Creative prompt mini-series: paying respect to trees #1

One of the things that really catches my eye when I am our and about is where people decorate or otherwise mark local trees. I frequently find the way they do this to be interesting and mysterious, and it allows my mind to wander into spaces that are both ancient and mystical.

This tree is close to our house, and has been marked with this ring of stones for some time now. I frequently walk past it, and wonder who may have put these stones there. What do they mean to the person who placed them?

In my own work in progress (Feeding Jasmine Valentine) natural cycles, and plants and trees play quite a big part in my world building. One of the things I want to do a bit more with this blog is to share some of the things that are feeding into my ideas for that work. So over the next four weeks I’ll be sharing some photographs of trees that may spark your imagination.

I hope that this mini series will provoke new ideas for you, too.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you want to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Sunday Funday’s Creative Prompt: Lost in Croydon #4

I have just started on a third draft of the first novel in my fantasy series (called Feeding Jasmine Valentine). More than one of the characters starts the book feeling more than a little lost.

While I was out walking with my son a few weeks ago I found myself being attracted to objects around the place that seem a little lost. This is the Fourth in a mini series of creative prompts. This week’s prompt – a bare in a Sainsbury’s bag sitting on the pavement.

What does this picture make you think of? What kind of tales does this picture inspire? Ideas or flash fiction welcome in the comments below, or turn it into a post on your own blog and let me know.

Thank you for reading. I also make art and films. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Looking for something unusual on Valentines day?

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A few years ago, back when I began this blog, I created a small art collection that I called the Forest Kiss Collection. I was rather pleased with it, and uploaded it to Redbubble. As valentines day approaches I wanted to flag this collection to recent followers of the blog, of which there have been many since these pieces were first published.

Looking for something unusual this valentines day? I would be thrilled it you would take a moment to have a look at the art on a range of lovely things here, at Redbubble.

I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

 

Christmas card designs

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It’s been a strange old year this year, and in the UK we’ve just moved into another lockdown of sorts. At times it feels like this situation will never end, and that we’ll never quite get back to normal. I’m finding it a bit difficult to think about what Christmas will look like this year and haven’t got much planned at all.

I’m not normally very good at sending cards at Christmas, as I prefer to try to see people, but I don’t think that will be happening this year. One of the things that I am going to try to do this year is actually send those Christmas cards to people I may not be able to meet in person.

A few years ago I made a couple of funny Christmas card designs and uploaded them to my shop on Redbubble. They are available on cards and other products and I’m still quite pleased with them and feel like they hold up ok.

If you are that way inclined, I would be thrilled if you would take a quick look at the Christmas designs I have here, at Redbubble.

Thank you for reading. I also make art and films. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Scraping together time for art.

It’s been a busy few weeks here in the Magpie Nest. I was finally able to take Baby Magpie home to spend some time with his grandparents, which was great but exhausting. We also have quite a lot of jobs that need doing on the house, and the day to day jobs involved in looking after a small person.

With all of this going on I have been finding it hard to fit in time for creative things at the moment, as Baby Magpie is reaching an age where he is interested in everything, and beginning to be able to move himself about the place just a little, but not quite enough to satisfy his curiosity. It is difficult to find the kind of quiet alone time that you some times need just to think a bit of creative work through.

One of the little projects I had in mind was a card for Mr Magpie, as it was his birthday recently. I have given him hand made cards for his birthday every year since we’ve been together and it’s one of the little rituals of our relationship that I don’t want to let slide. I had a design in mind but found it difficult to just sneak away and put my design onto paper, which began to make me very anxious.

In the end I was able to manage it by pretending I had another piece of work I wanted to do and getting Mr Magpie to sit with him for a while for a while. It wasn’t the best solution, it would be better if I could find ways of managing my time better, but it worked as a fix at the time.

Baby Magpie is just beginning to take regular naps reliably, so I am hoping to be able to concentrate more on my projects during that time. Thus far I’ve not demonstrated a particularly strong ability to put boundaries around my time, or be disciplined at the opportunity arises, but this is something I plan to work on. I will let you know how it goes.

Thank you for reading. I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

An English Summer: Early morning mists in the old forest

I’ve really enjoyed this post from the tinypotager about walking in the forest with their daughter. Please give it a read below.

Lockdown is lifted and we can journey into the ancient forest again. An early start. On our short drive, the trees gradually reveal themselves in layers of green. The view is softened; we are watching the day form itself into shape. The mist feels like a fine spring rain, yet suspended in mid air. The […]

An English Summer: Early morning mists in the old forest

Pick up the baby: dealing with writers block when looking after a small person

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Regular readers of this blog will know that I have set myself the inadvisable task of trying to finish (and publish, or find a publisher for!) my novel this year while I am on maternity leave and also looking after a tiny person.

So far things have actually gone quite well, in that I’ve managed to finish a first draft of my novel. However it has been completed while I am in a sleep deprived daze, and so I am sure that there is lots of work to do now to make it readable.

One of the things I found early on was that when I did have those moments to myself in which I could write, I found it very difficult to get words down. I have previously blogged about some of the strategies I was trying out here, which included writing everyday, and having a (sort of) plan of what I would write. As I now have a finished first draft, I can say that they have worked ok.

The thing I didn’t write about in that post is what helps when those things fail. There have definitely been moments where I had a bit of time, and I knew what content I needed, but somehow the words wouldn’t come. In this situation I found that the best thing to do was actually to walk away, and pick up the baby. Or do the washing up. Or fold his cloth nappies. Something like that.

I think for me, just doing something different and physical like playing with the baby, paying attention to all the new little things he was doing instead of working on a sentence was actually a great way of giving my conscious brain a break. Often after a little bit of time I would find that my subconscious mind had worked through what ever sentence I was having trouble with, and something good enough for a first draft would pop into my mind.

Sometimes the only way to moving forwards with an idea is to step away from it.

I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Motherhood: time moves differently here

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It’s been a few weeks since I have posted anything as I have been engaged in a final push to finish a first draft of my novel. As I get closer and closer to the end I feel more motivated to put the few hours a week I have free to myself to that purpose. I’m very close now, which is really exciting. Regular readers of my blog may know that I have a bit of an issue around actually finishing things.

I’ve also been making sure I spend a lot of time just hanging out with Baby Magpie. He’s beginning to do all sorts of interesting things and I don’t want to miss out on them, as he seems to change every day. I’m not sure what I expected, but I find that the days just seem to drift past at the moment in a kind of dreamy haze. Some days are tough, and I get very tired, but mostly the time just slips by as my partner and I feed and play with him.

If you had told me this is what it would be like before he was born I’m not sure I would have believed you. A year off work felt like a long time then, now it seems to slip past so quickly. However, it feels like time well spent to me.

I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

‘I’ll fix that later’: things that help when trying to write and look after a baby.

When I was pregnant last year I had difficulty thinking about how I would continue to ‘be me’ and also be a mum. Keeping up my creative practice was one of the ‘be me’ things I was worried about. As I write this my baby is almost eleven weeks old and, as I’ve written about here, I’m concentrating on the writing at the moment, as it’s the easiest thing for me to manage. This has been pretty helpful to me from a psychological point of view, as my identity inevitably changes, and I have limits on my time, I am finding myself able to continue with a few things that were important to me.

Obviously I’m no expert in productivity, I’ve been working on my novel for a long time (eight years and counting), but I’m beginning to figure out some of the things that help me actually get words on the screen. I’m also understanding what I need to let go of for now. Here are my thoughts for now:

1. The phrase ‘I’ll fix that later’ is your friend. I have found that the less I try to get everything down perfectly the more I can actually get done. Interrupting the flow of writing to try to fix something or research something normally just results in me not doing anything. Instead I try to keep with the flow, and where I notice I’ve just done something I don’t really like I think ‘I’ll fix that later’. It’s then quite straightforward to fix issues in an edit when there is a bit more time.

2. Small chunks of writing are possible in even very short periods of time. I have found two to four hundred words very doable in ten minutes, which is two to four hundred words more than yesterday.

3. Small chunks of writing are only possible if I give myself reminders. If I try to cast around for the muse in ten minutes I inevitably don’t find her. So, if I have to put my writing down quickly, which I frequently do at the moment, I’m finding that if I can get a sentence down (often highlighted in red) to remind me what I was going to write next I have no trouble returning to it.

I hope this is helpful. Now I need to go and cuddle the baby.

I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Late night research and the Hidden Life of Trees

Followers of this blog may know that I’ve been working on a novel for some time (like ten years worth of time). I think it’s taken so long because it took me a while to work out what kind of book I was writing. When I started I had pretentions towards a kind of literary book, maybe magical realism, but wouldn’t have placed it in any kind of genre. Over time my ideas have evolved and I have ended up writing something that fits more squarely with the science fiction/ urban fantasy genres, with a strong environmental and mental health theme. I hesitate to call it feminist, but it has two female protagonists who are complicated, and as ‘whole’ as I can make them so far.

One of the things I’ve been doing while up in the middle of the night expressing milk for the baby is to read non fiction books that could be called ‘research’ for this. I think this may be where the famous ‘multi tasking’ that women are often claimed to have begins, because I certainly wouldn’t claim to be a multi-tasker, but I’ve found that I can just about manage to hold a breast pump and balance my chrome book on my knees at the same time.

My list so far has been slightly eclectic, and tending towards environmental themes. I’ve read This Changes Everything, by Naomi Klein, which I really liked/ was deeply frightened by, and also Into the Woods, by John Yorke, which is a really nice book about the mechanics of storytelling.

I’ve just begun reading the Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, which is a really interesting insight into the biology of forests. It explains how trees in forests communicate through a ‘wood wide web’ and form a social network through which they can support each other and warn each other of threats. I really like these ideas for my novel. I was finding the idea of writing science fiction because there was no place for things like robots or computer science (yet) in my book. Equally I was having difficulty with the idea of writing fantasy as so far there are no elves or swords in my story (although with time who knows – these things evolve). But I feel like I am on good ground with biological sciences, which I always found a had most affinty with.

For anyone interestes in reading about the social life of trees I would suggest this book as a nice tour. The writing in the early chapters reads a bit like an essay someone has written for GCSE biology, with a series of chapters that read a bit like lists of interesting things, rather than a coherent story, but this evens out later in the book.

Happy reading.

This article contains affliate links. Should you choose to buy one of the books cited with the links here amazon will throw few pennies my way. I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.