October 28, 2012

Getting It Writ

I’m trying to write a short story for the Get it Writ competition as part of the Essex Book Festival 2013. A story in 500 words sounds a bit of a challenge so I thought I’d have a go but I’m not getting very far at the moment. I sit and look at a blank page and then find myself on the internet ‘looking for inspiration’ but in reality reading the BBC news pages, checking my email, or writing this blog. Needless to say I’m not finding the inspiration I need.

I’ve got stories I’ve already written and I’ve thought about adapting one of those to 500 words but the theme for the competition is ‘The Legacy of Summer 2012’ (interpreted in whatever way I like) and none of them seem to fit however much I think they might. What I need is a new story.

The challenge is going to be finding a beginning that grips the reader straight away and telling the story in very few words and then wrapping it all up. 500 words is not a lot to tell a story in.

Hemingway was once challenged that he couldn’t write a story in six words. He wrote, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Brilliant. There’s a wealth of story in those few words and it’s up to the reader to make what they will of it. I’ve got 500 as my challenge.

I downloaded an app recently called Freedom that locks you away from the internet for a chosen amount of time so you can be productive. The only way to unlock it is to restart the computer. I guess the thinking behind it is that restarting takes time so you would carry on being productive in whatever you’re doing. I think the reason I keep shying away from using it at the moment is that I have no idea what to write.

Writer’s block? Wikipedia defines writer’s block as “a condition, primarily associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work.”

I’m hoping things aren’t that drastic! I’m just having a hiccup with inspiration.

October 22, 2012

The Hell of Heaven on Earth

Oh God! It’s that time of year again. Time for the streets to fill with mindless hordes rushing hither and thither pandering to the commercialism that fleeces their pockets and stuffs their bellies, making penniless, debt-ridden, fat paupers of them all.

I know that’s a bit strong, but when you watch the Christmas-obsessive pushing two mountainous, overflowing trolleys of food and unwanted presents around the supermarket that’s about to cost them over £300, you have to wonder what they’re going to do with it all. Feed their entire family, complete with all near and distant relatives? Feed their street? Solve the homeless and hungry situation? Feed the nation? You can bet it isn’t the only shopping trip they will make either. You just know some of it will end up as landfill when it goes out of date or is so left-over it’s going mouldy in the fridge. And all this on the credit card; paid for in plastic from an account that will only exist once the card has been swiped.

The baubles, bangles and glitter would do Versace proud and only serve to highlight the contrast between the bright lights of obscene opulence and the poverty of the homeless person sleeping in the doorway of the shop selling it all. How many people stop to speak to them and give them a handout on their way to fattening the bellies of their well-off and well-fed bank managers? Do not presume the person in the shop doorway is there through choice or a perverse want. They are not some form of alien scum or a violent scrounger; they are you and me. It is not ‘there but for the grace of God go I ...’ but rather ‘there because of the vagaries of society go they…’. A civilised world would be taking care of them rather than taking care of themselves. But that’s the Western way of life. Christmas will create more stressed and depressed people than are sleeping on the streets each year.

Surely, if Jesus ever existed he would be turning over the market stalls and casting the wealth of the gluttonous to the masses. I’m sure he would have been sickened to see what we do as celebration in his name.

If we’re going to celebrate Christmas as a time of family and love, then we need to think about our fellow humans and the need for love they have rather than the need for love we have. Jesus was not born in a department store, nor did he spend his life in one.

I am not a believer in God or Jesus, but I am a believer in the philosophy on life the Bible, and all other religious teachings, preaches. Love and compassion for your fellow man? Bah, humbug.

October 06, 2012

Maldon Art Trail

This last week has been an enlightening and eye-opening one. The culmination of some months of organising has finally seen the Maldon Art Trail come to fruition. It is deeply satisfying to see the artworks on show and to have been part of the process that brought it together.

I've been quite surprised at the diversity of work on show and more than a little proud to be living in an area that can produce such work. I am also proud of the businesses that have given so much valuable window space to display the work of local artists and entered into the community spirit. They have been enthusiastic and eager about the event all along. It is very encouraging that my home town can give so much for nothing. The artists paid a nominal fee to enter the Art Trail (£20) but the venues give it up for free. Some, like Reeves in the High Street, have given their entire window space to the artists on show in their shop.

From a personal perspective, I have gained much pleasure from being involved in the making of the Art Trail and have gained a lot of passion not only for future Art Trails and what it can offer the artists and the town, but also for the artists themselves and for the town. Maldon has a lot to offer already but it could be so much more of an attraction given the right mindset by the local councils.

Next year, I would like to see performing arts, such as circus skills, street theatre and music, in the streets of Maldon. This would necessitate road closures but choosing the right roads would make this easier. To close off the High Street takes more money and insurance and organising than I think MDC could afford - but never say never. One possibility would be to hold such an event around the Silver Street area, just off the High Street and in the centre of town.

I think the Art Trail can also 'trail' its way through the year by having events (talks, demonstrations, workshops, etc) throughout the year, say every couple of months. This would keep awareness alive, help to bring in funds, and to recruit much-needed volunteers for the Art Trail committee.

I'd love to see more artists and more venues and to be able to reach artists who have never exhibited before. Maldon Art Trail can become an event that brings more and more people from out of town than ever before and I'd like to be part of that.

As a new committee our learning curve this year has been steep but it will make things so much easier for following years. Once this week is over properly we will have time to sit back and reflect on what went well and what needs improvement and what more can we do in future years. For the moment I'd like to sit back and enjoy it … and to celebrate what we have achieved.