It’s been a Week. The two Open Mics were more successful than I could possibly have imagined. From one, a recommendation from a hero to submit. From the other? I’m pretty certain it earned me the chance to spend 15 minutes on the Big Kid’s Table…
In Full Disclosure News, I made the poster, because it might be a while before anyone else puts my face on anything, and you take the chances whenever they arise. Questions need to be asked next week as to a) how long I do in fact get to read, b) whether its in the first half or second and c) if graphics can be used. I think the last one is the least important right now, but am seriously thinking about the possibility of presentation. Maybe that happens when it’s just me doing both halves…
I’ll be talking more about this in the weeks leading up to the event, but needless to say, a LOT of publicity is going to happen. It is the least I can do as thanks for the opportunity. Having never read for longer than five minutes before?
From time to time, I will feel the need going forward to write about other things than poetry.
According to the way in which BMI is measured I am, right now, eligible for the above programme.
Except, I am in the best shape of my entire adult life, can deadlift 65 kg and bench press close to 45 kg. I still get breathless going upstairs at certain times of the day, because of the way my body works. In essence, I’m a train: it needs a while for me to get going, and then I can work for hours. It’s also taken nearly six years of incredibly painful, mental and physical challenge to get this far, and to understand what one body is capable of achieving. 12 weeks of support, to be honest, seems like a bit of an insult. Being healthy needs to become a full-time commitment, and trying to make schemes best fit for most people is often doomed to failure.
Exercise is also not the answer for everyone. Throwing terms like ‘fat’ and ‘thin’ about is insulting to so many, and using BMI as a benchmark is increasingly being cited as a damaging and dangerous. The key, undoubtedly, are measurements like biometrics, and a genuine understanding that not all human beings are born the same. I’ll never be ‘normal’, after all, because my body’s a lot longer than most people’s and my legs are shorter than many others, and it is high time that we stop using old-fashioned labels to try and define fitness. I really hope in the next 10 years that there’s a move away from ‘wellness’ as a visually-defined ideal. People are not all created equal.
Since I started at my gym, as you can see, I’ve put on nearly 10 kilos. Most people go to exercise in order to lose weight as a path to health and fitness. Not me. I’m here to fulfil my weightlifting ambitions, and become a better cyclist. In the last six years I’ve completed numerous bike events (including Ride London) and last year I completed my first 10 km run. In all this time, there’s been a running battle between body and brain, one that has lost me friends and caused numerous amounts of emotional grief. You are not exercising to fulfil someone else’s idea of happy, or indeed fit. You should be doing it to give yourself happiness, with an improved quality of life.
If exercise does not do this, the answer may not lie in being what other people think is acceptable or beautiful, and this is why I think more Gyms need to be putting mental health front and centre in their wellness plans. What is it that stops you from achieving your goals? Why do you eat in the first place? What changes would you like to make, not only to be healthier, but to feel mentally more capable of changing your life? Just giving someone 12 weeks to change and no support or motivation to do so is not helpful. I’d love to see more Personal Trainers with Mental Health First Aid qualifications, and more Pharmacists with the same.
This has never just been about eating less and exercising more, even though that’s basically the point you need to reach to succeed.
At the start of the month, my Gym awarded me the title PT Hero after deciding that I’d worked quite hard and deserved some recognition. They presented me this in a packed exercise class, which was good practice for the day when I do indeed win a Poetry Award and I don’t crumble to dust with the attention. It also made me realize that, in all my adult life, I never really felt I’d achieved something until someone else took the time to tell me so. I have medals, I’ve fundraised over £1000 for mental health charities, but nothing thus far feels as important as this, and that’s odd when I spend a lot of time not getting worried about other people.
It makes me ask the question: why does this matter? Normally I’d take time to work that out but not today. Achievement and representation are not the same thing. For decades, I hated exercise, found it hard and stressful, because I could not push past the idea I had to look and act a certain way. Once the tyranny of appearance was dealt with, and once I started seeing women like me being given greater prominence in the wider world, it was easier to believe that this was acceptable, that I could be the strong, capable woman I had always wanted to be but never known where to find.
All the awards in the world are not as important as being respected and encouraged as a strong and capable person.
I am tired of the manufactured Influencer outlook, so many people have, on life. I want to hear about failure, and stress and concerns because only by knowing other people feel like we do does anyone ever get anywhere. It’s not about being at the top of a pile and looking down: we all need to lift each other up, help collectively to improve life and wellbeing for everyone. If my Award inspires someone, if my exercise chat makes someone thing or maybe just sharing the Sky article changes someone’s view, it’s worth talking about. I am also tired of people shouting at each other, as if knowing the ‘right’ answer will help everybody in the long run anyway.
We need to stop telling, and start showing what matters most.
#2 in a series of How to Improve your Twitter Gameplay: The Only Way is @-ing…
I never really used to grasp how Twitter makes conversations you think are mutual end up as genuinely one-sided, until I started participating in group experiences. The assumption is that if someone presses ‘Follow’ that they’re reading what you’re saying.
There are so many other factors at play: where they read your tweets (app/browser) and how that is set up. It also assumes that you’re not muted, which can often happen if you’re a prolific tweeter. Take it from someone who’s been told this to their face. It happens. The ONLY way you guarantee that someone is following you has read a tweet you’ve made is by including their @/username in a tweet. Never, EVER forget this. This can also be a useful way to ascertain whether you are also muted, if that is something that you need to know.
We follow people for lots of reasons: often in the hope that will, in turn, grant us a larger following ourselves. I’m not lying when I say I can manage about 600 people’s responses, and that’s the limit. If people are following as many people as they follow? They’re not listening. If it really matters that you talk to someone? Twitter is really not the place to do it. It’s great for random interactions, and for casual advertising. Make it anything else and the chances are it will get messy. If you are lucky enough to have decent friendships and engagement?
But seriously, honestly, truthfully, you are VERY LUCKY INDEED. Also, if you are investing a lot of emotional significance into ‘interactions’ where you are doing the majority of interacting? The chances are it’s a one way relationship. Make your choices with care. Again, take it from a fool.
TL;DR: if you want to guarantee an answer to a Tweet from that person you want to impress? Use their username.
If you get silence when you do?
Sometimes, that’s how we know that the importance we place in an interaction is not the same as how another person sees it.
We’re almost ten days into 2021 and currently, I’m drafting 3-4 poems a day. This would appear, on casual investigation, to be both unsustainable and frankly ridiculous, when nothing is further from the truth. The source of all this creative fervour isn’t a change in diet or some wonderful exercise programme. It’s 9-10am in front of a screen, being inspired by the creative forces behind the Kendal Poetry Festival.
For me and about 150 other poets, The Writing Hours [Resolution/Revolution] is granting permission for us, as writers, to intentionally take time for ourselves every day in order to be stimulated and encouraged by reading other people’s work and participating in group activities. There is no formal structure, no workshops or feedback. It is just us, a pen or a screen, and wherever the mood pushes Kim and Clare to go.
It is also useful to know that an outstanding, emerging poet such as Hannah is also gaining so much from what’s being given, freely and often with a great deal of honesty and earnestness. It’s not just the facilitators who you’ll learn from, too. I’ve picked up countless nuggets of useful information from the chat room, and there’s already a Facebook group for those people who want to share their work to an understanding audience.
I’ll be honest, I’m being very selective on what gets shared. The work being generated personally is in my mind so good, that some of it has already been submitted to other places. One particular poem I would go so far as to say is the best narrative piece I’ve ever written, and as a result is now forming the foundation of the first serious sci-fi sub to a specialist magazine.
It is still possible to get tickets for Week Two onwards (use this link) and if you have a few spare pennies lying about it would not be hyperbole to state this is a fantastic way to start your day, not simply in the right mindset but with the benefit of a group of like-minded individuals to work and support you. If you’d have told me I’d be in a room of 150 people every day, starting my year like this a year ago, I’d have not believed you.
I’m already working out howto keep the momentum going once this all ends on February 1st.
Back in March 2020, just before the first lockdown hit, something happened that, it must be said, made me realize that whatever other people might try and attest, Twitter will never be anything other than one of the best things that ever happened to me. The story I am about to recount was first told on my personal blog, but is being repeated here again because, finally, I’ve begun to write the poem whose title is the same as this blog post. It’ll hopefully be done this month and then, I will share it with everyone.
Meanwhile… I feel some time travelling coming on…
Imagine, if you will, it is 1977.
I am 11 years old. I hear a song on the radio for the first time that immediately captures my attention: Ariel. It’s by a bloke called Dean Friedman: an American singer-songwriter, for whom that is, at the time, his only ‘major’ US hit. However, this is not about success, but quirkiness catching both my ear and that of a Radio One DJ I listen to obsessively: Noel Edmunds. Thanks to him, I am compelled to seek out Friedman’s second album ‘Well, Well’ Said the Rocking Chair and shortly afterwards I become obsessed with one particular track.
I still carry that same song with me, to this day.
It remains the quintessentially perfect piece of narrative storytelling: a breakup song to end all breakup songs, but not obsessing on what’s been lost, but how to pull yourself together after the fact. It’s uplifting and smart and has the most killer saxophone solo in the middle, but what keeps it fresh in my head after forty years are these four lines of poetry which, let’s be honest, have never been bettered:
Take a look at the place you call your home you’re reflected in all the things you own and the seeds of reason you have sown they’re a measure of a part of you that’s already grown…
Not gonna lie: for a good few years I literally carried those lyrics around with me too, wound tight inside a tea ball locket. I am happy to reveal that to you, dear readers, because I know we’re at that stage in our relationship now. It’s remains on a playlist that gets listened to weekly, and has been stuck into numerous other best of compilations over the years. When I inserted it into an online one back in March 2020 which was posted on Twitter, things started getting funky…
I can still remember the complete, abject disbelief when I first saw this on screen. Not only had the man whose song I’d made into a mantra for moving forward liked the fact I’d highlighted the song in my playlist, HE WAS NOW FOLLOWING ME. How was this possible, exactly? I didn’t @ him, he wasn’t directly mentioned in dispatches, but here he was, and remains. Dean’s still working online and playing gigs and has new songs out as I type this. You might move away from the people who influence you, but those people remain a constant regardless. In all the chaos we’ve now collectively experienced, it’s good to know Mr F remains one of the good guys.
I promised I’d write ‘Dean Friedman is Following Me of Twitter’ nearly a year ago, and the draft is still there, waiting for the right moment… and here I am, starting 2022 on a high. It seems the right moment to pay back a debt, too, so time and effort will be taken to ensure the final result is the right, fair and correct summation both of the story and his connection back to an 11 old girl who knew that, some day in their future, words would matter like nothing else ever could.
It’s taken a while, but I think I’m ready to do my pre-teen self proper justice.
I’ve just spent the last six days cycling 500km for the annual Rapha Festive 500: that, for me, was about eighteen hours on a bike where I had a lot of spare thinking time. Last year, when the event was completed for the first time, no spare brain capacity existed, so hard was it that my whole was totally wiped for about a week afterwards. The difference between 2020 and now is considerable, remaining testament to where I am in terms of progress that there has been writing done between those sessions. It’s also been a period when future plans have begun to coalesce.
It continues to bother me how much of progress we decide to mark against other people, and never in relation to ourselves. If you’ve not got the badge, the leaderboard placement or the acceptance of your peers, have you even done anything worthwhile at all? Exercise, with its undoubtedly obsessive business of recording statistical achievement, has taught me a lot about how people define their success over the last few years. Selling your progress is a business too, and it’s been really insightful when I’ve begun to critically assess my place in the writing world.
All of this navel-gazing is as a direct result of having pulled something together for a Poetry Contest. I’ve discovered of late that if the subject of the submission or money making affair is anything other than ‘write what you want’ I tend to struggle, because the neurodiverse in my brain will undoubtedly fixate on a very, VERY specific part of the larger whole. Therefore, undoubtedly I’m setting myself up for failure, and becoming poorer for it as a result… except that’s not the entire story. Every contest entry is the literal equivalent of sticking a donation in the regional poetry charity donation box, and in the current climate, helping people across the country should be a priority for everyone.
I was on a writing course last year when the facilitator suggested that we all like the idea that just one poem could change our lives. It’s that whole ‘rags to riches’ mentality that does seem to fuel the majority of people’s aspirations: after all, were I to win the National Poetry Contest, it would mean that more people than the 600 or so currently following me on social media might have an interest in my fortunes long term. The problem with such manifestations however is the statistical likelihood that you’ll win anything to begin with. Except, as it transpires, my first publication was a contest win. No, really, go read it now.
As a result of this life-changing event in 2018 (and it totally was, make absolutely no mistake about it) I am about to hit Year Five of this particular endeavour. When I look back on the past half decade of attempting to get words to accurately represent what I am, The Beast in Cyberspace still shines bright as an example of me, doing what I do best. I’ve always been a mimic, and most of my life is inextricably linked with computing and the virtual world. As a calling card, it remains a perfect descriptor for my strengths and ability. I worked that out on a bike this week, and going forward there needs to be less worrying about what other people are producing, and more focus on personal strengths.
Needless to say, this is a Resolution I’m already working on ahead of time…
I’m beginning the slow process of returning myself to full ‘working’ capability this week, which means if you are subbed to the Newsletter that accompanies this website, you’ll be getting a message in your Inbox tomorrow offering you FREE STUFF. For now, however, the last seven days have been about forward motion, plus setting up new processes for our restart in September.
I don’t allow myself nearly enough time to dream any more, and being the kind of person who can rationalize failure before there’s even a chance for success is a pretty decent means by which all joy can be sucked from situations. However, with my work turning up on a Podcast this weekend, it does feel a lot like I’m making clear, unassailable progress. Even I’d struggle to make this anything more than a win, so this then begs the question of what to do next.
There’s been a piece this week that’s pushed mind and body out of the comfort zone as a result: it’s part prose poetry, part pure poem, and covers a part of my life I don’t really talk about very much, mostly because I’ve never really thought about it that much. Doing so this week therefore has been an exercise in using my newly-found objectivity to rationalize what was one of the most frightening experiences of my life. As it transpires, that also makes for quite interesting reading.
It also allows me to think about a return to Podcasting, which I’ve really rather missed. Let’s see if I can persuade enough people next month that I’m worth both the time and the support…
I’m supposed to be having a couple of weeks off, but instead there is a compulsion to write here for the first time in a while. The reasons are complex, and will be discussed in other places as time goes on, but for now, this is the moment to start laying foundations down for new ventures. As that happens, it is also the moment to consider how far I have come.
For the last thirty-nine weeks, I’ve captured myself on video explaining my plans going forward, and this undoubtedly has contributed to an ability to rationalize beyond what was there to begin with. The fortieth video will launch on a new platform, having finally removed myself from Patreon. Ironically, it was their own fault it happened. I was given the opportunity to join a marketing course, which showed me how to sell the ‘brand’ better.
This is not a brand, and never will be. I am a perennial work in progress, and trying to promote that on a platform which only sees fulfilment and cash as success really was doomed to failure. As a transactional person at heart, there needs to be a balance between what is truth and what is the line that won’t be crossed. It was therefore inevitable the relationship would end after it was obvious the company’s values and mine did not align.
I was sent a brand survey last week that was the last straw, and I made my displeasure known. Also, I didn’t sign up to win the $100 gift card because the exchange rate is woeful, part of a far bigger issue.
This week I’m going out with the youngest, will be taking photos everywhere, and hope to get some back end work fixed in an environment which is considerably more conducive than it was. Mostly, I need to be organized better, which is the perennial demon to appease. At least now that’s grasped, there are other things to talk about.
#Instaverse will be back in September, but so will occasional posting here too on personal issues.
Monday’s optimism was a little tarnished today, mostly because I forgot Rule #1 of the Internet: don’t let other people’s success diminish your own achievement. Sometimes it can be hard to be objective, and then you remember all the good work you have done and everything is okay again. Everyone started somewhere, after all. This is as good a space as any for me to begin.
Anxiety is my nemesis right now, that and a rather significant sense of mental exhaustion. One is undoubtedly linked to the other, and are likely to increase in their ability to inconvenience as time goes on. This poem celebrates the day that I got my act together and resolved to sort out this issue once and for all… It won’t ever be totally fixed, but I can learn how to manage it better… and that’s where we are now. Onwards and upwards!