It’s been a while since I last posted. I was wondering what it would take to get me back on the wagon, so to speak. It turns out the answer to that question was commencing an online course on Creative Writing, offered free to volunteers registered with the North York Moors National Park. I read about it in a newsletter sent out to volunteers and it piqued my interest sufficiently to ask more about it. I have been attending a video-call once a week with four other participants over the last month or so.
This piece began life as a thank you email to the course tutor, Julian Brown, Interpretation Officer at the National Park. I’m grateful to Jules for his encouragement to myself and the other participants for developing our creative writing skills. The exercises he set us to limber up the creative ‘muscles’ provided impetus to get my blogging habits back on track. So, again, thanks Jules.
You will no doubt recognise that offering this course was a response of sorts to the Corona Virus lock-down. Among many other impacts, social distancing has put paid to a lot of fieldwork and outdoor-based volunteering activities in the National Park, normally undertaken by a small army of amazing people scattered throughout the district. What could they do to stay involved? What could they do from home? How might they continue to develop skills and remain intellectually engaged? This creative writing course seemed just the ticket to offer a bit of gentle encouragement.
These are just some things I’ve learnt:
‘Just do it’ – the importance of getting going and just writing something, no matter what, to get yourself started off.
‘Don’t strive for perfect’ – This could also be called ‘Do it now’. I have numerous part-finished blog posts and ideas stored in my WordPress drafts. Tut Tut! By the time I come back to them, sometimes weeks, even months have passed and so has ‘the moment’. There is a lot to be said for getting your content out when it is pertinent and most meaningful. In this case, I’m finishing writing a piece I began after only one session and now the course is coming to a conclusion. So I guess I still need to do better on that score!
A key point Julian impressed upon us is that improving requires practise. I am not sure whether the oft-quoted 10,000 hrs principle applies to writers the same as it does to say musicians or sports-people. The basic premise applies, though, that mastery of a craft/ skill/ discipline takes lots of practise. So just crack on and get started!
I am probably further down the road to my 10,000 hrs than I thought, given that when I tot up the ‘content’ I have written and ‘published’ (albeit on blog pages or websites or social media posts rather than the traditional print media sense), I have amassed a greater quantity of writing practise than I might have imagined.
I would also admit that it has become easier to do as the years have gone by, but I still suffer from the perfectionist in me, that wants to save in drafts (blog posts especially) until I have everything right, then often the moment has passed and if I’m posting about something weeks or months later I feel even more obliged to make it ‘just right’ to warrant sharing it. Does this sound familiar to anyone else?
Anyway, in a spirit of sharing my writing back-catalogue, I have some ‘practise’ material which I have generated over several years, substantively since around 2008, so crumbs, that is 12 years:
My first efforts to set up a blog / website were for a wetland restoration project I was managing from 2007 to 2014 ish www.carrswetland.wordpress.com As the material remained relevant and filled a void with little content on the web I kept it in the public domain, even after the project finished. Consequently you can still read my extolling of the virtues of the cinderella landscape of the Vale of Pickering Carrs, specifically Palaeolake Lake Flixton and the farmland and habitats associated with mesolithic sites around Star Carr. I’m not an expert, but consider me an advocate for this under-appreciated peatland on Scarborough’s doorstep.
Buoyed up by the success of this first project, (or more specifically the WordPress format for building content into a blog-come-website) I embarked on a new endeavour to back up the local biodiversity partnership. www.connectingfornature.wordpress.com I think this got going around 2013. This blog is still active and less of a website, more of a chronological blog of local biodiversity news stories. I would add that I am not always successful at making regular contributions, as I had set out to do .(It tends to go more in fits and starts, but it is not for want of ideas for content, more about finding or prioritising the time to write and create the posts.) It was this blog and the impetus to try adding something monthly (note ‘try’) that gave me confidence to set up a personal blog as well as few years later.
My more personal musings are found on www.aliitlebitwild.wordpress.com. This blog! They are at times hard to distinguish from my Connecting for Nature pieces, but I try to put more honesty, more personal experience, more vulnerability into it and to vary my subject matter a little more outside the predictable nature and wildlife theme. Buts it’s me, for sure, so make up your own mind. A quick glance reminds me that I’ve left rather a hiatus since my last published blog post, around 12 months ago. It makes it a little harder to get going again as it feels as if I need something momentous, when in reality it only requires for me to tap out some thoughts, see where it takes me and pop in a suitable title (in that order usually).
I have discovered drafts in ‘A Little Bit Wild’ spanning the period from March 19 to Nov 19. That really is a shame, as they could have been out there telling a story of events and themes in my life and work over the intervening period. I apologise. I must do better. Perhaps they can still be posted in coming months.
Now, backtrack slightly. The more observant among you will notice what appears to be a spelling mistake in the url for A Little Bit Wild. This is indeed a mis-typing but tells a story in itself of the way the blog came about. One year, in the early days of the Wildlife Trusts’ #30DaysWild campaign, which incidentally is happening right now, I decided to take the plunge and participate through a new personal blog. The 30 Days Wild challenge is a month long effort throughout June to do something small every day to connect with nature around us. When it became a recurring annual mission each June, to engage people with nature, I made the bold, brave choice to commit to a daily post with a story of something in my job or my daily routine, even my commute, which met the challenge.
I think I set up my Little Bit of Wild blog and published the very first post whilst on the bus, heading home, patched into the free wifi. I was using my smartphone, or possibly a mini tablet, but at any rate by modern standards it was a pretty small screen to type on. Plus I was on public transport, in a hurry and fizzing with adrenaline, no doubt.
Anyway, the original domain was claimed with an unintentional typo, and I kept it, out of a sort of sentimental homage to providence and my last-minute-take-the-plunge bravery to try it out – this commitment to wear my nature-loving heart on my sleeve, in a virtual, technological sense. I suppose I could change it. I might one day.
I nearly gave up on the daily posts several times during that #30dayswild. It was a tough gig I gave myself, but taught me a lot about spontaneity, taking inspiration from everyday experience and, above all, about a blogging mindset. It’s as much a way of thinking as of writing. I imagine journalism is rather similar – because one has to assimilate events or circumstances and produce a piece of entertaining, informative or maybe opinion-based writing, for more or less immediate consumption.
Well, there you are – a run-down of my steady, inexorable slide into intermittent blog-writing. I suppose it would be called Content Creation these days. It is part only part of my current job role these days. I sort of miss it, especially the relatively more carefree Wetland Project days and wish I could do more of it, but perhaps I can if I just develop a habitual routine it will come back to me. And as of now I’m back on the blogging wagon.