Stones in the Road

That’s not how I expected the last couple of weeks to pan out, all told.

I’ve said elsewhere that I don’t want to talk about what’s happened: what’s done is done, and there’s no point in picking certain events to pieces. However, what this does mean going forward is a process of recovery which has put into relief other parts of my life that were being neglected pre-illness. In that regard, this is the right moment to take stock and consider what happens now.

There are a number of submissions I’ll do this month, but less than planned. I have a speaking gig booked locally for the 19th of this month, which is a priority. After that, everything else can wait. Therefore, this site and the Twitter account will go on hiatus until October 1st. This gives an opportunity to sort the world around me out a bit more (and it needs it) before coming back both fitter and stronger.

There are some other things too that happened whilst I was away. Whether or not I managed to get featured or not is yet to be seen: I’ll be poking the people concerned over this during the week to see if they can tell me if my consent form was worth the effort I had to make to get it printed whilst on holiday. Whatever happens, it’s been an eye opening fortnight.

Here’s to more surprises going forward.

You May Be Right

This weekend, I learnt about Casuistry:

Casuistry (/ˈkæzjuɪstri/) is a process of reasoning that seeks to resolve moral problems by extracting or extending theoretical rules from a particular case, and reapplying those rules to new instances.

Wikipedia

Why the sudden interest? Well, it’s all the fault of a podcast my husband likes listening to, with a realisation that religion isn’t as black and white as perhaps I’ve always assumed was the case.

Learning how to think differently is undoubtedly the best thing that ever happened in my life this year. It isn’t just objectivity that’s improved in this time, but the ability to look at situations in a sympathetic manner: effectively, being less harsh on myself in the process. My personal approach to problem-solving, it transpires, is not far from that of the Jesuits. Knowing this method has a name is, frankly, a bit of a revelation.

It’s also not an exact solution:

Casuistry is a method of case reasoning especially useful in treating cases that involve moral dilemmas. It is a branch of applied ethics. It is also criticised for the use of inconsistent—or outright specious—application of rule to instance.

That needs a wee bit more definition before we go on:

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As became apparent in the Podcast above, and the next one in the series (which talks about contraception and the invention of the Pill) you can solve problems in any number of ways: what one person considers morally wrong may be the polar opposite to what somebody else would consider as problematic. Experience is the key to how we all look at solutions: the wider a world view, the more likely is that decisions are made based on optimal criteria.

It’s why the predisposition of so many people to live in their own bubbles is a growing concern: it is life experience that allows a person the opportunity to give reasoned, responsible input and therefore make decisions based on the most diverse set of perceived situations. I’ve often been accused of overthinking my approach to life in the past, and those people are right. To strike the right balance is a incredibly tough ask sometimes.

So, what has all this got to do with writing?

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When I was being interviewed on BBC 5Live about Places of Poetry, there was some discussion over how emotional poetry ought to be in reference to the subject matters in hand. Learning how to write objectively, especially when it comes to a form where economy of words can make a real difference, allows you the ability to problem solve a lot of situations where emotion must exist but not overwhelm.

It is the different between an impassioned feeling and a full-on rant: subtlety and clever word use will allow you to create vastly different solutions to the same problem. That’s also true in longer-form work: two protagonists are talking about a deeply personal event, that one feels uncomfortable about. How does one create a feeling of empathy between them? Is that even required with these two characters… how do their own moral compasses deal with casuistry within the framework of your narrative?

To understand your words, you must begin to understand yourself.

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Part of the reason why my fiction has suffered so much over the years undoubtedly has to do with being unable to really give emotional depth to situations and characters. I thought that this would be easily remedied but, it transpires, there is a lot of work to do. Helping myself expand as a writer isn’t just understanding tenses or the importance of narrative flow. There needs to be a more spiritual, philosophical element to proceedings too.

The best writing is that which is compelling and ultimately life changing, and to do that one must be prepared to alter parts of our own being in the process.

Musclebound

It’s been a week since everything literary got a bit of a shift about. Now it is high time all that productivity and new understanding got thrown at constructive projects. Therefore today’s when the pitch I took to Mslexicon gets some depth and shape, poetry is finally edited and submitted for a range of different awards and contests, plus the mess that’s my hard drive is given a much needed clear out.

It’s time to get some work done.

B&Wspoilers

I already have five (count them!) of my best poems ready to roll for the prestige Poetry Society contest, that have existed in one form or another since May: they’re ready now, at least as ready as I will ever be for submission. There’s a first novel thing that one of my other WiP’s well set to enter too, so that’ll get a proper synopsis ahead of deadline this week. Then, it is all about words on the page for the idea I took to Leeds.

This already has a soundtrack to go with it, which has been listened to at the Gym and during school runs for a good few weeks now. What needs to happen is a subtle rearrangement of the running order to accommodate a firmed-up timeline, because some songs are in the wrong place and if I’m going to optimise the visual part of my brain, that needs to change.

In fact, I’ll do that now before anything else happens.

All three protagonists have a theme, and then there’s the connecting plot ‘songs’. I know some people do their preparation differently, but this is what works best for me. It undoubtedly has a lot to do with the fact film and TV studies happened along with an English Literature degree. Finally, after almost three decades, education finally has some kind of actual relevance. Let’s see if we can adapt form to function.

All of this will be updated on the Twitter account as time goes on, so if you want to know how things are going, you know where to find me. On top of that there is likely to be a bit more effort shoved into August’s short story, and indeed all the daily works produced in the months that follow. That’s the area I’m weakest on, but after some cracking sessions at Mslexicon, all of that is altering rapidly…

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Look Out Any Window

One of the most important things learnt in over twenty years online involves other people’s perception of what’s right. Not everybody has the same opinion as yours: those opinions aren’t facts either, often they are a view of reality that’s distorted through a series of deeply personal, subjective lenses. Challenging your view of right should be everybody’s default stance: learning, growing, and most importantly accepting that multiple ‘right’ opinions can exist alongside each other harmoniously.

On the third day of Mslexicon, it became apparent just how many good things can co-exist happily alongside each other without any conflict occurring. When you are prepared to be vulnerable, truly willing to allow other people into your personal space,  astounding things can and do happen. More importantly, allowing yourself to be kind, not judging yourself on other’s benchmarks, can offer significant transformation to mindsets that previously were unwilling to shift.

My life has undoubtedly changed after three days away in Leeds.

These ladies deserve all the love: hardworking, enthusiastic and genuinely interested they also make a cracking cuppa when required. Events don’t work properly without solid, well-organised management at it’s core, and this whole event owes a significant debt to the people who created it. More of us who come to enlighten ourselves should remember how lucky we are to have such opportunities available in the first place. This weekend really was something utterly special.

On Sunday I’ll freely admit I hit maximum brain capacity, thanks to two stonking talks by Rosie Garland and Margaret Wilkinson. Quite honestly, I think more’s been taken from this couple of hours than I’d managed to glean from several years doing English and Drama at degree level: sometimes, you need somebody with whom you just totally click and then understand without months of thrashing about feeling perplexed. I’d have killed to have met both these ladies as an awkward twenty-summat, that’s for damn sure.

I’m also aware that there wasn’t enough sleep over three days to do everything that was presented to me justice. Assuming I can afford to do this again next year, lessons will be learnt. An extra day for travelling, for starters, so it’s easier to get comfortable quicker. I need to ask more people’s names, spend more time just talking and decompressing between sessions. Adrenaline’s a great drug, but it really does make switching off quite difficult when required.

I now have an idea for a novel that two total strangers have encouraged me to write. There’s confidence in my social skills that simply did not exist previously to last weekend. I know I’ve done a lot of that work, that accepting I had mental health issues and going to get them identified is half the battle; having people who support without thought and encourage unconditionally is an amazing way you can grow and develop as a person. So much of that is still happening too, seven days on.

The Mslexia people knew this concept was a winner when it was created. I don’t need to tell you that sometimes, all that is really needed is the means by which great ideas can become brilliant experiences. This is the gift to myself that will continue to keep on giving many, many months after Leeds itself becomes a happy memory. The fact remains however, this isn’t somebody else providing you with all the answers. If you came expecting to become a better writer, you have a lot of work to do.

I have a lot of other feedback too, and over the weekend intend to throw an e-mail off to the organisers to cover what were, in the main, minor quibbles. Nothing at all made this event anything other than hugely satisfying: that’s really important to state. This isn’t shameless fangirling, but the honest truth. I was given a space in which I could exist with utter safety, with only myself as the restriction. Moments like this need to be grasped, embraced, and then loved for the joy they produce.

This is just one of the many stops on a journey to true enlightenment.

Look Away

However hard you try, stuff sometimes is out of your hands. That’s tough to rationalise as a woman who, most of the time, finds it hard to function without a measure of notional control. It asks increasing amounts of you not simply as a person, but as an artist. I call myself a poet when it suits me, but there are other strings to this bow: writer, novelist, short story writer, photographer and, quite possibly, performer.

That last one’s still being played with: poetry needs to be read, aloud. It should be the notional means by which both passion and expression are properly expressed. I’ve only done it once with an audience, but it happens every time a new set of poems are produced. To make sure they ‘sound’ right and my voice is correct, everything needs to be spoken, with passion

This is when I allow myself to fail as a poet.

I can allow a succession of TED speakers tell me how failure matters on the way to success. People have famous people on podcasts talking about failing. It’s a means by which you are allowed to open yourself to being critical of development. It is looking at work and knowing that yes, you can do more. However, what you define as a failure in a  larger sense is utterly and totally subjective.

It’s taken over two years to actually find my real voice, one that matters most to me. More and more, expectation arises is to write a certain way, or to a specific brief, and to end up with something that isn’t true to me, rather something that’s saleable. I’m trying to do this to make other people notice me, and that’s exactly not the way to do the job. I have failed myself on multiple levels, and now it has to stop.

I should be writing for myself, first and foremost. A very good Social media mutual is about to embark on a journey that reminded me of this fact today: why you write is as important as the subject matter, and the reasons why you choose to focus on particular subjects and interests. When I write about things that are important to me, that are passionate points of contention, the work is better.

How did I forget this? Well, that’s easy. My life in poetry has become the mental equivalent of a Supercut: to fit everything in, you just remember the best bits of everything, whilst the rest of the output is relegated. I want to produce this brilliant, aurally arresting selection of works, all carefully intercut, but totally fail to grasp that by doing so real goodness is diluted.

It is time to go back to my roots.

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The last four poems written are probably my best work to date. This is how I need to work moving forward: passion, honestly and personal accountability. Anything else, quite honestly, is a waste of my time and effort right now.

Let’s try and do this right.

Free Yourself

I mentioned it on Monday: Tuesday, it became inescapable.

The last time I attended any kind of convention was nearly twenty years ago, and it certainly had nothing to do with any kind of career move. When I took this change of direction, an awful lot of people made the point that to learn how stuff works, it’s not a bad idea to find people to teach you. There are courses to take online. Individuals will offer editing services or email critiques.

Or, you can decide to drive for four hours each way to a place halfway across the country based on your gut feeling. That’s why I picked Mslexicon: it’s the first time its happened, a writing-focused residential event and I’ll know absolutely nobody there. Judgement and preconceptions will therefore not exist, so they can’t derail me. What I get from the three days will roughly depend on what I choose to put in.

It is time to see if counselling really has altered my ability to be a grown up.

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I have a week to organise myself. It’s not like I’m not ready: this is what’s been planned for literally years. Going with an open mind plus determination to record everything I can, it will be an adventure. Frankly, it already is. If you want to follow my shonkily organised excursion, this is what Social media and Instagram were made for, right? I may not be willing to influence, but I do love to share.

Right, I‘d better start by updating my laptop…

Here Comes the Summer

It’s taken a while, but FINALLY I’m ready to get back to the coalface of daily content. It won’t happen straight away on Monday either: we have June’s short story to edit and post before anything else of note takes place. However, there’s a plan in place to get everything back on track. However, July’s full of some other rather lovely experiences…

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For three days next week, I’m in LeedsLeedsLeedsLeedsLeedsLeeds doing summat so totally far out of my comfort zones it should probably carry a health warning. NO MATTER I’ll be talking about Mslexicon in more detail on Wednesday, and why if I’m ever going to make some headway with the career of writing, there have to be things that bother and perturb me. It’s all part of therapy.

Then we have new hashtag YouTube lists, a new short story… but no poetry because I’m trying summat new. We’ve already established the working order in our previous blog post. I have an idea that has been knocking around for a few weeks now, plus a running order of titles looking for poems to accompany them. Once there’s some meat on the bones of this direction, you’ll hear about it.

Festivals

In effect, July’s just more of the same with an occasional stop and look about, the odd poetry submission and some faffing about in other parts of the world. I’m off to Belgium at the weekend, where a small cycle race kicks off for another year and I get to meet an old friend of my husband I’ve probably not seen in person for over twenty years. It’s odd how life throws up random stuff like this, but that’s what makes everything so interesting…

Now, I suppose I’d better start archiving the last month’s stuff…