Monday, 29 October 2007


A few people have asked me why I started writing. This is a question I find difficult to answer but I think, ultimately, I'd have to say I began to write because I was bored. Let me explain, before you storm off, shocked by this apparent denigration of the art of writing. I reached a point in my life when, after years of hectic occupation, I had time on my hands. "Great," I remember thinking, "I can put my feet up." I did but after a couple of weeks, I grew bored and found myself wanting to fill my time. I began to scribble down a random idea that occurred to me in an idle moment. It was one of those "what if" trains of thought that is the starting point for all my writing. Once I put pen to paper, words just flowed onto the page and I haven't been able to stop writing since. I'm completely hooked. It's a gloriously compulsive, exhilerating addiction and I love it! I was fortunate to find a publisher straight away, but as anyone who writes knows, the real buzz is in the writing.
My question is this:
If I hadn't felt bored, I would probably never have discovered an outlet for a creative passion I never even knew I had. It answers some inner need I've lived with all my life and I've never felt more comfortable with myself. What sort of disservice are we doing to children today by offering them access to constant entertainment? If we don't allow children to be bored, how will they find time to explore their own resources and discover their own hidden talents?

35 comments:

Henrietta said...

Hello Leigh,

Been wondering, since you are posting more frequently (excellent in itself) but, how are books two, three and so forth coming along?

And since you ask the photgraph is new and I'm not a natural pink; it is temporary. I'm considering a pale and metallic blue next. Perhaps slightly longer and in the style of Veronica Lake.

Leigh Russell said...

Hi Henrietta
I'm never quite sure whether I should respond to people on my own blog or on theirs.
I'm posting this frequently as I'm on half term from school. I'm also (temporarily?) addicted to blogging!
Thank you for asking about my writing. I've finished books 2 and 3, book 4 is virtually done, and I've had to start book 5 because I had an idea I couldn't resist!
But I have been working on Book 1 again this week, after a meeting with my editor.
I was disappointed to learn you're not a natural pink - I'm sure you're own colour is equally stunning...

Catherine said...

Hi Leigh

I think it's wonderful that you've found something within you that you're really talented at having lived for years without realising it.

As you so rightly say, boredom is a really good thing for children. It forces them to start using their imaginations. Life for many children (and adults) these days is about instant gratification. There's never any time just to 'be'. The childrens' shows on tele are a good example of this. They constantly flick from one topic to another, with music blaring and the camera jumping all over the place. I know my own children find it very hard to have to wait for things. I really do think that when these children grow up they will become very unhappy, dissatisfied adults. I also think the pressure put on children at school (including Junior School) does not help either. But that's another story ;-)

Leigh Russell said...

I totally agree, Catherine, children need time to 'be' and imagination needs space. When my two were small, they used to spend hours sitting on the grass in two washing baskets, fishing, sailing, I've no idea what they were doing. I think they told me once they were pirates. As well as occupying themselves, children need to learn early on to deal with frustration. I think there is a danger in being too "kind". Some of the children I teach don't like to accept a simple 'no' - and these are teenagers! I'd do things differently, with hindsight, with my own children who had to learn some lessons from "life" that I could have prepared them for rather better than I did. Easy to be wise after the event.

fizzycat said...

Well thats as good reason to start writing why not.About the football who knows current household opinion reckons its somebody down the streets grandchild's toy but who knows we will ask around this week.Perhaps its an alien and it's only good earthly form is make itself look like a football.
I agree a little boredom is a good thing to inspire creativity.

Sleepy said...

Half Term finished here...

Leigh Russell said...

I want to know what happened to the kid who was carrying the football? Why did he drop it? Did he throw it over the fence in a desperate bid to attract attention? Or did his attacker throw it over the fence? There has to be a killer lurking somewhere... sorry - just getting carried away. I'm sure there's a perfectly innocent explanation, like a powerful kick from a nearby garden.

Vic Grace said...

How exciting to have your book published. I really like that kind of story so will watch for you. I hope you will be available in Canada.

You asked about the Polar Bear picture. It is true I got it from a CBC news clip. The animal was transported back twice but kept returning south. The rangers are not going to interfere again. I don't know how far south it will get.

Elizabeth Platt said...

Fantastic way of starting to write! And you're completely right too about it being an addiction. Once you've got the bug of writing, it'll never let you go. I love it and I love hearing about other people loving it.

Catherine said...

Hi Leigh

Hindsight is a horrible thing. I'd much rather have foresight so then I wouldn't have to agonise over all the past mistakes I've made with my children.

My sister-in-law was a secondary school teacher and found the children so rude and insolent and completely uninterested in learning. I really worry what the next generation on will be like!! Or maybe there will be a complete backlash and people will begin to discipline their children again, providing them with morals, stability and love.

Leigh Russell said...

Thanks Catherine.

As a teacher myself, I share your concern about the next generation. Drugs is a huge issue we weren't forced to confront in the same way when we were growing up. There was a drugs scene, but it was a relatively fringe element of youth culture that has now become mainstream. Drugs are available everywhere, to a younger and younger market. I try to deal with this issue in my book. I have some teenage characters who ... No, sorry, it's difficult to say a few words about it, and I don't want to give too much away!

Sleepy said...

We had half a year group turn up to lessons on Ecstasy.
A hectic, if not, strangely affectionate day.

Ahh.. The good old days of Special Measures!

Middle Ditch said...

Hi Leigh

About a link? I have several on my blog. A person visiting me may get curious and click on, say, David Caddy [my husband] and will go straight to his blogspot. Or a person might like to know who Gordon Haskell is and via my link will find that information on his myspace, set up by his fans. Have a look and click on any of my links. That's what blogging is all about. Making it easy for other people to visit those that you think are worthy of a visit. On another note. Why did you take the comment on episode 6 away?

I have been writing since I was 9 when I wrote my first play, an adaptation of a fairytale. Did a lot of stupid things in my teens and twenties, got married to the most lovely man, had two wonderful daughters, brought them up, they left home and then I had time again to resume writing. Had a few poetry pamphlets published, had loads of poetry published in various magazines, discovered script writing and have been doing that for many years. Keep writing.

Monique

Middle Ditch said...

Hi Leigh

Episode 7 will be posted sometime this week. Will put a link to your blogspot. Saw that Pris also put a link from her blogspot to yours. You should put links on too. The more links you have the more correspondence will follow [eventhough I must say that you have already quite a following]. Anyway back to watching a bit more tv and then to bed. Up at 6.30 to go to work. And then when I get home at 1 finish writing episode 19. Hmmm, I should really submit my 3 part period drama to the BBC. Must think about that.

Thank you for keeping in touch,

Monique

cross stitch peg said...

Hi Leigh,and thanks for dropping by my blog. I'gonna link you if that's ok wit you. I am hugely intrigued now and can't wait to get my hands on your book. the cover is catching and not OTT. if i can help you with any info contact me, I work as a coroner's officer in a mortuary. cheerz Peggy in Kent

Leigh Russell said...

I'm excited that a coroner's officer in a mortuary has visited my blog. Reality has touched the fringes of my fictitious other- world. I'll be visiting you again, Peg. There's so much I don't know (like, everything!) about the real world of crime. I've just been making it all up as I go along - is this where I'm found out??!!

Before you reject me as a complete fake, can I reassure you that I do have some wonderful expert advisers? My dad, bless him, was a GP for many years and I always read the descriptions of my corpses to him, just to check I haven't stabbed someone in the back and had them bleed to death from the top of their head. (Somewhat exaggerated example, but you know what I mean.) I also have a contact at my local police station who kindly answers queries for me.

Anne Lyken-Garner said...

I can see what you mean about kids not getting bored. I know parents who have their kids booked to do something different each day of the week (and sometimes even 2 in one afternoon).

They look upon me as the lazy mother who only lets her kids do one thing each week. I must say that my kids have got imaginations which far excel their years, since they have to 'resort' to putting on plays and shows for us at home. What a dreary existance for them!

Leigh Russell said...

Hi Anne,
Lucky kids having a mother like you who allows them space and time to explore their own ideas and creativity as well as acquiring endless skills. Of course, it does mean you have to sit through all their shows! That brings back memories!

The World According to Me said...

HI Leigh

Love the book design and love the sound of the reading material. Sounds right up my street!
I'm going to lurk around your blog now...

AngryMan said...

My mother always made me go chase rabbits outside. She should have let me be bored.

Blur Ting said...

I like your book cover. It's intriguing. If it were placed on the book shelf in the store, I'd probably take a closer look or turn the pages to see what's inside.

Leigh Russell said...

Thank you Blur Ting. Keep in touch - I'll certainly be back to look at more of your photos.

Erica Ridley said...

LOL, I bet a lot of writers started writing because they were bored. The first person our stories entertain is us, after all. *g

P.S.
Very eyecatching cover!!! =)

Vicki said...

I'm thinking we should be glad you became bored. :)

Happy Halloween Everyone!!

Jennifer Linforth said...

"What sort of disservice are we doing to children today by offering them access to constant entertainment?"

BRAVA! I wrote an article about how children often seem unconnected to their imaginations and far too connected to video games, TV etc. How will they learn to explore their imaginations (and perhaps the written word) if we do not encourage it?

My daughter will be a year old in November, and I hope I will foster her imagination.

Very cool book cover! 'Seriously Creep' is dead on. Keep us posted on your release.

And I echo you on whether to reply to folks on your blog or theirs. Blogger only now put the email follow-up tag, but who knows who clicks it? (so I do both until I get a clue ;)

That being said, thanks for visiting my blog. I have no release date for MADRIGAL yet (my book continuing Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera). I will post it to my blog as I get updates from my publisher. Until then, I sit tight and wait for the edits.

Sending your blog address to a friend who write romantic suspence... she might take a look around!

Jennifer

Madwag said...

Hi Leigh,

You left your comment on my chipmunk blog...lol... my other one is the one I use most.

I love your book cover... looks good.

Yep... nothing wrong w/ us old bats...we are just fine the way we are.

BernardL said...

That's as good a reason as any to start writing. :) Congratulations on the sale of your book series. I hope it really takes off for you.

Leigh Russell said...

Thank you very much to all you visitors. It's great to hear from you. I've tried to return all your visits and thank you on your blogs individually. Sorry if I missed anyone out, organisation isn't my strong point! But keep in touch anyway, I love hearing from you.

The Real Mother Hen said...

What a great post you have.
Now I'm hooked to your blog!

PS: If I have a child, I'll make sure I lock him/her up in a cave :)

Bill Clark said...

Once I put pen to paper, words just flowed onto the page and I haven't been able to stop writing since. I'm completely hooked. It's a gloriously compulsive, exhil[a]rating addiction and I love it!

Yup, you said it all!

As a former teacher myself (English Departments at Yale and Mount Holyoke), I hope you don't mind my correcting your typo. It's an ingrained habit, I'm afraid! :-(

As to which blog one should respond on, my usual MO is to stick with the one where the original comment to which one is responding was made. But sometimes I wander over to the other one and re-post the reply there as well, just to be sure that my pearls of wisdom don't get overlooked in the fast-paced shuffle of the blogosphere. :-)

I hate to sound stuffy and old-fashioned (though I do sometimes tend a bit in those directions), but I think all those long-suffering English Lit teachers who made us write our themes every day and memorize huge swaths of poetry for the O Levels did us more of a service than we may have suspected at the time. Despite our best efforts to the contrary, they endowed us with the skills to write cogently, just in case we ever actually decided to do so of our own volition.

In short, the people in my life who have influenced me the most were the handful of gifted teachers, along with the slew of less-gifted ones, who taught me to love the English language (and music, and art, and even history - which I hated at the time). Let's give three rousing cheers for teachers!

Leigh Russell said...

Hi mother hen, make sure you give your kids plenty of space, paper, pens, paints and assorted junk ( don't forget dressing ups!)in their cave, won't you? And, of course, pelnty of books to read!

Leigh Russell said...

Bill
It's lovely to hear from you. Please feel free to be as stuffy and old fashioned as you please on my blog. Yes, children might hate challenging 'old fashioned' material when they first encounter it, but as you say, we keep the knowledge we learned at school for life. If everything is designed to pander to children's own wishes, they miss so much.

I don't mind your correcting my typo at all. I'm just the same - I can't help it! Years of teaching have taken their toll. By the way, 'swath' is the American spelling of our 'swathe', I take it? If I've managed to score a point there, please don't spoil my petty victory by reading my reply to mother hen....

Bill Clark said...

By the way, 'swath' is the American spelling of our 'swathe', I take it?

On our side of the pond, they are two different words. Swath refers to the wide area of grass or hay cut by a scythe, and comes from the OE word for footprint. Swathe means to wrap a baby in swaddling clothes, as St. Luke (via King James's translators) so eloquently tells us.

But I notice that American dictionaries acknowledge the use of "swathe" as a variant spelling of "swath", so that may be a tip of the hat to the Queen's English.

On a related note, American English is sometimes closer to the language of our common ancestors than what one hears spoken in Britain today. For example, we all used to say "eether" [either], but when the Hanoverian King George I came to take over the throne, he spoke very little English and pronouced the word in the German fashion, "eyether". Court sycophants promptly took up his mispronunciation rather than correct His Most Irascible Majesty.

The colonists already in America continued to pronounce the word the old-fashioned way, as indeed most of them still do to this day. (American sycophants are no different from English ones, however, and have adopted the royal mispronunciation as an affectation. U and non-U, and all that.)

Thus endeth our linguistics lesson for the day. :-)

Leigh Russell said...

You've certainly raised the tone of my blog, Bill, and I love it! Thank you very much. I was aware that American English is closer to the language of our forefathers, having been subject to fewer foreign influences than the language spoken on our small and cosmopolitan island. We freely absorb other languages, unlike the French, for example, who are very picky about what they'll admit into their dictionaries. It is exciting that language is organic, but I have a concern about the language used by our youngsters. They use words that conventionally have 'bad' meanings, such as 'wicked' or 'bad' or 'sick' to denote 'good' but sadly (another 'good' word?) the only words they use to denote 'bad' are swear words which have no meaning at all beyond some vague generic negative sense. Their vocabulary is so vague it borders on meaningless... Orwell's Newspeak is already here. I'd like to I find it sad, but what would that mean?

Bill Clark said...

Yes, Orwell was prophetic. Newspeak, Big Brother watching us all, Memory Holes to incinerate past truths - he was way ahead of his time.

I think the best hope for the future of language - and the younger generation - is that it, and they, are constantly evolving. Plus, we have the Internet, which allows information (as well as misinformation, not to mention disinformation, alas) to spread much more widely and quickly than in Orwell's day. And, it helps us meet new friends from all over! :)

You mention "wicked" - that's been British schoolboy slang since back when I lived in England and sat for the O Levels. "He threw a wicked googly" was considered high praise. I'd be surprised if the OED doesn't offer "great" or "fantastic" or "wonderful" as synonyms for "wicked".

But I agree that the language of our youngsters can be disturbing at times. Perhaps one should view it as part of the rebelliousness that we all went through as we struggled to form our own personalities independent of those our parents and mentors wanted to superimpose on us. Shakespeare's comedies have a pattern that illustrates this age-old aspect of human nature:

1) The action begins in a city, where society has become too stultified and the older generation too controlling;

2) It then moves into a wild and natural setting, such as the Forest of Arden, or the forest in MSND, or Prospero's island, where the younger generation makes its mistakes and mixes up its identities and wears disguises and invents imaginary personae;

3) Finally, the youth reenter the city, where their new-found self knowledge helps to temper the rigidities they fled in Act One - until, of course, they in turn become the older generation and *their* kids rebel in turn. :-)

Just remember, what you say to those youngsters may appear to be met with scorn and disbelief, but they are hearing you regardless. Sooner or later, most of them will "straighten up and fly right", and your steadying influence will have played a part in that process.