One of the more common dilemmas writers face and how to deal with it

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C’mon, dare to go. Just dare! Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

Whether Shakespeare’s Polonius was a motivational speaker in disguise or not it’s moot. Perhaps his famous words were a reflection on honesty and commitment. Or perhaps the “true” in this context equalled “benefit”, a meaning more suitable to the Elizabethan times for which this character was created. Either way, what is important is that the words uttered by Laertes’ father have stood the test of time.

And helped countless writers since then.

Writing: building our character one brick at a time

Part of the process of writing is drawing a picture of ourselves in the reader’s mind. We do this by sprinkling tidbits…

A writing formula vs formulaic writing

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Sit down and enjoy your food. No, really, you won’t regret it. Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

This piece has no takeaway at the end.

Yes, really. There’s no advice-dispensing dénouement.

Before I carry on, though, and my words disappear into a “Read more” invitation to either stay or take your leave, I’d like to give thanks and credit to WH Auden for the opening lines.

Back to my main point. There’s no takeaway in this post. I don’t run a Covid-affected restaurant forced to…

Three tips for new writers on Medium on how to mint it

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I don’t mean to scare you, but, there’s a bigger mountain after this one Photo by Cade Prior on Unsplash

I’ve been on Medium since at least 2016. As a seasoned writer on this platform, I’d like to share some of my expertise, especially with those who are new to this online publication.

Harking back to the times when claps were the way to earn a pretty penny around here (and if that doesn’t make me a veteran, I don’t know what will), I have seen enough changes on Medium to convince myself that the way to achieve your first four-figure article is… by not attempting to write a four-figure article.

The more popular posts in Medium these days are…

A Japanese film festival, musings on Depardieu and poetry in cinema

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Stuck in a rut, with the world still turning around you. Photo by the author

Saturday 2nd February 2019

I went to see The Scythian Lamb today with Ao. It was part of the Japanese Film Festival at the ICA. Interesting premise. If people were ignorant of your past, how would they treat you? What if they knew what you’d got up to in a previous chapter of your life, however? Six strangers arrive in a port town, in northern Japan and blend in the local community straight away. But, things take a turn for the worse, when the official in charge of them becomes suspicious and elements of their back stories emerge.

After the movie, Ao and I…

The one about clichés

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Great to think outside it, but ask yourself first: who put you in it to begin with? Photo by Lia Trevarthen on Unsplash

There are many pitfalls of which writers/journalists/columnists/bloggers have to be aware, but one hazard stands out the most: the cliché. Mental blocks, though repudiated, provide respite — at least that’s my interpretation — especially in stressful times. One’s attention is diverted to meatier issues. Sources of inspiration can dry up, but one must always keep a positive mind that somewhere, just around the corner, lurks the next topic about which to write. Possibly inside a folder held by Erato across her chest. These two dangers, however, pale in comparison to that moment when you have drafted up what at first…

The one about the (ex) empire and the (ex) colony

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Photo by Julian Yu on Unsplash

Some years ago I read a very interesting essay in Prospect magazine. Under the title Let them learn English, the article focused on the division that existed in the teaching of the English language in India and how the poorest were, as usual, the ones faring worse.

That the language of Shakespeare, Alice Munro and James Baldwin remains the lingua franca worldwide should come as no surprise to anyone. I’ve written before about English natural ability to adapt to the modern world. Its malleability means that anyone can learn the language; even if its phonetic and spelling systems remain a…

A close brush with coronavirus gave me a reality check

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No magpies, just a single pigeon building a nest. Photo by the author

December 2020

Day 1

Sorry, guys, but the test has come back positive”. The words felt like a hammer blow.

Covid-19 had just arrived home.

Worldwide, 2020 has already been an annus horribilis. Coronavirus has swept through every single country, regardless of GDP or religion. As an English language teacher, I was one of the first ones to be made aware of the devastation wreaked by this most unwelcome visitor. My school, like all the others in the UK, closed down in late March.

Yet, deep within my psyche (and I only came to this conclusion after reading and re-reading the text from my…

A piece of (east) London history

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Walking (and cycling) in the footsteps of history. Photo by the author

Social housing has a long and rich history in the UK. Take almshouses, for instance. First established in the 12th century, these places often provided residence for hard-up and disadvantaged people. Recently I cycled to Leyton, in the borough of Waltham Forest, east London to visit one.

It was a beautiful autumn day. It felt as if a bonfire of colour had taken over our roads and parks. Even the wet paths I crossed on my way there had a certain magical glow from the fallen foliage.

I was there to see The London Master Bakers Almshouses (or just Bakers…

On the road to a better relationship (first and foremost with myself)

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We all have to take one road in the end. Choose carefully. Photo by the author

Wednesday 30th January 2019

Cursed is the relationship where one party becomes the lodger in a shared home. Not in a rent-paying kind of way. But in a distance-generated way. That certainly happened between S and me. I became the housemate. I woke up today thinking that as our children grew up and started withdrawing from our communal spaces to the privacy of their rooms, I, too, created a gap between my wife and me.

My fear is that I could make a similar mistake in the future. I know this is unlikely, as I’ve learnt a lot about myself, my flaws and my…

Walking around Epping Forest during the “mulchy” season

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Leaves, mud and soil, otherwise known as the “mulch”. Photo taken by the author

I call these days the “mulchy” season. The combination of October’s falling leaves, November’s annual trees’ divestment and December’s intermittent cold drizzle floods the ground with a moist, compost-like spread.

This is the perfect time for a walk in Epping Forest, the ancient woodland that lies northeast of Greater London. First, we need to layer up, though. We’ve had a northerly this week and the temperature today feels below zero. However, we have the good fortune of fair weather, albeit still on the icy side.

It’s the stillness I notice first. We leave the car behind and venture down a…

Mario López-Goicoechea

London-based, Cuban writer. Author of “Cuban, Immigrant, and Londoner”, to be published by Austin Macauley. Has written for The Guardian and Prospect.

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