Right Now

This week, I acted on instinct for the first time in a while.

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There are a PHENOMENAL number of online portals, websites and magazines that take submissions. A magazine such as Mslexia will give a vital insight into such places, but it is only the tip of a considerable iceberg. Countless places exist to send work to, but perilously few will pay you for the effort. It is, in certain lights, a poisoned chalice of effort versus reward.

Occasionally however I’m not here for the cash. There are moments when you just want to write summat for the sake of writing: this week, the day after my first successful counselling session, I needed to believe that writing remains enjoyable for the hell of it. So, I sat down and wrote three poems. Just like that. BOOM. Then, I stared at them for a bit and was really very happy with what had resulted.

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One of them, it must be said, had been written in a rough form whilst waiting in the counselling office. I feel this is a theme going forward, that it might be nice to do one a week for the next three months because if all else fails, that’s a collection right there. Then, they sat around for a day, as is the idea, before coming back for polish. After that, they were printed out, put in an envelope with a stamped-addressed return one for acknowledgement, and then posted.

That was an odd feeling: walking to the letterbox, sending my work away, not knowing when I’d hear a reply. Having to watch for my own letter’s return, I have to say, is considerably more exciting than anticipating failure via an e-mail. I’m far less likely to get upset too, amazingly, because this just feels like a better way to fail. If my poem from the waiting room makes it, of course, I’m one short for the collection…

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Should that actually come to pass, I reckon I’d cope.

All Time High

This week, sadly, has not been nearly as successful as last week. There’s a major reason for this, that I’m not discussing on the other blog either, and honestly it is not relevant thus far to anything else here either. Except, of course, this major change in emphasis was inevitably going to have some consequences. The main one is wanting to cut back on Social media. Instagram’s already dried up, for which there’s no great loss.

I’d like to thank everybody who has contributed to the stuff I’ve done, and simply admit up front that my desire to encourage talk is sadly not currently being met by an enthusiasm to engage. It’s no wonder so many people are tired. It’s a tough world out there at the best of times; right now is particularly taxing. The bigger problem is watching those who think talking means just listening to them and agreeing.

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The other consequence is having anything of real interest to discuss. Until my brain decides to start playing nicely again, there’ll be some freshening up of the website, archiving of long-overdue gubbins, plus occasional personal ramble into working processes. I suspect this will be the way things pan out until the Easter holiday is done and dusted with, which means a return to ‘normal’ around the 23rd.

There are a remarkable number of things right now being worked on, however, and it might be an idea that next week those lists are refined and re-ordered. More importantly there’s not a definitive list of what’s been entered for and that ought to be organised, so at least there’s the knowledge of what rejections are being waited for…

Bear with me, it’ll all work itself out in the end.

There’s No Other Way

Following the weekend’s revelation that my mental issues are scuppering progress on editing old work, we’ve made solid progress on a new approach to writing long-form fiction. In fact, as it transpires, this approach is a bit of a revelation:

I speak a bit about the process on the Other Blog: it was meant as a means to release mental pressure, and give me something to aim towards going forward. Buoyed by this, tomorrow is the day when I work on the short story I’ve written and not yet completed that I’d like to enter for the formal contest that began all this trauma in the first place.

If this works to my satisfaction, there’s a second short story to follow.

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However, right now I’m trying my best not to be obsessed with doing just one thing if something else pops up, comes along and demands attention. In practical terms that’s trying a new submission avenue this week, that doesn’t have a deadline and demands what I consider to be my best work. I have no idea if it will work or not but what is apparent is how much the process is being enjoyed. That’s what’s been missing for the last few months.

If I can find the things that truly spark joy when creating, there’s a far better chance of something finally being considered as good enough.

Poetry Archive :: Laurel

We’re having fun over the next four weeks by doing quite literal interpretations of our subject matters. In this case, it was incredibly easy to throw together five verses on the literal essence of laurel, both historically and medicinally. This worked far better than I’d initially expected it to, so much so it’ll be fun to do the same with three other shades of green, or green-related words going forward.

Amazing sometimes how an idea spins you out to a completely different direction than first anticipated.


Laurel

Aromatic tree,
evergreen shrub: mountain nymph,
priestess of Gaia.

Victory’s symbol,
poet laureate: favoured
by the Gods themselves.

Immortality,
emperor’s regalia:
Roman reverence.

Vital astringent
wound’s salve: that Bloody Mary’s
green ingredient.

Humble, verdant growth
vitally symbolic; plant
new futures within.

Poetry Archive :: Jungle

April for poetry isn’t just themed, it is the beginning of an intentional process of detachment. My brain, built as it is, has an almost obsessive need sometimes for order and control. However, increasing amounts of current poetry is anything but: free-form verse, little or no controlled structure, simply feelings falling from brain to page. What matters far more than a framework is the emergence of a unique poetic ‘tone’, rhythm of vocal presentation that only really manifests when the works are read aloud.

Therefore, I’m working hard on the process of attempting to decouple brain from structure. This week’s the foundation point, and Twitter’s restrictions make this a lot more conventional than I’d like, which we will address with next week’s subject matter. For now, however, it works as a means of environmental protest.


Jungle

Chlorophyll canopy, dancing
sunlight, humid motes
thousand-hued boughs:
welcome to the jungle.

Insect population, living
ecosystem, multicoloured
sensational overload:
moment in crisis.

Over-zealous farmers, stripping
green’s worth, bulldozing
entire species, extinction:
all for profit.

Planetary meltdown, stripping
colour, diversity’s
green turns to dust:
variety extinction.

Joint responsibility, changing
money-driven attitudes
preserve the jungle:
secure Earth’s future.

Is It Worth It?

Last week I received a completely expected rejection.

Normally, there’d be those people who tell me that expecting to fail is bad: the only way in which work is ever likely to succeed is when I believe in it first. The biggest issue, without doubt right now, is finding method by which that faith can exist within me with confidence. Fiction in my remit isn’t good enough: narratives are inconsistent, often incoherent and ultimately self-indulgent. What needs to happen is a complete readjustment of attitude and outlook.

More importantly, belief in that particular part of myself has to be significantly readdressed.

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How do I know this? It is the success in other forms of writing which highlights these shortcomings. This isn’t about winning contests either: poetry is now a more comfortable, capable means by which emotion and direction can be communicated. For a very long time it was impossible to adequately express extremely deep-seated issues. Poetry became a tool used to clear away obstructions, allowing access to places I was scared to go to otherwise. Words in that form have, quite literally, set me free.

All that time I’ve been writing blogs and fiction regardless of quality or often coherence. This release was undoubtedly valuable but not nearly as beneficial as poetry remains. Think of it as being stuck in a completely alien environment with no verbal or literal means of communicating with the outside world. Most sane people won’t start learning the language using long, complex sentences. You begin with single words: food, love, tree, bird, basic things that are then strung together.

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This is learning to draw and learning the basics of proportion and perspective as an artist; being able to boil an egg, chop up ingredients consistently before training as a professional cook. All of this experience, decades of writing, has never been quite enough to make a vital leap of capability. Knowing this is the reason I’ve always said a novel will be published, but never presented anything capable (or finished) to do so.

Self has held back because it was just too frightened of making that vital jump, until now.

The answer, I’ve decided, is probably to start at the beginning. All the novels that are sitting, half done on my hard drive don’t hold the answers to the question I’m looking for. I need to start again, using the tools I now possess, to write differently. Recycling a fractured past has begun to do more harm than good. What is needed to move forward is something better, different and largely unknown. This is not the time for rigid structure and direction.

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This is about writing what I really am, seeing where that new-found ability takes me.

Alone Again Or

Yesterday, I filled in a survey for a large organisation who, if I’m honest, was never set up to deal with the likes of me. The girl with anxiety issues, constant bouts of Impostor Syndrome, fear of failure and inability to understand what other people are talking about, on her worst days, puts the cause back months. Today however that girl’s still in bed, not wanting to push forward or achieve greatness. In her place this doppelganger is at the PC, putting in the hours, covering for inadequacy.

The world’s a tough place to negotiate at the best of times, especially in these fraught days of political and social uncertainty. The survey asked me a simple question: what do I miss in my life, now that there’s so much dedication to the writing cause? The answer is simple: friends. People who understand what this is like: the constant rejections, the uncertainty, doubting yourself and the output you produce. When I look at the successful people in my timeline, perilously few show the weaknesses I deal with.

Maybe that’s part of the problem.

Twitter presents the world with a platform to be whatever they wish, yet so many believe that’s the kind of person who never shows vulnerability or shortcomings. Undoubtedly the people I now gain the most from in terms of interactivity and support are those who show this more vulnerable side, not afraid to be honest with their failings. It is also becoming increasingly apparent that anyone who arrogantly believes their opinion is the only right answer will never be worth listening to or indeed debating with.

When I’m writing poetry, or fiction, or whatever else might be needed of me in terms of words, success is what is aimed for. However, less and less that success equates to being able to put well known organisations next to my work. Validation in a capitalist society inevitably is being able to earn a wage from your efforts. It doesn’t help that ‘best-selling’ ‘successful’ writers are all over my social media: many act like they’re some kind of literary evangelist, offering answers and succour in exchange for your fealty.

Except reality is a long way from that truth.

A lot of individuals consider any public admission of failure as unacceptable. It is understandable, especially as such concepts are often grouped with social constructs or lifestyle choices that directly fly in the face of continued success. The pressure to achieve, present the ‘right’ impression or outlook, places incredible amounts of stress on the most hardened of individuals… and yet, showing this is inevitably negative. That’s not true. To err is human. It is the most basic part of ourselves, and should be embraced.

Today, sitting here, I know there’s a rejection waiting to drop in my Inbox. I could probably write the generic message that will accompany it. It will include phrases such as:

‘hugely high standard of entries’
‘incredibly difficult decision’
‘so difficult to choose a winner’
‘because of the high volume of entries, no individual criticism of individual work can be provided…’

and there’s the killer. Nobody’s willingly prepared to offer free criticism, or comment. If you want to learn how to do this, you’ll more than likely have to pay someone for the privilege. Take a course, hire an editor, and even then nobody may care one jot about what makes you passionate because, in the current market, nobody wants poetry that rhymes. Your narrative is unsaleable, according to people who claim to share your passion, but only if it will make them money.

This is a tough world, and it is not getting any easier.

Not gonna lie here, I have JK muted on Twitter. Her ideas and mine are quite a long way apart, but if personal proof were needed that the unknown can become successful overnight, this is it. It would be a foolish person who did not respect the achievement of others: it is also a foolish person who will believe that only one route to success exists, and that is to exactly emulate the actions of others, without being true to yourself first. You are what you are, good and bad: I believe that you need to embrace both to be truly comfortable with your work.

One day, my work will get noticed. There’s a fair chance that won’t happen until long after I’m dead, part of why the notion of ‘success’ needs to change in the here and now. As it is just as likely I’ll not be around to enjoy that definition, maybe this is the moment to find the joy elsewhere, and stop worrying about the idea that you’re only good when people you don’t know read your work and enjoy it. I’m already at that stage, or else you wouldn’t be here now. So, in that regard, this is progress.

What matters most, right now, is honesty and not publicity.