Posted in articles, reflection

Why Do I Write?

 

Oh dear, what have I let myself into?

After my latest flash fiction story Prior To This my amigo Y (Yvette Prior) and I had an interesting discussion in the comments with her saying something that resonated with me:

“…And imagining them safely tucked into a drawer reminds me of Emily Dickinson (I guess she tucker her poems away as she wrote to write) – like true writers do – it is in them and they might pause – but they write to write – it is what they do.”

I unthinkingly mentioned an essay I’d written on my MA in Creative Writing mentioning Why I Cannot Not Write. Y and I have had a couple of writerly discussions of late, with her encouraging me to write a top tip for flash fiction writers blog post. While veering away from that, I cannot veer away from this (the following essay).

So, without further ado, and obscuring my face so you cannot see my shameful cringe at the somewhat pretentious tone of my essay (written five years ago in my defence and a lot, A LOT, has transpired since then for me personally), I tentatively post this unbloggy lengthed essay.


WHY DO I WRITE?

by

Kelvin M. Knight

Semester 3’s lecturers at Northumbria University opened with a bang in September 2013. In the Long Narrative module, lecturer and novelist Andrew Crumey posed the question: Why Do I Write?

Hmm. Lots of strokey beard faces ensued, except from the equal number of ladies on the MA who looked thoughtfully at the ceiling then at each other.

To give us time to think, Dr Crumey showed us John Steinbeck’s words on writers, then he showed us a most interesting video clip from E. M. Forster, arguably one of Great Britain’s greatest novelists (Howard’s End and A Passage To India being the pinnacle of his career) indeed after the latter novel Mr Forster stopped writing. We are privy to his reasons (or not!) in this video clip of an interview from the BBC archives: Why I Stopped Writing Novels . After watching this video there was a stagnant pause in the lecture theatre. In an attempt to get the ball bouncing, I was first to venture my thoughts in the lecture, saying somewhat unemotionally:

‘I write because I cannot not write.’

This rather unconvincing reply played on my mind, made me ponder: I know why I started writing, which part of the United Kingdom I was living in when the literary bug nipped me good and proper, and I can regurgitate my personal statement from my university application form to begin this MA journey, but why do I continue to write?

Over the years I have tried to stop writing, had a week off here and there, even a couple of weeks, but in the end, the beginning, and more often than I would prefer, the middle, catch up with me.

There is a compulsion, bordering on obsession, to spend all of my free time (and substantial chunks of my working life and family life time) jotting in my notebooks story ideas, plot lines, and interesting traits for characters. These notebooks multiply like frogspawn especially the ones I reserve for metaphors and similes (Raymond Chandler would be impressed; however, this transformative addiction could, if I am not very careful and observant, metamorphose me unto the keys on my keyboard (and I am shying away from a Kafka style keyboard, here). I even keep a notebook for those quirky snippets of conversation overheard in the street, on the train, the bus, in the shopping queue, at the school gate (although not so prevalent now but fertile ground at the time). These notes I regularly sift through, and when I can untangle my web of spider scrawl, I find stories breaking free then flying tandem with that fantastical amalgamation of conscious and subconscious mind: the imagination – of which I am both blessed and cursed.

On the Creative Writing MA, a strong theme is the analysing of others’ work then turning the magnifying glass on one’s own writing. I am regularly encouraged to don cap and cape (before the course, I would have been swinging for a cowl and cape) to become a mini Sherlock Holmes and sleuth my strengths and weaknesses. Drilled as we are in these PN techniques, there is always that indescribable ingredient which comes to the fore when I am writing properly, when I am zone bound, when that monkey is well and truly ejected from my back. These moments are momentous. The insights, the startling (yet fleeting) clarity, form the heart of storytelling, are the beat that spurs me on, the rhythm that inspires me to write, probably to my grave.

Despite all this analysis of strengths and weakness, prose is not an exact science, true there are trends, traits, traceable structures, unique voices, scents of genius, but, for me, there is always an element of: Where on earth did that idea come from? and How in heaven’s name did I come up with that turn of phrase?

I think harnessing this unquantifiable element, this magic, is the true reason I write, but writing is only half of the story, part of the battle, what remains is an unquenchable thirst to share this magic with as many people as possible.

Naturally, this now begs a more important question: Why should people invest their precious time and money reading my long narratives?

(702 words)


I would love to know your answers to this question. If you would like to share them, please leave a comment below or paste a link to your blog post below.

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Posted in articles, prayer, reflection

This Morning’s Journey

THIS MORNING’S JOURNEY

by

Kelvin M. Knight

In the mornings

revving to go.

Minds full of ideas

bodies full of fuel.

Go, go, go!

 

Soulful birdsong ignored

inside gardens

outside hedgerows;

empty songs filling

these swollen headphones.

 

Cars racing along narrow lanes

headlights bouncing over sleeping policemen

wheels screaming, ‘Are we there yet?’

 

Newspaper-gazing pedestrians

phones juggling from ear to ear.

Pushbikes weaving

thread after thread

of their own:

legs pumping

fists jumping

modern tapestries

unknown.

 

Then

fresh on this pavement

a snail’s tyre track.


400-17b A Snail's Tyre Track.JPG


Then

another snail

another tyre track

again and again

until I see.

 

I see their stillness becoming mine;

I feel this silence infiltrating me.

 

This silence

this stillness

I fear

because I am

I am

a human doing

not a human being

doing always doing

rather than being

just being

really being.

Here.

Now.

 

Now

in this silence.

Now

in this stillness

lost and found

in this here and now.

Found and lost

in this presence.

 

A presence abiding in love.

A love abiding in us

in all of us

in me.

 

Even me.

 

This silence

this stillness

this love

this God-given purpose

burning tyre tracks

inside me.

 

(186 words)

Posted in articles

Risking Everything

The following article is my answer to The Sandbox Writing Challenge — Exercise 14


 

RISKING EVERYTHING

by

Kelvin M. Knight

What risks have I taken in my life?

My life has been a continuous adventure in risk taking. My earliest childhood memory is of me involving myself in a risky, if not the riskiest, situation: life or death. Sometimes I wonder if God’s plan for me, or to put it another way, the project heading stamped on his manilla folder for my life, reads: Throw Himself In At The Deep End. It is only now I am hearing His loving response to this: And I will teach himself and others how to swim in the wildest seas, the calmest lakes.

With this in mind, I nonetheless struggled with a response to this exercise’s question. I tried several openings, and endings, but they didn’t seem risky enough. Then the natural response I made to Ivor’s response to this question echoed in my mind.

Such a risk, Ivor, but such rewards.

Yes, that’s it. I think we take risks, not because we want the unpleasantness to flow into our lives, but because we are thinking of the rewards, those earthly rewards, the three F’s as I am calling them: food, finance, friendship. There is health, too, and fellowship. FFFHF. Looks like a chemical symbol for some new element, maybe even a hexadecimal number gone wrong?

Which got me musing. Is there a wrongness in taking risks? If there is, there must also be a rightness. Risks make things happen. Risks bring things to the surface. Risks progress situations and people. Every serious project nowadays has a Risk Management section, maybe even warrants the expense of a Risk Manager.

Does that mean our lives should be about risk management, maybe even risk mitigation? I don’t think so. Life is a risk. Life is fragile. All things beautiful are.

And the most beautiful thing in life is being aware there are rewards beyond the physical, and that actually these spiritual rewards are not rewards at all but gifts for all of us. Sometimes we have to risk everything to truly see this, to feel what this means, for us, in the here and now of this moment we call life. To me, this is the greatest risk: choosing to become a citizen of heaven on earth.

 

Posted in articles

Keeping It Short and Simple

The following article is my answer to The Sandbox Writing Challenge — Exercise 13


 

Keeping It Short and Simple (KISS)

by

Kelvin M. Knight

What can you do to simplify your life simpler?

On the surface of it, I thought my life was simplified. I do not mean to sound selfish or pompous, but after completing an MA in Creative Writing in 2014, I made a conscious effort to KISS all I did in my writing life, my working life, my home life.

However, our congenial host has asked us to dig deep in the sandbox this week, so, if you do not mind, I have brought along one (just one) of my many metallic garden spades to replace this tiny plastic sandcastle spade, which is actually looking quite worn and sad – it’s still bright though.

Holding this plastic sand spade aloft, I study its nicks and bends, its broken off corner, its twisted handle, the grainy grooves scratching away at its surface, which is when, I see its colours, as if for the first time. These purple and yellow colours ripple, as if they are waves. Waves rippling away from me. Waves rippling into me. Holding this plastic spade up the the sky, I ponder my writing life, my inner and outer life, and sigh, long and hard. Because I am still feeling guilty about wimping out on Exercise 10 – What makes you feel loved? Because, for no discernible reason, I have missed a couple of other exercises here. Where is my time flying to? Sighing again, I know, I KNOW, the real reason is because KISSing this and that is not working for me. Not anymore.

What I need is, ‘To do what I love and love what I am doing.’

Thinking of an epitaph for my gravestone (morbid, I know, but sometimes necessary) I do not know what you or others would write, I am not convinced I know what my wife would say after twenty-three years of marriage, but I would say:

Trial and Error.

Trial and error was my self-taught approach to software engineering – which earned me a comfortable living for twenty-two years. Trial and error was my approach to parenting, which has seen my children to university where they are standing on their own two feet. Trial and error was my approach these last seven years to learning how to pray, how to listen, to our Lord. Trial and error has been my approach to writing all my life. Because writing is re-writing. Because writing never comes our right first time, or second time, or often even third time.

However, now I am waving my worn plastic sand spade around like a baton, no, like a magic wand. Watching purple and yellow colours swirling and twirling, I feel my epitaph needs to say:

He loved his Trials and Errors. He Loves all of you.

How this is going to improve my writing, I do not know. How this will help my writing reach a wider audience with my stories, with these oceans of short stories and rivers of flash fiction stories I have written, along with the odd pond or two of novels, I do not know. But I do know, going forward, where love is involved, anything is possible and everything is always filled with hope.


Love's Mask.jpg

 

Posted in articles

Wandering (Wondering)…

The following article is my answer to The Sandbox Writing Challenge — Exercise 10


 

WANDERING (WONDERING)

LONELY (CONTENTEDLY)

AS A…

by

Kelvin M. Knight

What fascinates me?

Clouds. The answer to this fascinating question has to be clouds. And questions, of course. Questions fascinate me. And answers. I mustn’t forget answers. I am forever fascinated by people’s answers: not that I am any kind of nosy parker!

Returning my head to the clouds, first and foremost I am transfixed by the shapes they make. Often, when I am cycling around the village I call home – morning time one day, evening time the next day – I have to stop to properly appreciate an amazing sunrise or sunset. These I snap with my mobile phone – hopefully you have seen them in the header of my blog? These ever-changing views afforded me from my daily tour de St Bees never cease to entrance me with their captivating colours, their closeness yet far awayness, their speed of movement across the heavens. The longer I look at these clouds, the more I defocus, the more I see them differently.

Sometimes these clouds take flight.

Clouds Taking Flight

Sometimes these clouds mystify me.

Clouds Mystifying

Sometimes these clouds resemble angry yet radiant faces.

Cloud Faces

Sometimes I wonder if they are not trying to say something to me. Perhaps clouds are God’s message banner – to make me stop, to make me look, to make me listen, to help me see what I need to see. Truly.

Cloud Revelation

PLEASE NOTE: None of the pictures in this post have been modified in any way, and were all taken by myself.

Posted in articles

Shining the Lamp

The following article is my answer to The Sandbox Writing Challenge — Exercise 7


 

SHINING THE LAMP

by

Kelvin M. Knight

What makes me shine?

I am never aware people see that light shining within me. I am not truly aware I see that light shining in me. I know it’s there, in times of reflection, I feel it’s there, deep inside, part of my being, part of my whole, that light coming from my soul.

But life is not solely about reflection. Life is about action. Life is doing and making a difference. Life is the here and now of our existence. When I smile do people see that light in my eyes? When I laugh do people hear that light? When I write my stories, these articles, is that light illuminating my words and their true meaning? Or are people just too busy getting on with the business of their lives, ticking those boxes, until that next holiday arrives?

That sounds judgemental. I am meant to be non-judgemental. I am meant to be accepting.

I accept that when I am down a hole, shoulder to shoulder with people who have asked for my support, who need my encouragement as they face those demons that have become themselves, smiling and laughing are the furthest things from my mind. Yet that is when I must shine my brightest to help these individuals find hope, to help them find a reason to continue, if only for another day.

But if I spent my life living down those holes we make of our lives, what about my life? I cannot spend my life helping other people all the time, can I? Surely the stresses and strains of such a life would eventually take their toll on me, my wife, my family?

I shine in adversity. This much I know. I should shine in everyday life. Other people should see me shining when I smile, when I laugh, when I sing. They should. I should. That is when happiness becomes joyfulness. If I was authentic, if these parts of my life were integrated, joyfulness would flow through me, would overflow from me, and effect all those around me. Wouldn’t they? Couldn’t they?

Or could I have this all wrong. Perhaps I am shining how and when and where I am meant to shine. Perhaps joyfulness, for me, is overrated, after all, the biggest miracle of all is a smile, a smile on me and a smile inside me. A smile which lights the world, especially when the darkness in this world does not light a smile.

 

Posted in articles

This Wooden Monster

The following article is my answer to The Sandbox Writing Challenge — Exercise 6


 

THIS WOODEN MONSTER

by

Kelvin M. Knight

So what is holding me back?

Nothing. Everything.

This silent noise inside me. This noisy silence outside of me. The here and now of this moment, of all these moments, in this room and that room. Standing up. Sitting down. Looking out of the window. Looking into myself. This roar of revealing myself and then not being heard hence understood. Such monsters manifest themselves daily. They lurk on these blank pieces of paper. They reveal themselves in the whiteness of my computer screen.

Whiteness is meant to be indicative of purity. These monsters are far from pure. They slither and slide, crawl and claw, scratch and scream through these half finished sentences; these stop, start, stop, start, give up, restart abominations of words. Words whose meaning is lost. Words who lose me.

Lost in this monstrous imagination of mine, this blessing and this curse, I stop wandering aimlessly around and stand still. I sit still. I light a candle. As I stare at this candlelight, as I let it fill my heart, my courage returns. Once the darkness retreats into shadows, shadows inside me and shadows around my computer, my words appear to me like insects.


400-10 Courage Quote - Twain.jpeg


Insects trapped in a web. This web I have spun from all my storytelling, all those characters’ emotional showing not telling. All the things they said and did. All those things they did not say or do. Stuck in this web with me. And then there are those characters whose stories are half completed, whose stories have an ending but no beginning, who have a voice but no story, or a story without the right voice to tell it. Even though I try not to ignore them, I find myself ignoring them. This rankles.

Being ignored holds me back, strange as that may seem. However, discovering the right story to tell, discerning the correct emotions to show, and gauging the impact this will have on my readers when they read for the first time, and often the only time, spurs me on.

After all this web of words is mine. This web of words is a web of lies. Lies I willingly spin to reveal truths untold in a way that is entertaining and enjoyable. A way that makes my readers stop and think.

I cannot complain. I chose this way of life just as storytelling chose me. I cannot not write as much as I cannot stop breathing.

Breath and stories. Stories and life. Life and growth. Growth and change. Change and love. Nothing can hold that back.