Wales, Some Advice for Writers…and ‘In A Garden’

You can listen to a radio documentary I made about the Hill of Tara on this website if you click on the thingy at the right hand side of this page. Happy listening!
And if you’re in Internet surfing mood you could also Google ‘A Living Word RTE Grace Wynne-Jones’ and you’ll find a number of radio talk podcasts…musings on a variety of topics with a sort of Spiritual theme to them. But many of them are playful too!

I completed a short story late last night. It had been languishing in my computer for a while…partially written…a bit of a puzzle. It had started off as one thing, turned into something else and then changed again. I was exploring various feelings and situations in it, but what did it want to share? It had been stripped down and clothed again…questioned and explored. It found some kind of answer. That’s what it wanted. It’s partly about how the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves inform our lives. I am a student of ancient healing traditions… shamanism..and wise teachers have shared this theme with me many times. It’s also about what we can learn from a garden…from nature. And it’s about loss and love and renewal.
I share this with you to show some of the mysteries of writing. It is a processs…a journey…an exploration.

I have written an article for the Western Mail about my Welsh family roots. That too, was a journey. As I wrote it I realised my Welsh connections are particularly important to me…my Dad was very Welsh…a lovely man…because I know almost nothing about my mother’s biological parents. She was adopted by a rather grand Anglo Irish Irish family called the de Veres. As I wrote the article I recalled trips to ‘Granny in Wales’…the long poetic Welsh place names…gatherings. The photo of me as a little girl in a summer frock sitting on a Welsh lawn with a tortoise. Dad had been in choirs as a boy. He loved singing. We knew that was part of his Welshness. And in church – he was a clergyman – his children sang loudly too. After all it was part of our heritage. His father was a fluent Welsh speaker. And his Mum baked the most wonderful cakes.

In the article I mentioned my website and said it contained some advice for writers.

Being a writer is a highly personal calling. There are loads of good books, courses, websites etc. on the subject, but one crucial piece of advice is to encourage budding authors to actually write. You wouldn’t believe how many people have told me that they want to write but find the process rather intimidating. Perhaps they are remembering their school days or old voices that said they weren’t good enough…maybe they feel that what they write has to be ‘perfect’…
maybe they feel that what they have to say simply isn’t sufficiently important. My advice about this is to write anyway. You are good enough and what you write doesn’t have to be brilliant, stunning and fabulous…though maybe it will be. Be playful! Lighten up. Write and see what you come up with. Be kind to the parts of you that are doubtful. Show yourself some compassion. Tell the critical part of yourself that you would welcome its constructive feedback a bit later on, but it can take a nice break during your first draft. The ‘critic’ can be useful to you later as you refine and edit and hone your work, but for now you need the freedom to explore and experiment. Encourage yourself as you would a young child and be a kind parent to the scared parts of you as you set out on this adventure.

Of course books about writing and courses and websites can be enormously helpful, but it is the process of writing that will reveal what sort of writer you are. What are the ideas, situations and feelings you feel drawn to exploring? What do you want to share? What do you want to know? Writing can be a great teacher. The saying ‘a writer writes many a thought he didn’t know he had’ is absolutely true. You can find yourself gaining precious insights into your characters as you spend time with them. Let them guide you.

If you decide to show your work to someone only share it with someone who knows how to encourage. Sometimes when people are asked to read something they feel their job is to point out what is wrong with it. This sort of insight into different people’s approaches can be hugely helpful to you if you are a writer who wants to explore the diverse ways in which people communicate. For example we have all met people who feel they need to point out the tiny flaws in an otherwise magnificent dinner. A similar character in a novel could be most interesting….why did they become like that? Do they judge themselves as harshly? When did the glass become half empty instead of half full? Could it have been some childhood experience? It’s all great material!

However as you start out as a writer you need to be very selective about your reader or readers, if you choose to share your work at this early stage. If you yearn for feedback choose someone who will think it’s fabulous that you have written something. Someone who knows how to celebrate your attempts. Of course one also wants them to be honest, but there are many ways of being truthful. Constructive criticism can be very helpful. But your own opinion of your work is what really matters.

The Arvon Foundation runs many wonderful courses and details are on the Internet. The magazine Mslexia is for ‘Women Who Write’ and contains many helpful articles. And the book ‘Becoming A Writer’ by Dorothea Brande is wonderful, as is ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron.
Read books that inspire you. For example I love Anne Tyler. She reminds me of why I want to write.

Why do you want to write? Only you can tell yourself that. And if you’re not sure of the answer right now don’t worry. Make peace with your questions and see their gifts. It’s a journey of discovery. Write because you want to. If you get published that is a wonderful bonus. But enjoy the journey anyway. Be brave and kind and learn to be your own teacher. The advice you give yourself is precious.

‘The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook’ and ‘The Writer’s Handbook’ and many other books, websites and courses can provide information about finding an agent. I sometimes advise people to go into a bookshop and pick up the books by the authors they love. If they read the Acknowledgments the author’s agent will probably be mentioned. At least that way they know the agent likes the books they like. Don’t be too discouraged by rejections. Learn what you need to learn but continue to believe in yourself. The business side of publishing is just that…a business. Along the way you will come into contact with people who really know what they are talking about…you will sense that what they are saying can really help your work. I welcome feedback from such people. If they suggest a change to a manuscript and I know the story needs it I am more than happy to take their advice.

Anyway, good luck with your writing. It is your own journey. Joining a writers’ group can be most helpful. Listen to the advice that helps you. Be willing to learn but also honour what you already know.



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