Always There

The plan, at the start of this year, was to own something saleable to self-produce by the end of the year. It was initially the intention to only do this digitally: that should hopefully still take place in the next couple of weeks but my first serious foray into publication will be with a physical collection. I’ve spent the last six weeks or so putting finishing touches to a proof and obtaining prices from local printers. A final amendment to my original cover design has been double-checked, plus a biography added to the back. On the 19th I’ll send everything to the people chosen to handle this task and wait for a proof…

If all goes well, by the middle of November, there’ll be a debut pamphlet to purchase.

Part of me hoped this particular collection might be picked up by a major publisher but nobody seems to consider a 53-year-old mother of two’s mental health journey as particularly saleable. I can completely understand why that would be the case, and why to favour supporting authors who have a proven track record of selling poetry makes far more sense financially. I’m not an idiot. These are difficult times for everybody. It’s why the decision was made to dip into savings in order to fund this, and to know well in advance not simply the viability of the product, but EXACTLY how many copies need to be sold to break even.

This project then becomes maths plus ability, and allows me to make what I want and not to compromise on what is, at times, very personal content. There’s a number up on the wall, a pricing scheme which is acceptable for what is produced, plus a marketing campaign of my own design which will reveal the best of what I can offer as a mental health poet. This will culminate in producing a complete reading of all the poems for Time to Talk Day in February, where I’ll explain the details of this journey from childhood to the present day.

Normally, I’d be obsessed with NaNoWriMo at this point… and I am, after a fashion. The idea is all ready to roll, I’ve already started writing, but next week is not going to be some adverts and building a webpage so that I can start taking pre-orders. I reckon that’s a good couple of days work, and as I intend to take a day off on Friday (*cough* BIRTHDAY *cough*) So, once that’s done, you’ll be getting alternate posts on both of these, and I really can’t complain that there’s not sufficient excitement in my life.

Well, I could, but it would be a complete lie.

Somersault

It occurs to me that constantly having to keep yourself accountable is a lot harder work than it first appears, especially when people are paying to help you progress. It is easy to see how so many people in the arts industry burn out so quickly: it is a treadmill, and it never stops. Therefore, training yourself to be able to get on and off whilst the thing is still moving is the skill I’m now very glad to have grasped.

Over the last week, a lot of plans have been put in place, yet again, and others have had their objectives subtly realigned. By the end of October we should have the self-published pamphlet ready to roll, but this is going to depend on pricing from printers, which I can’t finalise until the contents of said pamphlet are complete… finishing matters more than anything else. Then, once my graphic design skills have been tested…

Needless to say, if I’m not in the right mindset, this is all an awful lot harder.

There’ll be more news on this project on the 15th 😀

Love’s Great Adventure

Following on from Tuesday’s reminder of things past, today is very much about what is to come. The Places of Poetry anthology launches on National Poetry Day, which is a week from now. I’ve got a couple of things ready to roll, and hope to have my first proper video complete by then. After that there’s the virtual launch with a bunch of people far better qualified at doing this stuff than I am. There will be lots of notes taken.

It’s what then happens next that now occupies my mind.

I’ve spent the last few days preparing what needs to be done. Now it’s just a matter of making my way through it, then organising myself appropriately. There’re calenders to print and possible new things to enter/submit to, and after that some time an effort should be given to make a new biography and headshot for the web page. As I picked up my inclusion to the anthology on spec, there is always the opportunity this will bring in interest.

Next week, we’ll start talking about my next potential project.

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.

Magnificent (She Says)

I have finished my impromptu project: I need to talk about why it needed to be written now.

You see, NOW is when I do my best work. It’s not perfect, by any means, but it is beginning to become apparent that if I want to have an immediacy and vitality to what is being produced, miring myself down in self-doubt is what is ruining a lot of current output. It stops sounding like me, because There’s this obsession that to be successful, I ought to sound like other people. Confidence is the biggest single issue here, to be able to produce quality amongst quantity.

I’m also not the kind of person who can wander around for months and just wait for the right things to emerge. Patience isn’t an obstacle to progress either: this has become like learning to be a better cyclist or a more competent weightlifter. A daily practice is required, constant testing of spaces around me to see if they are more or less capable of supporting progression. I’ve spent a quite painful couple of months mired in emotion. This collection marks the transition from that space, into a new one.

There’s still a bit of emotional baggage to drop, it must be said, but without doubt there is more optimism for this group of poems than has ever existed before. To capitalise on that means a focussed effort towards change, growth and expansion. It also demanded a rearrangement of my priorities without the world collapsing as a result, and (mostly) that has taken place. I’m a bit behind, but nowhere near as far behind as when this last happened.

Everything is slowly becoming clear. That’s the end result in all of this: having a sense of evolution in a manner that allows further writing to develop without the need for everything to fracture. I’ll be editing this at leisure, and then we’ll send it to the place that inspired its creation.

This is a VERY good day as a result.

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.

Overload

I mentioned in passing on Monday that I’ve had an idea in my brain for a while that might work as a ‘proper’ collection of poetry: that is, a lot of pieces, which when strung together create their own, self-contained story. I’ve only worked with small numbers of poems previously, because the idea of anything over twenty at once quite frankly made me feel unwell.

However, a lot has changed in the last three months. Lockdown has been surprisingly kind to me in that regard, and whilst many are struggling to put anything worthwhile together, I really have thrived under the pressure. Therefore, not only is the idea for a massive opus no longer just that but exists (at least in two parts) on paper, but the theme that will hold it all together is clear: mental health.

I feel there is a great hole here, waiting to be filled.

randoradar#3

Nobody has experienced mental health difficulties in quite the way I have. It has created a unique mindset and outlook. Every word written is, like it or not, affected by that outlook: therefore if I can write a 70,000 word fanfic to a strict deadline I sure as fuck will make a poetry project come to life in the same timescale. What needs to happen is the setting for it all, and that’s already happening.

Putting the right foundations in place is the key, it is apparent already how that allows the business of words to correspond with ideas. There’ll also need to be a soundtrack too, and that’s being built on the newly-introduced daily walks around the block (note my block for this exercise is 4km long) as the rhythm of movement then corresponds to the business of lyrical suffrage. Trust me, that’s what it will be.

A great deal of suffering will take place for this art.

randoradar2

Many things are aligning, and radar is pinging back new places to be, other positions to consider. Every time something positive takes place that too sets up reverberations in the ether, possibilities previously not considered. I like these ideas being sonar, sounds from nowhere pinging backwards and forwards until their target is located. It appeals to the science part of my brain.

Strap in guys, things are about to get surreal.

Run To the Hills

Last week will be remembered for many things, but most particularly because I created two submission packages from existing work and sent them away with possibly the minimum amount of stress I’ve ever experienced. Normally, such things would take a phenomenal amount of mental energy to put together, and then get sent off with often ridiculous amounts of perceived expectation.

Not this time. I cannot allow myself to pin hopes on stuff like this any more, it’s ridiculous considering how low the success rates are for acceptance. Instead, Patreon grants me the opportunity to create original, important content at my speed, in my own space and, most crucially on my own terms. This has become the expectation and anticipation that’s required to keep my brain both alert and comfortable.

Selfish

This means that my commitment to new work can continue unabated (and it is, got a massive project planned for June, layout and contents already sketched and ready to roll) without the stress of feeling there is no professional momentum. That’s what this has all been about in the last two years, getting noticed and putting myself about which is proceeding as well as can be expected in the midst of a pandemic.

After that, it is hit and hope, which has always been the case when all is said and done. At least right now it’s a cheap lifestyle that’s being lead, I’m able to still create content with a measure of confidence and belief, and the wheels haven’t fallen off anything for AGES. You celebrate every victory as they happen in situations such as this. It is a daily process of staying calm, focussed, whilst producing something as progress.

After that, everything else is a welcome bonus.

2020 Week 20 Poetry: Anger

In the past few weeks, strange things have begun to transpire in the poetic parts of my brain. It’s not a worry, far from it: daily practice and a new openness to moving words into different spaces that were previously unexplored is producing some fascinating new combinations. Undoubtedly this will continue to be actively influenced by the introduction of video content into the equation.

I have an idea for my first full collection.

There’s a new pamphlet in the works.

What a time to be creative, and lucky to be alive.


Anger

What began, only remains sacrificed with ungodly zeal, altered outlooks reveal disquiet,
unexpectedly adroit, passively regressive understanding, Zen demanding.

Insidious fuse, unconsciously lit, don’t think she’ll get away with it: scarlet womankind,
sexuality unwinds, leisurely descent, decent laments loss of splattered purity.

Anger explodes, abode decimated, consecrated ground shaking; liberties taking quickest
path, highest land abandoned, no longer sacrosanct.

As her lust settles, desired reanimates, immediate placation of destructive situation...
everything resisted; actively assisted returns to movement, circumstance.

Such drama, crisis cavitates creating pressure, tension’s taut suspension; what was end
begins renewed; gentlest caress quietly begins redress.