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On Slowing Down - My New Year's Resolution. 2018

  • Published in Writing

In a couple of weeks it will be my 62nd birthday. I came to terms with aging when I turned sixty so that doesn’t give me angst. I remember driving through Snowdonia on that day, January 16th   2016, and seeing a goat standing proudly on a rock. I’m sure his eyes turned to me with a message – slow and steady if you want to get to the top. This was particularly significant as I’m a Capricorn, the symbol of which is the goat, (actually the goat-fish but we won’t split fins on this).

From my particular plateau, I’ve watched prolific authors publish one book after the other with barely a blade of grass between them and wonder what drives them. They tell me it’s about boosting their brand, or making sure they don’t get forgotten between books. Always interested in their writing schedules and methods, I’ve come to the conclusion there seems to be two main approaches to this novel writing business.

One way is to go with the stream of consciousness and get the first draft down not worrying about the plot, characters, grammar, etc. as you can solve them in the next several drafts. That’s the way I’ve been working to date.

Another is to write fewer words each day (I currently write 2,000), but take more time over the crafting of those sentences until you are absolutely happy about every aspect of the daily output. Know where the book is going and make sure every scene gets you there.

In my business life there was no time for procrastination or pontification. I had to make decisions on the spot for clients and get on with it so my mind- set before writing my first novel was already fixed. This is going to change. The draft of my third novel is completed but I’m going to take my time in getting it ready to leave my laptop.

If you go by the announcements on Twitter, you’d be forgiven for panicking that you’re behind in the game. But what game? Only the one you’re playing against yourself. The first task of any author is to write the best book possible and not rush to publication. Life has a way of bringing up opportunities when it’s time and not before. Submit to agents and publishers in haste and there’s a risk of losing out because the book simply isn’t ready. It’s not so easy to go back a second time.

This is one of the dangers of going down the self-publishing route. The temptation to press the upload button before all the checks have been done several times over might mean giving the reader an inferior product and that’s what your book is in the business world – a product which is competing with disposable income for any product, not only books.  No matter how much we love our story telling this is the harsh reality of the publishing industry today.

You’ve got to be that mountain goat. Take your time with the climb and be careful where you stick your hooves.


In Praise of 80 year olds

Over the past few months I’ve been researching for a new book which focuses on the older adult. I mean in their late seventies and eighties because being sixty, I don’t consider myself old. It’s all relative.

  My father retired aged sixty five from nursing and being on his own, three months later went back to work as a volunteer in the Nightingale hospice in Derby until his sudden death at eighty six. He was an inspiration to so many people as he gave back in his later years and wanted nothing in return. I realise not everyone is lucky to enjoy such good health as he did in their later years or they may have difficulty getting out of the house for various reasons.

   While Judi Dench said in an interview with the Telegraph in 2015, “ There is nothing good about being 80,” she has continued along with some of her contemporaries to carry on performing, insisting that she had no intention of retiring and was all for trying new things.

  This is inspirational for those of us who are already looking ahead and wondering what the advancing years will have in store for us. As a writer, providing I don’t lose my faculties, I hope to keep writing because there is nobody to stop me. Continuing to be published is another matter but then Mary Wesley was described as defying literary convention by becoming a best-selling novelist at the age of seventy. Hope for me yet.

   What about those octogenarians who haven’t risen to fame and fortune? How are they making the best of their golden years? I decided to find out and came across someone I would like to tell you about.

  A year ago, I took up acrylic painting, daubing more like, and watched young, enthusiastic artists on You Tube teaching how to paint trees and bananas. When I got fed up with fruit in a bowl, I searched out new people and came across a uplifting watercolourist who has been painting for over seventy years. His name is Alan Owen from Lancashire. Now in his eighties, he shares his talent on You Tube two or three times a week, specialising in the loose style of Edward Wesson. Not only has he mastered the technology of filming while he’s painting, he treats his online students like friends, chatting away in his broad Lancashire accent. He always has a kind word or a joke and thanks us by name from time to time for tuning in. Good, old fashioned kindness.

  Many of us comment that it’s like being next to him having a cuppa while he paints. Some of us wish we lived next door to him. Even if you don’t want to paint, it’s so relaxing to watch him work. Why not check him out?

  Alan mentors those of us who didn’t know one end of a paintbrush from the other and encourages us by saying, “Come on, you can do that, I know you can.” Not like my bullying art teacher at Grammar School in the late 60s. If anyone criticises him, he handles it with courtesy and aplomb, an example to anyone who would like to attack the internet trolls with some scalpel sharp retort.

   I am sure there are many others out there who are passing on their talents; painting, knitting, mending, woodwork or whatever and we should be applauding them for their time and generosity.

  Eighty might not be the new sixty but it’s no longer something I fear. Move over Mary Wesley. I’m next in line.


Alan Owen https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjfgIsGMmaGtG8DAgmdeYng



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