The Limerick Challenge

Fellow blogger Sandra Conner has issued a Limerick challenge to help with her Poetry Writing class.

I thought it might be fun to participate, and while I am doubtful that all my attempts scan as perfectly as they should, here is my contribution:

On the challenge itself:

Limericks are hard to get right
Playing with words late in the night
When you get one on song
It’s not very long
Until the next comes right into sight

For the Europeans who changed to daylight saving at the weekend:

There once was a man who forgot
To reset his digital clock
It was fine for a while
But it made his friends smile
When he was late opening his shop

A couple of silly random ones:

There once was a girl in a field
Wearing shoes much too highly heeled
When she tried to walk through
She lost each fancy shoe
And onto her face she then keeled

There once was a man from France
Who made up a silly dance
It really caught on
And not before long
We all learnt the same strange prance

Take a look at Sandra’s page for more attempts, and follow her instructions to add more if you feel inclined!

Fifteen Thousand Words

I have actually found the time to write a second post this month! One of the reasons that I started this blog was to get me back into the habit of writing on a regular basis, the discipline of having to write something at least once a month for my blog gives me further incentive to continue writing my novel. It has worked. In my spare moments away from the day job I have pressed on with my book, and have now reached the milestone of fifteen thousand words. It is a key milestone to me, as I imagine this to be about a third of the way to completion.

The story has twisted and turned a great deal so far, I have rewritten characters and subplots and wrestled with both narrative and dialogue – never quite sure if I have got the tone, balance, or subtle inferences correct (let’s not even discuss grammar and syntax!). This novel started life as a playful adventure for me, I began with quite a spring in my step confident that I would reach the summit of my own literary mountain with ease. However, now I am about a third of the way in I am feeling a little out of breath, the upward gradient is becoming a lot steeper than I had expected.

Time has also been ‘wasted’ (other writers will rebuke me for saying that!) by retracing my steps – a necessary precaution to make sure I have taken the correct path with the storyline, and that those little detours along the way were merely distractions and not glaring opportunities to develop the plot in a better way. I know my characters well now, I can talk to them, even be them, when I am writing, though some are still to show their true colours. I have had a real fight with myself over a key part of the plot, which requires the reader and one of the main characters, to suspend disbelief in the improbable and impossible and take something at face value on the evidence staring them right in the face. I’ve negotiated that hurdle, and as I’ve landed on the other side on my lead foot I have accelerated away.

There is still a good way to go, but I am encouraged that this time I have not given up, the finished article is some way off but it is much closer than I could have hoped for after just a few months writing. The climbing and running analogies I’ve used are no accident, as I see the writing process, the creation of a story, development of ideas and characters, very much as an expedition, with different terrains to navigate. At times it feels like a race – a race to get all of the ideas in some semblance of order onto paper, and a race to move the story forward. The next blog post on this topic may well be after Christmas, when I hope to have reached thirty thousand words – about two-thirds of the way to completion. I would love to hear from other writers about how they cope with the daily challenge of trying to write something meaningful.

Image acknowledgment: The Power of Words by Antonio Litterio.

Image acknowledgment: The Power of Words by Antonio Litterio.

Shooting Stars

I have struggled to write something for this month’s blog entry. Not because I have nothing to write about, but because everything I have started to write has ended up being some self-indulgent waffle. I started to write about ‘change’, because change is happening all around me right now: after years of hard study, my son has just started University; my daughter has landed a lead role in her senior school production; my sister is embarking on an exciting new venture as an artist, and a good friend was recently ordained. I was going to write that ‘change is a good thing’; ‘we should embrace change’; ‘change is exciting’. I was going to write that ‘sometimes when lots of change is going on around us we can feel like a stationary object with shooting stars of change coming at us from all directions, and we just have a moment to see them before they pass us by.’

Then I realised where all this was coming from. My own pace of change has slowed considerably. I was recently approached by two headhunters for senior roles in my industry, and I turned them down flat. Ten years ago, even five years ago, I would have ruthlessly followed up. In my field of expertise it is not unusual to change jobs every few years, from the age of late 20’s until early 40’s the average tenure is probably something in the region of three years. My own average since I was 28 (excluding two periods of freelance work) is two years and four months, and as I have now been with my current employer for more than three years typically I should be looking for my next move. But I am not. For the first time in a long time, I don’t want to move. I enjoy my job, have an enviable work/life balance, a boss who gives me complete autonomy (but is there when I need him), and a loyal hard-working team that I have built and developed.

So why am I feeling like I am surrounded by shooting stars? It is because I am. All of those I mentioned earlier are taking their opportunities and making the most of them, they are moving at a much faster pace than I am. That’s how it should be. We cannot all be in a constant state of rapid change – we’d go crazy if there were not things or people that we could rely on, or if our own lives didn’t stay relatively stationary for long enough for us to decide what we wanted, or to recognise a new opportunity when it arises. But human beings, on the whole, are progressive creatures by nature; we crave new things, new experiences, and new challenges. But we are also creatures that can appreciate what goes on around us, whether that is art, theatre, literature, sport, music, the natural world, or technology advances in areas such as science & medicine. We can also appreciate the beauty of change in others. I listened to my son, offering a little advice when needed,  as he carefully chose which university he wanted to go to, and what course to study, and then watched him apply himself to his studies, achieve his grades and get where he wanted to be, I’ve watched  as my daughter has continued to expand her creative horizons and will now be one of the youngest leads ever in her senior school play, I’ve seen how amazingly creative my sister is (the illustration on this page is one of her paintings), and I’ve watched from a distance as my lovely friend Wendy was ordained into the priesthood, after agonising over her calling. All that time I have had the advantage of being relatively stationary – I’ve been the constant this time. As a result I have a completely different perspective than these shooting stars and, if I watch closely and carefully enough, I can see them approaching, their lights growing ever brighter, and when they come close to me they are dazzling, but unlike celestial shooting stars, they are not gone in an instant and fade to nothing, if I choose to I can hold them for as long as I like in my gaze as they approach, and watch them grow bigger, brighter and more brilliant.

It is a true privilege to be standing relatively still while I take in all this change. It is also a lesson in not being too hungry for change all the time.  No doubt my time for change will come again and hopefully I will be someone else’s shooting star. But, right now, I am more than content to gaze upon those stars around me.



This painting by my sister, Sandra Brown, painted without my knowledge as I wrote this blog, perfectly visualises holding a star in my minds eye and watching it grow.