little red jottings

when a little red pen wanders off the page

Tag: friendship

Taking a moment, part II

I did this for my great-aunt a few months ago, and yesterday it was for my grandmother. Just paying tribute, I guess. The first eulogy is mine; the second my sister’s.

 

Mine

We’ve come to say goodbye, Granny. The words don’t come easily; all our lives, you’ve been there. But you shaped us and made us whole, and though we feel weak and imperfect today, we know you gave us the strength to honour you and let you go.

I want to spin words for you today — dark, rough, warm words — spin them out of storm-grey wool, keep the wheel turning awhile, draw yarn from fleece. I would like to knit you a story — plain and pearl — wrap you in bright, true colour. Or if I had the skill, I would make you a garden of love — plant gentleness and welcome and care — sit you under a tree and magic up a world of light and good, growing things. I’d let the children run and bring you a cup of tea, sit down beside you, touch my head to yours. But that magic is not for us, not in the way I want it, so I will have to conjure what I can out of memory and story, make do with the worlds in our heads and our hearts.

When we were children, we often stayed with you on the farm. You had a beautiful house and a beautiful garden, with a berry cage and a glasshouse and a tyre swing in a big tree. The garden had stone walls and wooden gates, with secret hiding places and a lawn we played croquet on at Christmastime. Papa died when I was little, and you kept all this up on your own, although I know you missed him very much. But we were too young for that for a long time, so we picked berries and collected pine cones and swept leaves and snuck into sheds and stole grapes happily.

You woke early, and you always got to the kitchen first. You’d check the traps for mice, light the Rayburn, make a pot of tea. The mice ended up, unceremoniously, in the compost bucket — I shiver at it still. You’d make the rounds of our beds with the tea tray, give us each a cup, and a slice of bread with butter and sugar on it. It was a lovely way to start the day, lovely too when I managed to get up in time to help with the ritual. You would be dressed, always neat and trim, but Mum would be soft and warm in her dressing gown, and I loved you both, loved the order of my grandmother and the sleepy arms of my mother.

You and Mum had quite different ways of being women, mothers. But your qualities played off against each other, and in that play you gave me and Fiona room to grow in our own ways, to find our own paths. And you had common ground that gave us a good foundation: hospitality, generosity, craft and gardening, a sneaky love of shopping, a disdain of excessive grooming and frippery, a deep enjoyment of friendships, and an enthusiastic commitment to nourishing and delicious food.

The bond between you was strong, too. You wrote to each other every week, probably for close on 50 years. You took pleasure in each other’s lives, looked for opportunities for celebration, support, or care. I think losing Mum was a blow too heavy for you to bear; it was something you could never fully get your head and heart around. Although we didn’t talk much about our grief, it helped a little to know that you felt it too, that the hole in our lives was also a hole in yours.

Christmas was a big deal at your house. All the aunts and uncles and cousins came, and the cooking started early and the dishes stretched forever. We were allowed our stockings before breakfast, and my sister and I opened our presents to each other. But everything else had to wait until after church. Then the other families arrived, and the feasting began. The uncles put all the leaves in the table, and we used the best crockery and cutlery. We got most of the fruit and vegetables from the garden — teams, hordes really, of children sent out to forage, pod, pick, scrub — and I guess the lamb came from one of the farms. The luckiest adults got the ruby-red glasses that Papa brought back from Florence, and I’d watch them carefully, wondering when it would be my turn.

I was never allowed to read as much as I wanted to at the farm — children needed fresh air and activity — but on a cold day, you would light the fire and then I could curl up beside your chair, its leather worn, cracked, and you’d stroke my hair, your fingers curved, the bones tender against the nape of my neck. You understood balance, the weighting of exercise with rest, work with play, talk with silence. And maybe that is why it was hard to see you these last few years, to see you quiet and still, without the counterweight of activity and independence and work. You drew life from hospitality and conversation and making a home; without that, you were frail, unmoored.

And in that unmooring, I lost part of myself too, as I suspect many of us did. So many of our lines to the past are traced through women — our mothers, grandmothers, aunts. Your talk gives us our history, and it is your arms we return to for support or care. So now that you are gone, we feel unsteadied, unsure on the shaky ground of our middle years. I wish I could bring back that world — even for a day — just to step into it, look around, be small and safe and cared for again. I wish I could take my children there, my friends too, but instead you have given me, given all of us, the harder task: to create our own worlds, build our own homes, and open them to others.

And perhaps the best we can do is to remember you in the small moments — when we light a fire or brew a pot of tea, when we stir porridge or let marmalade fall from spoon to toast, when we pick flowers from our gardens or welcome family and friends to our tables. Perhaps all we can do is carry you with us in the quiet fabric of how we live and be in the world; perhaps all we can do is recognise you, greet you, in a sister, a child, a friend.

 

Fiona’s

Obviously, I have known Granny all my life. However, I’ve realised recently that what I know of someone is in most cases only a small fraction of their whole lives, so this eulogy is fairly limited to my own experiences, for which I apologise. But when I think of Granny, I think of my childhood.

Growing up, my family went regularly to visit Granny at her old house in Lady Barkly. This was a magical place to us, like stepping into a storybook: full of long sun-drenched afternoons, tea and biscuits on the lawn, frogs hiding under rocks and sheep in the fields. Stiles and gooseberry bushes, tennis and bike rides, and cosy evenings by the fire, watching Coronation Street. But my favourite memories of the Barkly are of staying in Granny’s wee sunroom, nestled between her room and my parents’ at the top of the house. Lying awake surrounded by my grown-ups, hearing the trees rustle and the occasional lonely sheep, I have never felt more safe.

It was that safety and sense of peace, I think, that made staying at Granny’s such fun. In such a stable and loving place, we were free to explore, find boundaries and pretend to transgress – knowing all the while that a pot of tea and cheese biscuits were just around the corner. Granny built this environment, it came directly from her. She offered us a space of boundless discovery, and set us free to find our own places in it.

Mind you, us kids didn’t just run wild at Granny’s house – or in my case, lie idle. My idea of an ideal winter’s day is: fire, chair, book. But Granny knew that these things are even better if you split them up with a bracing walk around the driveway to collect pinecones. She taught us the value of a balanced life, one that includes both rest and work, conversation and reflection, simplicity and small indulgences.

I think this was also apparent in her craft. Granny knitted, sewed and made embroidery all her life, and was a skilled craftsperson. There are few memories more comforting to me than the sound of her spinning wheel on an evening by the fire, and us grandchildren cherish her beautiful hand-embroidered Christmas stockings. And to me, her craft was about balance: the economy of clothing your family in hand-spun handknits, and the creative joy of making beautiful things. The pleasure of wrapping your loved ones in warmth, and the pleasure of spending your time in satisfying industry. My mother made her own way into craft and textile art, and I think was influenced by this dichotomy of function and economy, and a love of creative expression, colour and form. I’ve now found my own place in craftwork, and while I regret that I can’t directly share this experience with these women who came before me, I am deeply glad to continue the conversation.

Lady Barkly also a highly social world, for all its geographic isolation. Uncle Hugh or Cousin Mike would often pop over during breakfast, to snag a cup of tea and drop off the mail and the milk. And in the afternoons we would go to see Uncle John and family, or to Margie Divers or another friend. This taught me the value of maintaining family and social connections, but also showed me one of Granny’s qualities that I truly admired: her sense of place in the world. Granny, I think, never felt any great need to define or question her life, to proclaim it to the world or rail against it. She had a life of social networks and strong relationships, of routine and well-established belief. An awareness of what was important to her, and how she was important to other people. This gave her her generosity, her ability to share wisdom and guidance, and an shakeable sense of the right way to do things: how to bake bread, prune roses, or look after guests. I found this deeply reassuring, and loved sharing her world of peace and calm.

But we didn’t always get along, Granny and I. My teenage years saw a prolonged series of arguments, mostly around clothes and appearance. But I like to think we each understood the others’ side of the debate. I knew she just wanted me to have self-confidence and care in the way I presented myself, and she knew I was a bolshy upstart who would grow out of it. Granny cared about presentation: she was never more herself than in a fine knit jersey, hair done, with her pearls and a matching skirt. But it wasn’t just about shallow appearances. Granny believed in the self-confidence and poise that such care brings, and found strength in presenting a strong face to the world.

But the best thing that she taught me was the value of family, and most especially of sisterhood. She and her sister Nan were both widowed young, and lived for years their own lives, separate but always close by. Quite different in their temperaments, beliefs and outlooks, they were able to live side by side, accepting their differences, and finding a true companionship. They were never far apart, and it is hard to remember one without the other. Being lucky enough to have my own sister, I have always been touched by their unquestioning trust and love for each other, and I’m quite looking forward to Mary and I being similarly formidable old ladies one day. We’re practicing. Thank you.

The school wall

When I dropped the Cat at school this morning, his friend was sitting on the wall waiting for him. The Cat threw kisses at his brother and me, grabbed his bag, got out of the car. He and his friend sort of bounced at each other all the way up the hill, grinning and making elaborate gestures with their arms. They’re nice together; they run in wild, ragged circles until they drop into quiet, fat-chewing contemplation. There’s a sparkle in their eyes, a cheeky crooked slant to their smiles.

It’s been a while for my boy since he had a close friend like this. And I love to see it in him, that coltish, loose-limbed connection. I think of everything that my friends have been to me, all that we’ve been alongside each other for — the questions and discoveries, the exploration, the long afternoons and nights of wending conversation, the laughter that takes us to the point of tears, the tears. I hope these boys have a long friendship; I hope they lead each other astray, but not too far, and that they find their way back together.

I think they might make a bit of mischief together. I think that will be okay.

 

Night songs

Beth woke early, sunlight fingering through the curtains. She curled back towards sleep, burrowing deeper into the eiderdown and letting her body settle in the warmth.

Slowly, her thoughts drifted towards the day, the ferry coming in the afternoon, the preparations to be made. She felt rusty, unsure of how to stretch into the shape required of her. She felt — of all things — like a hermit crab, naked on the sea floor, searching for a shell to fit her as grandmother, as host. She uncoiled, easing her legs straight under the covers, shuffling up onto her elbows, then swung her legs out of the bed, feeling for her slippers with her feet. With a soft grunt, she stood, reached down the old dressing gown from behind the door.

In the kitchen, Beth struck a match, lit the fire she had set the night before. The kindling cracked and sparked, the flames bright in the dark range. She shovelled on some coal and filled the kettle, placed it on the hob.

Out on the verandah, she cradled a cup of tea in her hand, a bowl of porridge beside her. A bellbird sang from the rata, and the boats in the bay looked shapely, perfectly formed in the morning light.

Beth dressed quickly, shrugging on an old hand-knit jersey and some tweedy slacks. Time enough to tidy up later, she thought. Sally wouldn’t mind her being a bit rough around the edges — but then there was the other one to think of. Beth picked up the fishing rod, bucket and basket from the laundry, pulled on her boots, and headed to the rocks.

She found her usual spot, half-hidden by the bush that crept down to the water and offering a flat slab that was first a seat, then a gutting station. By mid-morning, she had caught three fat cod, her hands swift and tender as she brained them, split their bellies, tossed the guts to the waiting gulls. She wrapped the fish in newspaper, laid them in the basket.

Shouldering her gear and clambering back to the track, she remembered Sally’s voice on the phone. “I’m coming over on Saturday, Gran, maybe stay a few nights.” A slight pause, then, “I think I might bring a friend.” They’d talked about exams after that, the weather, who was new to the island, and who had left. Before hanging up, Sally paused again. “It’ll be good to see you, Gran,” she said.

So, thought Beth, three fish then, and two beds to make up in the little spare room at the front of the house. She hoped no-one had turned vegetarian without telling her.

After lunch, Beth walked around the house, checking its readiness. She breathed in the linseed oil deep in the old wood, rearranged the daisies in the yellow jug on the dresser. She laid the table with the green cloth, its embroidered flowers faded from countless washings. Before leaving the house, Beth scrubbed potatoes, pricked them, put them in the range.

On the way down to the wharf, Beth stopped at the store. Some little treat, she thought, something that young people would like. It was hard to choose, what with Pat and Nancy offering advice, and trying not to squint too hard at the labels. Eventually she selected thin crackers, a cream cheese, a small jar of olives. “Expecting visitors today, Mrs Patterson?” asked Maureen at the counter. “My granddaughter,” said Beth, suddenly shy in the curious quiet that fell on the front of the store. “Little Sally?” said Maureen, “haven’t seen her for a while.” “Probably not so little now,” muttered Pat, as he collected his bread, milk and paper. “Put it on the tab, love,” he said, as he loped out the door.

________________________________________________________

When the boat came in, Beth was waiting on the wharf, scanning the arrivals with an islander’s sidelong glance. It took her a minute to recognise Sally, the long legs striding through the crowd, her hair shorn close to her head.

They hugged, and Beth ran her hand carefully over the soft stubble. It prickled lightly under her fingers, and she remembered sitting in the old leather chair by the fire, Sally’s loose red-gold curls glinting in the firelight. She’d run her hands through the tangle of hair, stroking the delicate skull underneath.

And then she remembered further back, to the day Meg had called from the mainland and told her to come and meet her granddaughter. Beth had crossed in rough weather, the boat pitching on the waves and rain spattering the windows. She’d hitched a ride to the city — you could do that then — and been dropped at the hospital. When she walked into the room, Meg was alone, sitting by the window with a small, white-wrapped bundle in her arms. Beth kissed her, pleased to see the clear light in her eyes, the calm set of her mouth. “I brought you apples from the old tree,” she said, suddenly wondering if they should be books or clothes for the baby. Nappies, even. “Lovely,” said Meg, taking the wrinkled brown bag, selecting a small, garnet-coloured apple. “Swap you for a baby,” and she laid the bundle in Beth’s arms.

Beth turned the baby towards her, and took in the pale skin, the wide mouth, the flagrant riffle of red hair on her scalp. “You didn’t tell me we had orangutan in the family line, Mum,” said Meg, her mouth full of apple. The baby opened long, creased eyelids, looked at Beth, and yawned. Beth turned away from Meg a little, and cleared her throat. “Just be glad she didn’t pick the hippo card,” she said.

On the wharf, Beth stepped back from Sally and looked into her face. The short hair made her look younger, her face open and clean, her eyes and mouth generous. “She’s got a nicely shaped head,” said a voice to Beth’s right, and she turned to see a young woman standing beside her. This woman’s hair was long and dark, bunched into a rough ponytail at the back of her head. Her skin was warm and tawny, her eyes the green-brown of drifting seaweed. “This is Keri, Gran,” said Sally. “Hello, Keri,” said Beth. “Sally’s head has always been well-shaped.”

________________________________________________________

Back at the house, Beth unpacked her purchases, hunting out Aunty Elsie’s platter for the crackers and muttering about the need for something to eat after the boat trip. She offered wine, but the girls had brought beer and they opened a bottle each, curled on the sofa, shoes kicked off. Beth didn’t want wine either; her usual whisky would do just fine.

While Beth fried the fish, she sent Sally into the garden to pick a salad. She watched her granddaughter through the window, recognising as her own the long fingers that searched out a few crisp lettuce leaves, the ripest of the tomatoes by the wall. They ate quietly, the cutlery chinking lightly against the plates. They talked a little, let the night settle around the table.

After the girls had gone to bed, Beth refilled her whisky glass and took it out onto the verandah. She sat in the swing chair, her ears tuned to the distant swish of waves on the beach. A morepork flew overhead, its call a slow parabola in the dark. The spare room window was open a crack to catch the breeze, and through it Beth heard the low murmur of Sally and Keri talking. She almost called out to them to hush and go to sleep, but remembered in time that they were no longer eight and high on fifty-cent mixtures from the store. She leaned back in the chair and sipped her whisky.

But as she sat, the murmurs became more urgent, building in a rhythm that first matched the waves, and then passed them. Beth halted the gentle swing of the chair, her foot a sudden anchor on the verandah. She wanted to stand, walk fast out into the night, the bush, the sea, but her legs were granite, heavy and unyielding. Someone called out in a low moan, and Beth gripped the glass tightly in her hand, holding her arm firmly with the other hand to stop it shaking.

And then she heard another sound — Sally breathing out a deep sigh and laughing, warm and relaxed, Keri too, and their laughter twined and tumbled around the room, and out, tendrilling in the night sky — leaves, petals, stems opening in bright colour against the inky sky. Beth slowly lifted her foot, let the chair swing again. She sat there for a long time, quieting to the night, then rose, rinsed her glass, went to bed.

Over the next couple of days, they walked the tracks. Sally wanted to show Keri all the old places, the tightly curving bays, the narrow beaches, the furled and knotted bush. Beth found tiny orchids for them, pale green hoods among the ferns and moss. As they sat on the jetty, a little blue penguin swam beneath them, diving after fish. The night retreated, became a shrug, a faint line of unease wavering across the pale blue china of their days.

On the third evening, Keri brought out her guitar. She sang first in English and then in te reo, her voice low and certain. Beth listened quietly, following the music into the sky and over the bay. And at last she let herself remember Katie, a warm night on the sand, a flagon of sherry wedged between them. She remembered their kiss, Katie’s lips soft and full, her skin with that light scent of soap — and underneath soap, the sea. And she remembered how they’d hugged hard, pulled away from each other, run as fast as they could into husbands and babies, filling their pantries with rows of jams and jellies, from which they chose the most fragrant, the most richly hued to send to each other each Christmas and, for a few years, on birthdays.

She looked at the girls, the water, the moon. How old she felt, and how young.

________________________________________________________

On Thursday, Sally and Keri left on the early morning ferry. A flock of storm petrels flanked the boat, arrowing them to the mainland.

Beth turned, and walked back up her hill, to strip the beds, wash the dishes. At the top of the hill she stopped, turned, looked out over the bush and the water. She raised her arms to the sun, grinned at a kaka tearing strips off a tree. A few feathers and I could fly too, my friend. Just a few feathers is all I need.

But hang on, isn’t this a business blog?

Oh, so you noticed. Noticed that along with the writing tips, the wordplay, and the grammar musings, some other things keep slipping into this blog. Bits of fiction. A poem (!). Stories about my children (good grief). Words like decolonisation (really?). Reflections on motherhood (enough already). Feminist analysis (settle down, ladies). Politics, family history, Christmas presents. What’s all that about? Am I confused? Do I know what I’m doing?

Well, “yes” and “not really”.

 

“Yes”

My main aim with this blog is to treat it like a scrapbook. To gather together snippets of the things that move or inspire me, that have me laughing in agreement or making sense of another day spent trying to fledge a business and hold together the threads of a full and busy household. To say, “Look, this is what writing can do. These are the words we need to guide us into a more hopeful future.”

And I’m also trying to be as open and generous as possible in my understanding of what a business can be. Because why shouldn’t a businesswoman think about colonisation or feminism or children or any of that? Because those things don’t go away when we say, “No, you didn’t see the boundary there; this is business, this is work.” Because I’m not going to cut myself into pieces and sanction one little bit to build this business up. What you’ll get is all of me, stroppy, reflective, silly, curious, ratbaggy as I might be. And I don’t expect anyone else to agree with my views, but I do think that there’s space in the business model for me to wander off the page and write about the rest of my life, about the questions and anchors and truths that keep me alert and keep me whole. And if there’s not that space, there should be.

 

“Not really”

But, of course, it’s not that simple, is it?

Because I do put my own boundaries on what I write, and I do worry away at the distinction between a personal and a business blog. I question my decisions. I self-censure. I link to other people’s words instead of putting my analysis and thinking on the line. I feel vulnerable when I post creative writing and a bit soft when I write about mothering or my children. I tell the funny or appealing family stories — not so much the ones where I am less than graceful and composed.

 

“Well maybe”

So, what to do?

You know, the thing I keep coming back to is the idea of wandering off the page. Of saying, “Yes, this writing is connected to my business, because it all stems from me and my writing self, but it’s a little bit to the side, a little bit meandering. It’s where my thoughts turn in my quiet moments, or where they snag as I’m playing with the kids or making dinner or listening to the radio or having a shower. It’s the writing I do when I’ve got something to say.” And what I’d really like is to live in a world where the page origamis into new shapes, where the centre no longer holds and the eye is free to follow those wandering, marginal lines.

What’s a little bad grammar between friends?

This post has been brewing for a while. In a couple of Facebook conversations about the importance of correct grammar, I’ve found myself in the strange position of arguing that grammar doesn’t matter so very much. I say “strange” because I’m an editor by trade. A good sentence makes me ridiculously happy, and I’ll willingly pull an all-nighter to put the polishing touches on a client’s documents. One of my most exciting recent discoveries was that an em-dash is sometimes called a “mutton”, and an en-dash a “nut”. But it makes no sense to me to dismiss a person or their writing because they’ve got the grammatical wobbles.

So, in true Gemini style, I thought I’d play both sides of the argument. And so as to avoid making a final call, I thought lists might be the way to go.

 

10 reasons why grammar matters

1. Correct grammar is usually necessary — though not always sufficient — for clarity.

2. A sound grasp of grammar, punctuation, syntax, and so forth shows that you are professional and have an eye for detail.

3. Taking the time to write something correctly is a mark of respect for your readers.

4. If you’re lucky, a grammatically incorrect sentence might be ambiguous. If you’re unlucky, it’ll be stupid or offensive.

5. If you understand how your language works, you’ll find it much easier to learn a new one.

6. Get control of your grammar and your writing can be so many things — elegant, stompy, fierce, light, outrageous, compelling, funny.

7. Getting a sentence right is pleasing, and I’m all for cheap kicks.

8. How else do you think word-nerds flirt with each other? The semi-colon isn’t used as a winky face for nothing.

9. Half an hour spent researching the finer details of an aspect of grammar or punctuation might just turn out to be the highlight of your day.

10. Your grandmother might appreciate it.

 
10 reasons why it doesn’t so much

1. Focusing on grammar as the key marker of writing ability always seems to me to miss the point. Other reasons why your writing might be unclear include:

·      you haven’t structured your writing logically
·      you’re using too much jargon
·      you’d need a spaghetti diagram to parse your sentences
·      you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Get those things right, and then we’ll talk about grammar. Otherwise, it’s like painting the windowsills on a derelict house. Or as food writer Nigel Slater says, “all fur coat and no knickers.”

2. Humans have a pretty robust ability to communicate. If we really need to say something to each other, we’ll find a way. (Seplilng is nto etsnstail fro udnrestnading etihre, though it makes reading easier.)

3. If you’re talking in a language that you’re not fluent in, it’s likely that you’re making mistakes. Chances are, you’ll still be able to order lunch or make a friend.

4. Have you talked with a three-year-old lately?

5. Go on too much about other people’s grammatical slips, and you start to sound like a snob. Read with generosity, and you might be surprised at what someone has to say.

6. Nitpicking can make people feel anxious about writing. It’s only Facebook. These people are your friends. If you don’t understand what they mean, you can always ask.

7. Sometimes one of your favourite authors will make a mistake. You don’t want to let that distract you too much.

8. Rules change, conventions shift.

9. You can always hire an editor.

10. If you worry too much about following the rules, you might forget to play.

A poem in our talking

I met with a friend today, and we talked, and talked, and talked. Of estuaries and words, of identity and relationships and what it is to make meaning in Treaty work. Of salt water and fresh, of holding true to the murkiness of an unsettled time.

And then I came home and dug out this old poem that I’ve been carrying around for some ten years now. And I think I may finally have finished the damn thing.

Harbour Poem

Down where the water
touches rock
a heron picks
its delicate line
between the blue and grey
of a clean
unfolding day;

dipping into the rhythm
of its withholding walk
with the soft-footed grace
found inside clocks, the held breath
of moonlit hallways, the hesitance
when rain begins;

the hollow as a decision turns
a slow circle
in the curve of an unmade moment.

Ships slip to port
and back, peripheral
as the tide
while you dream of birds
and flight through empty time,
your body shed
for feather and air.

And later

with the day worn on
and everything still unknown
the sea eases
to a washed and lustred green,
as old as the stone you hold
and turn
and turn
and turn
a small anchor in the night.

Who are you writing for?

Dear friend,

I know that writing can sometimes be terrifying, that the fear of being judged or not knowing what to say can jam all the signals between your brain and the page. And this terror can manifest in procrastination, in finding a multitude of delays and byways to stall the writing moment.

You probably already know lots of ways to deal with procrastination: work in small chunks; start the day by writing anything (shopping lists, rambles, blog, a plan for the day) until your computer screen is full; go for a walk; aim to stop writing two paragraphs into a new section rather than at the end of a section (because you might get the momentum to keep going); take a break and get outside for ten minutes, and so on, and so on, and sometimes these work, and sometimes they just… don’t.

But there’s something else that might help you get through this writing process and help you as you develop as a writer (you know you’re a writer, right?), and that’s to shift your focus from yourself as the writer to your audience or readers. I reckon that thinking of the reader takes some of the emotional sting out of writing. And with a bit of luck, it will also help you keep your writing clear and easy to understand, your structure and argument logical and well-signposted, and your reader interested and engaged.

So, as you plan, as you write, and as you revise, you might ask yourself some questions:

  • does the reader know what my argument is and how it develops?
  • is the structure of my piece logical, and do I signal the structure with headings, subheadings, introductions and conclusions?
  • am I telling the reader what the purpose and content of each section is?
  • will the reader understand my language and enjoy reading it?
  • can the reader follow the flow of my writing, seeing how paragraphs link together, how quotes illustrate my argument, and how my points build on each other?

Think of giving people a reading experience, rather than of them judging you. And pour your energy into making that experience engaging, informative, enlightening, satisfying, thought-provoking. Think of your writing as a work for your readers, rather than just as a reflection of you. Remember, your readers might have thoughts about your work, but they have no power or authority to judge you as a person.

Anyway, that’s about as much as I can manage before lunch. Hang in there, sweetpea, and know that lots of people have faith in you and love you regardless.

xo, little red pen.

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