The Cure for Writer’s Block

By Michelle Dennison

It started around August 2012. I had a bad year, filled with all those things that are supposed to be the most stressful situations in life. You know, divorce, losing a job, losing a home, losing loved ones. Having to start over. And all at the same time.

And then the news came that the publisher who had given me a contract was revoking it in favour of a writer who had existing readership.

My creativity just dried up. The more I tried to write, the more I would stare at the screen and wonder where the words had gone.

A few months earlier I had easily planned a whole six book science fiction series, and now I could hardly write a few sentences.

So I set myself a goal this April of adding three more chapters to book one of the series, thereby making it 50 000 words, and better able to fit into publisher guidelines. April came and went. May disappeared. June floated in, and still the three chapters eluded me.

It seemed that nothing would break this brain freeze.

And then I had an email from a publisher. They liked book number one of the science fiction series. It was intriguing, and they found my main character appealing. The only thing was that they are only looking for full-length novels of 80 000 words.

Could I possibly join books one and two together and send it back?

When a publisher issues a challenge like that, the only answer is to say “Of course.” And that seemed to be what was needed to end my writer’s block.

I’m back to alien lands, romance, betrayal. Evil geniuses intent on taking over the universe. I killed  several innocent members of a faraway planet on Sunday afternoon. I have been hard at work planning battle strategies today.

I don’t know how long this sudden burst of creativity will last. I don’t know if it will be a fruitless  task, or if the publisher will appreciate the new novel that has appeared in the last few days.

But it’s great to be back!

Image courtesy of Digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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A Minefield of Men

By Anon

My body got up this morning and left my mind in bed. My bladder had won the war of nature, a struggle that ensues on most normal days. I’m not a morning person. The thinking part of me, left on the pillow, chewed over the conversations of yesterday. I resolved to put my fingers to keys and so the rest of me got up.

Dorothy’s Tin Man wasn’t the only fictional character seeking a heart. Romantic love or the most popular interpretation of it has inspired literature, poetry, theatre, film, songs, art, and endless conversations since Adam met Eve. The world revolves around the search for love. Social networking owes a great deal to the need for it as do the numerous dating sites that offer hope to the lonely.

But how does a woman know whether she’s met the man of her dreams or a tin man? How does a man know when he’s met his princess? Sixteen years ago, Princess Diana ‘lent her leg’ to raise mine awareness. I can’t help but draw a parallel between her walk through a minefield and her life spent seeking true love. There is no bomb squad on earth that can protect you from a minefield of men. Forgive my cynicism, but experience is the worst teacher.

We are told that, unless they are blind, most men are first visually and sexually attracted to a woman. Hence the old adage, ‘Men are only after one thing.’ In ‘Victorian times’, marriage was the usual prerequisite. Common practice now is to embark on a mating game to see how long the man can wait before claiming his prize.

If the woman gives in, she risks losing her virtue for a short thrill before her ‘admirer’ discovers an alternative attraction. Strike the match and you may just as well blow up the relationship.

In the early years, pregnancy and the demands of a little family can distract from the call of the wild. Many a male ego has stumbled away from nappy land to flounder in indiscretion. Once lit, the fuse smoulders on waiting for mommy to make a wrong move. The explosion is never his fault or so he will say.

In the middle years, a strange phenomenon evolves. Older men, divorced or widowed, seek women ten to twenty years their junior in an effort to recapture their youth and boost their ego. Some may re-enter the field at the same point as before, their brains having reverted to their teens. Their bodies, however, have limited time to play.

In the senior age groups, most men apparently seek financially independent partners whilst women seek security. Anyone who can tap dance through that patch is destined for the pearly gates.

But let me return to the reason for my musings. I met a merry widow in real life. Her eyes twinkled as she confessed, “I’ve met somebody.”

Love is amazing. It bubbles up like a potjie over a hot fire until the aroma overcomes the senses. Wrinkles and scruples don’t seem to matter when you’re eighty two and your ‘toy boy’ of seventy something doesn’t want to know how much you have in the bank. Will it last? As my mother would say, “How long is a piece of string?” Boom!!

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Mojo Shake Up

By Sue TrollipI’ve lost my mojo and no, it’s not the winter slump. It’s been a staccato year so far and I’ve been unable to retrieve my joie de vivre for a while. Then I decided to give up coffee and now when I wake in the morning and smell tea, it’s just not the same. There’s no bubbling pot, no pungent  aroma, no caffeine kick. I feel lacklustre and that isn’t good.

Right now I’m sipping a cup of cinnamon tea and airing the kitchen which turned foggy when I left the popcorn oil to heat, then forgot I hadn’t added the mielies. It took a while for my brain to register that it was smelling, but not popping. I wonder if it would have happened if I’d had coffee instead of cinnamon buzzing through my veins.

A life lacking passion is grey and dismal and I like to live in a vivid world.

I’ve done some research as to how to get my mojo leaping. This is what I’ve discovered (and tried) so far …

Read something happy.

I downloaded and started reading last night, Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl, so far so good I’ve already had a few laughs. (The last book I read was Lionel Shriver’s The Post Birthday World and, in my opinion, the beauty of Lionel’s prose is overshadowed by its depressing content.)

Get some exercise.

Yesterday I decided to pound the beachfront’s promenade. Dumb move, it’s Top Gear time down there and all the roads are closed. It took me about 35 minutes to get close enough to park and  about 45 to get home. Hackles high I stomped in the wind. Tomorrow I will try the botanical gardens.

Have fun.

Would that consist of drinking tea and eating petit delights with friends at the Beverley Hills hotel on a cold and blowy Sunday afternoon? – Yes I did that too.

Listen to music.

I suppose it’s time to up the iTunes budget because the radio is more talk shows than music and I am not a fan of the phone-in crowd.

So, I’ve tried some things and I will try some more:

•  Learn something new.
•  Find joy in everyday things.

I’ve given myself to the end of the month to get my mojo revamped because for the second half of this year I plan to be:

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Bold.
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Adventurous.
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Fabulous.

The Clumsiest Cat in the Universe

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By Susan Roberts

Ginger cats are different. Not that I’m biased or anything, but they really are. I acquired my ginger cat quite by chance. Normally I wouldn’t have chosen a ginger one, because my preference is for black-and-white cats.  Silly me – that was back when I thought that the human chose the cat, not the other way round!

I’ve always loved those piebald, randomly decorated kitties that look as if they might once have been white cats who upended a pot of black paint in a moment of mischief, and the resultant dodging of the paint left them with an assortment of asymmetrical black splashes. So cute, especially when they have splodges of black across face and ears.

It was all because I stopped at the Vet one morning to buy food for my current black-and-white cat that I saw the four kittens in the cage. I should have been in and out of Reception in a few minutes but they were busy that day, and instead of getting impatient I knelt down to look at the kittens.

Big mistake!

One was white with dark grey splodges, and the other three were ginger. Naturally I was attracted to the grey-and-white, but that kitten wasn’t interested in my overtures through the bars of the cage. Instead, one of the ginger kittens leapt to its feet and began prancing up and down, meowing and trying to grab at my fingers, singing and dancing like a desperate drama student at its first audition.

What moved me most was the fact that it didn’t do that to anyone else in the crowded waiting room; only to me. I had been chosen. The receptionist offered to open the cage so that I could take the kitten out for a closer look.

Second big mistake!

You know where this is going, right? Next thing I knew, I was letting my new kitten out of the borrowed carry-cage onto my lounge floor, and wondering what to call her.

Her? Yes, she was a female ginger cat. Most ginger cats are male, just as most tortoiseshell cats are female. Don’t ask me why – I’m not a cat geneticist. The vet explained that in females, the ginger is always mixed with white, which is inherited from the female gene… But, like I said – I’m not a cat geneticist; just a cat lover.

All my female cats have been named after queens, but what does one call a skinny, striped ginger-and-white kitty with a very long tail and outsize pointy ears? For several days, I struggled with the names of all the classical heroines I could think of, but none of them quite suited her. I mean, the biggest part of her was those enormous pointy ears, rather like the elves in the movie version of Lord of the Rings. In fact, her golden gingery coat and long tail reminded me of the golden hair of the Queen of the Elves…

That was it. I had a name for my kitten: Galadriel!

(One aged relative calls her Glad-Rags because he can never remember her name – he grew up long before Lord of the Rings was written, and obviously never read it.)

Galadriel can be demanding, offish and easy-going all in the space of one hour. She stands on her hind legs and taps my thigh with a front paw if she thinks I’m ignoring her, but when she’s in one of her moods, she growls and yowls if I pick her up, just like a tetchy teenager hissing: “Don’t touch me!” At other times she nuzzles and caresses with such enthusiasm that she frequently has small gouges or bare patches from head-butting something that was rougher or sharper than she thought it was.

As Galadriel grew – sideways, mainly – her resemblance to a tall, elegant elfin queen faded. She has remained vocal about her likes and dislikes, but unfortunately she grew up to be the clumsiest cat in the universe.

If Galadriel is asleep, I don’t dare to wake her. Traditionally one does not pull the tiger’s tail, although in Galadriel’s case this is not for fear of awakening some kind of dragon, but rather because the tiger will play clumsily with anything it can get its little paws on, and my writing will be out the window for another half an hour.

For a cat named after a literary heroine, Galadriel is a complete nightmare to have anywhere near my laptop while I’m writing. She has trodden on the memory stick and dislodged it in mid-document; kicked the mouse across the table; head-butted the side of the screen till the laptop tips over; and yes, she walks all over the keyboard! So far she has managed to miss the Delete button, but it’s only a matter of time…

She’s no Olga Korbut either. On one memorable occasion, she galloped across the floor, took a flying leap onto the table beside me, skidded on a sheet of paper I had left there, and ploughed into me, paws flailing for some kind of grip. Her outstretched claws found their grip when they landed on my face, and one scratch narrowly missed my right eye. I had a bruise and swelling on the side of my nose that looked very suspicious for a few days.

But for all her frenetic activity, my clumsy darling Galadriel is a cat in a million. I’m glad she chose me, but yes – ginger cats are definitely different!