Inspired By Hopper

A new piece of writing from CW study. This one involves the painting below.

A woman sits alone in a diner on a dark North American night. Exactly how much warmth she is receiving from the radiator to her left is open to conjecture. The window behind her is so large and wide that it would most likely be letting in more coldness than the small yellow heating unit can effectively fend off. She remains woollen coated and cloche hatted. This will keep some warmth circulating around her body. On her left hand is a black leather glove. Her right hand is bare and holding a small coffee cup. She appears lost in her own thoughts. Her head tilts slightly downwards. Her eyes seem to be looking nowhere in particular. The notion is that they are looking downwards at the coffee cup she’s holding but the detail in the painting is obscure enough to not know for certain exactly where her eyes are fixed, so they seem to be fixed on nothing at all.

Heather knows this feeling all too well. She looks towards the painting again and feels as though it is reflecting back at her as if looking into a mirror. She is not in the exact same position as the lady in the painting, for the radiator in the room is to her left and thankfully larger than the one in the image seems to be. Is it providing her with any more warmth than what the young woman is receiving in the painting? She feels warm enough, for now. She’s not wearing a hat and her coat is not as long as the painted lonely diner’s, nor is it woollen or trimmed with fur. It’s one of those short puffer jackets that makes you look like a Michelin Man, and it’s cream coloured to boot, so even more the Michelin Man. She wishes she had chosen a different colour, but it was the only one in her size and it was on sale, so she decided that beggars can’t be choosers, even if it makes it seem as if she is advertising tyres. 

Where is he? We haven’t got much time left. The train leaves in 45 minutes. He was meant to leave work at 10 O’Clock. What’s holding him up? Heather’s furrowing preoccupation means she misses Tom’s arrival to the coffee shop. He’s already at the counter ordering himself a double espresso when Heather shakes herself from her reverie, looks over to the counter and sees him there being served. The expression of her face smoothed. “At bloody last!”, she thought to herself. 

“Hey, babe. Sorry I’m late. Keith wanted me to stay behind for a few minutes to chat about next week’s meeting, forgetting entirely that I would be around for it. That made me miss the bus, ya da ya da.” Tom bends towards Heather’s face and kisses her right cheek before seating himself opposite her. 

“Pain in the arse. You’re here now and still on time, at least. I was getting worried though. Why didn’t you message me?”, she asks. 

“I thought I’d be here soon enough anyway.”

“Yeah, well we all know what Thought did, don’t we?”

“Yeah, sorry. My bad. Can I get you anything? Would you like a top-up?,” gesturing to Heather’s empty cup.

“No, I’m fine. Don’t want to be too filled with liquid, you know.”

“Yeah, of course. Don’t fancy a bite to eat before we head off?”

“No. We better make tracks in a minute. The train will be leaving in just over 30 minutes and I want to get a decent seat.”

Is Heather nervous? A little. Apprehensive might be the better word for it. It’s the first time she and Tom are going away together. It’s still so new and she really doesn’t want to stuff things up by trying not to place too much emphasis on what this first trip away means and what may eventuate from it. She really likes Tom. He’s sweet, gentle and he makes her feel wanted. Needed. That said, he also knows not to make her feel overwhelmed and he understands that she needs her space and needs time on her own. It has taken nearly a year to get to this point. Does she love him? Maybe. She wants to be sure.

Tom stands up and places the cups on the side of the serving counter. As Heather stands, he holds the door open for her. The train station is a few hundred yards down the road. Although it’s cold outside, the night is dry and the air still. Tom places his right arm around Heather’s shoulder and pulls her in closer to him. They exchange smiles and head towards the train station. Where will it all lead from here?

Lots Of Writing Including – An Ode To Glasgow

The following is a revised Creative Writing piece done for uni. We were asked to write about ‘home’. This is my ode to Glasgow.

South bank of the Clyde and looking east back towards the centre city with the mighty Cran opposite.

It’s the smell that hits me first. It’s not as strong as the ocean and I do wonder why I even smell and taste saltiness at all considering it’s a body of freshwater. She’s not the widest of rivers in the world but she is obviously deep, for further downstream there are reminders of her shipbuilding past. The landmark of Finnieston crane (or “cran”, as the locals refer to it) is one of the most prominent features on the Clyde’s north bank.

The northside spot by Broomielaw is where I take my place to observe either direction of the river. To my left and looking east, she weaves her way down to Glasgow Green. Several bridges cross over her in this direction, including the Squiggly Bridge (a footbridge). To my right, is the Squinty Bridge, and beyond that, the Cran, and the various arenas of entertainment and learning that flank each side of her. Two other footbridges provide further links between these sides. 

It is sunny and bright as it often tends to be when I visit her, and the air is cool. I take a deep breath. A brisk breeze blows my hair into my face and obscures my eyes, until I wipe at the strands of hair with my fingers and tuck them behind my ears. Sometimes my thoughts turn to another place. I grew up in Sydney and I believed that she was home for many years. I moved to the UK when I was twenty-eight and lost my sense of belonging. I no longer belonged to Sydney, nor did I belong to south-east England. I never realised that I was searching. 

This view of the Clyde fills me with belonging. Here I feel centred, grounded to this place. I feel ‘home’ here. My first visit to Glasgow was in 2016 and I immediately wanted to make her my home. It felt like home during that initial visit and more so than Sydney ever did, I came to realise. I had felt displaced for 20 years. I could argue that I had felt displaced for forty-nine years. It was shortly after my forty-ninth birthday that I moved to Glasgow permanently. Home at last. The Clyde is the centre of my home. I am exactly where I need to be at this point in my life. I will be in Glasgow for the rest of my life.

The Creative Spark

Well, what can I say? 

I am really enjoying learning about the Creative Writing process. I came to it quite apprehensive that I would just be in a constant state of writer’s block as I never felt able to express myself very well as a child when in school and we were given storytelling exercises to do. I was just utterly crap! No imagination whatsoever – or that’s how it felt to me. Other pupils could seemingly write fantastical stories that were exciting and vivid and mine just sounded flat and boring and really uninspired. 

I don’t know what has drawn me to want to do this in all honesty. Well, I do, actually. It stems from wanting to be able to write better. To express myself in a really thoughtful and compelling way. And as much as I can try and continue to be self-taught with that kind of stuff, I felt that Creative Writing may just induce new ways, better ways for my creativity to come out. And it already has started to do that so much!

We started with freewriting – which is basically what we were asked to do at school and I was utterly hopeless at it and so I have never really employed that in my writing – at least, I didn;t think I was. Freewriting is basically a stream of consciousness writing that you do for a set period of time. A short block of time, say 15 minutes to half an hour, and you just let the words flow from you. Whatever comes to mind, whether it makes any sense or not. You just write it all out, chuck it all in. All of it! No editing. No strict sentence structures or anything like that. Just write whatever. 

At this point in time I have found that very liberating and incredibly helpful in sparking my creativity. I have written out so much over the week, it’s been crazy. I’ve probably written out something like 6000 words in little scenes, sensory observations, place setting images, story arcs, deciphering story arcs from novels and short story beginnings and endings that we’ve been given to read…all kinds of things.

The other main element of the study so far that I have found incredibly helpful has been the five-act structure. Setting out a story in five acts, setting out your beginning, middle and end, using various plot prompts to build the process of the story and to flesh it out. I have had sssooooo many ideas for novels that have come to me over the years and have not had any real idea on how to go about doing anything with these ideas and how to build up a story from the little snippets of ideas that I have had swirling around in my brain, but now I am learning how I can implement these little snippets into things. They might not become a whole novel within themselves. They could just end up being a scene but at least I am starting to learn what I can do.

I have true epiphanies taking place with my writing creativity over the past week and I feel incredibly enthused by the whole learning process that Creative Writing is offering me.

A page from my writer’s journal.

And, of course, at the back of my mind is always Jim. I know! But, I can’t disguise the fact of how much he has been a spark in my creativity. For want of better terminology, he has been a muse to me. The art that came from me visually, and what comes through in my writing and how I want to express myself – so much of that has really come out and flowed over the past eight years and there’s no escaping the fact that a lot of that has been down to my being a Simple Minds fan and being influenced by Jim’s songwriting and (as of then) daily musings on Facebook. 

I’d love to ask him questions about his songwriting. I’d love to ask him how he handled letting his words be seen. We are encouraged to share our writing from the very early stages. We’re encouraged to get feedback from fellow students and other tutors beyond our own. We’ve been hearing from writer’s during this block of study and most of them admit to initially taking feedback really badly. Now, you guys (those of you who know me well) know how BADLY I take criticism – it can have a very negative effect on me. I am worried that it could have so much of a negative effect on me that I could end up withdrawing from the course or changing my direction of study. I have to keep telling myself that this criticism will be constructive and WILL help me to improve. I have to grow that thicker skin! I’m gonna need it to get better. 

Songwriting seems like such a different beast. It was for Jim. He seemed to tackle the writing process in a similar way to how every other writer starts – just taking down and keeping notes – freewriting – writing down whatever comes to mind, or interesting things heard or seen, language – curious syntax, things like that – but he kept it all very private. So…how did he know any of it was any good? How did he know when the words to the song were right and at what point did he actually feel comfortable in sharing his words? Did he ever TRULY feel comfortable? I’d love to ask him those kind of things. But…I accept that I am pissing in the wind and in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter. I will come across many other writers that will impart their wisdom on me and Jim can continue to be Jim.

The thing that has excited me most is that I feel that I maybe could be good at this fictional writing lark after all these years of convincing myself that I’m pants at it and everyone has written every story there is and there is nothing new to be said. In some ways that may be so (ie: every story has already been told), but there are your own unique experiences and impressions and expressions that would make it YOUR version of it, and that in itself would make it unique. 

I actually have the framework for a novel that I would really, really love to try and work on. I can’t actually believe I am saying that! After all these years of beginnings flowing through my mind and me not having any tangible way to grasp on them and trying to do something with them. Not knowing what to do with them so just letting them float on by – I have my beginning, middle and end! Loosely speaking. It would take a lot of building. I literally have just a pile of bricks in front of me. Enough to make a house – but I have to build the house now. It could be a long build! I have to keep studying construction whilst I start trying to build my house. I may have to knock it down midway through. I may have to knock it down and start rebuilding several times over. In fact, I know I WILL have to do that. But instead of being disheartened by that thought – I am excited and inspired by it!

A Day In The Life – A day From My Learning Journal – 10 February 2023

All this life lark is a learning curve… so, I have decided to share today’s entry of my learning journal with you. I have been keeping a learning journal since early August last year. We had been advised to keep one from the start of our studies but I just took notes and other such study-based records and not a learning journal. Now I record how my day has gone with study almost every day (I might accidentally miss the odd day, but it doesn’t happen very often now).

Has my hand-writing improved with all this note-taking?! Has it heck! Lol. Well, maybe a tiny bit. I still make loads of mistakes, as you can see by the scribbly bits. Constant miscommunications between my brain and hand which frustrates me no end – but what’s a person to do! Anyway, have fun deciphering my writing! Lol

It’s Fri-yay!

Unforced Isolation or Socially Disengaged?

How do?!

It’s been a while, eh?

I have to say, from the off, that study is taking up most of my time and inner thoughts right now. In some ways it makes me feel as though I have reverted back to being a teen. As a teen I felt very lonely. I didn’t really have any friends, school was horrible, then I left early but still just tried to teach myself things and keep my brain active. I listened to music a lot. Other than that, I was pretty directionless. I became used to my own company.

I was nervous around people but tried not to be nervous. Talking was difficult, though I would make myself try. I didn’t have a group of friends to hang out with. I didn’t go out with people. No mates. No boyfriend. No days out. No gigs. None of the “regular” teen stuff. Most days I was at home alone in my room and listening to music pretty much all day long. Daydreaming. Watching the clouds gently roll along across the sky thinking how amazing it would be to be a meteorologist and know that it would NEVER happen to me.

Okay, today is different. I am studying and I am not alone…outwardly. What feels comparative to my teenage years is my insular nature. As a teen, as much as I wanted friends, I didn’t really seek them out. I was too affected by the bullying I experienced to want to seek out friendships. Relationships? Boyfriends? Slightly different, though not much. It was attached to the safety of a neighbour’s brother, or the relative of my brother-in-law’s friend or some such as a love interest. Never a complete stranger! Not until my first serious boyfriend did I experience starting a relationship with someone absolutely unknown to me. Then it was his friends that I orbited around with him for company. Not exactly friendships in their own right.

Through my twenties I had three friends – my mum, my neighbour, and Steven – the person I have sustained the most enduring friendship with (minus my mum, of course). Even within these, I had a lot of alone time. I was content to be alone a lot – buried within my own thoughts.

In the mid 90s I had a job within a company that had a small workforce. Two of the workers were my brothers, and I knew the rest (around 25 others) in a strictly workplace environment. Never really made any friends while working there, either.

When I met my OH and then moved to the UK, I continued to be in that place of “Billy Nomates” – I knew NOBODY other than my OH when I moved to the UK. And it stayed like that until I became a Simple Minds fan. I tried making friends through pen pal ads placed in magazines or online in newsgroups (the precursors of today’s social media) but not much came of those. I would always lose contact with people in the end. I got VERY used to my own company for the 15 years between moving to the UK and becoming the SM fan I am now. I was very comfortably insular.

It wasn’t good for my mental or (especially) my physical health. It is why I will always be thankful for exploring the Minds back catalogue. Where I spent many years fearing being gregarious, becoming an SM diehard made me bold. I began to feel a little less inhibited and started to branch out. I found it all very scary. Making myself known to the fans by starting to communicate with them, eventually being brave enough to meet some face-to-face.

I remember my very first SM gig at the Cambridge Corn Exchange in April, 2015. I had agreed to meet a fan face-to-face, but I was ssoo scared to expose myself, I just chickened out and didn’t look for them and seek them out. I kept myself hidden so they couldn’t find me either.

There were other things happening in parallel to my SM fandom that meant I grew in confidence and started to really step out from my own shell and get to know people, meet fans and form friendships. I have some wonderful, amazing friends. Beautiful people.

I can feel myself retreating back into myself as my study progresses. The combinations of things that had me step out of my shell or now kind of reserving and I am withdrawing back into it. I feel less and less affiliated with things that are happening within the fanbase. I feel maligned and ostracised. That feeling keeps me away from wanting to interact too much. I have no idea when I last posted on SMOG (Simple Minds Official Group page on Facebook). I still respond to Jim’s posts on the band page on Facebook, by and large, but he doesn’t post that often. I used to interact a lot with fans via the comments on his posts as well and I rarely do that now.

Worst of all is I am withdrawing from my friends. I want to keep my focus on uni and after I’ve spent the day studying, I just want to stay in my own headspace or just watch some things on YouTube and just retreat and withdraw.

It’s been slowly happening since we moved to Glasgow, but the past 12 months in particular I have felt it – coinciding with my university study. Since the move to Glasgow, I have made two further friends that I feel very close to. One who lives in the city and the other online (and they live in another part of the world).

My mental health has suffered over the past few years as well due to the loss of my mum and the pandemic and my physical health is sliding back to how it was pre-Simple Minds fandom.

I’m worried that my uni study is just making it easier for me to retreat and withdraw and become that insular mole again.

I just wanted to talk about how I am feeling and what is happening to me in regards to this. It started as a cycle of “once I get past this assignment, then I can have social time for a bit until I need to start on the next one.” Now…there doesn’t feel like there is any gap. Or more that I am not allowing there to be any gap. That I just want to stay focused on the uni, maybe write a blog post when I can and…that’s it.

I’m not sure what to do to pull myself out of it. I’m not sure I WANT to pull myself out of it because being within myself feels safe.

Uni study since Christmas has been intense though. I was very focus-driven with my study of Twelfth Night and Jane Eyre. I only just finished my assignment yesterday and apart from the day away I took to see Kula Shaker in Edinburgh, I have only had one other day off since the beginning of January.

I did study today, but it was light studying and I will be diving in deeper tomorrow. I am not allowing myself any time off for handing the assignment in because I will have to take a day off next week to see the Hamish Hawk gig.

I keep projecting forward to the spring. By May, when this module will come to an end, I feel like I’ll be able to truly unwind and have time for friends and social stuff.

But is that just an excuse I’m using to justify not socialising right now?