Wednesday, 26 November 2014

About Writing, about Creative Nonfiction, about your head and your heart

link to the pdf for the notes
As a kid I was never interest in reading words or writing them. I was blank when asked to make stuff up, then years later it all reversed.

At teacher training while at University, I was exposed to children in the primary school classroom, I saw how they thought and what they created. 

Somewhere along the line, I started to read. One of my favourites was Bill Bryson. He was a copy editor for The Times of London, then gave it up to write some books. 

If you've never heard of him, then look him up - he has the most incredible and unique ability to take a mundane subject and make it interesting. he tells a true story, overlays some amusing dry wit and makes you smile.

I'm delighted he has a Robert Redford movie coming out soon too, it's based on his 1998 travel book, A Walk in the Woods. There's even a movie page at mdb.


I was lucky enough to watch Bill Bryson talk about ten years ago - from my memory, he was on stage for an hour or so, and never used the same word twice. Extraordinary.

So there I was, in the year 2000 and looking into creative writing. It was tough back then - no realtime web and publishing like this. I signed up for a few evening classes and we each read to the class and grabbed some feedback.

I found myself in the local Waterstones bookshop buying a copy of The Writers and Artists Yearbook. It listed all the literary agents and how to go about getting published.

Then it got out of control, I was buying and reading, loads and loads, tons and tons of books on how to write. Boy was that a mistake.

Not a total mistake, a few excellent ones stood out like On Writing by Stephen King, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and of course Creative Nonfiction by Philip Gerard.

When I look back, I remember using a pen and a lot. I remember having a ton of index cards and keeping them all in a plastic box. One of the biggest headaches was getting an idea and having no clue if I'd written it or included somewhere.

And yes, I do have a unfinished novel tucked away somewhere - don't we all. It was only years later, i realised I got caught up in talking about writing far too much. As the cocktail party lines goes, Let me tell you about the book I'm not writing.  

Fast track a few years and I started a blog - this one. I started posting to the odd media site and even opened a YouTube channel.

Enough about me, here are the tips. It really does not matter if you are to write words, take a photo, make a video or paint a picture - it's all the same process.


That's why I've read and reread, noted and re-noted Creative nonfiction by Gerard more times than I can remember.

I have my own test as to what moves me. Any test is very personal and I tell no one about them. It's almost like if you tell, then they will implode. But I can say what I heard JK Rowling say about names.

I was at the Roald Dahl Museum, when I picked up one of those fake telephone listening things. I heard Joanne say, I know when a name is right because when you come back to it a day or so later, if you feel like you are in love, then you know it's the right name - if I feel nothing, then I never use it. That's what I think she said anyway. To this day, I never seen anything written about that at all.

As you can see, I've made the notes pdf based on the ideas from Creative Nonfiction - I've made it very clear I get nothing from the sale of the book, in fact I encourage you to go get a copy. 

My notes are not the truth, they are a reflection of what I value. The book was written to be applied to words, but in 2014, we have the realtime web, videos and stuff like that. The numbers are the pages where I found the ideas. 

There are 1,060 words in that pdf over 16 pages. My estimate, 50,000 words over 219 pages, so definitely go buy it.

What stands out and what are the best advice? That's a great question and almost impossible
to answer. 

I have one sentence that sums it up, and it appears it's not in the doc..

When at last you are confronting the truth of you life honestly in words, you have found your voice.  And with that comes a terrific freedom to write about anything else, too – anything else at all

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