a short story in to another competiton. And most of all: you don’t need any more classes or groups or whatever now. I sometimes think reading too much, or discussing how to do it doesn’t help you to write. As you once pointed out to me: ‘feed the spirit’. You forget that creating is an end in itself and thus can be a joy in itself. The pleasure of playing with words, of toying with different ways of writing a story. I got stuck recently with an idea and could not get much further with the ‘plot’ as I saw it. I decided to change it from ficton with descriptions etc – even though I liked some bits and think maybe I do ‘description’ better than dialogue – to thinking of it as a play or a film in which there is only really dialogue and suddenly I found the words flowing more easily…Just this feeling of finding my own way out of freeing up the writing again was pleasurable in itself – like gettig a crossword clue right. So, get on with the process and forget about whether it is read much, or appreciated, or any good, or whatever. Remember this is a fun and absorbing pursuit – alongside all its frustrations and sticking points where you have a puzzle to solve. Do it anyway! I read that it is good to keep your writing in the dark to grow for a while and not tell others about it too early. I’ve certainly had the experience of talking about possible stories too early and having something discussed or criticised far too early on and feeling thereby daunted, or just losing interest in it mayself. Even JK Rowling suffered lots of rejections, so there is that terrfiying aspect but she kept on sending her work out and eventually her eforts were rewarded. So if you do have writing you are reasonably pleased with, don’t hide it away; show it to others: publish work online, or get an agent and get your writing out there.

  2. Hi, Thanks for your post – I think youwshould also blog! I’m touched you remember one of my stories. Rabbit ? I’m going to have to re-discover him, because I can’t remember the story, hich illustates this post perfectly! I shall go in forth of lost rabbit and encourage you to do that too. Grace

    • It was called ‘Rabbit’ and dated 24.4.91. The last two paragraphs and the last seven short sentences of the one before that need to be cut out to achieve greater economy – plus it needs perhaps a small edit here and there (mostly for economy’s sake) – for example the words ‘frightened’ and ‘cold, gritty’ are arguably redundant in your first paragraph.

      It captures character and fear well throughout.

      It’s a short story that begins memorably:

      “Nakedness comes without warning. An image of a frightened rabbit crouching, as yellow light shafts bear down through the night, held to the tarmac. I’m trapped in that position unable to breathe”.
      In the third from very last paragraph you should leave much more to the reader’s imagination -not spell it out so fully. It is enough perhaps to say:

      “The doctor’s face as he listened [to my belly]. I knew at once but refused to know. I never saw her.”

      and maybe just end the story there; the rest is superfluous.

      Hope this helps!

  3. Fantastic first post, Grace! I read other blogs, but yours contains much more vitality than many. It looks great, too. Fantastic – keep going. I for one will be reading, and look forward to sharing with others.


  4. Hi Grace. Just to say that my enthusiasm for your writing has spanned the time since I last read any and I’m really glad you are continuing to work at it. I don’t think there is any advice worth giving or receiving; the fact is I suppose we just have to overcome any natural reluctance and write, write, write.
    I send you picnic basketfuls of encouragement.
    Best wishes.

  5. Good job mum, you really can write and you do know it but you think of too many reasons why you’re no good. Which isn’t true. I’ve been getting quite far in your book, and to be honest isn’t it ready already? Polish + send xxxx

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