Ideas He Thought Of (Or Nicked)
A colleague at the writers' club showed me her idea which I eventually copied. She enjoyed writing children's stories and had put a collection together, printed them out with a few illustrations and bound them between thin card with slidebinders. She had managed to sell a few at the annual prizegiving.
I bought one of these booklets out of interest but thought no more of it until I was wondering what to do with a few cycling anecdotes I had gathered over the years. I had been a member of a triathlon club for a few years and some of my training and racing experiences had not been without incident. I had already narrated a couple during our writers' meeting nights and they had been received with some interest and amusement. I had written them in first person although not all of them were based on personal experience. Some of them had been passed on to me by other cycling mates. I could bind them together as my friend had done with her fairy tales, put in a few articles based on my own opinions, add some pictures downloaded from the net, a few jokes maybe and I had twenty five pages of material. I know it's not a proper book but it's nice to see what your words might look like should they eventually get published.
This led me on to other ideas for anthologies. I had been thinking of putting together a set of stories on the theme of the miracle of Christmas. Maybe I could sell a few of these during the season. Then a similar thing for Easter. Could be a way of getting noticed.
Another source of feedback I have found to be good for morale is a website called writing.com. Opening an account is free of charge. You can put your own stories on the site for others to read and comment on or you can read stories from around the world and give your own ratings. I actually received one e-mail from the Philippines telling me how funny and brilliant they thought one of my stories was. It was written in broken English and really enthused about how amusing and thought-provoking my tale was. Of course, it wasn't all that good. Even I know that. But it's nice to know you've given someone a few moments of joy, even from halfway around the world.
Joining Trowell Writers' Trust was the best thing I did as far as my writing is concerned. We meet every fortnight (usually about ten of us) and the evening kicks off with people reading out anything they have done in the preceding two weeks. It can be prose, poetry or even something that has caught your eye in a newspaper or magazine. I generally use this opportunity to try out an idea I have had. If it gets a good reaction I can then take it away and work on it to produce a competition entry or a magazine proposal. I get my ideas from all kinds of sources: my own experiences, something I have seen in the paper or on TV, something my wife has said. I like the challenge of coming up with a story out of some mundane happening or comment. A while ago I had to spend a night in hospital for a routine operation. I wrote about my time there, added an eccentric character, a few ancient jokes and it received a few laughs from my fellow club members. I have already mentioned my cycling stories. Tales of falling off, meeting local characters, the strange clothes we wear all provide material for amusing subject matter or challenging articles.
After those who want to have read out their pieces our leader sets us an exercise. Sometimes she gives us a subject about which to write. Other times she brings out her list of racehorses names out of which we each draw out one and use it as inspiration for a story or poem. Another time we might draw from a list of headlines and a collection of pictures and then combine the words and images to create a story or article. At first I wasn't too keen on these drills. I was writing about stuff I wouldn't normally consider, sometimes in a style alien to my own. But eventually I realised the benefit of taking part in this. Being out of your comfort zone for a while is good for the soul. Doing stuff that is foreign to your natural tendency forces you to think hard and broadens your outlook. I now look forward to these sessions. I think of it as akin to a professional footballer playing golf in his spare time. It is still healthy exercise but a relaxation at the same time. It is both therapy and mental exercise. It makes a change from crosswords and sudoku.
Why do I write? It would be nice to be able to earn a living at it. Or at least part-fund my existence. Failing that, it is a powerful thing to be able to make people laugh. It is also exhilarating to make people cry (a much more difficult feat in my opinion). You can shock them, frighten them, make them think, make them feel ashamed. In fact, if you have the right skills, you can make them go through a whole spectrum of emotions within a few lines. Perhaps the old maxim is true; that the pen is mightier than the sword. Now there's an idea for an article.