Time flies by, when you're writing on a train...

I've probably mentioned this before, but there's no place finer for writing than on a train. Now I know that some of you will be commuters, and will have torrid tales of there being no seats and of being squished up against faulty doors between Hither South and Yon Central, and all for the price of a gajillion pound season ticket, but I don't have to ride those kinda trains.  

Most of my train travel is east-west across the middle of the country, on the train equivalent of the M62, the service run by the aptly-named Transpennine Express. It's pretty quiet, at least between Cleethorpes and Doncaster. Donny's where the action is, you see. Change for London and points north. Keep an eye out at the western end of platform 4 for the gaggle of what Network Rail somewhat coyly terms "rail enthusiasts".

Sometimes there's a few on board; in the run-up to Christmas and those making their retail pilgrimage to Meadowhall shopping centre; a portal to Hades, except with a Debenhams and a Nandos. Football will put a few on board too, generally stalwart fans of non-league teams with a pleasant sense of ironic distance from their obsession. Otherwise, it's holidaymakers. Yep, we've got our own little airport, but there's plenty who take advantage of the direct rail link to Manchester Airport to start or finish their vacation in style, with a few cans on the train, the way God intended.

Time your journey right, though, and it's pretty blissful. A bliss punctuated by the remnants of the industrial north; Grimsby Fish Docks, Scunthorpe steel works, former collieries throughout South Yorkshire. Meadowhall itself is built on old mining land; locals reckon they dug too deep, and had to cap the shaft with something worse than anything Old Nick could come up with himself; and that's why Meadowhall's where it is. 

These are flatlands for the most part. Reclaimed land, silt-rich soil clawed back from the Humber and the Trent. If there are growth industries around here, then they're in crumbling warehouses on the edges of conurbations, and wind farms. When coal was king, this was where the country generated its power. Now we claw back what we can from the sky, but it's not the same.

Only three stops, most journeys, along this bit. Habrough, Barnetby, Scunthorpe. That ghostly works is a titanium dioxide plant; the white filler they put in toothpaste and Polyfilla. 

It gets busy around Doncaster. Busy for Lincolnshire folk, anyways, blinking our eyes in metropolitan wonderment at the paved roads and the kids with shoes instead of clogs. Doncaster to Sheffield is a through-line past the backs of Virgin Actives, Tesco warehouses, and the friendly-looking Big Red Shed, which might wholesale booze. There's a chirpy-looking gurdwara, and some not-bad graffiti. Keep an eye out as we zip unstoppingly through Mexborough and you'll see Conisborough Castle.

Meadowhall is an arrogant surge of Thatcherite brick, red as City slickers' braces, a Loadsamoney fuck-you to them who don't have much from them who took it from you.

Five more minutes and we're into Sheffield. This is not a point to be locked to your screen or huddled into the fictional arms of your paperback; check out the evidence of some glimmers of the old ways. Cutlery workshops. The English Pewter Company. The run into Sheffield station is sheathed in tall brickwork on both sides, but this time it's the soot-grey of honest work that keeps you close till you get stationwards.

There'll be a kerfuffle here. Those hopping from Donny or Meadowhall will be off, and those commuting to Manchester crowd on. Now's the time to relish your seat, to give yourself a little power-up for having the foresight to have booked.

Sheffield's behind us now. There's a chance of a brew. The trolley gets on at Doncaster; no drinks between there and Cleethorpes, so come prepared. The coffee they have these days has fancy new lids. A straining contraption to keep you filtered from the grounds in the cup. Puzzling as heck first time out. It's not bad, but it's not the same as a brown spoonful of Nescafe from a catering drum of the stuff into a polystyrene beaker.

Civilisation cuts out, and you've got a good twenty minutes of the middle of nowhere. Forget your 4G, phone boy. Watch the clouds over the hills. Count the sheep in the upper fields. Then what it would be like to be that woman hauling hay from the back of a Land Rover for a day.

Manchester comes up on you slowly. Places you'll never get off; Hazel Grove. Then Stockport; the pyramidic Co-Op building, the hat museum. A brace of pleading signs on the outward surge; office blocks from a previous generation pleading with you. Low rents. Ample parking. Anything.

Pack your stuff away. Manchester in less than ten minutes. Again, the backs of industry. A cemetery, an old cinema, long-since converted to other use. Cash and carries, breakers yards. Up ahead its skyscrapers and stadia; Manchester's an ambitious city. Here, though, the railway line remembers what got it there.                   

It's two hours twenty minutes Grimsby to Manchester Picadilly. That's maybe 1500-2000 first draft words if I'm on a roll. A hundred and fifty pages or so if I'm reading. A thousand words if it's a commission. You can get a lot done. But that's no reason not to keep a check every now and again on where you are.    

 

Old notes from the classroom...

So. I got a new phone, and as part of the setting-it-up rigmarole, along with the minor awkwardness of shifting contacts and whatnot over from old device to new, I came across a load of pictures that had been backed up onto the SD card in the old phone. 

I spent a happy hour or so going through the images, deleting many of them as I went, backing a few others up, and then I found a sequence of pictures that I took to make a record of some notes given in class to email onto the students after the session. 

I was good like that, you see. 

So here they are. They're a partial record of some notes (mostly crowd-sourced from the group, though with some guidance in places from me). These were undergraduates studying short story as part of a wider degree, and IIRC, were at the beginning of their second year of studies. So they'd had a first-year experience to reflect on, and some regrets and success as part of that first year to inform the discussion.

I can't be certain if these images are in the same running order as the notes made on the whiteboard in the session, but they're a not-bad reflection of a couple of hours' worth of discussion.  

First up, some observations from me. These notes were capturing general observations on issues with year one work. These observations were entirely consistent of what I'd see year after year from first-year undergraduates, and, I'd extrapolate, from people whose adult creative writing experience was comparatively limited.  

Technical issues. A lack of attention, basically. Many were the times when stories handed in bore little relation to any story anyone might have seen printed in the history of anything, ever. I'm not talking publication-quality work (which was never the objective). I'm talking work that if you squinted at it without reading it, you would know, in a single rush of cognizance, that the author had a shaky-at-best grasp of what a story looked like. 

The main issues are as indicated above: 

  1. The lack of a focal character. "Whose story is it?" I would ask in feedback. And also, oftentimes the lack of a character who we might be inclined to empathise with. Not necessarily a "nice" character, just someone who we are allowed to understand a little and perhaps become involved as to their predicament.
  2. Dialogue punctuation. Weak stories are invariably punctuated poorly, and dialogue punctuation is where it shows up most. Top tip: if the dialogue punctuation is off, then the story is seldom worth your time. 
  3. Tense control. Present to past. Now to then. Often patchy and spasmodic; little nuggets of writing from different sessions stitched together without the courtesy of a readthrough for the barest bones of consistency. 
  4. Detail. Often too much. Adverbs and adjectives a go-go. A lack of understanding/appreciation of what's the important aspect of the item being described. And conversely, sometimes the important thing was hidden, sometimes because it was buried in extraneous detail from elsewhere, sometimes from a misguided sense of craft - because this item was being concentrated on, it got the care that the rest of the writing also needed but didn't always get.  

And then some promises to selves based on the previous writing experience (and sometimes the feedback as well, I'd have thought). Apologies for the blurriness of the image; posterity wasn't my aim. 

Managing writing time is so important. All too often, tyro writers make the assumption that writing is easy. That assumption comes from a straightforward though tricksy observation; that because I already know the alphabet and have seen stories before then it can't be too hard. You see, many other creative and/or artistic endeavours come with a practical competence in a skill. Compare playing the piano, for example, or painting watercolours. Or juggling. Writing doesn't. It's easy to mistake the observable skill for the creative/expressive practice. The two are not the same.

This leads to the second observation: stories take time. They gestate. They fester. They lurk and pounce. So you need time for that to happen.

Third:  originality. Too often, what would come out would be rehashes of stuff the writer liked. Emulations, not stories. Don't copy. Make something up. Imagination is free and your pockets are full of it, even when there's nothing else in your pockets.   

But don't be reckless. What we meant here was the notion that stories aren't complete until they're read. And it's useful to have a readership in mind. That ideal reader might be a specific person, a genre fan, simply "someone like me". But work to evidence some control in the writing and in the planning of the story so that your ideal reader can be challenged and surprised as well as entertained/entranced. Don't give them exactly what they want, but don't piss on their chips either.

The last one was the "use the tutor" reminder to self. Weaker stories tended to be written late, sketchy, and entirely un-workshopped in class. That way madness tended to lie.  

The next pic was a summary of what students thought of their own submissions from the last year, given time and reflection. They're all reasonable observations. "Unfair marking bastard" was my interpretation of their comments, and not meant wholly seriously... 

1377367381759.jpg

The next image; a recapitulation of the idea that writing is a process, and that story-drafting is iterative. It takes a few goes over the work to get it as good as it can be. So, a sample way of working: 

  1. Sketch an idea. Get the ending if you possibly can.
  2. Plan it out. Work backwards from the ending if you can.
  3. Write a first draft.
  4. Edit it. My suggestions were invariably that first time around, just fix the typos and punctuation issues so that you're left with a clean first draft.
  5. Then redraft, and re-edit. Do this as many times as is necessary. I'd usually suggest going in this order structural fixes / character consistency / scene fixes / paragraph fixes / line fixes. Adverbs and adjectives to be scrutinised.
  6. Then proofread. Get opinions from critical friends if possible.
  7. Then leave the story be, and come back to it after time has passed. Then see what you think.  

An initial shopping list. What ideas have you got? What kinds of people are you interested in writing about, or who would work in the context of the story that you're interested in telling? What do you need to research (research here is interpreted pretty widely - anything from books and libraries kinda research to going on a mooch down the promenade to get the atmosphere of a seaside setting, to making a mood board for ideas on locations and the like.

And then reading needs. It might sound counter-intuitive, but many creative writing students that I worked with weren't very well read. And I don't mean in the classics / the literary canon sort of reading. In everyday "I always carry a book in my bag" reading. Many were quite cine- and tele-literate, but not necessarily with the written word. And that, as you might imagine, could cause issues from time to time. 

And now a set of promises from second-time-around creative writers. Most of them are very sensible suggestions and ones that derive from hard-won experience; a couple perhaps need a little bit of fleshing out. 

Write what you know. Maybe this should be a bit broader, but the sense is there in the bald statement. Too often, people wrote about stuff that they hadn't got a clue about, or situations and perhaps whole genres they knew only vicariously. This is the "Don't set your story in a US high school if you've not been to the US, let alone an American high school" commandment. Your John Hughes movie expertise is insufficient here. All too often, stories were clearly TV and popular movie franchise emulations; as a consequence, the stories felt second-hand. Several times, and in several different situations we had conversations along the lines of "You can't learn anything about fantasy from reading Harry Potter". What you have to do is read the stuff that JK Rowling read so that she could synthesize those materials into a new universe. That kind of thinking. 

Start the story as late as possible. Often, the first thousand words or so of stories would be world-building, character set-up and/or establishing an equilibrium. Or the student didn't yet know what the story was going to be except in its most general terms, and was writing out from an uncontentious start point and hoping that the story would design itself along the way. 

The story starts when things go wrong. Why not start there? In short fiction especially, each word is both a vital word and a luxury. Let's not waste it on the "character gets up out of bed so we can observe them about their morning routine and so learn something of them including what they look like when they check themselves in the bathroom mirror" malarkey. Let's crack on.  

The last one's a companion piece; things I'm not going to do this time out. Some of them are pretty obvious, but that's not to say they don't bear repeating. The first draft is simply that; a good start. Not good enough to hand in / submit to a competition / send off to a magazine.

Check your damn work; if the dialogue punctuation is inconsistent, then I know that you don't know what you're doing, or you don't care about what you're doing.  

Don't cock it up: tell the story.

Don't be too ambitious: tell a story that fits in the word count. Don't try and fob me off with a cliffhanger or make out that "it's a story, yeah, but it's also the first chapter of a novel".   

Use the word count. If you don't need it all, fair enough. But better to over-write word-wise and cut back than find yourself struggling. 

And an oldie-but-goldie to round things off. A bit of tell is okay, but if you can show, show. Reserve tell for those occasions when you've got no other option. 

Hopefully, it's all common-sense stuff. Teaching creative writing, I found, isn't really possible. What is possible, though, is that you can encourage / support / nurture other people into learning for themselves. You have to work it out for yourself. I'm still doing just that. Creative writing is a set of processes; it's not a straightforward A to B sort of journey. Which is why, I think, I find myself coming back to the first principles over and over, and why I've got a fascination with the mechanics of writing and the how and why of their communication.  

Machines for writing on the go

I have a problem and I’m here today to admit it. A compulsion, an addiction. A displacement activity. A quest that I’ve been on for, oh, a decade. A quest that I might just have completed. Let me explain.

I’m a boy and I like toys. The kinds of toys that I like are the kinds that help me to write. Now, I move around a bit and I like to be able to write wherever I am. So for over a decade now I’ve been pursuing a particular kind of Holy Grail: the ultimate portable writing machine.  

I started out on this odyssey with a Psion organiser back in the early 00s. An impulse purchase in Selfridges in Manchester, together with an admittedly cool fold-out cradle-cum-keyboard.  You could take it anywhere, and if you liked you could write yourself notes, ether keying them in or by hand with the stylus. Learning the simplified glyphs that the machine translated into readable English was pretty easy. I loved it. Utterly impractical for writing anything longer than a memo, but nevertheless it was fun.

Then came the first of three (count ‘em!) AlphaSmart machines. An AlphaSmart, if you’ve not come across one before, is a full-size keyboard with a simple memory (eight file-spaces) and an LCD display. No internet, no distractions. Plus it runs on three AA batteries; hundreds of hours of productivity with no need for cables or a power supply. If there was a downside, it was in uploading the files to a PC; the AlphaSmart is little more than a keyboard emulator, and the loading speed of the work to your Word document is about that of a fast typist. So, more than fine for a first-draft machine as long as you accept the limitations.

Then came the era of the netbooks.  I did a PhD largely on a Samsung netbook – an extra gig of RAM to give it some oomph, a copy of MS Office and I was off. A sturdy little performer, and I was kinda sad when I got rid of it at the end of the doctorate and treated myself to a tablet.

I went for a Google Nexus 7 – I’ve never been attracted to Apple devices of any stripe – and at first it seemed fine. This was Kindle and computer in one, and a perfect little portable solution. I bought a keyboard to go with it. Then another. There might have been a third as well. Problem: I don’t get on well with Bluetooth keyboards. The intermittent nature of the contact means that I miss characters. I’m not a touch typist (I watch my index and middle fingers as I type) so it was often a couple of hundred words later that I’d finally wake up to the missing data. A palaver. On top of that the issues between getting a Word document to talk to a Word-emulating piece of software.

Also, I had an Android smartphone, and there was too much crossover between the smartphone’s functions and the tablet’s. All too soon, the tablet went back in its box awaiting a new owner.

I soldiered on for a while with my main computer, a straightforward though basic-specced Toshiba laptop. My needs aren’t great. As long as there’s internet access on occasion and a word processor I’m good to go. That said, I’ve been working professionally and personally with MS Office for twenty years. I’m used to it. I’m comfortable there. I know what the buttons do.

More fool me for buying a Chromebook then. Don’t get me wrong, the Chromebook I got (an Acer 13) is a fine device provided that you can work in Google Docs and you don’t mind some kerfuffle when dealing with moving documents across devices and in and out of Word. It’s light, fast, has incredible battery life. But I was struggling when on the move.   

So the Chromebook’s been retired.

Do I get another Windows netbook? I decided not to. What I’ve gone for is a Microsoft Surface. It’s a dream of a machine. Zippy, light, full Windows 10, MS Office on-board plus it talks easily via OneDrive cloud storage to my desk PC.  And it’s a tablet that’s got full USB ports onboard – a proper computer in a casing the size of a photo frame.

And then there’s the keyboard. Jiminy.  I know it’s nerdy as heck, but I just like the way it feels. The motor function of typing is a pleasure in itself. The device wants me to write more.

Part of me knows that in a couple of years I’ll probably get itchy technological feet again. Part of me knows that I’ve got to be on guard against my magpie instincts, and try to resist the shiny-shiny.  But for the first time since, well, ever, I’ve got all the elements that I’ve told myself that I’ve needed – lightness, portability, MS Office, decent battery life, easy co-operation with myself across different machines.

I really haven’t got a reason to complain. So let’s hope I don’t!    

---         

My novel The Prospect of This City is out now. It's available in paperback from my website (say so if you'd like it signed!) and also in ebook and paperback via Amazon.  

Libraries as work-spaces for writers, and more.

I don’t use libraries as much as I ought to. At least, not for the purpose of borrowing books. I’ve got all-too-used to simply Googling for the books that I want and either buying them straightaway or sliding them into a wish list for picking up later. And that’s a habit I should really get out of, for a bagful of reasons. I’ll try to get to them in this post.

I live in a town without a bookshop. Yes there’s a handful of charity shops that sell books (and the pros and cons of the second-hand book market to writers are a post for another time), and there’s a branch of a well-known high street newsagent and stationer and a supermarket, though their shelves don’t stretch much beyond the current bestseller lists. But there’s no bookshop. And the town’s not been able to sustain a dedicated book retailer for over 30 years – we can’t necessarily blame the behemoth Amazon here. That’s not helped me though in defaulting to the internet when I want/need a book.

library.jpg

What I do use the library for, though, is a as a place to work. Our town’s library has a great little reference / local studies room. The papers, a selection of standard reference, works, lots of local history. Plus, best of all, a table, some chairs, and a power supply. I’m best at motivating myself when writing to be somewhere out of the house and the library suits me just right. Not too many distractions and just the right amount of background noise.

I’ve got some previous with this as well. In an earlier life I did a couple of Open University courses – a BSc and then an MA – and the best way for me to get some studying done was to take my books down to the library and crack on with it. That’s not to say that I can’t work at home (I’m at home now, for example), but I’ve always been able to get more done if I put myself in an environment that’s work-specific.

So it’s off to the library I go. It’s not an overly fancy or huge place; there’s no café onsite, the WiFi is iffy and you have to go and ask for a key if you need to use the loo, but the staff are pleasance, it’s never too busy, and you can rent DVDs for a pound a week. Plus there’s the books. What’s not to love?

Also, with the library membership I get access to a range of online databases (the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is a godsend by itself), there’s a scanner and a printer / photocopier if I need one, and there’s usually a shelf or two of out-of-circulation books that’s at least worth browsing through to see if any of them are worth picking up.                  

I’m lucky in that I don’t always have to plan ahead or save up if I want to buy a book; I can go and buy it without worrying. But that to some extent does me a disservice. Online buying is great if you know what it is that you want to buy; but it’s not the be-all and end-all. For one you don’t get that sense of browsing you get in a real-world book shop; and this is something that you can replicate in a library. Yes, you can look for something specific, but you can also be taken by surprise in a way that’s not easy to do online. And, of course, the author gets paid for the book’s loan through the Public Lending Right Scheme. You don’t get that from a second-hand sale.

I’ll be in the library tomorrow. Maybe I’ll do something a little different and take a tour round the shelves and see what’s in stock. I think I’ve talked myself into it. 

My novel The Prospect of This City is out now, and is available from me in paperback (signed if you prefer!) or in both ebook and paperback via Amazon . 

The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique has been around since the late 1980s. It’s a variant of timeboxing workload-management methods. It’s simplicity itself, and - for me - it works. Here’s how:

Your work period is divided into half-hour chunks. Say that you’re going to write for a couple of hours. That’s four lots of thirty minutes each. The trick is to work for 25 minutes, and then rest for 5. And then repeat.

The Pomodoro Technique takes its name from the clockwork plastic tomato (other fruits and vegetables are available) kitchen timer. Use the timer to keep track of the minutes. If you prefer, there are no end of browser plug-ins and downloadable apps that you can use instead, but there’s something pleasingly low-fi about the old-school approach. Plus the ticking of the clock adds an incentive.     

A 25-minute Pomodoro usually means that I’ll write about 600 first draft words. There’s an element of race-against-time, plus the nearness of the finishing line doesn't give time to slacken off. The 5 minute break allows for a regroup and/or a reward. If the rest itself isn’t enough, then make a drink / have a smoke / go for that pee you’ve been holding off from / whatever. And then back into it for another 25 minutes.

So in that two hours, I’ll get down about 2400 words.

As a first-draft tool it works really well for me. Also, it can be useful for making use of relatively small periods of downtime. Got an hour between TV programmes? 2 x Pomodoros, and another thousand words in the bag.

It’s not an all-day tool for writing; a couple of hours first thing, and then another couple later in the day would be my preferred option. 

Try it out! And if it doesn’t work for you, then at least you’ve found another method that’s not perfect for your writing.

---

The Prospect of This City is out now and is available from me (signed if you prefer!) and also in both paperback and ebook via Amazon. 

 

On establishing writing routines

There's an awful lot to be said about knowing yourself. One of the reasons that we don't get as much done as we might like is that we either haven't got our heads around what works best for us, or that we fight against that reality because it doesn't fit in with what we might prefer. 

So these are guidelines rather than rules. A quick scout around the internet will give you no end of lists of routines of the famous. Here and here, for example. But this is what seems to work for me.

  1. Start the day writing. The earlier, the better. For me, that's 5 a.m. I can get more done between 5 and 7 in the morning than in any other two hour period of the day. This goes back to when I was a child. In a book of Andrew Lang's  retellings of Greek myths, he relates the story of Theseus. At the start of the story, Theseus' father has left home, but has said that there's something buried under a rock at the bottom of the garden for the young man. Theseus tries but can't lift the stone. Then one day, he gets up early, goes straight out to the rock, and is able to shift it. Under the rock there's the weapons he'll need for his adventures. For some reason, that's stuck with me for dozens of years. And for me, it works. So; early starts.
  2. Don't write all day. Three or four hours a day is more than enough. Less is perhaps better. A couple of hours a day before the house gets up / work / college / whatever. I've got an upcoming post about what goes on in that writing time, but a few hours is enough, and maybe an hour a day, even half an hour - as long as it's productive - is OK.
  3. Targets. I've got a daily first draft target of 2,000 words. It doesn't matter what your target is, as long as you do what you have to do to get there. Your target needs to be realistic, achievable, but not too easy. And it's personal to you; bigger isn't necessarily better.     
  4. Use the right tools for the job. I don't have an office. At home, I'm best with a laptop on the kitchen table. By all means have a den, an office, a writing shed. Make sure that the right music is on, that Mr Snuggles the cat is nearby, that the moon is in Uranus. Put on your Magic Story Ideas Hat. But don't make a fetish out of these comforts.
  5. Have a dedicated machine. A little bit of an extravagance this, perhaps. But it might be worth considering, and it works for me. A laptop for writing, and one for everything else. Specifically for me, I first-draft on a different machine (a cheap Chromebook) and then do all the other work (rewrites, admin, research, correspondence, wasting time on the internet in general) on another one. 
  6. Coffee. Simple black filter coffee for me, thanks.  
  7. Be open to working in public. The Starbucks novelist may be a cliche, but if it works for you, don't fight it. For me, it's the library. My local library has a small local studies and reference room that's perfect for getting on with some work. After that initial burst of wordage first thing, I'll be more productive if I go somewhere to work rather than try to keep doing so at home. And the library is the best placefor me to do just that. 
  8. Trains. Writing on trains is the best. 
  9. Stick to the routine. Every day works for some. Monday to Friday for others. weekends only for yet more. 2,000 words a day every first draft day is my routine. I've just knocked up a planner for the next two months; first draft word counts, blog posts, monthly newsletter, other bits of writing. Find your method for keeping yourself on track. Make that method simple. Make it public if that helps - tell your significant other, whisper it to Mr Snuggles, Blu-Tak a chart over your desk - hold yourself to your own promises.
  10. I don't have a reward system, but if you need that to motivate, then go for it. Make these small and useful; another hot drink, a cigarette if you're a smoker, Bonios if you're really into dog treats.
  11. Don't cheat yourself. Don't borrow from one day's output to pay off another's shortfall. The clock always resets back to zero. You might find that a weekly rather than a daily target works better. Fine. Do that instead. Just do it!
  12. Don't let it be work. Adjust the time, the words to be written. Write something different. 
  13. If the routine needs to change, go with it. 

So, over to you. What's your routine?

---

My novel The Prospect of This City is out now and is available from me (signed if you'd prefer!) and also in ebook and paperback formats via Amazon.

So here we go...

A new website, and a new blog. Hello, by the way. Welcome. Sit wherever you like. Thanks for popping by. 

Awkward mingling over, and hovering uncertainly in the kitchen dispensed with, let's crack on. In previous blogging iterations I've focused on book and movie reviews plus pointing the way to UK-based writing competitions. Occasionally I may resort to doing that, but the focus of this blog will be on the practice of creative writing. 

Don't worry; I'll not be posting up positive bland "you can do it" messages, quotations purportedly from famous authors or any of that kind of stuff. There's a place for all of that, of course, though I'm sure there's plenty of others in your timelines at some point or other who do that a hundred times better and more sincerely than I could ever do. 

Nope, much of this will be personal trials and tribulations kinda stuff. Banging my head against the wall material. Expressions of bewilderment and frustration. In there I'm sure there'll be eureka moments and suchlike, but I'll keep that to a minimum wherever I can. So, a blog about the journey as much as the destination. 

I like to think that blogs should have a routine. Regularity is the key. So, a post a week minimum, more than likely written at the weekend. That's the way forward. So keep me in check, please, and feel free to chide me when I slacken. 

Also, a blog, for me at least, is a moment in time. It shouldn't be overly-polished. Great if you can produce perfect material, of course, but these are first draft thoughts (and I daresay there'll be some first draft expression of those thoughts too).