Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Raise your glass... or cup.

Hellooooo! I couldn't say cheerio to 2014 without popping in for a gab first!

Have you all had a good year?

2014 has been mighty hectic. Life has taken me in directions I would never have fathomed a year ago. Some notable shenanigans that currently spring to mind:

  • Landing a new job in Digital Marketing, which has been a steeeeeep learning curve, I tell ye!
  • Taking part in the 12 week Artist's Way program (more about that in the new year, but you can read Week 1 here).

  • Falling head over heels in love with Kilchattan Bay, Rothesay. Take me back!

  • Falling even more head over heels in love with Anstruther. Sigh, swoon...

  • Finding myself completely immersed in the Scottish Referendum debate (I'll never get over it).

  • Enrolling on a part time degree course in Design & Innovation.
  • Signing up for the SNP.

  • Having my coupon (and recipe) in a cookbook for Cash for Kids charity (more details here!).

I have no idea what 2015 has in store. I usually adore creating resolutions and reassessing my goals, but to be honest, I'm just hoping to keep my head above water!

There will be more writing.
More work on the novel.
More blogging and documenting life on this wee website of mine.

I hope you're all having a lovely Hogmanay. And I wish you health, wealth and happiness for 2015. Everyone's out partying hard, while we're cosied up next to the amber glow of the Xmas tree, curling up while the wind batters against the window, and I'm sipping on a wee tea.

Cheers to you and yours!
xx ◦

Friday, 3 October 2014

The Artist's Way - Week 1

The first week of The Artist's Way course was about Recovering a Sense of Safety.

Despite my earnest (initial) commitment, I was still fairly skeptical about it all. That's just me though; I'm cynical to a fault about most things. You can see as much from this extract of my morning pages:

"So apparently I have to disentangle all the damaging, negative, unhelpful and malicious things that've been said to me. Why? Aren't you supposed to be building/growing a thick skin, thus the whole acceptance of criticism is part and parcel? It could very well be, but not if it crushes you. Not if it paralyses you, although it would be too easy to blame my reaction on other people and say “that creative writing course paralyzed me, so it did” when in reality I'm responsible for when and how I write and who can paralyze me or not. The statement shouldn't be that “they paralyzed me” but “I let them paralyze me”.

I react positively to hurtful comments for a little while. I get a burst of defiance and a productivity spike but it's not enough. That's because I'm using the wrong things to propel me and fuel my writing.

I have to admit, I found the morning pages difficult. I've written many a morning page in my time, and am fully aware of the benefits of it, but it didn't feel like my usual trippy nonsense. It felt more like the unclogging of accumulated whiney bile. I was quietly hopeful it would improve over the coming weeks.

Week 1 was about uncovering my Core Negative Beliefs. In my notebook, I wrote "I can't be a successful, prolific, creative artist because..." then let it rip.

It wasn't pretty.

Among my fears:
  • I would undoubtedly descend into madness
  • I had no decent, unique ideas
  • I would die an unfulfilled writer
  • I even started berating myself for not having material aspirations... yeah I don't know where that one came from either.
One task was to write this next sentence ten times, followed by whatever sprung to mind immediately upon writing it:

I, Catherine Noble, am a brilliant and prolific writer.

I tell ye, if you're ever struggling to figure out where your negativity stems from, DO THIS EXERCISE.

Don't get me wrong, the usual suspects were there: nasty, personal attacks and the opinions of pretentious arsehole writers sometimes known to pollute my beloved Radio 4 podcasts, but I was astonished to hear the words of people who matter most to me, or who I look up to in the big ol' writersphere. Even my own (well-meaning) advice to other writers cropped up, to my intense shame.

I had to create my own personal affirmations. I'm not a fan of the Law of Attraction theory, but I do appreciate gratitude and positive thinking. Some of my affirmations felt more resonant than others depending on my mood when I read them. This is why it's good for me to have a varied list. Reading them is like a lovely soothing balm. I would recommend it, if you're a bitter lemon like myself.

Apparently I'm what Julia Cameron would call a 'shadow artist': someone who doesn't have the balls to be a fully fledged, uninhibited artist, so surrounds themselves with creative types, joins the writing groups, attends the writerly events, in the hope they'll be inspired to create.

Does that sound familiar to you, too?

This was my favourite quote in The Artist's Way so far. "Very often audacity, not talent, makes one person an artist and another a shadow artist".

So, my main priority for Week 1 was get some gall. Risk affrontery. Take myself seriously, but not too seriously...

Every week, you're supposed to take yourself on an Artist Date. For this, I set aside a couple of hours to work on my Vision Board. I do one every year; it's always a surprise to see how much my goals and attitudes change over time. Pinterest is a fantastic way to get inspired for creating a vision board, but be warned: it's not good for the old discipline. It's a cruel temptress.

And that concludes Week 1. Have you participated in the Artist's Way? I'd love to hear your experiences.

Take care
Catherine x 

Monday, 29 September 2014

Take heart

This blog post was supposed to be about how I was quitting the Artist's Way. About how it had all started off wonderfully, then stalled around the 4 week mark when I became completely distracted by the Scottish Independence Referendum. 

The subsequent heartache of my country rejecting its own independence made it very, very difficult for me to partake in self-indulgent projects such as rediscovering my inner artist.

I've allowed myself a few week's reprieve from the Artist's Way to accommodate this historical event in our lifetime, but when I think about getting back into it, it feels incredibly self-absorbed. 

The whole concept of Artist Dates and Spiritual Measurement seems utterly repulsive, when all I see around me are people drying their eyes, regrouping, and filling the likes of George Square with food donations for those who need it - many who have been sorely failed. There is still so much to be done; who am I to indulge myself?

(Photo taken from Glasgow's Needy facebook page)

In the second week of the Artist's Way, I was inspired to apply for an Open University degree course in Design & Innovation. It starts this Saturday. It's going to require an extra 20 hours of my week, which seems ridiculous when factoring in the Artist's Way, work (still getting my head around the new role) and writing.

But in the spirit of my fellow voters for Scottish Independence, I believe in a better existence, and I am going to continue the conversation. With Scotland and with myself. I'm going to keep volunteering at the food bank, hold every promise to account, re-engage with the Artist's Way, get stuck into my studies and keep on writing the novel. If anything, the Morning Pages will seek to give some clarity in an increasingly senseless world.

Hope you're all well.
Catherine x

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Artist's Way - A Diary

What do you do when you're powering through your novel edits, then lose the will to write? It's amazing how swiftly a day's reprieve can turn into a week then, before you know it, it's been months since you last looked at your novel and you can't bring yourself to open the document.

My loss of momentum began innocuously enough; blighted by a sinus infection, I took the opportunity to rest and recover. I recovered physically (thanks for asking), but not creatively.

I made the decision to undertake Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way program – a 12 week course in creative recovery. I first heard about it when my colleague, writer and playwright Kris Haddow, diarised his own journey a few years back. It looked mighty intriguing, but it's only recently I felt the time was right for me to do it.

Listen, I know what you're thinking.

Ach, just bloody get on with it. Stop yer nonsense and just get it done. You'd be as well spending the time working on the novel instead of trying to “free your creativity”. 

But I cannae.

I bound myself in stupid expectations and ridiculous criteria until nothing about my writing remotely resembled me. In my quest to learn how to Write Well, I learned how to write like other people, even if their style wasn't my cup of tea. 

That is not what I want. 

That is bollocks.

So hear ye, hear ye, I'm getting myself back on the page.

I shall update thee as and when.


Monday, 28 July 2014

Dae ye mind that summer in 2014?

It's been quiet on the writing front the last couple of months.

To say I've lost my momentum would be a complete understatement. I know I'll have to pull up my wee writer socks soon and, truth be told, I'm gasping to get back into a routine. But I regret nothing. 

I've been enjoying the good weather.

I've had a couple of writerly fixes.

I've been getting oot and aboot.

I started a new job.

Same company, different role (now in digital marketing). My new colleagues left this on my desk on my first day...

I decided to take up running.

My first 5k.

 My 2nd 5k.

I've been reading more.

I finally got a fancy camera, and I have no idea how to use it.

It was Colin & I's 4 year anniversary.

We celebrated by going to T in The Park, where we originally got together.

I'm still adding to my "photos from the squinty bridge" collection.

And, of course, I've been watching the Commonwealth Games, being frequently overcome with utterly irrational pride. Have you been intae it?

How have you all been getting on? Well, I hope! Here's to a productive and lovely August for ye. *raises mocktail glass* chin chin.

Catherine x


Tuesday, 10 June 2014

A Beautiful, Terrible Tempest

Thank God there were no children on the plane.
The pastel shaded stewardess looked bored as she double pointed, scooped the air and feigned a blow into her lifeless jacket. I bet she couldn't wait for her shift to end.

Read the rest of my short story, A Beautiful, Terrible Tempest, on Postcard Shorts by clicking here!

Catherine x

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Monday, 12 May 2014

The clown was suicidal

I'm delighted to announce that my short story Merry Andrew has been published in the Eunoia Review.

You can find it by clicking here. I'd love to know what you think of it.

Take care
Catherine x ◦

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Life in Pictures April 2014

Have you all had a good April? Many Easter eggs did ye get?

I had six days off for the Easter holidays, and I done nothing. I'm not even sorry... it was bloody fantastic.

Some of my favourite things this month...

This hilarious comedy play, Party Suzie. It's back in May, go see it!

This was the only event I attended at this year's Aye Write festival. I'm sufficiently pleased with my lot: Bernard MacLaverty is a fantastic writer and speaker, and I've just finished breaking my heart to his novel Cal (a must-read).

One of my writing group friends demanded I read The Panopticon, by Jenni Fagan, and I'm so glad I did. Belter of a story! I devoured this book in two days, made all the better with the sun in my garden!

Looking after my 5 week old godson, Corey. Overnight, no less! He was the perfect angel, and I didn't want to give him back. He's sooo teeny! :')

The weather is finally starting to improve... long may it continue!

More food blog shenanigans, if you're intae yer grub. Guess who figured out how to make collages?

That's plenty for now. I hope April was good to you all. Lets hope May gives you even more of what you love.

Take care
Catherine x ◦

Monday, 7 April 2014

My Writing Process

I've been asked by the lovely Vikki Gemmell to write about my writing process, as part of a bloghop that's currently sweeping through the writerly blogisphere. Vikki is a fantastic writer; I especially loved her poignant flash fiction piece At The Fair. You can see her writing process by clicking here, it's a most enjoyable read.

Without further ado, here are my own answers:

What am I working on?

Having written many first drafts, I finally committed to writing a "proper" novel back in September 2012. It goes by the name of Brothers, but the story has changed so dramatically, the title isn't really relevant any more. Despite distracting myself with different projects and many other attempts to sabotage my own efforts, it's slowly but surely developing into an actual novel.

It's a story of three Glaswegian families woven together through tragic circumstances. Expect affairs, deathbeds, unwanted children, unemployment, drugs. You know, a romantic comedy. Also expect plenty of Glesgae patter, debauchery and frolics, and maybe even a few tears (there's been plenty of tears writing it!).

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

It's different because it's being written by me, not other people. Last year, I went to a writing class and we were all asked to write a story using the opening sentence: The clown was suicidal. You have no idea how different the results were; no two stories were remotely alike!

My work is the result of how I see the world and I only hope that vision can be enjoyed by whoever reads me. I hope that doesn't read as arsey as it sounds in my head.

As it happens... I transformed my suicidal clown into a short story, Merry Andrew, to be published by Eunoia Review next month!

Why do I write what I do?

I like to write about people's natures and about how no-one is exempt from hardship. I write about the complexities of real, unglamourous life because that's what seems to interest me most. I believe compassion can be found in the murkiest waters, no matter how infested it is with absolute turds of humanity. I didn't consciously seek it out as a theme, but there ye go.

How does my writing process work?

I envy respectfully loathe writers who just pick up a pen, start from page one and don't stop until their novel is complete. I suspect they are At It.

Having toyed around with many a method, I appear to have come up with a bizarre analogy for my writing process. An anatomy themed one, of course.

(Photo by OtisArchives 3)

First, there's the skeleton. You can call it the outline if you want but I think it's more than that – it's the outline and the story chunks (main plot movements) and the scene/chapter structure. These are my bones. It took me a long time to arrange these bones into a functional skeleton for this WIP.

Then there's the next bit, which is what I'm doing now – it's the sinew, muscle, tissue, veins, organs, tendons. This is my characterisation* and fleshing out of scenes. I'm trying to paint a good picture of it all for the reader with sensory detail, suspense, foreshadowing etc., all the while keeping true to my story. My writers group is invaluable for helping me with this bit.

That's all in preparation for the final edit, which is the skin. Boak, I know.

Then I'll send it out to test readers and we can discuss hair and make-up, dahhhlings.

On a more practical level, my writing process involves getting to work an hour early, at 6am, to work on the novel. I usually do the same on tea/lunch breaks and a little bit in the evenings (although I'm usually out of gas by then). I have Mondays off work at the moment, so that's my proper, glorious Writing Day. I try not to write at the weekend, as there is a life to be lived and people to enjoy.

*I got to know my characters a bit more by writing a 50k word stream of consciousness walk-around of my characters for NaNoWriMo 2013. The jury is still out as to whether it was a vital part of building the story, or an extreme method of procrastination.

So now you know.

I have asked two very talented writers to take the reins for next week's Writing Process:

Caro's first novel Absolution was shortlisted for the New Blood Dagger (an annual award given by the British Crime Writers' Association). Her second novel Singing to the Dead was long listed for the Theakston's crime novel of the year. Her next two novels, Dark Water and The Blood of Crows were published to critical acclaim. Book six, The Night Hunter will be published in June 2014. Her novels are translated into seven languages.

Helen MacKinven writes contemporary Scottish fiction and has an MLitt in Creative Writing. Her second novel Buy, Buy Baby made it to the short list of the Hookline Books novel competition for students and graduates of MA writing courses.Several of her short stories have been published and she is currently working on her third novel. She lives in a small rural village in North Lanarkshire with her husband, two sons, two dogs and ten chickens.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my writing process. What's yours? Do share, I LOVE hearing about this kind of stuff.

Take care
Catherine x

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

A to Z of Creative Writing Warm-Ups

Helloooooo, just popping in to say I won't be participating in this year's A to Z Blogging Challenge (as much as it pains me!), as I have to focus all my writerly efforts on the novel. It's getting there, slowly but surely!

Last year, my theme was an A to Z of Creative Writing Warm-Ups. A few writers told me they'd love to have the warm-ups in a whole, complete format, so I have lovingly compiled it all into a PDF file for your viewing/writing pleasure.

To access the PDF, click here (I would recommend saving the file to your desktop for future offline use).

This PDF has a total of 158 warm-ups! Choose from:

  • 26 photo prompts 
  • 26 mind maps 
  • 26 freewriting exercises 
  • One personal questionnaire 
  • 79 sentence starts

Why don't you try a wee five minute warm-up at the start of your next writing session and let me know how you get on with it?

Take care
Catherine x


Sunday, 30 March 2014

Life in Pictures March 2014

This month's shenanigans in the life of moi...

Visiting the Dublin Writers Museum *swoon*

Casually bumping into the St. Mirren football team in Oliver St. John Gogarty's, Temple Bar, on their belated Xmas night out.

Discovering the Best Doughnut In The Universe.

Going to see Gravity at the IMAX. It blew my teeny mind.

Gatecrashing this idyllic house in Anstruther for the weekend. I want to live here forever.

And last but not least... the birth of my best friend Pauline's son, Corey. He has captured my heart. <3 Look at our matching outfits :')

I hope you've all had a lovely month. Here's to April!
Take care,
Catherine x