End of a Century

Tomorrow is June. That means that, once these blog posts are done, it is time to take down the old calendars and begin the process of planning what happens next. This part of the process has refined considerably since the start of this year, probably more than anything else I’ve learnt since the journey began. So much so, that the whole shebang’s gonna get an upgrade starting on Monday.

It is high time the rest of my life got the treatment writing does in terms of organisation.

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I’ve been trying to stick more exercise into the game-plan, the effect it is having on body and mind has become noticeable. That means, starting tomorrow (and no, does not matter it’s a Saturday), we try and stick to the ‘something, every day’ mantra when it comes to keeping fit. Yes, I still have rest days factored, but that means that every day that isn’t had to have summat in it…

With two exercise classes per week (Wednesday and Thursday) Friday is still the preferred recovery point, because of the amount of work that gets done during those two evenings: anything between 700 and 1000 calories depending on how my body co-operates. What OUGHT to happen is a comparable amount on the other four days: 600 calories is my notional baseline to start with.

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There also needs to be a balance of cardio and weights, which has lapsed somewhat since my exercise classes took preference. So, there’s a scribbled plan from yesterday’s lone lunch at the sushi restaurant: what I do when, how it covers the areas that need work, and then crucially whether I am capable of keeping it up for the two to three months required to make this routine a habit.

I fixed my writing shortcomings with organisation, and without it there’d not be the ability to give myself the vital forward motion required to feel as if progress is possible. Let’s see if that can also work wonders on my body. It can’t be that hard, surely…

You’re So Vain

In the last couple of months, it has become increasingly apparent that what I enjoy in poetry is not what many people consider poetic. Certainly, looking at stuff that’s been submitted for deadlines versus what from others has made the cut into publications, there’s a gulf of perception and creativity that needs to be vaulted in order to break into particular market sectors. I’m simply not esoteric enough.

The problem, a lot of the time, is rhyming.

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The more that is read, the harder it becomes to understand what is presented. I see  narrative threads with clever metaphor, but cannot feel as everybody else. Much of this verse presents as completely different to what is believed as natural, which is to rhyme when occasion demands. Perhaps it is because of a love of music, a demand for lyrical synergy, which pushes me away from the nature of this ‘poetry.’

It is more likely that personal path to enlightenment has not yet been fully discovered.

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There are flashes appearing, slow evolution of stiff verse into more fluid forms, but it is taking time. This is development that can’t be forced either, needs to feel right and free. It helps that the more that is rejected, the easier it becomes to grasp there’s actual understanding and progress. Eventually I’ll get there, but there’s an increasing realisation that most of the work produced at this point needs to be shelved.

It may yet be that there’s more merit in finding the means to produce esoteric as a lead in to my own style, or simply that this journey could produce something completely different as a consistent final product. Either way, evolution is hard work. A remarkable amount of heart and soul gets thrown into every piece. Just as long as I keep writing, eventually, there will be a moment of progression.

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Nobody said any of this was ever going to be easy.

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.

I am What I Am

It was bound to happen eventually after a month of fairly heavy-duty counselling and the loss of my husband’s mum. This whole project only exists because I’m lucky enough to be able to do so in time that’s not taken up with being a carer and a mother. For the last week, poetry had to take a back seat, because other stuff became more important.

Now, however, there’s space to breathe again, so it’s high time we worked out June’s content.

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Starting in June, we’re using two media buzzwords, fused together as an overall theme for proceedings. Until the ‘Places of Poetry’ project is completed (which will hopefully be mid month) the weekly verse continues to take a back seat. There’ll be two new playlists (plus I promise faithfully all the old ones will make it to the website) plus a short story based on an offhand comment someone made last month on my Twitter feed.

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What has happened in the last six weeks or so is a subtle shift in how new work is created and edited, based in part on continued and very useful feedback. Hopefully this will show not only in the blog posts, but across the full spectrum of written output. There’s a lot to be learnt, and it is only two years ago that all of this began in earnest. Some days, it feels like a whole lot longer.

I look forward to seeing you for this new stuff in the usual places starting next Friday.

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.

Come Together

I am running behind this week, or at least that was the case until today. Thanks to my subconscious, which has provided some quite memorable moments during the last few days, I have a completely formed romantic comedy in my head. It’s a really pleasant change from the normal fare of poetry and responsibility, and tells me that maybe, possibly, the brain is adapting to my change in mental circumstances.

There is always a small, inherent fear that when taking on a large scale project you’ll simply not possess the mental fortitude to complete it. Once upon a time that was most definitely true: this morning I went back five years and deleted the remains of the last project I’d tried to complete on this kind of scale and failed. The mental fallout from that project still haunts me on bad days.

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I managed to gain a stalker as a result of that series of events, someone who refused to leave me alone and went to increasingly frightening ends to make his displeasure of me obvious and very public. Once upon a time I thought it was useful to keep those memories and moments in my thoughts, reminder of what happens when you fail. Except, now I understand this does nothing but damage current ability to be creative.

Slowly but surely, ghosts from my past are being exorcised. It’s neither pleasant or pain free, but what is becoming apparent from the process is exactly how resilient I am capable of being, and that the work being produced is good, really good. Everything changed when it stopped being about keeping other people happy, and the realisation dawned that doing stuff for myself mattered far, far more.

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The slow, steady path to self-sufficiency and enlightenment continues apace. It’s not just poetry this week, but short stories and microfiction. Every new thing I try shifts things in a different direction, gradually expanding my skills. Confidence breeds more experimentation, less fear and a continuing desire to try more things, attempt better projects, produce the best work I can.

I’m never, ever going back to being the person I used to be.

Poetry Archive :: Inside

Here’s the first of two specially-written pieces for #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek: as discussed last Monday, body image is a big deal for me and is something I’ve struggled with for decades. Now, however, it is not nearly as problematic as was once this case.

I suppose, as a result, you could consider this piece autobiographical.


Inside

Afraid of myself, skin tight
fights image others present,
content with themselves: not here
inside, conflict remains.
Body, not who I am.

Constant, persistent beat
‘life not good enough’
repeats, eat more, ignore
conflict, inside remains.
Mind, not what to think.

Understanding, emerge
chrysalis breaks, expanding
wings; inspired desire
love yourself, unbound.
Love, now what you are.

Without filters, building
inner confidence, no
co-incidence, expanding
horizons, new options.
Grasp what can now be.

Result: evolution brings
joyous optimism, ignore
criticism, other’s beauty
not my duty to uphold.
What I am: strong, bold.