Sharpening the Saw

‘The wood cutter frantically and ineffectively working with a dull saw and getting very little done, knows that the saw needs sharpening, but believes he’s much too busy to take the time to sharpen it.  Madness, certainly, but madness each of us knows all too well.’

Stephen Covey, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

I was going to write a snippet about procrastination but, frankly, I can’t be bothered.  Not because I’m struggling to get it started, I should point out – I have, in fact, begun it – but because what I’ve written so far is very, very dull.  Trying to be clever, I found a couple of articles on t’internet and attempted to précis them into a short and amusing piece.  But it’s a difficult subject to add a twist of humour to, so I give up.  If you really want to read the articles, you can find them here Writer’s block or procrastination? and here Too busy to live my own life? – though I should warn you that they’re written by men with very dodgy haircuts.

So, as we have already established, I haven’t added much ‘content’ to my blog recently as more pressing things have had first call on my time.  I have, however, written and handed in two assignments for this semester’s MA module, as well as writing for and editing a 16 page newsletter for the local history society.  And I’ve done this largely because I would’ve been in deep trouble if I hadn’t.  Failing my MA because of missed deadlines is not an option and neither is failing to produce the spring publication for the aged – but vocal – historians of this town.  Luckily, I managed to fulfil both obligations within a short space of time, which was a writing challenge I’m pleased with myself for having met.

‘Remember that it’s more important to be productive than to be perfect’ say Dorothy Lehmkuhl and Dolores Cotter Lamping in ‘Organizing for the Creative Person’, as well as saying lots of other really interesting things about why I can’t help being both untidy and mildly insane.

For a long time I genuinely believed I’d never be a proper writer because of my inability to write daily.  Every writing course I’d ever been on and every article sharing tips from published authors said the same thing: write something every day, even if it’s just for 15 minutes.  And though I really, really tried to, with young children to look after, a job, the paperwork for my husband’s business to take care of, not to mention a home to run and extended family to support, I’ve never yet managed it.  So I thought I was stuffed before I’d even begun.  It was my very talented tutor, Kerry Orange, who first put me right on this and since then, I’ve come across a number of writers (usually women) whose advice has been ‘do what you can, when you can, and don’t stress about it’.  Which is exactly what I now do.

And on that note I shall finish with my current favourite author-comment, from Ian Rankin, speaking in the Saturday Guardian Review last month.  Asked about his writing routine, he replied:

‘You get these writers who say: “I go to my office at nine and I write from one till 12 and then I revise from two till four and that’s my day, and I do 2,000 words a day and when I’ve done my 2,000 words a day that’s me,” and you go: “What?  I have days when I do fuck all.”’

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Writing Workshop, Old Rectory Museum, Loughborough

ORM workshop

Tucked away in a forgotten corner of Loughborough, many people pass the Old Rectory as they go about their daily business, but few are aware of its ancient past or that the medieval ruins – all that remain of a once grand residence – house a museum at all.

On a chilly evening in February 2011, local writer Karen Ette and I ran a writing workshop at the Old Rectory.  The half-a-dozen writers who took part looked at the artefacts on display, at specially selected old photographs and documents, and explored the building and grounds, taking inspiration from the memories, sights and sounds they encountered.

They then listened to the story of the building, past and present, as told by a member of the Loughborough Archaeological and Historical Society.  The writing inspired by all these things was published in ‘Ghost Words from a Time Bound in Leather,’ an anthology produced by Scribbler’s Inc Press and available to buy from the Old Rectory Museum or online.  (Proceeds go to the Old Rectory Museum.)