First Steps

I’m having some quite serious issues with not only publishing my work via social media, but getting that social media to inform me what is being seen. It could almost be considered part of a larger malaise where blogs generally are only of interest if you’re selling something, won a Thing or are posting cute pictures of animals. Obtaining and holding people’s interest is a tough ask right now. It makes me wonder where I should be going next.

Those thoughts have filled my head this week, and we have a plan for the exercise and personal parts of my life, but not yet for the professional. Things that were expected to happen this week haven’t and so there’s been a decision to put off making any more changes to that side of things until I’ve cleared my backlog of work, which will happen by the end of next week. After that, reassessment happens.

It’ll be quiet here until then, with a lot of background gubbins going on regardless.

Audacity of Huge

Sometime in the next few months, for absolute certain, there will be stuff to buy on this website. It’s been coming for quite some time, but like everything else it has required a rearrangement of priorities. It takes on average about a month to readjust to such changes. This is probably the third shift in circumstance I’ve worked through since the start of the year. All in all, things are going remarkably well considering.

The sale of ‘stuff’ will fall into three distinct categories: written work, artwork, and merchandise. Two of those things should come as no surprise to some of you, but the third one might. Artwork is a new avenue for me. The inaugural piece will be something my daughter has produced (and which we will be splitting the profits) but I expect to start experimenting with my own graphic pieces as time goes on.

As for merchandise… well, this is going to be another way to help support me if you don’t want to go down the Patreon route. We’ll talk about that more next month. Needless to say, I’m all over this, just not really in a position to say any more until the remainder of this month’s workload is complete, which will be happening tomorrow. I’m quite proud of the progress however, this is a new direction, with a lot of satisfaction attached.

Watch this Space.

Unputdownable

This week, I have indulged myself in long-form narrative, and it has been smashing.

This writing project was originally NaNo, dumped in frustration because of a plot hole it was simply too hard for me to negotiate. The reason for that was very much tied up in trauma, it transpires, and I realised some inescapable truths coming out of the latest round of submissions: everything I’ve done with this project was to make deadlines or to assuage a desire within me that was never properly explored or explained. It’s no surprise therefore that this week, returning to it has become a revelation.

The Spotify soundtrack has really helped too, and after six years of mucking about, it looks as if starting tomorrow it will have a new direction. It becomes my vanity project, in effect, alternative to all the other stuff which now, like it or not, have become part of a work remit. That’s totally right and proper too, because without summat to look forward to or indulge in, everything else gets boring quite quickly.

Plus, let’s be fair, I’ve had enough of poetry for the time being.

However, it’s not been forgotten about, far from it. I announced today in Patreon that the cover above will be my first ‘proper’ pamphlet: Reboot 2 $hell is a project I’ve been working on, back and forth, for a couple of years, and is so niche that I realise now the only sure-fire means of doing it justice is to publish it myself. As yet, I’m not totally sure what form that will take, but can do nothing with the collection until I’ve created a layout.

So, there will be this secondary project running alongside the fiction for a couple of weeks, until I can create summat I’m happy with. There’ll be updates on progress, but I have ideas for some things that will personalise the project sufficiently. Needless to say now it’s been announced via Patron, I am obliged to make the imagined into summat real and tangible. That’s always a good motivator. This time however, there’s potential for making some cash along the way.

Let’s see if we can get a project like this off the ground without too much fuss.

Little Things

I spent the weekend doing exactly what it was I said I’d do: no actual work, and certainly no blogging. A day of rest on Saturday meant Sunday was the most productive day I’ve had probably since early May. Looking back on the past, and what can be salvaged from it has uncovered a couple of utter gems, two of which I’ll submit tomorrow to the most prestigious contest going for poetry right now. I confidently predict neither will win, but I’ll feel wonderful about what’s been presented.

The last few times this particular contest has been prepared for it’s been… well, it’s felt like a Herculean trial. More importantly, so much need and desire to win was subconsciously wrapped up in the production process that, at the end, there was little joy in the work. I intend to go back and pull out those pieces and repurpose them in a group this week, if anything can be salvaged from them at all. That’s also a revelation from recent times: it’s okay to throw things away.

Not everything can be saved.

The reality of watching the revolving door of successful people come in and out of my Twitter feed used to be quite difficult. Now there is a sanguine acceptance that not everybody is the same as me, and not everyone is getting as much out of the platform as I am. That’s the big takeaway over the last few months: you can see the people who have bloomed, and who’ll have ’emerging during lockdown in 2020 as a driving force in [insert profession here] on social media’ inserted into their bios when the time comes.

For me, I suppose, it’s all still falling into place. There’s an optimism in both body and brain now which, I realise, has not existed since my teens. I never really grew up properly, that’s the key to all of this, that process is taking place for a second time and honestly, truthfully, I’m quite happy to ignore the fact that many notably traumatic experiences have been quietly thrown in a skip where established detritus is already burning furiously.

I am so very grateful to my husband and kids for putting up with all this shit for so long.

With my objective hat on, so much of that time wasn’t nearly as bad as history now recalls, the key is to separate the bad experiences from the good and then make sure only the bad ones are torched. It helps having photographic memories of those to use as a means of re-establishing reality: so many things never got photographed, for exactly that reason. There are also some pictures where I know, full well, I was acting to camera.

Managing expectations is an important part of any creative’s output: what can people expect from your work? What will become your signature styles and approaches? For me, the virtual world is so deeply ingrained into everything that to try and separate it from what I am has become impossible. Therefore, I’m going to stop trying, and focus instead on how my life is being changed and altered by its influence, so much for the better.

Knowing where you came from is essential in charting a path to any new destination.

Another Way to Die

It occurs to me that I need to keep better records of failure. I’ve mentioned before that in my early days of flinging poetry at submission targets, there was the Big Book of Failure, which served a useful purpose. It gave physical form to the terror: how much work had to be done, how much was subsequently rejected in my pursuit of the elusive win. It was approximately eighteen months of thrashing about before I got lucky in November 2018.

After that, the lesson was learnt: keeping a list of the rejections only became useful when recycling them. I got tired of looking at work after it would be rejected and believing that if it was rewritten or further polished, somehow it would be successful. What I was producing was good enough, just not what was being asked for. It’s why Places of Poetry was so important, I realise looking back on last year. Writing without the need for validation was a game-changer.

To have a poem published from that set of work is pretty much a dream come true as a result, because for the first time it wasn’t about the winning. That was the bonus that keeps on giving: I made the contest, set the goals, found myself talking about my joy on national radio and it was me that made all that happen with my own effort and output. It’s only now beginning to become clear that this was the fundamental shift in attitude I needed to move forward as a writer.

If that hadn’t happened last year, poetry would probably have been given up completely, career moved in a completely different direction. Between then and now I’ve been hospitalised, there’s been a major personal health scare and now we’re in a pandemic. None of this was on the plan, but we’ve coped with it all, with some confidence. The one thing that never really got dealt with was the consequences last year of counselling. The last two months has seen that issue finally pulled into focus.

The last submission piece completed today has been one of the most uncomfortable things I have ever written. It combines intensely personal parts of my history with the true, visceral terror of living through the last six months with a mind at times very close to total breakdown. It was built from pieces in a significant collection that showed that, if pushed, I could produce work to someone else’s brief which would be good enough to be shortlisted.

That collection is now split into three: the sunniest group of 22 poems also got sent away to somewhere else, final eight poems that remain will now sit for a while and breathe, before being repurposed for a major contest in September. I’m done with submissions for this month, a mere five days in, because the lesson has been learnt, finally. Validation only works if you believe it. I don’t need other people to tell me how capable I am any more, just need to feel confident in my own ability, and have never felt as confident as I do now.

Ironically, I’m already expecting rejection this week from work submitted before all this chaos began. I won’t take this as a setback either, because looking at that work, a copy of which is sitting to my right, I can already see where it could be improved. Some submissions aren’t about winning in the first place, but building confidence to take part in other, more important events. It’s the miles in your legs, to use a cycling metaphor: muscles never build strength or condition if you don’t exercise daily.

Poetry is, in many ways, just like exercise, and it is not surprising that I see many poets as keen runners or athletes. Understanding how words work in a brain and then condition them with strength and repetition makes an awful lot of sense. Finding your voice will never happen if you’re too frightened to speak out loud, or make mistakes. It is a balance within you, and between you and the Universe, in a constant and often frustrating state of flux.

This month, I’ve decided to get the cosmic angst out of the way early 😀

Ballroom Blitz

Oh look, we’re back… when I say that it makes it sound like everything is organised and finished, when the reality is that an awful lot of is sitting, waiting to be fixed. In Good News [TM] we have timescales now, and realistic levels of expectation. Welcome to the New Normal, and there’s quite a lot of stuff to catch up on so let’s get started.

This month, and in fact going forward long term, we’ll be sticking Instagram and website content into a combined output. It makes more sense to not keep trying to be lots of different things across multiple platforms, and to focus effort on content over variety. Therefore, if you follow my Instagram, you’ll see me using that this month as a means to deal with the COVID stuff, how I make ART as a CREATIVE, and some other bits too. It also becomes the way I’ll tell you how my efforts to become FAMOUS are going, or not, as the case may be.

On that front, we made it to a shortlist proper for the first time last month with some poetry. We’ll keep plugging away at that side of things in tandem with self-publication, which is going to happen before Christmas. That work begins in September, and I’m already looking forward to the output, of which there is much to choose from. Picking the best work is the easy bit: it gets harder when you’re the graphic designer and the production co-ordinator to boot. No matter, the work will be done.

The biggest single piece of news however is I’m working with the local Arts collective as part of their New Artists Network. That’s never going to stop being funny: at 53 I’m still less than two years into a professional endeavour, as you’re considered successful after publication. My first piece debuted in November 2018, my next piece appears in hardback, in October for World Poetry Day. So, technically I could call myself established from that point, but if you know me well that’s never happening. This doesn’t stop even if I do hit the target, multiple times.

I don’t ever see a true end to this period of creativity in my life.

Over the Rainbow

I’m really sorry everything fell apart for two weeks.

Writing right now has become aggressively visceral: I look at those people who seem to manage a lot better at these things and now grasp that they’re just not telling me as much as I am prepared to admit. Struggle, like so much else, is a subjective affair. What you think is wrong with someone (or something) could be a million miles away from the true reality of their situation. For me, it is important now to put the record straight.

I have submitted last week a poetry collection which, I realise now, was written not to hit a deadline or to try to gain me some traction in an incredibly fierce marketplace. I wrote it in order to move forward as a poet. It needed to happen in order to allow my brain the actual breathing space required to heal and grow. Is it possible to do this in your 50’s? Absolutely it is. I am emerging proof of a late-life renaissance in full progression. However, the consequences are significant.

That’s where we are now.

Validation in the last two weeks had nothing to do with a finished product being acknowledged, and everything to do with just saying stuff I’d wanted to ‘speak’ on paper for a long time. The collection that preceded it is a more general, less visceral version of the same desire. It’s now apparent that needed to happen to allow this lot of stuff out of my head and now, as everything is out, I’m left with a reasonably blank space in which new work can be created.

There are a couple of places I need to go back to, one piece of long-form fiction in particular which demands my attention, again because of the emotional baggage its holding on my behalf. Whether that happens next or later in the year, I can’t currently tell you. Now, I am between things. That means actually stopping, not getting sucked into something else immediately. It is allowing common sense to step in and go ‘right, nothing else for a while. Let yourself heal.

It is time to finally listen to myself and stop here for a bit.

I know why movement has become so important in my existence, because for the best part of a decade it’s been essential to not allow the past an opportunity to swallow current progress. Letting that stuff out has been a remarkable release of pressure. It also means I’m a bit lost as to where I go next: the main focus initially needs to be that I clean up what’s left here for content. The #Soundtracking and #Narrating stuff was supposed to carry on from May, but stopped after it became important to let other people speak.

Everything else is doable before the end of June. What now makes the most sense is to do that, and then use July as a natural break, so that’s going to be the plan. We’ll talk a bit more honestly about my self-publishing aspirations, how I can encourage more people to join me on Patreon, and get back to taking pictures. The fact I have literally zero photographs in the last couple of months was another red flag for my mental health.

A great many things need to change going forward.

Everything Else Has Gone Wrong

It’s probably best to start with an apology. This week’s writing aspirations, pretty much across the board, fell through the floor, thanks to a mental health incident on Monday. It has taken until today to sort everything out, rearrange plans and generally pick myself up from the fallout. The last time this occurred with a comparable level of severity was the moment I realised that my life needed a comprehensive redo about five years ago.

This time around however there’s enough support and coping mechanisms in place to allow things to bounce back with relative ease. It also helps that various new means of relaxation have been introduced into my routine as means to deal with the fallout objectively. Putting those things together means that there’s no need to suddenly delete a lot of stuff from the site and then simply pretend all these things were never planned in the first place.

Yup, that’s how I used to cope with failure: ironic in the week when a major Government official retro-edited his blogs to make him look smarter than is undoubtedly the case, I’m not the only person who when they fuck up tries to cover their tracks. No longer do we do this stuff: time to be honest, up front, before rescheduling everything in a more acceptable and realistic time frame.

The amended timescales for the drabbles is up: first two will appear on June 8th. The weekly poetry (graphic above) will get finished tomorrow and then go up as a complete, new piece on Sunday. We’ll start again next week, and move forward with some important changes to the way things get planned and presented. Plus, there’s some important behind the scenes faffing going on…

Thank you for understanding, and let’s move forward.

Different Class

I’ve been spending a bit of time faffing with the new WordPress Editor this morning, and will continue to do so over the weekend. It’s a bit of an unwieldy beast in places, and doesn’t like lots of images at once, but the potential for what I’m doing going forward is undeniable. For instance, making two column layouts in places where they don’t exist is, undoubtedly, a bonus.


Therefore, going forward, I’ll do my best to transfer all existing content over to this format with the least amount of fuss. It won’t happen with any of the old blog posts, but is likely to happen, over time, with all the poetry and associated pages, short stories, all my visual elements and the Soundtracking/Narrating stuff. I am giving though to shifting some major design elements around too, but that won’t happen until I’m properly confident with these new formatting skills.

I struggle with the technical, but this is worth learning, because the benefits it will grant for creativity are considerable. Hopefully you won’t notice the transitions either.

Love’s Great Adventure

This week’s been a real Educationfest [TM], not just personally but professionally. The most significant portion of this, in relation to writing, ultimately centres around how I place emotion into work. I’m not referring to the writing, but hope when things get sent away for submissions or competitions that I might win; this could be when everything changes. Expectation is a very cruel mistress. It’s time I stopped bending the knee.

This is the moment where something is created purely for my own benefit, sent to someone and then forget about, because there are more important things to be anticipating. It’s a terrible, destructive cycle of disbelief and anger and it will be broken this weekend, for no other reason than I have decided to produce summat as a tribute to my step aunt that shows a lesson has been learnt.

Writing is not for other people, it is for me.

Channel4jump

Yes, of course it’s great if someone else looks at your work and connects with it and YES it would be lovely to be paid but as I am now actively pursuing avenues where that money is not dependent on a third party facilitator, it is time to accept that expectation and anticipation are under my control now and not someone else’s to dictate. I should thank the people who provided the last form of formal rejection for that poke: when it’s apparent that your work was great, but didn’t fit the frame.

My work’s not here to align with other people’s world views. This is not about being contrite and supplicant when it comes to output. I say what I do, for very good reason, and there is NEVER a moment those words don’t do as I ask them. That’s the whole point with all the dance that is submission and rejection: this is not school. If you’re marking my work on your perceived notion of ‘correct’ then everybody is royally screwed. What matters as much, if not more than the words is the process within each journey.

factsvopinions

Therefore, this weekend I’m making something, just for me, as a result of the understanding that this is really how all of this should work: not writing as obligation, or to appease a deadline. Writing is expression, art, creativity but, most importantly self education. From these process, you learn to be better. Therefore, doing the lines is the equivalent of putting in miles on my static bike or reps with a resistance band. Getting better, stronger, and more capable only comes with practice.

Results are irrelevant if the journey matters more.