Blood, sweat and tears
The inspiring bit
Blood, sweat and tears
With Ian and I spending six weeks in temporary accommodation in the Westminster area of London before we move to a long-term flat in Crouch End, we are exploring. Every afternoon we take a walk. Each time we vary our route and the destination. We’ve already explored Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, the rather dull park with a neglected ‘City Farm’ that was once the place to go to find entertainment, gigolos and ladies of the night. We’ve wandered the neat Georgian parks of Pimlico, the gardens of Lambeth Palace, walked past Downing Street, through Whitehall, the length of plane tree lined Mall that leads to Buckingham Palace and watched grey squirrels bury nuts in the grass in elegant St James’ Park. We know we are lucky and that London’s Tier 2 status means that the streets are lined with drifts of autumn leaves rather than tourists. Yesterday, was Green Park’s turn. The times I have taken the tube to Green Park underground station on the way to the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition, to buy loose green Earl Grey tea at Fortnum and Mason on Piccadilly or to wander to Hyde Park, and yet this was the first time I had ever taken the time to walk the perimeter of the park that is bang opposite the station.
It was the end of the month and I had still to choose my topic for this month’s Inspirer so was on the look out for an idea. And there it was. An impressive new memorial, erected in 2012, to the Bomber Pilots of the Royal Air Force who lost their lives during World War II. Over 55,000 of them. Their hard work and dedication despite immense fear struck me as I gazed at the group of bronze statues. There was a mix of emotion on their faces. Some downcast, some hopeful, some shielding their eyes from the sun. And there above them was a beautiful blue sky. Carved into the frame of the stone opening was the RAF motto – per ardua ad astra. Through hard work to the stars. I found my inspiration.
Being a writer is hard. It takes training, application, dedication and no small amount of fear. The serious writer tackles jobs that may fill them with dread and maybe little chance of success but still they battle on, knowing that the end goal is worth fighting for.
I think of my own writing journey, and of the many new authors and students who come to me for mentoring, consultancy and tuition, and recognise how much there is to learn. How hard it is. How daunting. How there are many days when you just want to give up and ‘go home’.
As you know, I have been running a number of online writing classes and writing circles over the last eight months. In my Wednesday Virtual Writers’ Circle I give a lesson followed by a task. Last week, I decided to teach them about editing their own work. I wrote a piece that had no typos, was laid out properly and had a clear message. This piece, however, contained 33 of the most common mistakes. First, I gave them a list of these errors, such as:
And then I gave them my badly-written text and asked them to edit it. I have found, as an editor, that you will be more aware of your own errors when you have to find them in someone else’s work.
My students were shocked to see so many mistakes there were and realise how often they are guilty of making them too. However, editing is just one of the many tough mountains there are to climb if you want to be a ‘real writer’ and actually (there’s a word I didn’t need) sell some of your work. Let me give you a short list of the main ones:
The Top 12 Common Mistakes Made by New Writers
Seeing the memorial to those Bomber Pilots yesterday was a stark reminder that if we want to do something badly enough we have to work at it. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book, Blink, claims we need to spend 100,000 hours practising and honing our craft.
Trust me, if you put in the hours, the clouds will part and the sun will come out.
Per ardua ad astra.
Jo Parfitt's Monthly Inspirer