Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Why I Write

I recently had an email ping into my inbox from the lovely Sarah, aka Mitenska, asking if I'd like to join in the blog hop that has been making its way around the internet of late. Feeling very intrigued and flattered, I said yes. The theme of this blog hop is 'Why I write' - a topic I was looking forward to getting my teeth into. Good to have a set topic and structured questions too, as most of my writing these days is whatever I want it to be. 

So, here I go. Why I write.

What am I working on?

I currently have a few projects on the go...

You can find me over at  Garlic and Sapphire (the Sarah Raven blog) where I get to write about all things gardening: flowers, growing your own fruit and veg, and seasonal loveliness. 

I've recently joined the writing team over at This is Your Kingdom  too which gives me the best excuse to visit lots of the places that I love, take lots of photos and then write about our day out. 

With a slight nod to my old job (pre-motherhood I taught a class of five year olds), I also write for School Explained - a website for parents that explains the how different topics are taught within school, and I keep their education news section up to date. It's good to have a link to my old life, and to keep up-to-date with the latest heinous crime Gove has committed so that I can sympathise with my friends still in the profession...

And I suppose my blog is something I'm constantly working on - although of late, it seems to have dropped to the bottom of the pile  in terms of priorities. But I'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of writing in my little patch of the internet regularly again soon. I have a stash of draft posts that need resurrecting, so that'll be a good start. 

I should also really be working on the children's book I keep stopping and starting. It's in dire need of a heavy edit - perhaps that's a job for the next few months...

How does my writing differ from others in my genre?

Firstly, I can't claim to know exactly which genre I fit into. I post a lot of photos, but wouldn't call this a photography blog. I also write about my toddler, but I don't think I come under the title of 'mummy blogger' (yeuch) either. I suppose there's the overarching idea of 'lifestyle blogger' but I'm not sure I share enough of our 'lifestyle' to qualify. It's funny, in real life I'm not a huge one for sharing things (in a laying oneself bare kind of way, not a eating all the cake to myself kind of way - although...) and I think that reflects itself over here. I don't detail the minutiae of our life (on reflection, perhaps I do, seeing as I share photos. And pictures often speak louder than words) and I like to keep some things out of the public sphere. I know I'm often guilty of just showing the good bits of life as those are the ones I want to remember. And that, really, is what my blog is to me - a way of remembering and recording. In the same way that you wouldn't put a photo of every tantrum or leaky nappy in a photo album, I don't write about the screaming child as we drive down the motorway/vomit in my hair incidents (doesn't mean I don't remember them though!)

But back to the case in point, genre. I don't think I am (or want to be) defined by an absolute genre. And how does my writing differ from others? Well, apart from overusing parentheses, ellipsis and exclamation marks, I think everyone has their own distinct writing 'voice'. If I was given an anonymous post written by the author of one of my favourite blogs, I reckon I could have a good go at working out who it belonged to. We are all individuals after all. And to quote Oscar Wilde (c\o Emily McDowell) 'Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken'.  (I should also mention here the brilliant Emily McDowell print which reads 'I will not compare myself to strangers on the internet' - an easy trap to fall into I think and one I have to remind myself of from time to time). 

Why do I write what I do?

Most of the time (especially at the moment), photos come first. They tell the story, which I can then embellish. I write about places I've enjoyed visiting, things I've enjoyed making, books I've enjoyed (or perhaps not enjoyed) reading, and things we've been doing at home. 

Whilst at university, my writing was limited to essays about novels and the psychology of education, and when I started teaching, lesson plans, letters to parents and reports took up all my writing energies. Then suddenly, with the advent of my maternity leave, it all stopped. Soon after becoming a mum, I found I needed something else. A channel for my mind and and an outlay for creative thinkings. Something that could be almost a challenge if I wanted it to. In stepped my blog, and it's been keeping my mind ticking over on the most sleep-deprived of days ever since. 

How does my writing process work?

With a toddler around for most of the day, apart from the hallowed quiet of nap time, writing ideas are often scribbled down on post its or on lists as they come to me. I've recently invested in one of these weekly organisers to help me keep track of what's going on. I'm finding it's helping me organise my writing in a much more productive, less pressured way. Instead of starting the week thinking 'I need to write this, this, this and this' and I can work methodically through them over the course of the week: much better! (Not rocket science really, you'd think I would've organised myself like this at a much earlier date. It appears that only stylish stationery is the answer after all). 
Depending on the hour of waking in the morning, I can either be civilised and sit down to write at the dining table in the evening, or I'll flop on the sofa in front of the TV with my laptop warming my knees and get distracted by Pinterest/Facebook/A.N.Other website while I try to string a sentence together. 
So with when I'm going to write, and where I'm going to write sorted, the only thing left is 'what?'. Generally, I just sit down and chuck words at the screen. I edit as I go; deleting sentences, swapping words around or consigning the whole thing to the draft folder if I'm too fed up with it/not brave enough to press 'publish'. 

So that's me and how and why I write. It's turned into rather an essay, so thanks for sticking with it if you've got this far. Technically, I should now be passing on the blog hopping baton to a few more bloggers, but as far as I can see, pretty much everyone on the internet has already done it. So, with that in mind, and knowing how interesting and inspiring it can be to read about other people's writing processes, please feel free to leave a link to your own blog hop post in the comments box as I'd love to have a read. 

Benjamin Franklin quote from here


  1. Hi Helen! Thanks for doing this - I really enjoyed reading. And yes, 'hallowed hours' describes nap time perfectly! I really must invest in one of those weekly planners... Only last night I was thinking of my ever-growing to-do list and my ever-decreasing time to fit it all in!
    I love how you describe other bloggers having a distinctive style and how you'd probably recognise each one. I think that's true.
    It was good to read a lengthy post from you. Your own writing style is very readable. Oh, and I like the approach to 'passing on the baton' with the blog hop.
    Sarah x

  2. I love reading your posts and this one in particular is great - it's lovely to get to know the reasons behind the writing!

  3. I do enjoy your long form posts ... I'd ask for more but I know time is an issue. Some great insights into your writing process here and I was particularly interested in your comments about genre ... I wrote just yesterday that I see blogging as a form of bricolage. Maybe that's an idea I should develop when I finally write my 'Why I write' post next week.


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