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Archive for the tag “writing motivation”

A Writer Responds: The Whole Reason

Everyone uses ShortbreadStories differently: as a portfolio of polished work, as a learning exercise, as a library, or as a writing community. Others use it as a stop gap, sometimes already knowing that their piece needs work. Karen, who’s been a long-time member of ShortbreadStories, has been reading on the site for years, but only recently began uploading work. In this blog she talks about why she uses ShortbreadStories and about how Shortbreader comments help her move forward with her writing. Karen also hoped by addressing all of ShortbreadStories in a blog, it would get us all thinking about how we use the site’s comments.

If you want to write a post for ‘A Writer Responds’ send it to

Rebloged from : Karen Graham’s Blog › A Writer Responds: The Whole Reason | Shortbread

/by Karen Graham/

I’ve had my head stuck in thesis-land for the past month, and — while I’ve read everyone’s comments on my little poem — I haven’t gotten round to thanking everyone and responding. I will do shortly, but I have to get past this next deadline first.

Nevertheless, a couple of the comments got me thinking about the difference between my perception of the poem and the way my readers responded to it. I was under no illusions that this was a finished piece, and I’m still not. I’ve spent a good deal of time lurking about on ShortbreadStories reading stories and blog posts and comments, and I came to the conclusion some time ago that Shortbread is a bit like Kings Cross Station – you can spend an enjoyable time there, you can meet people and shop and eat and drink, but it’s only ever a stop on a journey to your final destination. It’s not home. Shortbread is not the home for my writing, or for yours either. It is a place that it needs to go through to get where it’s going.

Some of the comments I got reflected this, like those expressing the hope that this first step into submitting with ShortbreadStories helps me get the confidence to submit more, or those informing me of poetry competitions that I could submit to in a search to find a home for my writing.

Another brought up a different point entirely on my poem Mother:

“Hi Karen, just something for you to consider. To me (Only a thought!) the second lines after the ‘Mother’ line seem a little too long. I think the last stanza with the line ‘I am trying not to cry’ sounds as if it has the right rhythm and length to it. It follows the ‘Mother’ line very well. The content is strong and sad and makes you consider that the poor soul will now have two voids in their life. All the best. Hugh

It was not a surprise to me, as the author of the poem (wow that’s a weird thing to write), that a reader noticed a difference between the rhythm of the first long stanza and the final short one. This was sort of the idea I was going for, but without being too precious about it. I was at the stage of getting something semi-finished. The right amount of lines, the right tone, telling a story from beginning to end. I wasn’t at the stage of sitting down and thrashing out my rhythm and metre with dashes and slashes. Yet.

The rhythm is there, and there’s a difference in the way that last stanza feels — from my perspective. This difference is, to me, the opposite of Hugh’s interpretation. I’m not for a moment saying that he’s wrong. Indeed, I greatly believe that if the reader doesn’t get what I’m trying to say then I haven’t made my point well enough. This is normally something that I talk about with students when discussing their academic writing; however it is equally true for creative writing. Hugh’s comment shows me that the discord between the beginning and the end of the poem is there. The reader feels the change and they notice the twist. This is all a very good start.

For me, the rhythm and meter in the final stanza are too short. I’m left feeling the desolate, finite, rushed end of that stanza. But, I can see my character. I can hear their words and the lilt of their accent. I can see where they leave the note to their mother, and what they do after the close of that last line.

My job as an author is not to bend my reader to that exact image of the character. Instead of taking their head in my hands and forcing them to see my character through my perspective, I take a step back and see what they look like to the reader(s).

And so, like the mother in my poem, I have no choice but to watch. My character and their story no longer belong to just me. They belong to you, reader. No longer mine, but ours. And that is the whole reason that I write in the first place.



Shortbreader Inspiration: Suzanne Mays

/by Suzanne Mays/

All kind of things inspire me. I’ll get a title, a word, a group of words that sound right. I’ll think of a story to go along with it. Often I’ll put my pen on a piece of paper and just start writing gibberish. It makes no sense but this leads to that, and then there’s something. Like how did ‘Sign Pine Road’ get its name? Well, I actually found out there was a big pine tree at the cross roads with an arrow sign nailed on it. When they had to come up with a name for that road, and that’s what they called it.

Crazy things like that inspire me, and I don’t care if no one likes these stories but me. Of course, I’d like readers to enjoy my work, but if a story’s clicking heels for me, and I did the best that I could, I don’t care if others don’t respond. Also, it helps that my stories don’t have to pay the electric bill or the rent, so I write what I want. That makes it fun.

It’s a combination of wanting to write and the fun of writing. I love words – love words that make pictures in my mind. Those pictures are beautiful daydreams and, for awhile, I get to live there. Maybe I’m super controlling. Maybe I love it because I get to control every single thing inside my stories. What they say, what they do, what they wear. I can’t do that in real life. But in a story, I can tell everybody what to do. Sometimes the characters tell me what to do and that’s fun, too.

The main thing that inspires me to write is that curling up with a good story and just wanting to stay there, is a wonderful thing. I’m right there in that world, and I don’t want to leave. Lots of writers have done that for me. If I can ever do that for somebody else, it’ll be the coolest day of my life. Anybody can write, but it helps if they want to. I have to want to writer, and I believe that if I just keep at it – I can.

Shortbreaders Respond to Inspiration

/by Rachel Marsh, Jay Leffew, Diane Dickson, Katy Hulme and Maysam Kandej/

Several weeks back ShortbreadStories introduced the topic of ‘inspiration’ by launching our Shortbreader Inspiration series. So far David Appleby, Andy Bottomley and Kate Smart have given us blog posts on what inspires them to write. Additionally, in a Shortbread Writer I asked the authorial body of ShortbreadStories to send in your responses to ‘What inspires you to write?’

We received a number of varying and interesting responses. Jay Leffew argues that she’s not sure if inspiration is a blessing or a curse.’ She states, ‘I’m usually up and about by 6.00, so all my writing is done in the two or three hours before the day really begins.’ Jay’s inspiration seems to come in the form of a busy writing day: starting off with checking her emails and reading through ShortbreadStories’ new posts and works, then writing for her own blog, and next on to completing her writing exercises for two writing groups, where she always writes, ‘something original, as well as digging out works from published authors [as inspiration to her writing group assignments].’ Yet she continues to argue that she doesn’t always need the work of published authors as inspiration,  ‘a phrase, sometimes just one word will trigger me, and I don’t know how many times I’ve had something come to me whilst out and about on my Mobility Scooter.’ For Jay, this curse of inspiration, followed by a fluster of activity, seems to be a necessity of life, because she states, ‘ As long as I don’t fall asleep in the middle of things, I can’t seem to stop unless I focus on something else, like TV, or Spider Solitaire.’

Yet, for others inspiration is not urged on by activity, but is instead stilted by life. Diane Dickson wrote that with her children in boarding school, and her family in another country, she had a lot of spare time, and now – later in life – she wonders if ‘that’s where I went wrong, I should have written far more then.’ She goes on to argue ‘“then” was a long time ago, no home PCs, no internet and a mail system that was “interesting” both in time scales and censorship issues’, so she wrote her first novel in pencil and then pounded it out on a manual typewriter, and posted it off ‘in brown envelopes, and it returned in brown envelopes.’ In retrospect, she now can say, ‘it’s no good saying I should have done more then, I did what I could.’

This I find to be a wonderful attitude, you do what you can, especially because, as Diane argues, it may be ‘easier now.’ ‘One can write, edit, format and even publish sitting at a nice desk with a lovely view out of the window. But it is so very time consuming isn’t it?’ Yes, it is time consuming, and when speaking of inspiration it’s often time we’re speaking of.

Diane continues by talking about trying to balance inspiration and time when working a job that does not have the title ‘novelist’: ‘When I worked full time it was accepted that I would be out of the house from seven thirty in the morning and would be home around six thirty all being well and nobody minded. Now though I know, I just know that if I tried to put in that sort of day “just writing” it would be disapproved of. At the end of the day I think that you just have to do what you can, juggle and knit and try to keep everyone happy while still fulfilling the passion, but good grief it’s difficult and it doesn’t seem that it’ll get any easier any time soon.’

In Diane’s response, she talks about life getting in the way of writing, and she even commented that days of sunshine and travel do not make inspiration any easier, ‘When we are in France there is a large garden, barbecues, trips out and a husband. In UKthere are more trips and there is family and it is so very difficult to fit in writing.’

Katy Hulme of the Storytelling Nomad knows all about trying to write while travelling, about making each day a day of inspiration. In her blog post ‘I is for Inspiration’ she talks about those who went before her, her discoveries of these authors while travelling, and how they inspire her to keep writing.

Where as Maysam Kandej finds inspiration for writing extremely personal, and he writes to escape the pain of missing a loved one. He argues that, ‘For many, writing is a kind of fun. Something like going to the amusement park and having fun with friends, but for me, it’s all a war. A war between me, and of course again me. I’m not going to teach anything to anybody, because I still have a lot to learn. I’m not going to talk about my own sadness in my stories, anymore. But, I’m just going to be a free soul who can fly wherever he wants, and who can see the world through many other bewildered souls.’ He writes not to publish or for mass consumption, he writes to create worlds for those he’s lost.

He argues that while his inspiration may have roots in sadness, he is not sad. ‘You really don’t need to find some extraordinary inspirations somewhere far far away. Your inspirations can be your wife, husband, and lovely children, who may have been taken for granted. We might never learn that “The true story is here. It’s Beside me. It’s my dear spouse. It’s my dear children. And it’s my dear sunny day at home”.’ Maysam then added that the true story may not be ‘writing the Sunday newsletter for “Shortbread.”’ Touché dear Maysam.

Since Maysam has thrown the inspiration ball back into my court, so to speak, I shall take this moment to examine my own feelings about inspiration. I personally do not find the search for inspiration difficult, and I do not believe anyone has trouble instigating that moment of inspiration. How often do we see a scene playing out on a street, and think ‘That would make a wonderful story?’ It’s similar to the moment when something in the house doesn’t work, and we think of a tool or gadget that would make the world – or at least our households – a better place. We have all had these moments of inspiration.

What we do not do is act on those moments. That scene which would ‘make a great’ story never gets written and it floats away from our minds, forever to be lost. Some people will jot a note about that scene, swearing by their little black book that they will later come back to that idea and write the full story – but it never happens. This is same as that gadget which exists in our mind, never to be developed, until one day we’re watching ‘The Dragon’s Den’ and we think, ‘I thought of it first.’ But we never acted.

Notice I am using the royal ‘we’ (or to Americans, the managerial ‘we’), because I have not interviewed all the world on their habits of turning inspiration into action, but I have a feeling that I’m not alone in these fleeting moments of inspiration. They are everywhere. We have them several times a day, we simply do not turn them into action, and this is where I’d like to return to Jay.

She finds her ‘inspirations’ a curse, because she must act on them – even when she does not want to. She writes every day, and she studies the work of others who have written before. She does not let life get in the way of what inspiration could become. Should we all be as active as Jay, as prolific? Perhaps not, perhaps her flourish of activity does not suit us all. Perhaps, as stated by Diane, ‘you just have to do what you can’, and that will have to be enough.

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