Posted by: Natalie | February 2, 2011

Writing 500 Words

Each morning on my drive in I listen to Chris Evans etal and their bright and breezy breakfast show. A little injection of interest and news delivered via the silky voice of Moira Stewart is indeed a good way to start the day – currently the only way to start my day as I sleep too late to afford breakfast! I am also a little stuck as to radio channel choice since someone stole my car aerial last week – have I managed not to grumble about this yet?!

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This week has been of additional interest to me, to the point where I have been sat in the staff car park still listening – and possibly doing a little avoiding of starting my day. Chris and team have launched an under 13’s writing competition to coincide with the Hay Festival of Literature and Arts. The idea is for children 13 and under to write any story of their choosing and do so in 500 words or less. Had I still been running a year 5 classroom I would be insisting on this becoming part of our running theme as I think writing for purpose is something children don’t often really experience and therefore fail to see the point in writing in general (other than for dreaded SATs) – I feel safe in supposing this is mainly the male element of a class. To provide them with an exciting outlet for their skills is hugely important, and competitions such as this help in directing enthusiasm into the literary world.

Any teachers looking to get involved, can. Radio 2 are looking for volunteers to read through some of the entries before the judging crew find the final fifty. As a small thank you for helping the writing cause, there will be a draw to win a place at the Radio Breakfast table in Hay on 3rd June 2011; perhaps meet not only the team, but the judges as well.

The BBC Radio 2 team have not only set the challenge but they are involving the, frankly impressive, judges in a remarkable way – each morning one of the judging panel (Anthony Horowitz, Oliver Jeffers, Howard Jacobson, David Walliams and Jacqueline Wilson) speak on air, not only about the competition, but with tips and advice for beginning a path into writing. Ok, so their tips may be aimed at the younger audience, but I found myself grasping at their words and wishing so very deeply that I could sit a little longer and listen to their wisdom. Videos are posted daily on the BBC2 site, providing young authors with tips on how and where to start, among other things.

Such other things include writer’s block. Once again I am suffering this brought on by yet more ill-like symptoms. I swear, I am so very tired of feeling ill. It feels like months since I have been even vaguely functioning. This time? Sinuses, wisdom teeth, ear ache, and headaches – all pretty much affecting the same isolated brain spot. I am sluggish, grumpy and weary of computer screens literally moments after looking at them. I am bored of complaining at Steve (poor bugger) and you dear reader. But these past few months have started to leave me feeling like a torso devoid of all limbs. I feel trapped in a cloud of noise and grey which only seems to lift temporarily just to allow the next wave of pathetic in. So, understandably, this blank, dreary, frump of a feeling does not really lend itself well to productivity.

But listening to these authors talk on writer’s block has helped lift that cloud a little more – that and the investment in Beroca! Each one in turn has said when the words don’t come, don’t force it – do something else. I know this is the case already, but when time feels like a constant enemy and threat, I can’t help but force myself to stare at words I no longer care for. All I do then is frustrate myself more and cause my head to take yet another spin. So, instead of wishing I could encroach on a busy author’s time to pick their brains, I shall take on the small pearls of advice which have been bestowed; step back, take time and allow my brain to mull in its own juices and solve the problem without force, and without panic.

Tomorrow afternoon (my first session free of the week) I shall do just this. I shall take some time on myself, which is starting to look a little shabby and old. Although finances can’t really allow for such frivolousness, I have purchased some hair dye and new nail varnish. I shall spend an hour or so preening and unearthing the newly slim girl beneath the drudge and frump of the one that’s currently on view. With a slightly better outlook on myself, perhaps I might have a better view on the world in general and then maybe, just maybe I could get the words to stay with me a little longer than one afternoon a fortnight.

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