Almost and Always

Okay, I admit it, I’ve only just grasped the importance of organising yourself properly.

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It’s taken a long, long time: all the planners and tick lists and bullet pointing IN THE WORLD will not allow you to fulfil things unless you fully and totally, 100% commit to the task. Previously, I’ll be honest: I’d get bored, or there’d be a crisis of confidence where the pre-planning didn’t allow me to continue momentum to the end of a project. NOT ANY MORE. This week, I’m so utterly and totally here for the end game.

Now we just need to do the work. I have photographs that aren’t good enough for the purposes they are required for and require a reshoot. The poetry still needs work: there are rough edges to be smoothed and over-painted. The mechanics of the website require thought and then some quite serious manipulation of my photography to fit the optimal dimensions of my project.

All this will be done by week’s end, OH YES.

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Keep an eye on properbard.com, which has become my defacto hosting site, and I’ll let you know when we’re done. The plan is to make the end of June, as I planned would happen, just because sometimes you need to believe not only can you come in on time and under budget, but also with a product you are insanely proud of. Trust me, I am VERY proud of all of this.

This is my new best thing.

Summer Breeze

We interrupt the process of editing and website development with a brief post to state that yes, everything is still on schedule, despite the fact I’ll need to be in Somerset next week for two days for my mother in law’s funeral. The plan remains that the first of the poetry will go up on the Places of Poetry site starting the 17th and unless summat really unexpected takes place, that is where we are heading.

Needless to say, the next four days will be full of hard work. I’ll report in on Monday when I’m done.

Making Your Mind Up

It will be two years in June since the journey to transform myself from casual to professional writer began in earnest. However, it won’t be until July that I can say I submitted any work with a belief it was finally good enough. Looking back on those early efforts, some days it feels as if words were being drawn on cave walls in darkness.

When I won something back in November, the sense I’d got lucky was very tangible indeed, because that’s what it was: luck. Trying to work out what it is that editors are looking for can be incredibly tough to fathom, especially if you only just learnt the basics of the language. Some will give an idea, many others none at all.

A lot of the time, your poetic voice is the only dialogue heard.

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As time has gone on determination to get this right and learn my craft well refuses to diminish. Quiet revelation comes and goes, trying to balance a desire to be two separate people: one who writes ‘a certain way’ because she knows that’s what’s being asked, and the other who resents her voice being garbled to make a point.

Slowly, of course, the two begin to intersect: those resultant works may not win me anything, on reflection, but have become markers pointing a workable way forward. It helps hugely that there’s been some significant and pretty damning psychological changes during this period too. Those changes are only now beginning to emerge.

The difference, I suspect, could be everything in staying focused and determined.

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What circumstance presents me with is a clear, fear-free path forward. Sure, I’ll still get angry when a well-known publisher can’t be bothered to use the software I had to submit with to acknowledge my failure. That’s just politeness and respect for your audience, after all. Failing no longer scares me, because that person has been left behind. This isn’t about validation either; to be honest, it never was.

Being different is absolutely fine. Not winning is totally acceptable. What matters now, more than anything else, is being true to the new person I am becoming. My poetic voice is becoming louder and more strident than it has ever been, and it will be used in new and liberating ways. The future is no longer something to be afraid of.

Happiness brings so many new possibilities.

Life on Mars

I am already thinking ahead to what happens after End of the Fear. Some people might suggest finishing summat before starting summat else, but I am not them. My mind, on any given day, has the capacity to generate all manner of new and potentially interesting content. The problem, to this point, has been how all of that is filtered and then disseminated. Not any more.

June’s a bit of a line in the sand: a couple of major publications begin their Awards cycles, whilst others come to an end. I expect a lot of poetic material to become effectively recyclable at that point: first dribs and drabs are beginning to arrive. Some work is already written specifically for entry, what needs to take place once poetry project’s done is a sensible, organised re-arrangement of everything that I have, and where it could be relevant.

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Planning ahead has granted vital wriggle room for the longer-form works, and I fully intend to finally put time aside to make at least one novel-length work worthy of submission. I’ve made a choice, and based on my development in literary skills, hope it is possible to create summat that’s saleable but still retains the essential essence of what I am. That’s the biggest issue I’ve had since this all began.

I appreciate that my ‘voice’ still needs a phenomenal amount of work: the poem I won a contest with back in December was, in essence, an ‘ape’ of an original work. My ability to parody has always been pretty solid, but I’m as yet to find success with my own voice. It’s not really existed until now, if truth be told. Sure, the stuff that has come before has a resonance in me, but freeing mind via counselling really is altering both pitch and tone.

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However, I’d be lying if I didn’t say how much fun it is learning new stuff pretty much every day, that my mind is a completely different place than it was at the start of the year. That’s never going to rewarded by a magazine, or acknowledged with a cash prize. I get to keep all the credit, and long may that feeling continue. These are days of miracles and wonder, and I am loving every single one.

The Shape I’m In

For #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek, let me tell you a story about my perception of self.

It began with a man, at my front door, just after we moved into this house, making the moment over 20 years ago. He was collecting data for the Office of National Statistics, and I was in a delicate place, recovering from a miscarriage. Having weighed and measured both me and my husband, I was presented with a green card that stated I was 10 stone 6 pounds and absolutely the right weight for my height and waist size.

I’d felt unhappy and tired that day but this made everything better. When I finally did get pregnant, this would be a benchmark to return to. I knew what was ideal; that would be my aim. For the next 17 years however there’d be a battle with weight that, when combined with Postnatal Depression after the birth of my daughter almost destroyed me for good.

I could not reconcile person before with irreversible changes pregnancy brought to my body.

Keeping weight off became impossible, simply not enough motivation or energy to work hard enough to do so. Dieting, specifically Keto, was responsible for my gallbladder finally failing two years ago and me requiring an operation to remove it. After a decade of trying literally everything to lose weight, it was the introduction of a bio-metric scale to my life that altered perception.

It was Science that freed mind from misguided preconceptions of what ‘looked’ healthy.

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The concept of bioelectric impedance was staggering: it was possible to see how my body was composed, what took place inside it. As it transpires, I was (and still am) incredibly efficient at building muscle to replace what was fat, a process that was taking place as I embarked on a serious, focused exercise routine with a Personal Trainer. In fact the harder things got, the fitter I became. Body shape has radically altered, and instead of being obsessed with thin, what matters more is strong.

This is officially the heaviest I’ve been since the weight loss journey was begun, with the least amount of fat. I am happier than was ever the case when the man gave me his card, on reflection: this form may not be my final one, but it’s a brilliant template that doesn’t expect ‘thin’ to be an answer. Weight loss is not essential to be healthy in my case. If all the remaining fat gets converted to muscle, I’ll be beyond happy, especially on my legs.

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Going back to ‘thin’ was an unrealistic idea considering the physical changes pregnancy wrought on me: I could go try and return to being the woman I was in 1998, but she couldn’t bench press 40kg, or complete a 46 mile bike ride. I like being this person, with true stamina for the first time in my life, who won’t get get tired walking for longer than 30 minutes at a time.

This is what I really am, not what societal norms suggest I need to be.

To find that true body continues to be a tough ask, which makes it even more amazing. It asks a lot from physical and mental toughness, and so far I’m managing to meet most of my challenges head-on. There will be days when it does get too much, but they are fewer and further in-between each time. This is undoubtedly the best my body has ever been, and it will only get better as more effort’s placed into improvement.

Sometimes, it is important to really understand what you see when looking in the mirror. Do you perceive what it is you really are, or are there other things clouding your judgement? For a long time I couldn’t really see what I was, but all that has changed.

I understand now what it is I am.

Goodbye

This weekend, I tore up an application form. I’d picked it up in February, from the Poetry Cafe, fully intending to create an entry for the May 1st deadline… except other stuff kept getting in the way. A brilliant run with fiction over the last few weeks has meant that poetry (other than scheduled) really hasn’t happened for most of April. On reflection, that’s no bad thing, because there’s about to be an awful lot of poetry in May.

It’s also becoming tough to financially afford to enter everything I come across that uses such events as pseudo-fundraisers. After a while, you have to start making serious choices over what matters most, and ultimately, sitting looking at the next six weeks, there just isn’t any more spare cash left. It was easier therefore to admit defeat and try again when not only more cash exists, but when more time is available.

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It can be quite easy to get caught up in your own ‘bubble’ of things that look really important, but ultimately do not help you allow to grow as a writer. For me, at this point in the development process, there is more worth in being out in the Real World, gaining experience and talking to people than will ever happen being at home, and not focusing on anything except my work. Introspection is no longer useful.

What is needed is a shift in perspective and outlook: I’ll be editing a fiction piece this month, writing some poetry for Mental Health Week, but all of my focus is now on the major project forcing me not only to spend time outside, but to interact with those people for whom this town is their job and their home. That’s the input that’s been missing for a while, and I’m already looking forward to the possibilities.

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You can follow my daily progress starting May 1st. I hope we can both let go of the past, and use May to change outlook on the World in general.

Look out any Window

Sometimes, I can be a little jaded. Considering the number of submissions made since January, the amount of work that’s been outputted (and already rejected) it is probably no surprise there’s an element of ‘oh, I wonder what I’ll fail at this week’ in the mindset. Except, when I look closely at what’s been learnt in the first four months of this year, there is a phenomenal amount to be pleased and proud of.

Most of that shift involves improvements in organisation and presentation. Learning how to make things sound more seductive, enthusiastic, being able to plan and block time effectively are undoubted steps in the right direction. Add to this an increased determination not to do anything other than my absolute best work for everything, however small, is altering my outlook with each passing week. 

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There are other, more subtle changes too. Setting sensible time-frames to complete projects, beginning to learn how long things will take are all helpful. Crucially however, it is my problem solving skills which have seen the biggest leap forward since the start of the year. What do you do when a muse just won’t co-operate? How do you make something happen that patently isn’t taking place and you have a deadline looming?

The key, undoubtedly is being ahead of the game.

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Next month, a lot of things will happen differently to accommodate a project I’ve been working on for some time. The planning’s been underway since the end of March, and is now beginning to come to fruition. I’m insanely excited about what’s coming, and hope you’ll consider joining me on the journey as we enter an area of creativity as yet undiscovered. Trust me, it’s going to be awesome.