Get a Job

It is almost time to unleash the latest of our monthly themes upon you, but part of my brain is all to well aware that there’s previous work to catch up on too. It doesn’t help that this week is kids’ Half Term, and therefore all normal pretensions of organisation get summarily kicked out of touch. NO MATTER. There are plans afoot to spread it all out across next week, which should have some free time locked within it.

This is also the moment where I announce formally that I’ll be taking August off from posting via the blog, but using the time to showcase the best of the previous thirty week’s worth of poetry. As there’s will have been sixty Haiku and Micropoems published during that period, it seems the ideal moment to allow me a bit of breathing space and the ability to showcase how my poetry has evolved since the start of the year.

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There’s FIVE Poetry, Short story and Fiction prizes currently on radar I feel are worth entering: there’s likely to be space for at least one more as time goes on. These require inserting into the game plan: two will be written whilst I’m on sabbatical, the other have to find a place my workload before. I may yet pre-programme a month’s worth of music and video in August too, but that will all depend on how things go in terms of bike rides and exercise.

The next couple of weeks are going to end up being crucial.

Something Changed

It might not look that way, but this week is the best things have been for quite some time.

The catch-up game today isn’t because there wasn’t anything to write about, or that I’ve run out of content: the truth is quite the opposite. A surfeit of organisation and planning collided with unavoidable real-life requirements, pushing me out of ability to sit by the keyboard long enough to get everything written down. This morning, blissfully, there’s a whole two hours of what might normally have been considered as ‘me’ time but isn’t necessary. Exercise has provided the relaxation plus a weekend is coming up of being outside and enjoying the Bank Holiday.

The back end stuff’s already looking more than satisfactorily covered.

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As we come close to the halfway point in the year, there is a realisation that these foundations are a lot stronger than at first supposed. Committing to a daily routine and weekly scheduling was not as difficult as imagined, and it is already providing a legacy that will allow a whole month off in August without a worry that content will have to stop. If this work-rate continues, I’ll just keep getting stronger. It is the literary equivalent of weight training, and maintains a mental flexibility that’s becoming as important as physical attainment.

Some days, therefore, it is just about the words on the screen. This week however, is very much planning how those words appear going forward, and what subjects are entailed.

Get Off

Today marks a significant line in the sand for my ability to plan. It is the first week since I started this journey that a complete seven days worth of Social media output is scheduled in advance. In the case of the short story, that’s a full ten days to end on the 31st (a week on Wednesday.) The plan today is to begin February’s story so I can get it to be beta read before next week, and if the planning for THAT works out, it should mean that 28 days worth will be up long before the month is done, thus granting me even more planning time. 

This expansion of the ability to fit my available spaces is having knock-on effects too. It should allow poetry to be scheduled tomorrow for weekend viewing once the daily ‘postings’ are complete… as will be the case with Conjoin. However, as is becoming apparent with each new day unless I write these things down, I do (and will forget) so it is especially vital to keep a running total of what needs to be done and when. My planner has expanded as a result to take in more space for daily notes and, so far, it appears to be working.

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Tonight, therefore, after cycling and domestic tomfoolery, I will throw down the first draft of February’s short story and complete timelines for both The Sayers and Contractus, so I can check I have events in the correct order. This is also the means by which I don’t just sit and stare at a screen for hours on end with no discernable work to show for that time. It is pushing both mind and body to make the most of the time available and not allowing procrastination to gain the upper hand. If that is able to happen for the rest of the week, there will be much rejoicing.

I wonder if this is what being a grown up really feels like?

Is That All There Is?

You may not know this, but I have a Facebook page.

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Let’s be honest here, it’s just a place where I retweet blog posts and my two Instagram feeds. I’ve tried interactions but honestly my heart is not in it. I also have a personal page but it is never used and I frankly refuse to acknowledge the procession of ‘friends suggestions’ I’m given. I can tell you exactly when my love affair with the platform ended. In the same 48 hour period, my dad and a woman I’d taken steps to distance myself from in the past both asked to follow me in quick succession. There’s a reason you put life in your own hands and don’t hand it to algorithms. After that, Facebook was always going to be an afterthought.

Honestly, I have no regrets at all.

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From The Guardian’s article

Now I’m told that all that Fake News in the US has wrought some mindful change in the platform… except people I trust are saying this is hollow. You can now make adverts for lost pets or to poll your community on what is the best picture from your family photo-shoot… but you’ll be asked to pay for them. There’s no way this platform can sustain itself as free without advertising somewhere, and it has to happen as a result, because there’s only so many ways your finite data resources can be sold. Mostly, any notion of change is irrelevant when it lies to its own users in order to get attention. I am consistently told I have far more notifications than is actually the case. An algorithm offering a new friend ‘suggestion’ is not a notification I asked for or wanted.

If I didn’t think there might be some redeemable part of this company, I would have deleted my presence a long time ago. As it happens, we may well be about to reach that point.

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As I approach the point where social interaction matters less and less if accompanied by any kind of deception, it is easier to simply uncouple from the drama. Not everybody has to be your friend. Just because other people follow you does not mean it is a requirement to either reciprocate or feel an urge to become overtly social. I have decided that if there is no real meaning in my relationships, it won’t matter how many followers appear after my name. Most people only turn up for two things anyway: offering free shit is always a great guarantee of grasping that passing interest, or having a notion of genuine skill. If I get good enough via writing to garner a large following, they will get my sense of humour and how I react to shit like this, OR ELSE THEY’D NOT HAVE FOLLOWED ME TO BEGIN WITH.

Social media is never truly yours to dictate until a certain level of ‘fame’ is reached.

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If I believe what I’m told, every time I use the f-word in a Tweet half the platform’s automatically censored from seeing I exist anyway. It doesn’t matter what I say, it is all being sanitised before the World can get indignant about it. The fact my follower count is in the negative this month for the first time in a while is nothing to do with people leaving in droves. I’m setting my own rules, and once they’re organised, we’ll see about turning those numbers around.

I’m not afraid of being alone. The bigger concern remains being genuine and true to what I believe. Once that’s consistent, we’ll work on everything else.

What’s my Name Again?

Origins

I have been working REALLY hard the last couple of months, and there are days when I will be honest, things just happen on autopilot. Last week’s National Poetry Day endeavour was not what I expected it to be: part of me felt a fair amount of disappointment. I didn’t get a single retweet for my work, and I felt the exposure gained wasn’t worth the effort expended. Then, on Friday morning, something odd happened. I was driving back from dropping the youngest from School and, sat waiting at a set of traffic lights saw a girl in her 20’s in an outfit that, at a casual glance, beggared belief.

Once upon a time, I wouldn’t have chastised myself for such a casual condemnation of personal taste. This time, however, I did and when I got home there was a sudden and rather unexpected need to write the moment down: not as a blog post, but as a poem. You can find The Girl Who looked like a Sofa here and that moment has somehow unlocked a part of my brain that used to exclusively thing in terms of prose and nothing else. Now I find myself wanting to willingly write poetry as a supplement to my stream of consciousness written output. This is a new sensation.

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Previously, I’ve been producing output almost to order, mechanically in some cases… and somewhere between this being considered requirement or relaxation, a seed has germinated. I’m beginning to think differently. There’s a need to produce poems not just as words, but in a more visually appealing manner. That’s how the idea for the 31 Days of Haiku Challenge was born, after all.

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Every day, I have determined, will be different. I’ll try my hand at design using pens for some days, find suitable locations to present thematic words on others. I want to build a picture not only of my life but the place I live and things that matter to me. Poetry has become another means of expression as a result. It is also producing surprising subsidiary benefits, mostly in the means by which I express myself normally.

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I want to do more visual work. If this can be successfully combined with words then so much the better. Almost overnight, I have a completely new means by which to express myself.

You can totally guarantee I will make the most of it.

Bad Day

WiP Day

There comes a point, in every writer’s life, when you look at a segment of plot and realise, with a heavy heart, that it is absolutely dire. After 16 years, I’ve revisited a story that is very important and yesterday, came to the first truly shoddy section of work. [*] I can’t in good conscience allow it to remain as it does, but the dialogue and exposition that takes place is pretty much vital to the overall development. So, not without a measure of trepidation, there has to be a rewrite of the entire thing from the ground up.

Once upon a time, this would have been enough for me to abandon the project. In fact, I know that’s the reason this has never been finished, time and again. At every point a problematic issue occurred, where hard-written words would have to be destroyed, panic would ensue. The epiphany that resulted from this bombshell yesterday has been making ripples all over the place this morning, and that is NEVER going to be a bad thing. In fact, it’s released a creative block that’s been hamstringing real progress for some time.

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I don’t care who you are, and how brilliant you believe work to be, everything can benefit from not being just written and presented as is. With blogging, goalposts can shift a bit, depending on the time of day something is written, or the creativity level you happen to be at when the post takes form. With fiction, rules are very different, because what matters above all else is your ability to maintain a believable narrative state. You’re selling this fiction to a reader, and to make it really immerse, there has to be a total belief that what you’ve presented is the best work possible.

That seems to matter a lot more in the realms of science fiction, which is where my story probably would be placed if they were selling it in a bookshop. Therefore, this section needs to be completely re-thought. I’m doing that right now, as it happens, as this is being typed. The scene in my head replays, over and again, working out what moves and stays, where characters shift, how dialogue alters. As soon as the sequence feels right everything is likely to be dropped so it can be plotted: that’s why the notebook’s here (/points) in case that happens when I’m out of PC range.

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Once upon a time there was a mistaken belief that all that really mattered was a decent story: now I grasp that with the best plot in the world, shoddy presentation simply make everything look bad. All the stuff learnt, over years of writing non-fiction, leads to the inevitable conclusion that sometimes, it doesn’t matter one iota how brilliant the prose is if the point you want to make is lost or indistinct. In my case, I’m explaining a central conceit of my novel here, and not doing a decent job at all. I’m 90% certain this is the right place to be doing it in (setting is solid) and the people doing the explaining are the right ones (characters are sound) it is just how those two things combine that is lacking.

Piece by piece, combining the factors required to make this work something that really matters, it will be completed in the timescale I put aside to do so. That, in itself, will possibly end up being the biggest triumph of all.


[*] Let’s face facts, it could all be shit, I have no idea, but there has to be a benchmark somewhere ^^

Take the Long Way Home

WiP Day

Those of you paying attention will know that Thursdays are now intentionally quiet on the Blogs because I’ve decided to dedicate an entire 24 hours just to writing fiction. The positive effect this is having on mental health is not to be underestimated, quite apart from the actual progress being made. 40 pages of editing was managed on MMXCI and the hope is to double that this week, but that’s not the whole story. I also forced myself to hunt down and seek out half finished works, notebooks full of treatments, and to track down fragments of documents saved on various back up CD ROMS.

The result is a new found confidence over what I have produced, and what can now be built from the foundations in place.

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Not all of these ideas are great, lets be honest. I’m not about to start shouting my proficiency from the rooftops, but there are elements from some stories that can be co-opted into others, for example. There are ways to take ideas and adapt them elsewhere, but the key is that everything is written down. Learning how to notebook, or if I’m on a treadmill write notes on my Phone has become a thing of great usefulness, and I’d argue that any artist benefits from not just working in their familiar spot or favourite space. Taking yourself out of comfort zones makes for interesting writing. By far the biggest buzz I got writing poetry this year was at a local festival. Sometimes, it helps to mix it up and do stuff that’s scary.

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What has been the most significant takeaway from all of this however is that I can write a decent story (if I say so myself.) What hasn’t happened is experimentation, or any kind of extension outside of what were very long-established comfort zones. That’s why I’ve picked the oldest story to start with, because in effect it has the most potential for re-imagination available. As a result, a major character’s changed sex, and a number of key scenes are being replotted in my MMXCI edit, to better reflect what I feel is the true diversity of humanity that should be presented. It seems odd now, looking back on what I feel had to be normal, realising that my own blinkered imagination was only reflecting back the circumstances I was trapped within.

Needless to say, I’m beyond excited at what is potentially possible with all of these works going forward. I’ll be keeping you up to date on progress, and am hoping to pick a completely new work to serialise on the website starting next year.

All You’ve Ever Wanted

Those of you paying attention will have noticed this site is now a wee bit more active than it has been: the plan, long term is to hack the place up to three posts a week. That means the news post that should be here now will only appear when I have stuff worthy of mention: this week all my top news gubbins has gone to the Personal site. I suspect that’s the way this might go for the first few weeks anyway, and assuming that’s the case I’ll try and find a moment on Saturdays to make sure the 3 posts a week regime is maintained. I had planned a launch for the new writing project on Wednesday, but last week summat had to give. Readjusting to this new schedule is proving to be far tougher on my mind than I’d previously considered.

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My grail, I realised a while back, isn’t just getting a novel published, but the systematic improvement of writing skills across the board. That means learning better to write to deadlines, reacting to news, and most importantly of all processing complex data. It is improving: more time to react and think has already provided dividends, a shifting of priorities means that I now have the opportunity to plan ahead for the first time, but that is going to take organisation that does not as yet exist. However, the foundations have been laid, and now there is time to look forward and plan the journey, which means I’m aiming next week to assign days to certain tasks. It will start with simply getting a week’s worth of posting outlined on Monday, and then taking Tuesday to be a day of filling in details. Hopefully that will then reap dividends as the week goes on.

Most significantly of all this should afford more time overall for novel catch-up, editing and further fiction projects going forward.

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The biggest enemy by far in my journey is procrastination: I’m terrible at motivating myself, and a bout of mild depression this week has only made things worse. Sure, I can exercise and run myself out of the blues with treadmill and weight loss as distraction, but this is only going to work if I make the journey attractive to begin with. I think, with the subjects I’ve chosen to cover, I have a lot of potential on offer: what it means tomorrow is a day learning Twitter jargon, researching Warcraft news and getting two planners full of potential subject matter going forward. I’ve gotten into the habit of writing my long-form piece for MMO Games the day before, and if I can do that with one part of my life, the rest of it is eminently doable.

I hope you’ll consider joining me on the next stage of my journey.

Only Myself To Blame

A cautionary tale.

This is part of a three post series for Time To Talk Day in the UK.

This morning, I’ve just spent an hour or so having a conversation with someone that shouldn’t have been done on Twitter. On reflection, 140 characters is woefully inadequate for the subject matter, and there’s so many other discussions from this one start point that have been ignited. The problem with Twitter, and there is one, is that 140 characters aren’t enough to define real intent. That’s why the company’s actively looking at extending the character limit: not simply to allow advertisers and news gatherers more chance to explain, but because when you have to be brief, so much is left unsaid. The bigger issue however isn’t just the medium’s fault: you can’t blame a communication company for their product when you yourself are misinterpreted.

That’s nobody’s fault but your own.

Yeah, well you say *that*…

Having virtual conversations is as hard as doing real ones, and there’s so much else you have to factor into the equation. For instance, if you don’t know someone well and you start a dialogue, and then one of you uses a word that means one thing to them but something quite different to you? The intent is going to be quite seriously skewed. I’ve had that happen to me more times now online than I care to remember: a word I consider innocuous becomes a racial slur, a definition for me becomes a sexual identifier for another. When you have contact which such a diverse and intellectually vast range of individuals, there’s a whole minefield out there even if you speak the same language. What you don’t get with Twitter is the back-story, depth to the front, and this only tends to surface when a contentious subject rises, or you cross areas of intellectual conflict. Often, you never realise until it’s too late: that joke in the week about Republicans for instance didn’t go down too well in certain sectors of my timeline, but in fairness that would have become an issue eventually. Here’s the more significant point: over time, using social media, you can actually get a sense of someone, and as you do, it will become apparent whether the ‘relationship’ you have will work or not. Once you grasp that sense, then you’re able to decide how to proceed.

However, and this is crucial, you must know you’re as much to blame for drama if and when it occurs as the other person.

Sorry Cher, but it’s the truth.

However blameless (or clueless) you might claim to be when drama erupts around you, you’re really not. You can feel free to invent theories and decide you know what Person B is thinking or doing, but unless you actually talk to them and find out? It’s all supposition, theory, and even if you didn’t say a word to start the current flashpoint something you’ve done weeks ago could easily have fuelled the fire. Sometimes the drama itself is enough for you to finally take a stand and remove that person from your feed/life once and for all, and if this is what happens then really, truthfully, that’s no bad thing. The reason why I’m writing this for Time to Talk day is that’s how I finally realised that actually, I needed help, and I couldn’t keep blaming other people for my own failings. It wasn’t either fair or right to do so, when the same things kept happening and the single contributing factor was my behaviour. There’s only so long you can go making other people the reason for your drama. Eventually, if you are hiding from yourself, there has to be a reckoning. When you finally accept that you are as much to blame as everyone else you choose to attack?

Many things will simply change for the better.

DON’T START.

Living with people is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you its not and those people who seem to be able to just sail through life regardless? You’d be surprised how difficult it is for them. Often these are the people who we rely on: parents, carers, hard working people who can’t vocalise their feelings as well as the mouthy, gobby ones who seem to spend their entire existences making noise. Everyone deserves to be listened to, and if you choose to cut anyone out of your life, make sure you are VERY certain and confident in your reasoning. I’m making noise this morning in the vain hope that people get to grasp that actually, you do what you know best in order to help people. For me, that’s words, and these ones are a reminder that however worthy and confident you are in yourself, you can and will be wrong in your life. Many, many times. The trick is how you deal with it, and the ability to come out of yourself and be honest when it matters may be the difference between life and death. Because, ultimately, in a world obsessed with communication, many of us are still unable to string sentences together with certain words or concepts that we can’t or won’t grasp.

Today is a Time to Talk: to someone you trust, to a friend, or even to a relative stranger. Today is a day to reach out and ask for help. This is a moment to grasp and exploit, for your own future and good health. Yes, I know how frightening that can be, trust me, but if you can find it within yourself to do so?

A whole new world is out there for you to discover.

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