There are occasions, fortunately not too many or too often,, when I have truly horrendous dreams. When I wake from one of these, the sort which follow you back into the waking world and won't let go, I put the light on for a while and read, or make a drink, until it loses its grip.
This is the downside of having a vivid writer's imagination. This is also why I deliberately don't write - or read - 'trapped underground' scenes just before going to bed. Particularly bad news for any claustrophobe. I know that my subconscious will continue to work on them as I fall asleep.
Sometimes I deliberately set my mind wandering through happy memories before sleep and these don't wake me, sweating and wondering where the hell I am. Quite often I don't remember any dreams I may have at such times. My mental note-taker is so much better at dark stuff.
After a bad dream I'm reluctant to turn the light off again because that seems like inviting the bad stuff back in. Telling yourself to 'man up' doesn't always work.
But my bedroom light, bright enough to read by before settling down, is too bright really to leave on.
Also, rarely again, I wake up to use the toilet and get disorientated in the dark and can't find the door. Which is a straight invitation to panic and feel trapped.
I used to have a kid's nightlight which plugged directly into the wall sockets, and left this burning in the hallway when I first moved into the unfamiliar bungalow. The strange layout caught me out for a while when doors which opened the wrong way or on the wrong side were at odds with years of instinct from the old place.
With that dim light enough trickled around the door frame to let me find it easily on even the darkest of nights.
But that particular make of light made the news and was recalled as a safety hazard because some of them burst into flames. Not a good idea, so it went into the bin without me even bothering to pull it apart to see how it worked ;-(
Cheap foreign imports made down to a price instead of a standard.
I recently ordered a small bulb for a bedside lamp, to sit at the bottom end of my bed, facing away from me.. Some of you may remember the 5 watt 'pygmy' bulbs that were used as night lights for children. Sometimes in blue or red to soften the light even more.
This modern iteration is a LED bulb, a true energy saver, with a power of 0.5 watts. I use brighter versions of it elsewhere in the bungalow for my general lighting needs. They certainly last longer than the old school incandescent filament bulbs. I've been here over five years now and none of them have died. The filament bulbs died regularly
The little half-watt produces a soft glow which is more than enough to let me see the walls and find the door. But not enough to keep me awake.
I shall give it a good 'field test' for a week or so.
If it wasn't for the reflection on the red and gold spines of the books the light would be even softer.
The older I get the more I understand Mum's comment that I was 'Definitely your Father's son'. Although I have my fair share if her habits/attitudes/little foibles as well.
The Swiss are strange people. There was one lived near us on the caravan site. Mum was friends with his English wife, Rita, and Dad got along 'well enough' with Peter.
One evening the men were sharing war stories about which service they'd been in. Peter Brennekke mentioned that as a Swiss he was neutral so hadn't needed to join in, and in actual fact had gone home for the duration.
Dad thought that was fair enough.
Then Peter started making fun of the others for being gullible, and for being sheep led by politicians, etc.
Dad asked him, quietly, why, if Switzerland was so wonderful, he'd bothered to come back to a country he so clearly despised.
(I wasn't there, but I know Dad's 'quiet question' voice. I bet the hair on everyone's neck stood on end and they all took a step back.)
Dad pointed out that saving your own skin was perfectly reasonable, and that he might well have done the same in the same position, but bragging abut in front of those who didn't have the choice was 'bad manners'.
Peter blustered a bit then shut up. Dad never spoke to him again. He was never actively rude, just treated him as if he was invisible when they met at the water tap or in other social encounters.
When we moved to our house they moved too not long after and were neighbours again, just a few houses away.
Sis played with their daughter and Mum was still friends with Rita. A few years later Rita said she was divorcing Peter and Dad's only comment was "Took you long enough, didn't it?"
I've always been a rucksack (and big pockets) man myself. A non-framed rucksack just follows wherever you go. If I can get through the gap so can the rucksack. In extremis I can pull it behind me or push it ahead.
I never have liked suitcases, they always feel like a lopsided appendage. You know, there may be a lightweight psychology article in this line of thought.
Suitcases normally say 'Here I am', (especially if you travel ostentatiously with a set of matched luggage), 'Give me room', and mark out territory on a train or other public transport. You can sit with a rucksack on your lap if necessary. Far more reassuring, if your entire life is packed in the sack, than leaving it in a luggage rack at the distant end of a railway carriage.
Rucksacks bend and slip through gaps, perfect for those who see themselves as 'just passing through. More interested in the journey than the ultimate destination. ( I'm going to make a note of this to play with later.)
You know the scenario. You're at a party or some other sort of social gathering and someone latches onto you. But you'd rather they didn't. How to persuade them to go away without having to be obviously rude? Sometimes a smack in the nose is the only answer, but it's a bit over the top if they're just annoying or boring. Plus it always makes the others wary of you.
I've always thought that an offhanded claim to be computer coder and throwing in a few obscure references to your supposed trade can drive most people away. Sometimes a reference to 'working in the more complex lower levels of a SQL database' works just fine ;-)
If the other person turns out to be a real coder then just come clean, tell them you're a fake. They'll either appreciate your honesty, and perhaps turn out to be far more interesting than you initially thought, or they'll spurn you as an utter waste of time and walk away. Either way you win ;-)
But I've recently stumbled across something even more promising as a conversation stopper.
Music Theory. A deep abiding fascination/passion for some. In which case the advice for dealing with a real coder applies just as well. But for those (most of us probably) who just like listening to music, something like the following is like listening to an alien language...
An explanation of how the old song 24 hours from Tulsa actually works. First, here's the song if you don't know it. Ignorance, in this case, is probably bliss. There's a whole generation of us who were scarred for life by listening to such morbid stuff ;-)
The twists of the song's lyrics (the protagonist, just 24 hours from reaching home, falls in love with a woman when he stops driving for the night, leaving his current partner twisting in the wind) are echoed in the music's tonal ambiguity, a common feature of Bacharach's constructivist style. The verse is in G major, with a Lydian implication in the melody supported by the supertonic major. At the start of the chorus, an interruption of the expected cadence by the subdominant chord (C major) establishes this as the new tonic, with the remainder of the chorus centred around the submediant, dominant, and subdominant chords of this key. A similar interruption at the end of the chorus converts an expected perfect cadence in the new key to a modal cadence back into G major. At the end of the song, a dominant seventh on the tonic resolves as a perfect cadence into a new key to finish the song on the subdominant chord of the principal key (C major as viewed from the perspective of a G major tonality).
No doubt as fascinating to a music theory aficionado as a debate on sentence construction and nested sub-clauses could be to a writer. But surely anyone else's eyes would glaze over not long after 'tonal ambiguity' and 'constructivist style'.
My personal objection to this song is that the prick still addresses her as 'Dearest Darling' when she is obviously now anything but.
A former writing student of mine had the entire class in stitches with her tale about an accident whilst she lived in Italy. One of those freakish events which you can never truly believe even if you were involved.
She was driving around (alone) in a small Fiat - with the sunroof open - and priding herself on the fact that as well as speaking the language fluently she had also learned to drive like a native Italian. Definition? There are no lanes or correct sides, merely openings into which you drive as fast as humanly possible.
To cut a long story short she 'squirted' into a gap just as a lorry decided to do the same at right angles to her. In the collision her Fiat stood on its nose and ejected her through the open sunroof.
She landed the other side of the lorry, bruised but not too badly damaged, but was mortified 'as only an Englishwoman can be' to find herself naked from the waist down, surrounded by beeping traffic and gawping Italians.
Even when they found her skirt, tights, and knickers in the car, where they had been deftly peeled away as she shot through the sunroof without leaving more than a light graze here and there, her helpers were - in her own words - 'robustly sympathetic'. They were cursing her 'lover' who, they were convinced, had crashed the car in a moment of passionate distraction and then run away to leave her to face the consequences.
I believe her. It's so far-fetched it has to be true. I also had a lift in her car after one evening class, and sampled Italian style driving on narrow Cornish lanes. It very nearly scared the pants off me too.
Whilst in town today I saw a tall blonde girl feverishly sucking on the last of a very suspicious roll-up and oh-so-earnestly explaining something to her two friends, who looked equally stoned.
Later, sat on the bus waiting for it to leave, I saw her standing blankly on the pavement alongside, just staring at the bus as if she'd never seen one before. It wasn't until it started to move that she suddenly realised she wanted to be on it. Fortunately the driver saw her and waited.
She carefully floated up the stairs to the upper deck. A curious mixture of blithe indifference and great caution. Probably still thinking about whether or not she wanted to catch the bus.
Back on our estate the driver helped his wife unload the pushchair, strap his lad in, etc. This took up several minutes. Then he got back in his seat and started to drive away.
At this point Blondie suddenly realised this was where she wanted to get off, played a positive carillon on the bell, and then poured herself down the stairs. It's the only way to describe how she moved. I've never seen anyone come down a spiraling staircase so fast without falling. Boneless. Then she smiled at the driver, smiled at everyone else left on the bus, stepped off, and immediately became entranced by the poster on the bus shelter.
For all I know she may still be there, talking to the poster of Liam Neeson.
Unless... There's another possibility. A short while ago there was a girl, unseen in the dark, stood outside my house singing in that flat style which you often hear when someone is wearing earphones. Not the most exciting of serenades, melancholy with something of the night in it, and after about five minutes she wandered away down the road. Maybe it was Miss Stoner, deciding to sing up at every lighted window in the hope that someone would recognise her and give her shelter.
Once upon a time, in a world far, far, removed from today, (about fifty years in round figures), a little lady walked onto the stage at Southampton Guildhall, followed by a tight spotlight as the rest of the group drifted on and arranged themselves in the semi-darkness behind her. She stood there, in the narrow pool of light, saying nothing, perfectly still, and the noisy crowd went quiet.
The group started playing and she took the mcrophone from the stand, gave a couple of wind-up swings on the cable and then hurled it high into the darkness above her.
It came back down into her hand just in perfect time for her to throw herself into the vocals of Stretch.
A truly electrifying start to the show. Stage presence personified. (I've wondered since how many times she must have dropped it before it became instinctive.)
Why does my heart sink and my blood pressure rise when I buy something new and there's a note with it telling me that to obtain the free one year warranty I can 'conveniently register your new product online'.
I'm sure all those things are designed work like the traditional 'hostile' doctor's dragon/receptionist who sees it as her job to keep you away from the doctor. Fortunately these dragons are a dying breed, which is just as well because some of them were immune to garlic and a brandished crucifix. (In all fairness to the breed politeness and good manners from the patient side of the counter usually worked really well.)
The web site to register my new vacuum cleaner had lots of pretty pictures to 'help you identify your machine'. A bit like the idiot proof pictorial till at many famous fast food outlets.
If you actually know what machine you have - and why the hell did you buy it if you don't? - then stepping through all the options in order to enter it by clicking on the correct button is an infuriating and tediously slow dance.
I can type six words, totalling twenty five letter, far faster than wandering through the labyrinth.
If Theseus had needed to fight a system like this to reach and kill the Minotaur he would probably baited the entrance with a tied, scantily dressed, and screaming virgin, and waited for the beast to come out so he could kill it. He could have avoided all that business with leaving a thread to guide his return.
Once you reach the registration page you them have to enter the serial number. Like serial killers these numbers can be hard to find. These days it's usually in ridiculously small print, on a label discretely tucked away out of sight, so it won't interfere with the aesthetic appearance of your machine.
A twenty figure number.
It really wouldn't hurt to print it loud and proud, easily visible.
All these forms want your phone number. Some have the decency to tell you up front this 'a required field'. Others wait until you try to submit the form and then pounce on you if you've had the temerity to leave it blank..
If you don't want to be pestered with 'news' and 'special offers' you need to either tick, or un-tick the two little boxes. I may be a crabby old recluse at times, but I truly see no need for an ongoing relationship with a firm once I've bought their damned product. Does it not occur to their advertising twats that offering me the latest toy when I've only recently purchased the previous model is almost like stalking? I'm not a prey species.
If, a few years down the line, I want a replacement I know where to find them
Then they ask you to upload 'proof of purchase'. By this point I'm beginning to long for the simple days when they included a postcard so you could fill in the details by hand and drop it in the red box the next time you leave the house.
Modern 'simplicity' and 'convenience' are so far removed from any dictionary definition of the words it's like comparing the near-mythical sub-atomic Higgs-Boson particle with something as substantial and tangible as a sausage roll.
Nita, my 86 year old neighbour, came to seek sanctuary for a few hours today, because her bungalow was being fumigated for bed bugs. Three very professional young men with a lot of serious equipment and a discrete unmarked black van.
When it was time to go home she'd managed to lock herself out.
"Oh no, what am I going to do? I know exactly where the keys are, on the kitchen table."
I had a look around and saw that her bedroom window was pulled shut but not locked. Couldn't get it open with just my fingers though.
"Don't panic, just let me get a little tool to help." The poor old dear was shivering a bit, because when she came around it was still sunny and she didn't have a jacket.
I slipped the window open with a little bit of stiff plastic, (a mesh gauge for netmaking), moved her windowsill ornaments to one side, and scrambled in. Well, slowly levered myself in. It's two or three years since I last went in through a window and I've stiffened up a bit since then.
Nita was terrified I'd fall and hurt myself and suggested finding a smaller local kid to do the 'entering' bit
But by that point it would have been just as difficult to get back down again as carry on. Plus, if all else failed, I'd rather fall onto carpet indoors than unforgiving paving slabs outside. With a few unseemly grunts the job was done, and I opened her door from inside for her.
I shall probably ache a bit tomorrow.
Maybe I should 'take kindly the counsel of the years.
This is one of those pointless phrases which has started appearing in the news, or more specifically in follow up stories about the news. (I'm glad I only see odd bits on you tube, or in newspaper front pages whilst out shopping. If I had a television I would have probably put my boot through it by now.)
The current 'big story' seems to be the front page picture of a woman who says she 'Took Prince Harry's virginity'. She says she only went public because although he didn't name her he 'gave enough details' for anyone who knew her to work out who she was.
Therefore, according to one of the 'talking heads' on a news review programme she felt the need to 'take control of the narrative'.
As writer I know damned well that any narrative, once released, takes on a life of its own and wanders off to 'strut its stuff' regardless of what we thought it was going to do. It's up to us to trim off any excesses or sideshoots long before it reaches the public eye..
This isn't going to happen after you set it free.
Going public with your intimacies is a sure way of creating so many different re-writings, from all the different agendas, that the 'truth' you think is important will be lost in the 'me too' shitstorm of opinions. The feminists and the 'class warriors' are already playing with the 'titled son of the estate shagged a serf' angle.
Now, me, old fashioned gentleman that I am, are more fascinated that the wench drives a 'digger' than her drunken romp in a wet field with a teenage prince ;-)
WARNING: There's a little over 1000 words here, so allow yourself time to read it.
I swear there were no drugs or alcohol involved. I've never needed hallucinogenics to have strange dreams. For a long time I always believed all writers minds work this , but apparently not. I must say I'm glad it doesn't happen all the time.
My eyes were feeling a bit tired this afternoon - too much screen time - so I lay down for a while and closed them. I fell asleep, which doesn't always happen, and had one of those bizarre day-time dreams. Over the years I've noticed that the day time dreams are usually very different from the night-time versions. Usually more bizarre and pointless. The night-time versions can usually be linked to something I've been worrying or thinking about. Sometimes they even show me a way forward from whatever the problem has been.
But sleeping in the day seems to latch into the most bizarre and inconsequential thoughts and tries to link them together. It's a bit like the times I sit down to clear out the odd notes on scraps of paper which have accumulated in my pockets and on my desk. Sometimes I can't recall what made them noteworthy at the time of writing ;-)
Anyway... Today's dream involved a red and green parrot. A sizeable parrot, proper 'Pirate Sized', not one of those neat little crow-sized African Greys which some Yuppie types have living free in their flat.
It started in Bevois Valley, a local area which used to be famous as a run-down area with all sorts of dodgy and semi-legal businesses. It used to be said that you could get anything in The Valley if you knew where to look, or indeed if you stood still long enough for the more shady denizens to notice you ;-)
Cheap knock-offs, illegal weapons, cars and motorcycles whose owners hadn't even had time to tell the police they'd been stolen, willing women with the associated social diseases, etc. Drugs, definitely. And contract killings were hinted at, but never proven. Plus some gratuitous violence.
But there were also long established genuine businesses hanging on despite the odds.
Therefore it was no surprise to see a stunned or doped parrot propped up on the outside display of a secondhand shop, its wings secured tight against its body in a plastic carrier bag, head sticking out of the top between the tied handles, and feet through the bottom, legs tied together with a couple of turns of rough hairy string.
The shop owner saw me looking and sidled out. "I think he likes you, he's ignored everyone else all morning. If you can take him away now he's free to a good home."
A few minutes later I was walking up out of the valley with the parrot tucked into the poacher's pocket of my Cammo jacket, with it's still dopey looking red head peeping out through the side-vent.
He was a very quiet parrot, not a squawk or cuss word leaving his beak, but beginning to take an interest in his surroundings.
I had convinced myself my eldest daughter would like him. (In the real world this wouldn't happen, She's really uncomfortable around birds. Loves watching them through the windows, but that's as close as she gets.)
Then there was one of those odd time-slipping moments you only get in dreams. I was back up on the main road, waiting for a bus back home.
At the bus stop there was a man with a disabled daughter, who sat on the wall alongside him. She was about ten tears old, a vague little blonde creature, with scrawny and floppy legs - cause unspecified - and I wondered if perhaps there was something dodgy about the duo. He was looking for someone to help him get his daughter on the bus and other people in the queue were avoiding them.
The bus was a double decker, so I helped them on to a downstairs seat, and promised to help him get her back off when they reached their stop. This involved me going a few stops past my own destination, but it was a pleasant day for walking back the half a mile or so, through a favourite stretch of woodland.
(This dream was playing fast and loose with the local geography. All the bits were pretty much spot on to look at, but they'd been rearranged to suit the dream-logic rather than reality.)
I went and sat upstairs on the bus and checked my pockets, in case the man and his daughter were a pick-pocketing team, but everything was as it should be.
The parrot was having a good look around but nobody else seemed to notice the red head and bright green neck sticking out of my jacket.
A few miles later I went back downstairs to help the odd pair off the bus, at a location which truly isn't on that bus route but it made sense in the dream. (Interestingly enough it was in an area we call The Bird Aviary, because all the streets are named after birds.)
At this point they vanished from the dream. Not in a spectacular puff of smoke or anything dramatic, they just ceased to be there and this didn't bother me at all. But I did check my pockets again ;-)
I walked through the woodland, quietly enjoying myself, and the parrot wriggled out of my pocket and flew up into a tall tree. He perched there, ignoring my efforts to coax him back down. I was thinking my daughter would be upset, and probably think I made it all up.
A fat blonde lady turned up with a pushchair and I recognised her. She was the woman who had been wandering the estate years ago looking for a parrot which had genuinely escaped from her flat.
She volunteered to go home and bring back her now empty cage and set it up with some food in the hope the parrot would fly down and go inside.
I got fed up with waiting for her, and after a few more minutes of standing there, with my left arm held out like a falconer calling his bird back, I decided I'd had enough.
I muttered a fairly untypical "Fuck you then," and walked away.
Then I woke up and found myself laughing and decidedly disorientated for a couple of minutes.
After a cup of coffee I decided to write it all down whilst it was still fresh in my mind.
As a writer I'm used to chasing thoughts into strange places, some of which make sense later. I also tend to dream in colour with quite detailed visualisation.
But there is no way I would ever try to stuff a live parrot into my jacket, even if the pocket is big enough for a pheasant or rabbit.
There you go, I feel much better for clearing it from the 'in-between worlds' part of my brain.
This is more for the novelists and short story writers than the people who write non-fiction articles or manuals.
One of the questions my writing students used to ask was a strange one. But then so were some of my students ;-)
Q: If your character is faced with two equally valid choices to move the story forward, how do you decide which one to use?
A: The answer is either very simple, or a bit more complicated.
If you like to agonise for hours over this kind of choice then you can simply do just that, let the choices bubble and swirl in your mind until one emerges as a clear victor. Sometimes letting your subconscious decide overnight whilst you're sleeping will produce a clear winner.
If you're more pragmatic and want to 'crack on', I see two choices.
1) Let your mind run forwards a bit until you can see the consequences of both choices. This may well tell you one of them is a dead end. In this case choose the survivor and write on.
2) But sometimes both of them will suit the general flow/thrust of your story. In this case there's only one real answer in my mind.
Write both. Do your thinking 'on the page' - even if it is technically a screen - until you have two tangible written examples to work with. At this point the way forward is usually clear, or at least a bit clearer.
This works because, by having it on the page, you are seeing it as a potential reader would see it. When it's just an image in your head you are filling in any gaps or woolly half-made decisions with a mental background a reader won't have access to.
Save the spare workings though, and stick it in your 'ideas folder' because it may well trigger something useful later. Especially if you're writing a series character, who will often have to face similar situations in more than one story. But putting it aside like this will 'turn it off' mentally, so it doesn't keep nagging you as a 'what if?'.
Casting out the spurious 'choices' can be surprisingly liberating if you've been feeling stuck.
This is the point where someone in the class usually raises the issue of productivity. "What's the point of writing something which you'll probably never sell? Wouldn't it be better to sift things through in your mind and only work with something which feels like a 'dead cert'."
These students tend to be the ones who either can't/won't make time in their lives for writing, or have a deep aversion to the physical effort of writing. Usually it's the former, and they have something else they'd rather be doing. You may be surprised how many prolific writers find it difficult to 'get started' when the 'real world' is calling.
In a perfect world, we wouldn't write anything which doesn't sell. But this world isn't perfect. You can write a piece which everyone except your targeted publisher declares is wonderful. Or you can write something you hate, where every word is hard won, clawed painfully from your mind but the publisher loves it.
You can learn something from every word you write. It's all part of that lifelong apprenticeship.
Thinking on the page helps to clarify things, and the more you write - over the years - the more easily your words will fall into that potentially saleable groove.
In summary. If you're really unable to decide the way forward, write both. What does a few extra hours here and there matter in the whole of your life?
A few years back my Eldest and I were in the waiting room at the hospital outpatients department. One of my visits for some scan or other, and she was my driver. We'd logged in and were waiting to be called.
Every now and then a nurse or doctor with a clipboard would appear through the swinging doors and summon the next patient.
Our hospitals have long since stopped using Miss or Mrs, and tend to avoid the Ms prefix as well. It's the same with the men, you just get your name with no prefix.
We both jumped as if shot. That's my female character, as many of you will know. You don't expect to hear names spawned in your writer's imagination attached to real world people.
Getting no obvious response the nurse called again, checked with the receptionist. Daughter and I were bending our necks like a pair of prairie dogs, looking for a short dark haired woman with green eyes. Well-established characters become part of the family and often get mentioned like friends.
The toilet door opened and a very tall old man, dressed in a countryman's tweeds, walking with two sticks, came out, moving slowly towards the nurse. (If I ever want to create an ancient Laird or similar he'd make a good starting template.)
After he spoke to the nurse and they vanished through the doors my daughter spoke.
"A Francis rather than a Frances. What's the odds on him being here at the same time as us?"
It's odd to look back and think about the characters which have shaped your ideas about life.
When I was about twelve I saw two old boys (probably at least fifty) sat at the side of the road near a local petrol station. They were taking a break whilst their old side-valve Harley-D cooled down. One of those magnificent old bits of kit which looked as if it had never been cleaned but would run forever.
I struck up a conversation as boys often do, commenting it looked similar to my Dad's Brough Superior. Whilst one of them just sat there tucking into his sandwiches and brewing up tea on a little stove the other one told me they'd owned it for years. It was ex-US Army, 'traded for a packet of fags', and then he told me a wonderful tale how they had toured France not long after the war. 'Living off the land, camping out with our shelter-halves, etc. A little money went a long way then, Lad. Plenty of wine, French food, and fine French fillies glad to welcome an English ex-Soldier!'
But the bit which really captured my adolescent imagination was how they had '...realised we had spent up and only had one hour to make the last night ferry back to the UK. And sixty miles to go. I wound the bugger up to the stop and we roared through little villages, scattering chickens and geese, and old men in berets on bicycles. We waved at pretty French lasses and hurtled down the slipway shouting "No brakes! No brakes!" just as they were starting to pull up the ramp. We threaded halfway up the deck between parked cars before we managed to stop.'
It may all have been an old soldier's tale, but I can still picture it as clearly as when I first heard it.
The trouble with newsletters, forums, or books about writing is that there are only so many 'basic building blocks' to writing. A lot of advice will be repetition.
It's in how we use that same basic info, the tools of our trade, that the magic emerges. Every time I read something (okay, perhaps three quarters of the time) and think 'I already know that' I also ask myself if I'm actually applying that rule/principle to my own work. If not, why not? If I've tried it, and it didn't work for me, then I'm right to be dismissive as far as my own writing is concerned. But that same tip which leaves me cold could be the breakthrough for someone else.
Some guidelines can be inspirational without being technically brilliant, and others technically perfect but as inspiring as cold porridge ;-)
The problem is we all - even the cynics - are still hoping to find that one magic tip which will unleash a whole torrent of creativity/productivity. But we're unlikely to find it in a newsletter, no matter how good.
Writing which truly comes alive on the page comes from conviction, enthusiasm, and having something to say in the first place. Without these everything else is just a box of tools. The same tools that everyone has access to. The same tools which are 'sold' again and again in newsletters.
People often comment that they've tried unexpected genres following a prompt of some sort and learned something new. The keyword in that sentence is tried.
Without putting pen to paper or fingers to keys it's all just theory.
So discard any newsletters which don't inspire or at least make you ask 'what if?' But if any particular one makes you feel like writing, follow the lead and see where it takes you.
Writing is one of those things that improves quite rapidly with practice, so skip fairly lightly over the theory, put your bum on your seat, and plough through your apprenticeship.