Perils and Pleasures of Penmanship.

Smiley quarry
A newly discovered quarry, complete with smiley shadows, found on our morning walk.

Writing is such an odd occupation, requiring peculiar minds combined with unusual personalities. All writers are weird; that’s a given. We know we’re strange, some of us peculiar to the point of near insanity, others merely eccentric. We’re definitely an odd bunch.

But there’s a strange beauty, a wonderful schizophrenia about writing, especially when the work is either fictional or poetic. We live our lives vicariously through the characters we create. So a writer can be a killer, a saint, a whore, a magician, a rationalist, an extremist, a vampire, a tiger or even a pencil. That’s our secret and our burden: to get into the very being of whatever we’re using as a point-of-view character. Making a mild man write as a murderer, a prudish woman write as a woman of the street, a mature man write from a child of five’s perspective, a wise woman write as a romantic fool, all require effort and sacrifice. We all suffer from a form of multiple personality disorder and, occasionally, our fictional personas can leak into our real lives, so our partners and offspring have to learn to live with beings who can be changeable, unpredictable. Some, of course, are capable of compartmentalising their lives so that their creative efforts rarely stray into their everyday realities and their nearest and dearest may never be aware of the turmoil that storms beneath the calm exterior. Such effort takes it toll. Cliché it may be, but everything really does have a cost, if not a price. I suspect that’s what’s caused so many writers to be drunks, serial monogamists, mental health patients, drug addicts or obsessives. Some calming balm is necessary to still those turbulent waters.

I’m writing this as I wait for my adorable wife, my beta reader, my reliable grammar/spelling policewoman, my soulmate and love of my life to get ready for our daily walk. You see, that’s the other thing: we rarely waste a moment. We’re reading if we’re not writing, thinking if we’re not writing, imagining if we’re not writing, learning if we’re not writing.

Everything is of interest to a writer: who knows when that fact about football might insert itself into a story about greed? Who knows when that snippet about the lives of moles might insinuate itself into that story about determination? Nothing escapes us, even if we seem to have forgotten all about it.

I break here because Valerie is ready after my wait of just five minutes and the weather is wonderful, if cold, out there. Opportunity to be taken. Camera at the ready. Mind engaged.

To be continued…

After a two-hour walk followed by lunch, I return, merely to conclude this short post.

Perils and Pleasures; a summary, but which falls into which category will depend on your view:

Vicarious living.

Informed imagination.

Endless curiosity.

Multiple lives.

A never-ending reading list.


A hide like a rhino (to deflect the inevitable criticisms)

Patience (to smile whenever a friend/acquaintance/family member informs you they could write a book – It’s easy!)


Peer support.

Networking as an essential part of making your work discoverable, rather than simply as a means of procrastination or social interchange.

Joy in the outcome.

Anguish at the outcome.

Constant observation.

Procrastination in infinite forms.

An inability to read without noticing grammatical errors.

Living the story.

Emotional engagement with myriad personalities.

Descent into black minds.

Ascent via the minds of heroes.

Organising chaos.

Writer’s block (a stranger to me, thankfully!)

Insufficient time/energy/opportunity to complete every intended project.



Readers (our most precious asset!)

Too few reviews.

I’ll end it there, though I could continue, and I’m sure you’re all bursting to add your own points to this list. Please feel free to do so in the comments section below. I’d love to know what you all think.

4 thoughts on “Perils and Pleasures of Penmanship.

  1. Dreams.

    Having them, remembering them and making use of them in one’s compositions means the writer can find source material literally 24/7.

    No wonder the author’s mind is like a matrix supermarket with so, so many aisles to explore and pillage.

    Also Stuart, I have to ask after reading that opening sentence of your third paragraph, are you under the spell of some sort of love potion?

    Whatever you’re doing to keep the fires burning.. keep doing it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dreams, Glen. I guess I’d missed those because I almost never recall mine. I’ve generally dismissed them as unimportant as a result. But it’s clear they’re an almost vital ingredient for many. Personal experience convinces me that sleep has creative benefits: no end of time I’ve gone to sleep considering a problem that needs solutions only to discover those very ideas the following morning. And, of course, dreams have been a repeated theme in fiction from its inception. So, thanks for that suggestion.
      And Valerie? We have a pretty good thing going. Both on our second marriage, so we avoid the usual relationship pitfalls of competition and selfishness. But we have a sound, and romantic, relationship. Still hold hands when we walk together, still like to be in physical contact when relaxing in front of the box, still greet each other with a kiss when we’ve been apart for even a short time. Next year, we’ll have been married for thirty years, but we’re still very much in love. Only yesterday, on our walk through the forest, we were agreeing that a fundamental reason for our wonderful relationship is probably the fact that we agree on the most important priorities in life. And, I suspect, the fact that we both tend to look for the positive in each other rather than employing negatives as weapons, as in so many relationships, is a reason we’re as much in love now as when we met.

      Liked by 1 person

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