For the first time, we’ve started a week’s worth of poems with a thematic link: all the pieces have four-letter words as their titles. After that, pretty much as they come, and how I feel. This one’s the first one for a while to garner some feedback, so that’s a bonus…
This was due to be the 25th’s post, but was shoved to the 26th because not even I am doing a Christmas Day blog, even via the medium of scheduling.
In 2018 an awful lot was learnt. This remains a long and complex journey ahead, but there are some very important takeaways from a year’s worth of listening to other people tell me what to do on Social media. A lot of stuff doesn’t stick, or is simply lost in the miasma of What Happened Before, but that which remains…
Thing #1: Don’t pin success on One Great Hope.
I watch those people lucky enough to have made Long Lists or have manuscripts with publishers and know all too well this is exception and not the rule. If all there was in my arsenal was one novel to throw at the people who pay money to print books, things would get quite depressing pretty quickly. So, this year I chose to diversify, and it got results. This has proven to me that this woman can write not only to a brief, but in a manner that’s compelling enough to get her noticed.
That means that this year, same again, whilst expanding on a portfolio of work.
Thing #2: Yes, YOU ARE ENOUGH.
Everybody and his mother are on the hustle. Getting genuine feedback remains a rarity, compliments are few and far between. When you do receive, hold onto these brilliant moments for all you are worth, because their like may never be seen again. My first review is stuck on the wall, in a frame, reminder that I won this contest because the poem did what was asked of it.
All you can do is write your best, every time, and hope it sticks.
Thing #3: We accept the love we think we deserve.
I’m not very good at listening, even worse at learning. However, slowly but surely, things are getting better. That also goes for accepting compliments, being a good communicator, and making sure that contributions remain fair and constant. Although the temptation remains sometimes to pretend I can’t hear you and nobody is listening, it doesn’t last for very long. Eventually, we all need other people, like it or not. It is time to learn to get on with the world better, and realise that maybe, just maybe, I deserve more than I think.
#Blogmas is done now. We’ll start with the new stuff on the 31st. I promise in advance: NO RESOLUTIONS.
Okay. No putting it off any longer. What am I doing in 2019?
There is a PHENOMENAL amount of work that needs poking with sharpened graphite sticks, for starters. A year’s worth of failed poetry, to be picked apart and then reconstructed… before I start thinking about the new things I’d like to do. 24 Adjectives for Pain, Five / Seven / Five and that’s before we stick long form fiction and the short stories into the mix. Writing is no longer the problem. Working out what gets priority has become the… er, priority.
Probably, we will need MOAR TEA. Undoubtedly.
That means that every night this week there will be pencils and paper out, and lists will begin to be shaped and formed from the detritus of the previous year. There’s also a need to go and edit the existing stuff saved here, before we start throwing anything else out into the world. Now, that might mean that in January we’ll cut back on Twitter content to accommodate this, or maybe tweak what’s already in existence to compensate. The GIF/Rhyme aspect of December’s Advent Calender’s an interesting diversion, that could easily be adapted as a starting point…
Whatever happens, there will be better organisation than there has been previously, of that you can be absolutely certain…
Moving On Up
One of the most significant issues I need to overcome going forward is writing to deadlines. As this is being written (late, it must be said) there is the spectre of another ‘must be finished by’ item sitting to my right, taunting a brain that knows perfectly well how to schedule, but that struggles with the impetus to do just that. Next year will include finding third party help in learning practical means by which this happens more often than not. Time management, after all, is a problem for many.
My job now is to organise better and be more productive when inspiration strikes.
There will be a lot of thought given over the Christmas break over what stays and goes on this site in the New Year. I’ve already made the decision not to blog at weekends: not only does this allow more content to get used in the week, but provisions for scheduling that ought to be finished on a Friday. Effectively, therefore, I work during the week and have two days off. To do so however means fitting in what used to be Sunday planning on a Friday. This is where everything needs to change for the better.
It will require a quite complicated checklist of things that need to be finished in certain places and at particular times, but this is no more complex than my current workload. I could, for instance, write all the posts here on one day and then schedule them all to cover the week. I could get up 30 minutes earlier every day and write my personal blog if that’s a better fit. What has to happen is change, so there can be some feel for what is most appropriate.
Technology in 2019 will serve me and not make life difficult. It will be impossible however to avoid certain issues, and my mental health will (like it or not) cause conflict along the way. However, what has become apparent in the last few months is I’m more than capable of rising to a challenge, so that’s what this is. Everything can be fun, useful and a learning experience.
That’s what happens here going forward.
The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret
Earlier this month, the third Twitter account I run was ‘rebranded.’
When it was apparent that this blog would end up being my business front, there was a brief but important moment of concern. As an artist, in the broadest sense of the world, there needs to be a third place. I have Home (personal blog and Twitter) and now Work (IoW ‘branding’) where the vast majority of output that is fiddled with lives quite happily. However, as is becoming increasingly apparent, there needs to be something else which allows bizarre and unexpected stuff space to exist.
In community building, the third place is the social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of home (“first place”) and the workplace (“second place”). Examples of third places would be environments such as churches, cafes, clubs, public libraries, or parks. In his influential book The Great Good Place, Ray Oldenburg (1989, 1991) argues that third places are important for civil society, democracy, civic engagement, and establishing feelings of a sense of place.
Wikipedia states the significance of third places, citing spaces that are communal as being vital to the means by which individuals develop a sense of self. Spending a great deal of time in virtual third spaces myself, it made sense to give the more esoteric parts of my existence the ability to breathe outside of the conventional, and not just leave them on hard drives or a ‘To Do’ list. Ultimately, I’d like to make real copies of some and maybe sell them for cash. I hear that’s how business works.
This is the place where the suppressed artist within me will retreat next year, when it’s too scary to either do it to an audience or while people are watching. I’ll also use it for experimental faffing, wibbling, and an inordinate amount of other gubbins. These are parts of the subconscious that don’t receive nearly enough airtime. All that will change in 2019, for to ensure the soul of myself is suitably assuaged, that’s what needs to happen.
Everybody needs a place they can truly be themselves, after all.
If you asked me what I’d like for Christmas this year, there is one immediate idea that springs to mind. Sitting in the Gym’s bar after training today, scrolling through Twitter, the amount of stupid currently available to view via Social media is staggering, and more than a little bit overwhelming. My brain struggles at the best of time to keep up with who should be the person to root for. Right now, so little truth is easily discernible.
I think I’d like to wish for some common sense to break out via Social media.
One of my overriding aspirations in life is to do it well: not to be overly greedy, or needy, to give back as much as possible and generally not be the person who gets held up as doing it wrong. It is a tough ask sometimes, but slowly the realisation has dawned that the best means to live your best life is not to expect anyone else to do the work for you. In fact, it should be a given that you set the pace with progress.
It’s also fairly vital not to create conflict where none exists.
It is really, REALLY easy to be the good person if you try. I never really grasped this for the longest time, mostly due to the fact I forgot how to exist independently to begin with. It’s hard to be the good person when it takes so much energy and focus to just keep yourself on a level surface. However, as time goes on, it gets easier. Also, most crucially, it becomes a way of gaining satisfaction that has nothing to do with your own progression as an individual. Enjoying other people’s enjoyment when you find it hard to do that yourself is totally valid.
I’ve only just learnt to do that myself.
2019 will have a focus on my achievements, but only when they are relevant or appropriate. This is not about me 24/7, and there’s more satisfaction to be gained when appreciating other people’s contribution to this journey.
You guys mean the World to me and that’s never going to be forgotten.
Lose Yourself To Dance
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’ve always wanted to be able to get to the top of a set of stairs without being out of breath. Both of these, on particular days, can end up as problematic.
Athletic ability, in the last six months, has begun to show significant improvement. Having exchanged five kilos of fat for muscle since August, all the right boxes are being ticked, but there remains that same struggle when initially warming up. It is exactly the same issue encountered on any upward flight of steps in the morning or the first five minutes walk on a cold day. My lungs, like it or not, react badly in certain conditions. It’s been that way since I was a child.
It was this that prompted the family doctor, back in my early teens, to tell me in no uncertain terms that if I started smoking, it would kill me. It wouldn’t be the accumulation of bad shit in my body that would do the damage, but that one morning where lungs went into spasm and I effectively choked to death thanks to an inability to just do what everybody else manages as normal. Those lung spasms still happen, but with decreasing frequency, constant beat that reminds me not to get complacent.
Then, there’s everybody and my family’s assertion that being a writer is a mug’s game, despite the fact I was paid to do it for a number of years as proof that yes, I’m capable. ‘What if nobody publishes your stuff?’ is no longer an issue (see Thursday’s blog post) but an initial justification will never remain sufficient to satisfy a voracious appetite for originality, and as I’m learning pretty much daily how to be a better writer, that process is never ending.
What happens next? Well, that’s a very good question, and one that’s not being readily answered as I type this blog post. There’s a lot of stuff I’d like to do, some things that remain a priority, and others that have become habit. As to how all that fits into the wider picture… there is a plan. Stuff will be taken away. Nothing is going to be added, but focus will be subtly redefined. For now, everything on the wall gets me into the first two weeks in January. After that, it is time for a new plan.
None of this is smoke and mirrors, because I’d choke on one and probably break the other. I don’t need magic, just hard work.
Time to make things happen.
And I Love Her
This is the last of four posts I scheduled for ‘Interests’ in the mistaken belief there’s enough interesting stuff in my life to write about at length. The truth is, of course, existence is incredibly mundane most of the time. I eat, sleep, exercise, write, play mum to two young adults who increasingly don’t require the supervision and a husband who I have to schedule time with around work and cycling. None of this is a problem. Life is pretty much as good as it can be.
Some people in my position would be unhappy however that this is all there is. They are, and daily via Social media that fact is communicated with varying degrees of competence. Sure, there’s stuff here that could be better, and changed: it is, slowly, all being reassessed as issues present themselves. On the top of that list is redecorating the house, which has pretty much remained as it was since my daughter was born in 2005. After that, the garden’s slowly becoming a practical place in which to grow fruit.
Yes, of course I’d like a sizeable pile of best-selling books in any number of genres and styles, but I’m also very much a realist. It’s been a year here pretty much solidly of creating this website, building a foundation of content that will allow me to continue to grow and expand as a writer, with living proof of ability outside of submitted work. Next year, that means being able to self-generate income. It worked for six months with Patreon, and hopefully once I get Gumroad up and running it will again.
I can but hope.
It is a modest goal, to recreate a career from scratch at this late stage of existence. I feel it isn’t overreaching, and is still eminently doable. When my faith in other people is shaken, that the people I respect and look up to are human too and can make mistakes, it is just a part of the process required to make the next step. Self promotion is not dirty or wrong. Some people will hate you regardless. There’s no right way to become what your dreams dictate.
Just be yourself, and hope everything else just works out okay.
Nobody Does it Better
We are living in a Procedural World
and I am a Procedural Girl…
I absolutely ADORE a good TV Detective show. Ironically, I’ve not seen a Sherlock episode (but with Christmas coming that will hopefully be amended) but have managed a fair number of CSI‘s in my time [all flavours.] Right now I’m using Amazon to trawl my way through the NCIS back catalogue. Really, honestly, I’ll take anything if it a) makes me think and b) has decent ensemble chemistry. That’s the most important factor in my TV watching. All these people have to look like they would really get on.
As a kid I can remember Hill Street Blues and Ironside, Quincy and Columbo with fondness. Satellite TV also allows me the luxury of trawling back through historical gems such as Poirot and the various incarnations of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, though nothing really beats Margaret Rutherford’s superlative filmic incarnation of the character… part of a Saturday afternoon tradition that became a significant part of my early years.
This is part of the reason why good stories matter to me far more than just special effects and surface imagery when translated to film or TV: there is a phenomenal amount of my past built from such narratives, and the desire to place human interest above the ridiculous or overly distracting. I have written a couple of murder mysteries in my time, but amazingly this genre isn’t one I feel could ever have decent justice done to it (pun very much intended.)
This is very much in the ‘enjoyment, not a job’ part of existence, and long may that continue…
The Big Sky
I’ve recently replaced my ancient Fruit Phone. Some of you would do a like for like exchange, but I’ve picked the Chinese upgrade that isn’t here for apps or looks, but comes with three Leica camera lenses. Photography is a love affair that began in my teens and shows no sign of diminishing. My obsession, as has been the case for decades, are the images with details often only I seem to find attractive.
Now, of course, there’s comprehension as to why patterns such as these are so pleasing (and often reassuring, I’ll be honest.) There is a decent spread of subject matter in my work however: places, people, and only the occasional obsession into details. You’ll see my Instagram work linked on the front page, and nearly all of my artwork utilises my own work alongside stock photography. For the more curious, there’s a Flickr page with the complete history in pictures.
I will admit to an obsession with looking up: late nights, early mornings, and the reminder that another day will take away the pain of before and help build strength going forward. It is also the intractable reminder of our place in the Universe, memo to be grateful for everything that is presented and not waste any time in enjoying the moment. This is the bit that’s still a struggle, but in the glorious brightness of the sunny days, everything is considerably easier.
There’ll be a lot more photography in the future, and as days begin to get longer in a few weeks you can bet that will involve being outside with the camera…
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