Do It Again

After what was an extremely productive and progressive week, it is time to capitalize on momentum. I have a phenomenal amount of old content quite literally gathering dust around these parts, and it is high time some of this stuff was found a better home. Therefore, this week I’ll be concentrating on submitting to a number of poetry organizations with open windows for work.

After that…?

It was suggested to me that there ought to be something other than writing and exercise to give my brain a chance to work through the various issues I’m having, and having lost a friend to COVID this week, it seemed only right and fair to see if the work/life balance could be restored via some gaming. I’ve found a lovely survival game called Valheim, thanks to a mutual. It looks as if it has distinct potential, and can be attacked very much at my pace.

With the middle of the month coming up, my son is being invited back to University and so there’ll be one less person here, with life (very slowly) returning to what used to be considered normal before this all began. The first Patreon project of 2021 is moving towards completion, and the next few months are beginning to look like they’ll be writing fiction instead of poetry, which I’m very pleased about. There’s a lot to be done.

Honestly, this is all coming together very satisfactorily indeed.

Ready to Go

There are lots of things I’d like to do in 2021. This is where I let you lot in on what they are.

The Ko-Fi exercise is going REALLY well, so much so that I’m expanding out to other places too. I have a Tumblr account now, where my experimental stuff is gonna appear, and having linked my Pinterest account to here in the last week, I’ll be pinning my poetry there too. It’s another place where exposure can happen, and all those things are Good [TM] going forward.

Next up, we have audio: there’s gonna be a selection of audio files to play with next week, and part of me is already wondering if there’s an easy way to make an image map for all of these (so that’s been shoved on the To Do List) and that faffing alone might well have been better served happening a bit earlier in my planning. However, there’s still a week left before Time to Talk Day, so it’s not a total loss. If it works, we’ll play with other things in a similar vein.

Finally, photography will be making a return in February. For most of this month when I’ve gone outside it’s to either exercise or do essential stuffs, which is really how this should be working anyway, so my subjects need to be integrated into exercise practically. There are plans afoot, and again we’ll start working on those next week. Everything is under control.

I just got to do it all now…

How Will I Know?

Those of you following me on the Socials will be aware I’m doing a bit more exercise than has previously been the case. This began with a post-Christmas burst which made me realise that the only thing holding me back from real, tangible progress is myself. It is very easy to let good habits slip when all you want to do is wear PJ’s and eat chocolate, but the older I get the harder it has become to maintain the consistency I crave. Therefore, it is time to adapt.

There’s still a bar of chocolate wound into my workouts. The occasional treat is perfectly admissible. This isn’t about only drinking protein shakes and boring people senseless with the power of positive thinking. It is knowing that, at some point, you just need to shut the fuck up and do the work. That’s the case for the writing too: November’s NaNo went out to people to read and this is, without doubt, the most positive feedback I’ve ever received. Even the dislikes are positive.

Therefore, it was time to do something with it.

It’s been entered for a contest I doubt we’ll make traction in, but for the first time a 10k submission actually looked like a story I’d like to read, not just something with a niche interest window. I’ve also been given some brilliant late-plot feedback that means there’ll be stuff added once the current poetry project’s past first draft and needs to have a rest. I’d not expected that to do what it has to my brain either, and so we’ll be working on that for a bit longer than anticipated, but no worries. Exercise is helping me think on the go.

I don’t expect any of this to be successful, so if it happens I will be beyond surprised. However, what this does do is allow me the opportunity to believe that this is the right path to be treading, and that the decisions that are being made, make sense. It’s as much about self-confidence as it will ever be about success. In the end, there has to be a method of self-propulsion that doesn’t require other people as fuel. It transpires words can move you forward.

Who knew?

New Shoes

Yes, we’re only two weeks into the year, despite the last one feeling like it was at least a month long. I’ve allowed the original domain tied to this site to lapse, and finally we’re feeling as if this project might be getting somewhere. The sharp-eyed amongst you will notice new prominence to both Pinterest and Ko-Fi on the front page: there is more than one way to sell yourself online in 2021. Most importantly, I have left Instagram for good, and could not be happier.

The final straw was WhatsApp’s decision to force me into a user agreement which effectively shares my data with their parent company, and (if I were in the US) would allow Facebook to sell it to anybody who paid enough. I’ve had a lot of conversations over privacy in the last few weeks, and the events in the US have been the galvanising factor in making me decide to move away for good. I really don’t care about convenience, but need to maintain control of who holds my information.

This video was, believe it or not, from 2014, which feels the equivalent of Shakespeare popping up live from the Globe trying to give a cohesive argument for why his plays should remain relevant in the modern world. You either ascribe to the idea of privacy and freedom or, it appears, you don’t. There is no middle answer, because the moment you sit there you’ve transformed into a commodity. Your data, like it or not, becomes all anyone ever wants from you. Opinions are invalid, and change pretty much impossible… which is where most people are now.

It’s too much fuss to change. Except, if you’ll let your freedom be so easily taken, what happens when people come for all the other stuff?

This blog’s remained largely apolitical since it was relaunched. However, that’s never what I’ve been, and as injustice becomes increasingly apparent, I have little desire to pretend it isn’t happening. That’s other people’s jobs and not mine. As part of my personal education policy going forward, a lot more questions are about to be asked not only of the World, but of those people who decide that you don’t talk about ‘that stuff’ in their social media.

That’s a sure-fire way of not being prepared for when the Revolution hits.

The Story of Us

Last week, there was another rejection.

It wasn’t a surprise: in fact, on reflection, it was anything but. Writing what I thought needed to be produced to be considered as a contender was always the plan. Only now does it occur to me that until someone decides I’m worthy, success in these worlds will never take place. It’s completely out of my hands, however much effort goes into the work. I’ve not been published enough in the right places, and by the right people to be considered saleable. This is a discussion that keeps happening, and won’t stop until it finally registers.

Today, it registered.

Before someone is prepared to take a chance on me, it’s all about patience, and learning to pick the right things to aim for. Finally, there is the acceptance that what I write for contest is distinctly different to what is written elsewhere, and maybe if there could be less focus on expectation and more on enjoyment, we might get somewhere. The last big collection completed, currently still in contest, fits that definition well, and if it fails, we’ll send it off again.

Starting next year, it is time to reassess my working practices and redefine a lot of what counts as output, for no other reason than I am coming out of a significant period of mental readjustment. Looking at work that is often bitter and introspective, it makes sense why a lot of this will not be of interest to anyone. The good work shines, and beginning to spot the real quality is happening, slowly. The fact remains, my best work is produced in a very particular way.

It is also the moment to start practising a new routine.

A Change is Gonna Come

I have, this week, made a change in the way things happen during my work day. This will, hopefully, improve overall productivity going forward. It’s going to take about a month to see if this is indeed successful or not. For now, therefore, it is just about doing the job and seeing how the result at the end of it stack up against what’s normal output previously. Three days in, the results are surprisingly good.

There’s also been quite a bit of time on Zoom calls in the last couple of weeks. There are a remarkable number of free things available to take part in, and it is well worth taking the time to investigate what is available for your writing speciality. As a result of this there is going to be a bit of old manuscript editing going in between the downtime between NaNoWriMo writing sessions. That work’s my most successful previous novel, as it happens…

Change will take place when all of these things can be successfully combined, and then maintained. My first issue is normally about a week to ten days after instigating the initial course correction, so see me this time next week to work out if all of this is having the desired effect on life or not. The initial signs are optimistic, though, especially in areas not related to writing.

Keep everything crossed for me this time, please.

Back in the Saddle

This week is not about poetry, to be honest. It is about politics and freedoms and NaNoWriMo but, at the back of everything there is the beating heart of what I am, good or bad, are the poems. I’ve taken a week off the promotion because next week we’re going to go full-on, and right now nobody cares about my journey, they all want America to do the right thing because if it does, we all might yet stand a realistic chance of redemption.

Therefore, blogging has been kept to a minimum. I’ve done a phenomenal amount of groundwork on NaNo too, so much so that I wrote enough in the first 72 hours to propel me well into next week. This is truly the narrative that is writing itself, and I’m grateful for my short fiction/flash fiction training via Patreon right now because its making breaking the plot down into manageable, sensible sections a hell of a lot easier.

This week’s blogging therefore becomes of secondary importance to bigger pictures, which includes TWO video offerings instead of one, plus some much-needed background work on catching up with elements that were either too complex to visualise previously or I simply did not have the brain-space to accommodate. Needless to say I expect to end this week considerably stronger than where it started. I’m hoping my beliefs will be proved wrong…

Crocodile

You will have seen that pre-orders are on the front page, there’s even a link now to the page. Once I’ve finished the latest video project (Thursday/Friday next week) we’ll get started on the ‘I Talk to Myself’ video. Did I mention I was going to do a self-interview? I need to plan out camera angles and stuff. It’ll be great, trust me. After that we’re into November, and there’s a TON of new stuff happening then.

For now however the weekend is about throwing old stuff at new deadlines, continuing to rearrange the virtual furniture and hope that the hour I lost back to GMT won’t completely destroy my ability to be a capable human being. As soon as the final pamphlets are published (which should be at the end of next week) there will be final details on price, postage options and how many I’m prepared to sign. I need to sort out some bookplates…

Next week, we’ll have more news on NaNoWriMo, and the plans to the end of 2020.

Everything Connected

It’s taken until Saturday for my brain to be awake enough to process everything currently taking place. Living with a mental health issue can sometimes be a curse, especially when you hold yourself to such a high standard of output. However, on the flip side, it gives you a unique insight into life and how it is lived. On many occasions this week it has been an almost painfully slow task to react and move forward, but with the benefit of sleep and reflection, there’s a lot to be learnt about my practice, and how it is progressing.

Once upon a time, my daily writing workout began with the first blog of the day. Right now I’m creating a poem from an unseen visual prompt when I wake, plus organising two Create Your Own short stories using Twitter polls, and this is a whole new use of brainpower in quite focused bursts. It’s meant a lot of mental energy being expended in unexpected areas. It has also promoted a desire to go back to fiction, which is helpful, because NaNoWriMo is fast approaching. This year, we’re doing something a long way away from previous years’ efforts.

I spent two hours last night planning the direction of my narrative. I’ll also be creating a Playlist this weekend. I should have been writing a post for Patreon, and yesterday I accepted that, if I am the boss, it is occasionally okay to miss a deadline if it means my mental health benefits from that action (which it undoubtedly has.) Balancing all the requirements right now is hard, but getting easier. Any change to routines always results with this kind of mental discomfort.

At least now I know what’s going on.

Most importantly of all this week I made a video from scratch. It’s only just beginning to register how much mental effort was pumped into this, and why as a result I might have felt so tired yesterday. I’m immensely proud of what is here, and already have a vastly different, second piece planned. There’s no point in resting on my laurels either: being able to produce and promote my own work means there doesn’t need to be extra cash to pay others to do it. The more leant, the more self-sufficient I become.

In the end, this is the most important progression of all.

Same Time, Same Place

I may have mentioned that a poem of mine is going to be published in a hardback anthology on October 1st (now did it, stuff is forgotten so quickly of late…) and with this publication has come a flood of memories from that time last year when the ambitious plan was born. Twenty-four poems in a month seems like a lot, but as it transpires that was exactly the right amount. It was also at the same time that I went into counselling, at the time to investigate the possibility I might be autistic.

It’s amazing how things alter once someone else is there to shift focus. What seemed to matter most back then had pretty much consumed everything that I was. The obsession over a diagnosis had driven everything for close to a year… and then, it became apparent that this was the least of my problems. Looking back at that time, the poetry was what kept me from falling apart. It gave a focus away from all the emotional and mental pressure. My home town became the backdrop for a process of self-healing that is still going on today.

Everything that has followed from that point onwards has pushed me further into a Universe that’s been waiting for my arrival for some time. It was the process of being able to contribute to a project whose validation came not from other people, but purely from myself. What I considered as good enough was the resultant 24 poems and hundreds of photographs, and to then find one of those poems considered good enough to make it into the Anthology… there was a whole second level of belief added to the first.

Sometimes, we need the approval of our peers to move forward. I won’t lie, the increasingly common instances where I am complimented for work, out of the blue, is a gift that continues to keep giving long after the initial moment of brilliance. Its why such moments end up being printed from the Internet and kept. Whatever else may happen, to have positively affected someone’s life, if even for a moment, if a rare jewel of brilliance, and should never be underestimated or belittled.

Over a year on from Places of Poetry, validation now happens in many ways. The dopamine hit is different, my needs and desires altering on an almost daily basis. What remains is the reminder of how much of a debt of gratitude I will owe Andrew McRae and Paul Farley, whose project allowed me to become a better version of myself whist the rest of my existence as in turmoil. That generosity will never be forgotten, and the lessons learnt will shape me as a poet and artist for the rest of my life.