I am happy to report that so far Work in Progress Wednesday is a roaring success! This is especially apparent as we introduce our third guest poster… Sometimes we struggle, not through lack of creativity and ideas, but due to too much of it to channel all at once; I’m definitely guilty of it, always flittering from one project to the next. If you’re of a similar ilk, you’ll hopefully be inspired by todays WiPW… Let me introduce Clare Scott, of From Buckinghamshire to South Russia and Return Journey, the Mermaids Purse and many, many other places!
GETTING TO THE BEGINNING..
Hi, my name is Clare. My main blog is The Mermaids Purse but I have a cartoon blog-Monster in the Next Room-as well as a blog about being an artist-The Easel Weasel– and a blog with personal essays (formerly Pieces of Me) which is currently hibernating and the most recent one-From Buckinghamshire to South Russia and Return Journey-on which I posted for the first time only a few days ago. It is set up to research a diary written my grandfather after he travelled to South Russia in 1919-1920 as a part of Churchills’ campaign to combat the Bolsheviks. It is this blog which I will discuss a little today. But firstly I think I should address my blogging output as a whole.
As you may have already guessed my main problem is not lack of ideas but far too many of them of many different shapes, sizes and hues. A lot of my energy is wasted trying to herd them into some sort of coherent oeuvre. You have seen that ad for insurance which depicts cowboys herding cats…?
It seems to be a defining part of my personality that I am caught between chaos and a desire for organisation. If I could visualise my creativity it would look like one of those cartoon fights from the Beano with an occasional finished product flying out, like the blade from an exploding lawnmower…you see? I can’t even stick to one metaphor.
Image Courtesy of Disney
Though I have come to terms with myself to some extent, I would be a lot more productive if I could at least concentrate on one idea at a time..
…as soon as I typed that all the voices in my head cried..
‘But we’ll get bored!’
So, you get the picture…
It was not always this way. When I left school I had little idea of what I wanted to do and no confidence. I did manage to get myself to art college but ended up doing graphic design to which, in an era of cow gum, spray mount and Letraset, I was wholly unsuited mostly because I am very messy so my work always ended up with grubby finger marks all over it. The desire to be a painter grew in me but I spent most of my time paralysed by not being ‘good enough’ and over-working ideas to the point where I got bored. I did not know myself well enough to realise I need work to my strengths (or neuroses as the case may be) rather than change myself.
To skip ahead a few years, my confidence as an artist grew and inspiration came easier but it was blogging that gave me my first really good look at the nature of my ‘output’. I had started a WordPress blog in 2011 but had not actually posted on it when I noticed that there was a blogger in my locality who was getting great attention.
‘That was my idea!’
.. I shouted…
This jealously galvanized me into writing and the first incarnation of The Mermaids Purse was born. It was then the doors opened. It was as if I was full of stories and people and experiences that had just been waiting for the opportunity for an exit. Damn it must’ve been getting stuffy in there! I couldn’t stop. A lot of my early posts make me cringe now but I am grateful for all the dreadful work I have done. It means I am learning, I can see my progression and this understanding has affected all my other work too. Blogging crystallized the learning curve for me. You need to do crap work to do good work.
(Incidentally, the blogger who was I initially jealous of (and still jealous of really 😀 ) continues to do great things and has become a great friend and supporter. You can find her at www.foxglovelane.com and @foxglovelane on Twitter.)
Which is all to explain why I am sort of excited by the diary project, From Buckinghamshire to South Russia and Return Journey at www.southrussiadiary.wordpress.com, it is the first blog I have set up with a specific goal in mind.
Europe political divisions in 1919 (after the treaties of Brest-Litovsk and Versailles and before the treaties of Trianon, Riga, Kars and the establishment of en:Soviet Union and the republics of Ireland and Turkey) published by London Geographical Institute. Available at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Europe_map_1919.jpg
The diary in question is short and written in longhand in an old notebook. This sounds a lot more interesting than it first appeared to me as it seems to be little more than a role call of ships’ names, times and dates of departures with a few snippets of scenes of other cultures and the war, seen as if out of the corner of the eye. But the more I looked at it the more I caught glimpses of what my grandfather was trying to process in setting down his words in a time when men, or anyone, did not talk of their feelings. Like the flicker of a silvery fish caught in a net below the murky surface I began to see the richness that lay beneath. I started to visualise a small book, with illustrations perhaps, published in the centenary of his journey. But how would I haul that to the surface without falling prey to my habit of galloping off in ten different directions at once…?
Other writers in a writing group I am in had already suggested that if I planned a book I should not post that book online before publishing, which made sense to me, but I still felt a blog would focus the project, as it had done in the past, the posts forcing me to write in manageable chunks.
It was another blogger, April Munday, author of the blog A Writer’s Perspective (www.aprilmunday.wordpress.com and @AprilMunday on Twitter) who inspired the format of the blog to be. April has written a number of fiction books set in the medieval era but she does not post her fiction online. Instead her posts are her research into the medieval times that are her backdrop and are fascinating in themselves. I realised this format would allow me to collate information about the factual elements of my Grandfathers expedition while providing a structure on which to hang a more emotional interpretation. It would be the loom on which I wove my reading of my Grandfathers experience.
With this inspiration I was able to see my other blogs in a different light. The Mermaids Purse has always had a vague remit and this vagueness had become like a millstone. Without an endpoint it had begun to feel like trying to walk home through a thick fog. Now I can see it as a mother ship for more focussed projects, an arena which I will use to reblog the South Russia posts among other things.
I see my earlier blogging now as explorations, a getting to know me, my capabilities, my weak points, before embarking on more defined, realisable projects. So even before I began, the visualisation of a plan for this project felt like an acheivement in itself.
I look back at all the things I have done and I could criticise them until the cows come home but it was the doing that was important. Not that there’s an excuse for gratuitously bad or lazy work but to sit down and write, even if it’s for five minutes a week, a random thumping on the keyboard even if its gobbledegook, to make a mark on the canvas, to stick those two bits of wood together, to strum that chord. Anything to open the door. Then the real work begins and it is vital to stay with it once we have begun but…
…to start is the thing…
Big thanks to Shaun, you have helped to organise my ideas…no mean feat! Also you have galvanised me into searching out some guest posters too. Stay tuned!
The first post on From Buckinghamshire to South Russia and Return Journey was published last Sunday 27/08/2017 on www.southrussiadiary.wordpress.com
You can find the Mermaids Purse at www.mermaidspurse.wordpress.com
My cartoons, Monster in the Next Room, at www.monsterinthenextroom.wordpress.com
The Easel Weasel is at www.theeaselweasel.wordpress.com
I am on Twitter @MonsterMermaids
Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/TheMermaidsPurseBlog/
Illustrations are the work of the author unless otherwise stated.