Saturday, 21 August 2010
One of the most wonderful ways to kick start your brain is to go on a writing retreat. It doesn't have to be something mega-organised. In my case it's just 3 or 4 friends. We choose somewhere low cost, preferably in the country but with access to civilisation (a Costa and a little high street are enough) and we all go and stay for 1 night to a week. Importantly where we go has no telly and no wifi access. Painful but useful.
It also gets you right away from home life which although lovely simply eats into writing time. It also means you set your own clock and your own agenda. I am an unreasonably early bird, my best any time from 5am onwards. When on retreat, I can simply roll out of bed and onto my writing chair, fire up the laptop and I'm away. At 11am I might feel like some company. If I then see one of my writing friends sitting outside nonchalantly on the bench in the little garden opposite the bedrooms where we stay, I can take my coffee out and have a natter. The afternoon's a bit of a dead time for me writing-wise as I always experience a dip. That's when I will stroll out into the country for some excercise (to counterract writers' bottom which is a horrible complaint leading to lardiness and pins and needles in the buttocks). Or I tottle off to the shops to have a quick float around and to buy something inappropriate for a lady of my years such as blue nail varnish. Then back for some more writing before dinner. We tend either to nominate one of us as cook for that night or to go out to the local pub. It's amazing how much you can achieve when in such a cocoon, ideas flow, words pour out and things get FINISHED. I'd recommend it to anyone. But the best thing is if you go with writing friends they will not only understand your dilemmas, rejoice in your triumphs but also they'll be happy to talk to you about that niggling plot twist or that elusive character slant. Now my family are lovely but quite frankly all that stuff bores the pants off them.......
Saturday, 7 August 2010
Well, actually it's not a new toy so much as a work tool. The Ipad. The much trumpeted about beautifully designed light as air little computer you can put in your handbag. I have been given it by my lovely husband as an early birthday present. Why early? Because I am shortly off to a writers' retreat where we just sit and write each day and I have a ton of projects I am working on. I need a light word processor with a good battery and so, we bought the Ipad. So, how's it performing? It looks and feels wonderful and is great for searching the web. On the word processing front however, there are a couple of glitches. Firstly, you have to download a word processing programme and pay exra for it - yes folks, everything costs extra with the Ipad. Secondly, the programme Iwork Pages has certain fundamental flaws for a writer. The first one is that there is no word count facility. Why not Steve Jobs? Why on earth when you invented this lovely thing did you leave out that very simple, absolutely essential for the writer tool? So I beetled off and investigated the web to see how to get around this. There is after all a way around everything. Yup, you guessed, you have to download yet another app which has a word count facility. I duly paid my pennies and downloaded. But, can I work out how on earth to use it? No, and what's more doing so has taken up writing time. So, back to the drawing board..... It is however a wonderful piece of equipment, slim, light as a feather and the battery life is great. Also, it has a natty keyboard/dock which has been pared down to the bone in inches but where the keyboard bit is actually full size and incredibly easy to use. So, marks out of ten? Eight so far but nice, very, very nice.
Sunday, 1 August 2010
Have just enjoyed our very first cruise. Well, okay, it was just a mini-cruise and we spent only four hours in Spain but it was still absolutely wonderful. We sailed from Southampton and it's about a million times easier to get on and off a ship than it is a plane. None of that rigorous security, going through endless scanners with your shoes off and queuing for hours. The ship had loads of wonderful places to sit - our favourite was looking out of the back (is that stern or aft or even bow, I have no idea!?) and watching the wash from the giant propellors underneath. Very soon, you begin to chill out and we sat happily there for many hours whale and dolphin watching. The Pride of Bilbao has for 10 years been a base for a conservation charity devoted to dolphins and whales and the guy running it gave an interesting talk during the voyage as well as making announcements whenever the creatures were in view. But, the highlight for us was when we went out very late one evening just to look at the moon. It looked stunning, full and creamy with its reflection glistening for miles on the sea and the water was so calm, it was quite quiet. Until that is, we heard splashing and there below us was a dolphin leaping in and out of the water, just having fun. It was magic, sheer magic. What's more, a four day crossing gives ample time for writing and I got the revisions for my magazine serial well underway. We loved it and will definitely be saving our pennies to go on another more substantial cruise.