I’m so happy to have my Facebook friend Gill Hoffs on the blog today. She’s talking about all things literary. I hope you enjoy her post as much as I have!
As I’ve said on my site, an English teacher once wrote in my jotters “A bit too far-fetched and bizarre, perhaps, Gillian” and “I wonder if the time has come, Gillian, for you to take some things a little more seriously!” Perhaps she was right – but I’m going to carry on chasing the bizarre, no matter how many eyebrows are raised or heads scratched.
That’s because I’m a writer. I make stuff up, I daydream, I ask awkward questions and I like to sniff things (not drugs or bottoms) and work out how to convey in words how they smell.
I write down snippets of other people’s conversations and unflattering descriptions of what they’re wearing, how they talk, stand, or look – and keep my fingers crossed they don’t notice. If I don’t have a pen or pencil (I have a 4-year-old so items ‘disappear’) then I frantically type whatever it was into my phone and save it as a draft, or mutter it on repeat under my breath till I get somewhere I can commit it to paper and trap the words before they blow away.
Frankly, dear reader, I appear somewhat nuts.
And most of you will, too. Embrace it: you might get more room on the bus, in a café, at the park, in a police cell…
Vic asked me to think about what inspires me as a writer. Well, it would be simpler to consider what doesn’t inspire me. And I can’t think of anything that doesn’t lead somehow to words on the page.
Here’s an example. ‘Imago’, now included in my first book, ‘Wild: a collection’ and first published at A&A, came from my first paid job. I was maid, waitress, dog-walker and dogsbody at a bed and breakfast. I had to wear a floral pinny with frills over my Metallica t-shirts and jeans and my boss always wore gloves. One day they were bright blue instead of her usual white, and I remarked on how pretty they looked and asked if there was a special occasion.
It turned out she had psoriasis and had run out of her usual white latex gloves and could only get blue ones at short notice. She was very self-conscious about her skin and the gloves, and my innocent gaffe made her feel much better about the more-obvious-than-usual gloves. Then one day I was walking with my son, looking for ladybird larvae and bugs, and there weren’t many about, but plenty of discarded cocoons. It made me think of freedom in its many forms, and the result was ‘Imago’. My husband says it’s Lovecraftian but although I’m familiar with the online references I haven’t read any of HPL’s work myself – so I can neither confirm nor deny the truth in that report.
I can trace each and every story back to something, usually quite a plain and ordinary something, but a something nonetheless. There are some stories, however, which come from some kind of brainfart. Like when you feed a baby strawberries but the smell a few hours later is nothing like it, and the nappy contents, well… you get the picture.
So I can say ‘Acceptance’, first published at SIR and also included in my book, was inspired by growing up a loner and preferring the quiet of the countryside to the watchful containment of suburbia, and reading about the tragic victims of the Moors Murderers. The first line pushed itself to the front of the queue in my head, past the laundry and tidying and wishing for sleep, so I wrote it down – then wondered where on earth it came from and what would happen next. I started typing, and my fingers worked it out for themselves, or that’s how it felt at least.
As for why I write… well, I can’t not write. I might as well not look about, not touch with my fingers, not lick my lips – it’s just as natural to me. I haven’t always done it, though. Having my son helped.
When I had my little boy my body changed dramatically. Not just because I got to about 20 stone, then back down to whatever I usually am (the midwife weighed me and tutted – I go by whether my clothes fit) and needed glasses. Not just because my feet went from size 6 to size 9. But after some scary times and neurologist appointments, it turned out the headaches, falling over, and hallucinations were some kind of peculiar migraines. And suddenly I had to write. I’d kept a diary of sorts for years (now replaced by Facebook) but now I was writing stories, sometimes several a day. And books. And – very rarely – poems.
My husband bought me a writing magazine, I entered some competitions, and things escalated pretty rapidly from there. I never thought so much would happen so quickly, especially since everything’s fitted round my son, but I’m glad it has: with writing, as with chocolate and Chinese food, no matter how much is happening I’m always hungry for more.
So now I’m a writer and mother, and was also recently made co-editor of Spilling Ink Review. My work’s won several prizes and my collection of fiction and non-fiction has just been published by Pure Slush (buy it here: http://www.lulu.com/shop/gill-hoffs/wild/paperback/product-20190137.html)– and I’m amazed and delighted in equal measure. The workload is manageable because I want it to be manageable, because I need it to be and get grumpy as hell if it isn’t. I’d rather be tired and published (and read!) than well rested and not.
My biggest tip to other writers is – if you want to write (which is different to wanting to be A Writer, although there is necessarily overlap) then damn well do it! If you have to persuade yourself to sit down and write, if re-arranging your knickers drawer or combing the grass of your lawn is more appealing, then nothing I say is likely to make a difference. Are you sure you want to write? Really? Then do it till your fingers blister and your eyes bleed.
I’ve not heard of a single writer being published because an editor plucked their number from a phone directory at random because they have an interesting name, or a publisher saw their email address in a dream. So get reading, get writing, get submitting. Best of luck with your chosen endeavour, and let the words flow!
*Oh, I meant as in ‘your carefully proofread work’, though if whips and chains work for you, have a blast. I’ll be the one reading in the corner. Come join me – I usually have chocolate.
Apocrypha & Abstractions – http://apocryphaandabstractions.wordpress.com/
Spilling Ink Review – http://spillinginkreview.com/
My site – http://gillhoffs.wordpress.com/