Sunday, 8 January 2017

The Right Resolution for Writing



It's taken me a good week or so to think about what I want to do in 2017 as a writer.  Usually, New Year finds me in a froth of ideas and to-do lists as I aim for more projects than I can actually achieve.  By spring I have usually given up on most of them and by the end of summer, I am utterly dispirited again.

My usual way of thinking goes along the lines of: "I must write more; I must find more time to write; I must settle on a better place for my writing, conducive to intelligent thought; I must enter some competitions; I must start that novel; I must finish that novel....." This last one has been on my list of resolutions for years.

I also usually try that little trick of SMART goals.  But these just remind me of being at work, appraisals and all that capitalist productivity mush.  I cringe every time I see this expression.  So if I cringe, I avoid.  Never mind SMART.  This year I'm going to use good sense.  And that starts with that sixth sense that we don't always use enough - gut instinct.  If it makes me cringe, I will abandon it.  That goes especially for my writing, however precious I might feel about a particular paragraph.



So 2017 is going to be different.  Out with the old, outdated idea that I must write more.  This year, it's all about writing better, going for quality rather than quantity.  So my list has gone from about 30 items exhorting me to produce thousands of words per week, to these three.  


  • Get a piece written - everything, including warm up paragraphs, is to get written down.  One idea at a time.  One story at a time.  When one is finished, then write the next.  I frequently take on so many writing projects I can only progress them one paragraph at a time and then  nothing gets finished.  Not this year.  I am shelving everything except the one idea that excites me the most.  When that is over, I will start on the next one.
  • Get fussy about revision - I will not hold anything sacred, especially those warm-up paragraphs, or, in my case, pages.  Write them, then get ready to delete them.  Be tough and above all don't be precious.  Writing is for reading and readers don't tolerate easily a writer's self-indulgence. Leave aside all those unnecessary words -'very', 'really', 'incredibly', 'huge', 'most' - in fact, avoid hyperbole altogether.  In fiction, it makes me cringe (so it's got to go) and in non-fiction, it usually reflects a lack of depth and critical analysis (unless it's what the client wants - always produce what the client wants, it's good for the bank account).
  • Write for a clear reason - write to inform, to inspire, to tell the story that is burning to be told.  Writers don't often understand why they want to write, what it is they want to write about or even what they want to achieve from their writing.  But there is no point to burbling.  Once you are clear what you want from your writing and what you want from your reader, then write.  Until that is ready, it is just another idea mulling about in your mind.
For me, in 2017 less is more and quality seriously supersedes quantity.


What do you think?  Achievable?  We'll come back to this in the summer, see how things are going; i might just find my work heading for this place!




Friday, 30 December 2016

Christmas, New Year and goodbye to 2016




Reflecting on our lives, on what has been happening in past months and planning ahead to future months is part of the mid-winter season.  Whether you think about it as making New Year resolutions or whether it is a deeper evaluation of life, your business, your career or what you plan to achieve as a writer in 2017, the short days, dark nights and the possibility of pausing over bank holiday breaks make this is a good time for thinking, learning from what has been, and looking ahead to doing things differently, living life better.

Thinking back on 2016, it has been a year of the unexpected.  In politics we have seen Brexit vote, the strengthening of the far right, the rejection of the establishment (not sure what that means, I'm still reflecting on that one), the triumph of Trump and the trumping of moderate policies, more women in positions of power than ever and yet power concentrated in fewer people with more and more communities disenfranchised, disenchanted and disengaged.  It feels as if society is teetering in a  precarious position.




Meanwhile, because the world seems keener to observe the lives of celebrities than to take an active role in society, we are reeling from the deaths of many famous and talented entertainers and artists.  As 2015 petered out we lost Lemmy, and each month seemed to bring a gasp of shock and countless RIP messages on Facebook.  Bowie, Rickman, Wogan, Prince, Reynolds, Fisher .....oh, the list is too long to go into them all.

There have been scandals in sport, notably football (a sport dealing with scandalous amounts of money I suppose will inevitably court foul play), and there have been many triumphs (go Andy Murray!).  I became quite engrossed in the Paralympics because I cannot but admire such talent and determination to overcome incredible physical obstacles.  The paralympians are an inspiration.



All of which adds up to incredible fuel for the writing engine.  If ever at a loss for an idea for a story, a character in a novel, a play or film or any writing, 2016 can supply themes, outlines, plots, characters, sub-plots, turns and twists which can be adapted to almost anything, and enough drama to fill bookshelves galore.

For my part, I am still in reflective mode rather than planning mode, and here is one of my Christmas poems, "I know it's Christmas", which was published last year in the Gibraltar Chronicle.  I can't help thinking that this time of year makes loneliness, old age, loss, more poignant than at any other time, especially given how busy we all seem to get leading up to Christmas.  When it comes to spreading cheer, why reserve it for Christmas? Why not make it a point of giving to charity, volunteering to help out the poor or the lonely or the needy every week instead of just once a year?  Or keeping in close touch with family and friends?

While this Gibraltar Writer reflects and plans for the year ahead, I wish all my followers a very happy New Year, and may 2017 be calmer and kinder to all of us.



I know it’s Christmas

Now, I know it’s Christmas time because I’m
Knitting toys with odds of wool left over
From years of saving scraps, mend and make do,
And candy cotton scarves with matching hats
For fashion-conscious girls with ironed-out curls,
And neatly cabled tops with Aran yarn
For outdoor lads who sail and fish and run;
All to be set aside on Boxing Day,
Then neatly parcelled for giving away.

And I know it’s Christmas time because I’m
Measuring jugs of sugar and milk
And breaking eggs into bowls of white flour;
I’m kneading and stirring, the mixer whirring;
Figs dried, dates stuffed, pudding spiced, topped with nuts,
Almonds are sugared and fruits are candied;
The fridge and the freezer are stuffed and crammed:
The ham is hung and all the spuds are peeled –
Shame that for this there’s only one mouth to feed.

Yet I know it’s Christmas time because I
Hum silly tunes to a radio’s strong beat,
Eat one choc a day as an advent treat,
And I shuffle about in reindeer socks
To dress the old tree in sparkling gold stars.
I hang tiny Christmas baubles from the
Wrinkled lobes of my ears, drooping slightly
From the weight of so many passing years.

 Well, I know it’s Christmas time because the
Chill black shadows in the streets have long been
Draped with brightly coloured lights that flash a
Welcome to over-burdened shops, where glint
The fangs of smiling salesmen as they mumble
“Sell, sell, sell!” under mince pie brandy breath
In time to chirpy tunes and piped out bells.

I really do know it’s Christmas because
My room is scented with orange peel
And cranberries cooked with cinnamon sticks,
And I peg red stockings on a string line
Re-read my three cards and turn on TV,
And set aside my coppers and mulled wine
In case carollers call to make it all real.

Oh, how I look forward to Christmas time:
The chestnuts have all been roasted and the
Turkey has been carved, a glass of sherry drunk,
The snow-white table has been laid for one,
The only Christmas cracker has been cracked
And on my head I place a paper hat,
And raise a flute or two of bubbly wine.
I stand to hear the Queen in ritual speech
Then wait for that nice girl from “Silverline”,
On this, another lonely day, to call
And wish us “Merry Christmas” one and all.

by Jackie Anderson


                                                    

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Beating Blank Screen Syndrome

View from my window around noon!  Gibraltar in a thunderstorm

Gibraltar is soaked.  There's a deluge going on out there of almost biblical proportions.  Parts of the nearby Costa del Sol are under water, sides of hills seem to be disintegrating and the sea is reaching up hungrily towards the land to greet the torrent that approaches it.  The sky is so dark that mid-day seems to be early evening and early evening is dissolving in the clouds and becoming night.

I ought to be grateful really.  There's nowhere that I need to be and my home is reasonably dry - except for the bit by the living room window that still leaks when the wind is this strong.  Better still, the kids are quiet catching up with homework, the husband is engrossed in the snooker and even the dog is happy to curl up in his favourite corner and avoid the outdoors.

So suddenly I have time.  Now there's a luxury.  If there is one thing that impedes me from completing the fiction pieces I want to write, or from producing poetry more often, perhaps enough poems to put together into a slim volume, it is lack of time.

Like most writers, I have to earn a living, and I have not managed to earn enough from writing to keep the kids alive and a roof over our heads. Yet.  But I am working on it.  There are outlets for writing in the big wide world.  Probably more now by virtue of the Internet which relies on words as much as on visual material.  It is not easy to find outlets for written work, but with some persistence and a professional approach, it can pay.

In the meantime, I have to get on with the day job and the novel lurks in the recesses of the hard drive waiting to emerge to the light of day.



So, just as I have that precious pocket of time, lo and behold, I am beset by BSS - Blank Screen Syndrome, formerly known as BPA - Blank Page Affliction.  What is it about that white screen and blinking cursor that banishes all those ideas that normally clutter your brain making you forget what you went in the shop for and what time your daughter's dentist appointment was, or where you put the butter (yes, I have been known to find a melting puddle of butter at the bottom of a shopping bag having forgotten to unload it)?

What to do about it?  Well, if you leave it too long, BSS erodes that special bit of time  you have carved out for yourself.  The more you stare at the screen, the more you'll fret that you have nothing to write and even if an idea crops up, your confidence will have begun to wane and you won't see the value of it.  So my tip, for what it's worth is simply to start writing.



Some writers recommend just hitting the keys at random, writing any old rubbish which you can always delete once the words start to come.  Some advocate free writing where for ten minutes, to a timer, you write whatever comes into your head; disjointed thoughts, shopping lists, anything.  This seems to act like a mental unblocker, clearing the mind and leaving you free to write what you need to.  I've never tried free writing.  Instead I move away from the screen, but I write something, anything, in longhand.  A letter to an old friend, perhaps, or I'll organise my week in my diary (I still have an old-fashioned Filofax).  Sometimes I'll just write an entry into a journal.  I'm not a great diary keeper, my journal entries can be six months and more apart, but it does serve to unblock the words.

So, having burbled on my blog about Blank Screen Syndrome, the torrent of words is ready to emerge. The weather is still ghastly, the snooker is still on, the kids are still quiet and the dog is snoring.  Christmas short story on its way.


Sunday, 13 November 2016

Sing your own song




"Everyone is looking out of the world through their emotion and history."

So said Ben Okri, an award-winning writer of intensely beautiful and spiritual prose and poetry.  Okri's work is steeped in the myths and fables, and in the history of the Nigeria of his birth and formative years.  His voice, unique though it is to him and to his creative talent is also, in part at least, the voice, or one of the many voices, that make up the song that is Nigeria.

It is probably far too simplistic to say that the place where you live is the major influence on your writing - the landscape and the culture that surround you when you are young, growing up, or where you spend such a long time that it gets right into you.  There are all sorts of factors that give you the voice that is uniquely yours and these would include your education, your family make-up perhaps, your experiences at different points in your life, your health, your relationships with others.  

I'm particularly fascinated by how where you are - your location, the place that you physically inhabit in the world - influences your writing.  After my post last week about what being a local writer in Gibraltar might mean, this week I have been mulling over how being Gibraltarian or being in Gibraltar might affect a writer.



There has to be something, I pondered, in the fact that we are so many people crammed together in such a small space.  The noise of everyday, which rises quite a way up into the Upper Rock even when you try to escape it, carried on the breeze that whips up dull sounds of traffic or the sharper roar of an aeroplane taking off, or the boom of pile drivers cutting through the sizzling of the cicadas in the trees on a summer afternoon, must surely permeate all our thoughts.  The intensity of the blue of a winter's sunny morning out at Europa, one of the few spaces in Gibraltar where you can feel surrounded by light and open space is at once refreshing and soothing, inspirational perhaps.

I guess we find stories in our history, that mixed bag of events where cultures met and mixed and clashed and from which we are emerging, slowly, perhaps painfully, as our own nation with roots that are embedded in traditions from all over the world.  This means that our language is mixed - English and Spanish are entwined somehow.  Some of us prefer one language to the other, some of us write in one language for some purposes and in the other for different types of expression.  It is a reflection of how we use those languages day to day.  Still others of us speak in other languages: Moroccan, perhaps, Urdu, or Hindi and a host of others.

Some writers will be of one nation or other and have visited, lived in or near Gibraltar, and have found their inspiration here for a piece of work.  I think of Thomas Mogford's detective novels, for example.  Gibraltar's own contribution to world literature is still small, still very much developing, but even what there is has a fascinating story to tell of how place influences voice.  

Take Humbert Hernandez's short stories "El Accordeonista y otras historias". These are stories based on his young days in post-war Gibraltar and reflect a lost period which just about remains in our collective memory.  They are stories of his childhood, and fittingly, he writes them in the language of his childhood: Spanish.  



Gabriel Moreno writes in both languages, and uses language to explore that duality of identity that many Gibraltarians experience - a classical post-colonnial English education focusing largely on English rather than Gibraltarian history and literature - yet a day to day cultural existence that is predominantly Spanish - villancicos and polvorones at Christmas and torta de patata on the beach in the summer.  Speaking at the Gibraltar International Literary Festival last month, he fascinated me with his view on English and Spanish in writing; the former being presented as a precise language which cuts through emotion and positions meaning almost as if writing is a form of engineering, whereas Spanish flows in a wave of passion and emotion, carrying meaning like waves to the shore.    (Those are my words not his - he described what I am trying to convey much more succinctly and in a more learned fashion, but this is what I "heard".)

Sam Benady and Mary Chiappe, an older generation than Moreno's, use classical English language and writing techniques to create their historical whodunnits, and yet in so doing, they express a uniquely Gibraltarian world-view of a particular point in time and place.  Mark Sanchez' novels come from a Gibraltarian experience, not just in setting, but in "The Escape Artist" from the perspective of a Gibraltarian student in an English university. (Click the link below).  

The Escape Artist


Kailash Noguera writes from the depths of a hispanic passion that sometimes bursts full of light and sometimes broods darkly, harsh as the Rock that birthed it.  David Bentata and Levy Attias bring us works that are imbued with the spirituality that influences so many of the people that have their roots here. Sonia Golt displays the flamboyance that is the Mediterranean: sunshine and sea-spray and falling in love.  Rebecca Faller uses her native English in all its glorious, incisive fullness with the precision of a military operation to cut out a sharply-defined view of her adopted Gibraltar, warts and all and with a tinge of humour - because you cannot get away from laughter in this tiny city.

I could go on.  Gibraltar's writers and those writers in and around Gibraltar, are all writing  Gibraltar's song.  We are all writing our view from our place, our history and our emotions.

If it is true that there are only seven basic story plots, then there are as many ways of telling a story as there are people. Each of us has a unique view out of their own world, an individual experience which to a greater or lesser extent may be shared with some others, but the beauty of writing is that we each have our own very special voice, and each is as valid as the other.  

That last thought is rather comforting.  Rather than wondering if I ought to try to write like this or like that, I just have to write like...me.  I write my view of the world, for better or for worse, with my way of expressing things, with my experiences, influences, passions or my own brand of cold cynicism, shaping and colouring what and how I write.  So.....to sharpen yet another quill and write some more...I'll do it my way.

Photo courtesy of www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net



Sunday, 6 November 2016

How local is local in Gibraltar?



I need to lay my cards on the table straight away, just in case I fall prey to the hordes of slavering gossips just waiting for me to make a politically incorrect statement so that they can pounce on me like half-straved hyenas. This post is written from my perspective as a writer.

What do I mean by that - the perspective of a writer? Well, firstly, a writer knows no boundaries.  We are people that inhabit our imaginations and explore worlds of fiction as often or more so than we do the real world.  We question, we cast doubt, we nose into shadows and into the shadowy.  We take inference from shades, from glances, we respond to nuance.  If there's one thing we know for certain, is that there is no certainty and that reality is only what you make it and never what it seems.

So, from a writer's perspective, where everything is possible, fleeting and elusive, what does "local"  mean?

We work with words, and while sometimes we insist on definition, we also understand and use allusion.  We use words to create images and illusions and we know more than most, how words can destroy and well as create.


Local means "belonging or relating to a particular area or neighbourhood, typically exclusively so" according to my dictionary.  

This means, then, that anyone who belongs to Gibraltar or relates to Gibraltar as a defined neighbourhood, could be classed as a "Gibraltar writer".  So far so good - the geographical boundary is defined and the journalist in me is satisfied, and yet the definition is broad enough to encompass a wide variety of writers and writing.

Which leads me to wonder why I don't feel satisfied, why I feel that something is missing. Perhaps it's that in practical application, the word "local" in a Gibraltar context can often mean something far more narrow.  When I look for a job and I'm asked if I'm a local, I have to produce my red ID card.  I wonder if I lived in La Linea, which to me, used as I am to living in a larger geographical environment, would feel local to Gibraltar, would I be considered a "local".  Experience tells me I doubt it.  My answer is that even if I lived in Estepona, I would feel local to Gibraltar.  For years I lived in Gillingham in Kent, and still think of myself as local to London, forty miles away.

Context, then, is essential when looking at the way that words are interpreted.  My concern, however, is how local is literature?



If a writer is born in Gibraltar but writes in New Zealand, is he or she a "local" writer, in the popular perception of the word?  If a writer is Canadian but lives in Rosia and writes about the Great Lakes and the Mounties in tense whodunnit thrillers, is he or she a local writer to Gibraltar or would we treat their work as an irrelevance in terms of local literature?  Is an American writer based in San Roque and writing educational books for Grade 6 Maths lessons remotely a local writer as far as Gibraltar is concerned?  Is a writer based in Sotogrande, writing in Spanish a series of historical novels set in Roman times and dealing with the Roman conquest of Spain, a local writer?  Then again, is a historian based in Birmingham writing about 17th century slave merchants and how they used Gibraltar as a base, someone with a local interest and local connection and therefore a "local" writer?


I have to say - yes to all of them.  These writers live nearby.  They share space, in some cases language, in other cases a shared local experience, in others a mutual historical heritage and in still others useful knowledge that can be shared for the betterment of our community.  There would be no need to exclude them.

In Gibraltar, we know from decades and generations of experience that the greater the inclusivity of people of all sorts of ethnicities and backgrounds into our community, the richer our community, the richer our learning, our art, our means of expression and above all our literature.  That is why having an annual International Literary Festival is so important.  And that is why, to be truly part of international literature, we need to open our arms wide to all writers who in some way or other are "local".  We should eradicate boundaries rather than uphold them.  Whoever turned down an English writer living in Santa Margarita seeking a stall to sell his books in Gibraltar as not being local enough to warrant permission ought to consider why they would set up a barrier to expanding our "local" experience of literature and the thoughts, creativity and ideas that literature provokes and encourages.

Our small, fledgling writers' group, Gibraltar Writers, embraces locals of all sorts of backgrounds, and all sorts of writing.  They may be visitors staying during the lifespan of a short term work contract, or born locally, or immigrants or itinerant travellers. Their first language may not be English, their preferred language for writing may be anything else they want it to be, including Elvish and Klingon.  Why? Because by embracing thinking and ways of expression from all over the world, by sharing the experiences of all sorts of people, Gibraltar can truly find its own, unique voice in the world of international literature.

Words can destroy boundaries, so let us not put limitations on our writers and those who write for and about us.


Thursday, 3 November 2016

When the muse strikes



Most writers will tell you that if you want to write, then write.  There is  no such thing as waiting for the Muse to strike.  There is no substitute for practising your craft as often as you can.  The same is as true for writers as it is for a piano player or a potter - practise, practise, practise makes perfect.

The message came over loud and clear during the 2016 Gibraltar International Literary Festival.  I was fortunate enough to attend a number of talks given by visiting writers, and also by local writers - more about the distinction in another blog.

The first emphasis on the value of writing as much and as often as possible came from Giselle Green. An award winning novelist, Giselle Green was born in England, grew up in Gibraltar and now lives in Kent, not far from where I, born in Gibraltar, grew up.  She has been a busy Mum, raising six sons.  I'm raising a brood of six myself, some boys some girls.  What differentiates us, besides Giselle's obvious talent, is that she writes, and wrote for years, a lot.

Giselle Green's website

Photo borrowed from Giselle Green's website

"It's all grist to the mill," she said, "writing around a large family or other commitments is very hard, but the more you do, the better your writing will become until one day it will be good enough to publish."  I can't do justice in words to the sense of encouragement that gave me.  Keep going was the message, so back to the keyboard it is, even if the best I can do sometimes is a couple of posts on Facebook and some entries on this blog.  I passed the message on to the Gibraltar Writers' group and I think it hit home with them too.

I listened to Gabriel Moreno talk about his constant exploration of language, from listening to the lyrics of rock songs as a young man to the voracious reading and analysis of English and Hispanic poets.  Without that constant playing with words, his writing, the lyrics of his songs, the beautiful music of his poems would never have taken shape.  He inspired during his talk, which interestingly also linked language to culture, identity and the expression of these, and he inspired during a wonderful evening of poetry, music (and, in my case, large gins and tonic) with poet Rebecca Faller adding her sharp, witty and often amusing poems to the event.

Gabriel Moreno

Photo by angels from www.gabrielmoreno.co.uk

Tom Mogford, who writes fast-paced "whodunnits" set in Gibraltar, or in nearby Mediterranean countries and following the adventures of a fictional Gibraltarian detective, also told of his many attempts at approaching potential publishers and dealing with rejection letters - one he read out took four years to reach him!  He kept going and going strong, his fifth book in the series recently being published.  Another inspiration.

Thomas Mogford

Shadow of the Rock



Louis de Bernieres was another author who spoke at the Literary Festival and he talked, among many things, about how he is a voracious reader.  Writing and reading go hand in hand - whether you read to understand your genre, your market, for pleasure, for research, this is the way a writer learns best how to handle the chosen medium: words.

Louis de Bernieres

The Dust that falls from Dreams



Back to the local authors, Carmen Gomez' gave an interesting exposition of her book with all its many observations of Gibraltar and the Gibraltarians during a time of cultural and economic upheaval, a time which was key in developing a post-colonnial identity.  Unfortunately I could not attend David Bentata's talk on his poetry which was a shame because I am utterly fascinated by what is being written by such a large number of talented and creative people, in a tiny city, where only a few years ago it was rare to find local published poetry and fiction among the mainly non-fiction historical works which focused on Gibraltar as a military base.

I did, however, attend the talk by Christian Hook, an award winning artist.  Hook is incredibly talented and already feted by Gibraltar and internationally.  He has produced a book hence his link to this year's literary festival, but what I found particularly interesting and ultimately inspiring, was his view on creativity and how he achieved his success.  Like the other creatives whose talks I attended, Christian spoke of the sheer level of work and dedication that eventually led to his success: hours and hours and hours of drawing the same object over and again until he was finally good enough to start work as an illustrator.  He combined self-belief, a sense that his gut instincts will lead him to the right places and sheer effort and talent and summed up that overall, without work, talent goes nowhere.

Christian Hook



I daresay there are many motivations behind holding a literary festival: there is the promotion of a town to encourage visitors, boost the local economy, engage international attention, maybe even to give a bit of a leg-up to a growing cultural movement towards the written word.  The Gibraltar Literary Festival seems to have a mix of purposes, although the salient one seems to my eyes to be more about the tourism product and providing an opportunity for the middle class literati to indulge themselves.  Still,in so doing, some of the underlying reasons for  having a festival in the first place are addressed: to bring Gibraltar closer to the rest of the world in cultural terms, to  give at least moral support to a growing body of literature based in, around and about Gibraltar, to somehow give some kind of international validity to Gibraltar's ever-evolving cultural identity.  

This latter deserves far more pointed and constructive attention than is provided for by just holding an annual International Literary Festival in the current format, and I will mull over this point in future posts.  But for now, as a writer and a reader, I enjoy the festival to the max.  Tomorrow, I will keep writing.  And the next day and the day after that regardless of whether the Muse comes to pay me a visit.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Summertime, seaside and sonnets

Low tide on the Medway Estuary

Some writers use the summer as a period of "downtime".  It makes sense - the days are long and drowsy, filled with the warmth of sunshine, the scent of wildflowers and the sleepy hum of bumble bees. The break from routine refreshes us and our creative muscle becomes toned and honed so that we can return to that writing project that will then fill our autumn evening.

So the idyll goes.  Many others of us are still stuck in the treadmill that takes us in long grey lines of commuters to the conveyor belt of activity that is the office or warehouse or wherever it is we spend our days and we are still trying to scribble out that masterpiece late into the night wondering if anyone is ever going to bother reading those words that seem so difficult to draw out of our exhausted minds.

Taking a walk by the Thames can be surprisingly inspirational

Yet even for those stuck at work, the general slowdown that comes each summer can be a bit of a breather, a chance to relax, refresh and restore the spark to their writing. 

Some city dwellers are lucky enough to find local parks with a lake, such as Capstone Park in Chatham

Summertime is thought of as synonymous with the sea.  A good walk along the shore can do wonders to dissolve those cobwebs, clear the fog of overwork (surely I am not the only one who suffers from acute brain fog after one of those interminable meetings where nothing is actually decided?), and inspire.  The sound of the waves, their movement, the way the light plays on them, what they mean to the poet, for example, can all be expressed in words, words that have a gift of arising as the mind relaxes and the writer observes the sea. Take these, from Pablo Neruda in his poem "The Wide Ocean".



The falling wave,
arch of identity, shattering feathers,

is only spume when it clears, 
and returns to its source, unconsumed.


I rather think that a description like this comes from the poet's close observation of wave after wave after wave crashing along the sea shore.

I love being by the sea.  Just an hour after work is enough to energise me.  And I love taking a stroll along the ragged edge of a river, or the wide marshes on the fringe of the estuary.  Some people do similar.  Or they fish, collect pebbles, shells, dig around the mud for cockles and mussels, take photographs with their complex cameras and long lenses.  On my walks along the canal bank, I see students sketching, retired artists daubing watercolours on canvas.  Bodies of water appeal to thinkers as well as doers.  Writers collect words.  Then they go away and mould them into poems, or sentences that pick up the thread of their novel, or add meaning to a story-line. 

So whether you are on holiday at the seaside, or stuck at work, it's worth making the most of those lingering hours of daylight to go down to the river, or lake, or sea, or pond.  Let your mind wander and let the words flow like the incoming tide.  As the sonnet by John Keats goes:

It keeps eternal whisperings around 
Desolate shores, and with its mighty swell
Gluts twice ten thousand caverns, till the spell
Of Hecate leaves them their old shadowy sound.
Often 'tis in such gentle temper found
That scarcely will the very smallest shell
Be mov'd for days from whence it sometime fell,
When last the winds of heaven were unbound.
Oh ye! who have your eye-balls vex'd and tir'd,
Feast them upon the wideness of the Sea;
Oh ye! whose ears are dinn'd with uproar rude,
Or fed too much with cloying melody,--
Sit ye near some old cavern's mouth, and brood
Until ye start, as if the sea-nymphs quir'd! 

John Keats