When Violets Become Violent

my writing corner of the bedroom

Lots of time spent at my desk lately because last time I looked, the August and September pages were pretty clear of reminder notes re appointments and events.

It’s not that I detest appointments and events (well, maybe I am not so fond of appointments – but I definitely do not detest events, in fact I rather enjoy them once I’m there; a true introvert’s confession if ever there was.)

with Jenny Powell at after-launch dinner and about to tap into a Crème Brûlée – ummm, I just might have have likened Jenny’s poetry to this dessert during the conversation I had with her at the launch
in conversation with poet Jenny Powell at the launch of her book ‘Meeting Rita’

But yes. After an especially busy year – and I know I am lucky to be able to say that in this time of Covid – it’s nice to see some clear pathways opening up that are allowing me to be free and able to get on with some focused writing.

the good old Zip – symbol of halls across our land. I was reminded afresh of their faithful service the other morning while helping out with the music & playgroup up at St Nick’s church hall

It’s good to get out of the house, get out of my corner, go for a walk, go up to the music playgroup I help out with every week … If I spend too much time writing, I can feel myself curling up into a tinier version of myself. Ever decreasing circles. I almost lose the capacity to talk. It’s not healthy for me, too much writing.

From Wikipedia: Moluccella laevis, the Bells-of-IrelandBells of IrelandMolucca balmisshellflower or shell flower, is a summer flowering annual, native to TurkeySyria and the Caucasus. It is cultivated for its spikes of flowers. In the language of flowers, it represents luck.

Loved seeing these lucky green beauties; bells of Ireland; the other day in Dunedin’s Botanical Gardens. I was there for a meeting with two other poet friends where we discuss chosen poems. This regular meeting is another chance to hightail it from my writing desk, to socialise, be inspired and motivated and exercise my vocal chords.

early spring daffs making their appearance in Aotearoa gardens – this one I had to bring indoors because its bent stem was causing it to lie face down

I’ve launched into the beginning stages of writing my second novel. At present this involves, among other things, research and playing with ideas, characters’ names and traits. An added treat is that this sometimes necessitates going to a movie that usefully ties in with the subject matter.

going for a walk definitely helps with inspiration for writing. On a recent walk I spotted this black cat on a red gate. It doesn’t look all that impressed with any suggestion that he / she might feature in my writing

When in the middle of writing, as I am at the moment, at night when it comes the time to fall asleep, the novel keeps insisting on writing itself in my head. This will not do. So in go the ear buds and I drift off listening to Scotland Outdoors or Dateline’s real life crimes.

Daily word count? Once I’m into the swing of it, I’ll probably aim for around 500 – 1000 words (she said blithely) on a good writing day. (Not every day is a writing day, let alone a good one.) However, I shall keep in mind this quote: “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” (W. Somerset Maugham). And as Jack London said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

This blue jay is one of the objects I have on my desk to keep me company as I write. It was a ‘Made In Japan’ ornament back when Japan was churning out cheap goods in a (successful) post-war bid to recover.

Given to me by my father one Christmas, it was the first and only (and as it turned out, last) time he ever bought presents for us kids. That was usually my mother’s domain.

It remains a precious and tangible link to a father who at 48 years old, died far too young. I have yet to see a real life blue jay, but have no doubt that one day I will. It’s on my bucket list. That and humming birds. And a horse-drawn sleigh ride in snow.

Meanwhile, as can be seen by the faded patches and chips, for over fifty years now this much-loved china bird has served as a fond memory of my dad and something of a replacement for the real thing – both bird and father. P.S. In another wonderful surprise served up by life, circumstance, coincidence, serendipity … about fourteen years ago, I was given another special gift from Japan – a precious daughter-in-law.

I could call these my wall flower shots, but the violets forcing themselves street-side from behind a wooden wall, are actually portraying the opposite characteristic of wall flowers.

These are no shrinking violets. Their showing up in a public space from private, has taken quiet determination. They have achieved their goal slowly and persistently. And with a bit of help from any light showing through the cracks.

They are saying, do not presume quiet and unassuming equals lack of courage and strength. And upon looking closely at their leaves, I see they are heart-shaped. How perfect.

As a Teacher’s College student (way back in the day) I was on my first posting – which is when students are sent out to receive some real-life-in-the-classroom teaching experience. We were sent out in pairs. The school that I was sent to was Tainui school, which as it happens would end up – way into the future – being the school my three sons ended up attending.

One day my student-teacher buddy told me he thought I was a bit of ‘a shrinking violet.’ He meant it kindly enough I’m sure – perhaps he was concerned that I was not trusting in my own self-confidence. Well, at least I like to think that’s what he was intending to convey.

But it has stuck with me, that ‘shrinking violet’ tag and possibly from that point on I have endeavoured to not be labelled as such. I probably should be more grateful to him for this lifetime spur to not pull back too much from notice or participation.

And it often strikes me how close the word violet is (all it needs is the letter ‘n’) to turning violent. Oh to have the super power of ‘free choice rebuttal’ – the power to be able to go back in time to wherever, whenever, and deliver a soccer-punch rebuttal to something someone said to you; that thing they said which at the time of delivery you were stumped for a clever comeback.

“Just watch out buddy – all it takes is one slip of the tongue for this violet to turn violent,” is perhaps what I’d say to him, delivering the line with all the aplomb of my more self-assured future self.

a horse on the wall in the town of Gore

But alas such a super power is not to be.

‘If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

If turnips were watches, I’d wear one by my side.

If “ifs” and “ands” were pots and pans,

There’d be no work for tinkers’ hands.’

modern transport – replacement for Shanks’ pony

More about that rhyme from Wikipedia: The reference to horses was first in James Carmichael’s Proverbs in Scots printed in 1628, which included the lines: “And wishes were horses, pure [poor] men wald ride”.

Speaking of Scots. Research I’m doing for my novel involves family tree research. I know that many, many people find that their line goes back into the mists of time ending up at Robert the Bruce – our through line being no exception. I am treating this with some scepticism at the moment. However, I am presently on high alert to all things ancient Scots – so it was interesting to come across the above reference.

dancing gulls over Ootepoti Dunedin harbour

I asked another writer the other day if they liked to listen to music while writing and they said no, they like to write in silence as they find any noise, music or otherwise, too distracting. I assume their curious, magpie-mind (an attribute and strength of their writing as it happens) causes them to want to know what’s happening; where the noise / sound is coming from. Who’s singing? What song is that? Etc.

As a rule, I do like to write with some conducive, non-irritating, non-intrusive background music. This means that as well as paying to subscribe to Ancestry for research purposes, I also pay a Spotify sub in order to take full advantage of their delivery of wall to wall music. I lean towards Americana, Country, Indie, Classical and of course (this goes without saying really) my all-time favourite Joni Mitchell. Sometimes, though, I can’t resist the peace RNZ Concert promises. I listen to it with the sound turned down low and it truly fits the bill, providing sweet, unobtrusive company. And it’s free.

As for best hours of the day for writing, I am a night owl and a late riser, so the hours I prefer tend to be those between mid-morning until mid-to-late afternoon. When I was mother to young children I’d get up at 4.00 a.m. I can’t even imagine doing that now.


Writer from Dunedin, New Zealand.

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