Ballroom Blitz

This weekend, for the first time for a while, I willingly wrote some poems.

All around me, almost constantly, is the reminder of ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’ that makes the difference. I could try and pretend it isn’t that way but like it or not, this is part of your rite of passage, in whatever new fandom you find yourself working within. Call it a community, commune, movement or any number of other adjectives to describe a bunch if people with a similar interest. Needless to say, you’re in fandom.

Entering the Poetry Fandom in my early 50’s is quite intimidating, but this is not unusual. There are lots of women doing this, I even read an article about some of them. The key to escaping mediocrity’s gravity is to get published or lucky on Social media. Both need a phenomenal amount of work. I’ve only really been at this for a shade under two years. That’s no time at all, and there’s this continuous reminder, day in and day out, that I’m not doing enough.

Fuck me, woman, you only just got started.

I’m ready to work again: there’s a personal project being tinkered with starting this week (once I have a residency proposal sent off to the local art collective) plus the normal run of creative outputs, but let’s be honest, none of this is keeping me in chocolate and new trousers, so it is time to see if the Dial a Rhyme service might have some merit. Honestly, what’s the worse that could happen?

On top of this, there’s a bunch of other things happening, at least one of which is deeply personal. I gotta hope that doesn’t derail everything else, but it’s always a chance. That’s the thing with life, you never know what’s going to happen next. So, do you sit and wait for opportunities to come drop into your lap, or do you get yourself out there, waving your wares to the World, in the vain hope that something might stick?

This new career isn’t going to fashion itself. Down to the business of shameless self-promotion.

Lose Yourself To Dance


I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’ve always wanted to be able to get to the top of a set of stairs without being out of breath. Both of these, on particular days, can end up as problematic.

Athletic ability, in the last six months, has begun to show significant improvement. Having exchanged five kilos of fat for muscle since August, all the right boxes are being ticked, but there remains that same struggle when initially warming up. It is exactly the same issue encountered on any upward flight of steps in the morning or the first five minutes walk on a cold day. My lungs, like it or not, react badly in certain conditions. It’s been that way since I was a child.

It was this that prompted the family doctor, back in my early teens, to tell me in no uncertain terms that if I started smoking, it would kill me. It wouldn’t be the accumulation of bad shit in my body that would do the damage, but that one morning where lungs went into spasm and I effectively choked to death thanks to an inability to just do what everybody else manages as normal. Those lung spasms still happen, but with decreasing frequency, constant beat that reminds me not to get complacent.

Then, there’s everybody and my family’s assertion that being a writer is a mug’s game, despite the fact I was paid to do it for a number of years as proof that yes, I’m capable. ‘What if nobody publishes your stuff?’ is no longer an issue (see Thursday’s blog post) but an initial justification will never remain sufficient to satisfy a voracious appetite for originality, and as I’m learning pretty much daily how to be a better writer, that process is never ending.

What happens next? Well, that’s a very good question, and one that’s not being readily answered as I type this blog post. There’s a lot of stuff I’d like to do, some things that remain a priority, and others that have become habit. As to how all that fits into the wider picture… there is a plan. Stuff will be taken away. Nothing is going to be added, but focus will be subtly redefined. For now, everything on the wall gets me into the first two weeks in January. After that, it is time for a new plan.


None of this is smoke and mirrors, because I’d choke on one and probably break the other. I don’t need magic, just hard work.

Time to make things happen.

In and Out

I’d love to know how Normal Brains work. By that, a couple of assumptions are made: there are people who do not go through the mental turmoil I seem to cope with on a semi regular basis, and there are people who just write and everything comes out fine. Yes, I know you do editing and you tweak and then you go get some advice from your friends and tweak some more but… Okay, let me try and explain the problem I have in words that make sense.

I’ve always been able to write, and if you look at my work across a period of years it is obvious where the light-bulb moments have taken place. Just as pianists must practice, or an athlete will run every day whilst in competition, keeping mental faculties sharp is a vital part of the evolutionary process. What didn’t happen was the discovery of my own internal ‘voice’ until very recently (and by that I mean the last five years.) Fiction before this point was variable at best, and I’d not written a poem since the late 1980’s.

It was time to go to the mattresses.

Fighting myself has been very productive since 2012: pushing away the perceived barriers of ability, logically dismissing shortcomings, learning from everywhere and anywhere. The oddest stuff has been inspiration, literally hundreds of hours reading other people’s advice, so that a workable path could be plotted between where I was and where ability needed to be. A fellow writer this week has lamented the time its taken her to edit her novel. I’ve been at MMXCI for over 18 years, only now close to something that could be considered worthwhile.

I have 007 to thank, of course, for the training wheels that were stuck on my two fanfics, easily removed and bolted onto my own work. Creating a work of fiction in a well-established, easily accessible Universe give an opportunity to work out what is needed for your own to work, and for me there were so many holes to be filled when pulling MMXCI back to the table. However, now comes the realisation why that is so important, as the narrative pretty much runs as parallel experience for how I managed to find my way from the lowest point in my life in 2005 until now.

I have inadvertently written an autobiographical novel.

What has happened in between 1999 and now, of course, is the continued and systematic learning and unlearning of the restrictions on my mental freedom. After all that time, I really am getting somewhere.

That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore

I should probably apologise for the increase in navel-contemplation over the last week, but personal circumstances are getting the better of me. Normally I’d have no issues in coming forward with details, but all of the issues in the last week are nothing to do with me and everything around other people who don’t deserve to have their stories massively publicised in an attempt to garner even more attention. Sometimes, it is not about drama. Let’s face it, that’s the way it should be most of the time, but that doesn’t stop the World and their extended family from shoving all manner of pointless guff all over the Interwebs.

Then when someone famous doesn’t do just that, everybody acts all surprised.

The concept of the reality star not having a pregnancy in public is so joyously refreshing as to belie current reality. Of course, now you’ll get all the edited highlights in a very well-planned, pre-packaged retro-applied lump, but the fact remains that this is a woman controlling her own life. That alone is worth the admission price. I wish more people would think about how they react to the rest of the world in this fashion without the desire just to have something up on Social media. Sometimes, it is as if even the sensible and sane individuals are just on autopilot and will post anything if it makes them look like they’re popular.

I am feeling the disconnect more than usual because, I know, emotionally I am broken. That makes the funny joke that is told over and over to death enough to make me throw mints at the screen, and to just shout at everything to go away… but the fix isn’t ignoring everybody else. That’s where I have to deal with myself. Having forced myself to do this in public for Time to Talk week last week, which coincided with the problems, to begin with, there now should be a quiet, organised withdrawal to distance to lick my wounds and move on. If you wonder why I’m acting a bit odd on Twitter in the next few weeks, or both poetry and prose appears extra angsty… well, now you knowExcept there are no details, and that’s the way it’s going to stay.

Maybe one day I’ll feel comfortable enough to tell people the truth, but I doubt it.

Forget You


This is not the post I intended to write, but is probably the one that ought to be written.

I have a terrible memory: I make no bones about this, and it has always been this way. When bad stuff happens my brain, almost as a defence mechanism, shuts down. This is particularly true when I’m stressed or in confrontational situations: forgetting what I’ve said in the heat of an argument, because it is impossible for instant recall to operate successfully. This means over the years that my chronology of how stuff has played out is less than reliable, and if asked to go back major incidents… well, I can’t. Only recently did I grasp why this was, and that I was the one to blame.

I do know however that, in my fifty years so far on this planet, I rarely covered myself in glory until becoming a Mother. When that happened, everything changed. The selfish part of my personality had no choice than to accept the situation I was in. The decision  was simple: change your ways, or everything will play out as it did, and you do NOT want that for your kids. There are a couple of moments in the last sixteen years therefore that I will not allow myself to ever forget, because I learnt to remember. My brain is now more alert and capable than it was in my teens. I grasped that change was possible.

Those people who know me now would I suspect not recognise the person I was in my twenties. I’m not sure I’m even proud or comfortable going back to that period even mentally more than once a week. It has been tough, when compiling a chronology, to avoid words like selfish, thoughtless and arrogant. So much of other people’s lives these days is revisionist for a reason: you were young, everybody’s allowed to be human… but I don’t like the idea that somehow, this is acceptable as an excuse any more. I was a terrible, horrible person back then. It’s not me being hard on myself. It’s a fact.

I have a hard time with the notion that people can change, even though I know it is possible, as I alter almost daily. However, there’s finally some sound thinking behind the reasoning: knowing exactly how much work is required to make that happen, what has to be sacrificed to get to the stage where you have nothing left to lose… that’s never a journey I’d send anyone else on. I couldn’t, am nowhere near qualified to do so. Only when you’ve decided that living is better than the alternative for yourself comes the realisation that to find redemption is worth the effort.

You can tell someone death isn’t their answer, but to have them believe you? That is out of your hands. I know enough people who have lost part of their heart to suicide to grasp that side of the coin: I flipped it a few times, but I never called the outcome because, in the end, I finally understood that the way out really was my path to define. Once I was able to conquer the fears that had quite literally been beaten into me, the rest seemed… well, easy by comparison. Everything is simple when the emotion and anger is taken away. Yet still, I get haunted by echoes of that past.

I wanted to write for as long as I could remember because those stories were what kept me alive and sane. In a way, that’s still the case: when I need to exercise for an hour and every muscle aches, I’ll vanish into my head and recall a story I’m working on, or a script I’d love to write. My imagination, after all these years, still provides the vital support required to allow me to function as a human being. Without that internal strength, lost in my teens and finally recovered in my early 40’s, I’d not be here today.

As I continue this journey, I don’t want it to be just about the positives. My life is not some hugely redemptive or inspirational journey. There are low points, people I never want to speak to again, parts of my life that can stay exactly where they were left to never be touched again. This is not about making some big deal of that stuff either, but to pretend it never took place is ignoring a vital part of what has become my fuel, means by which I can finally create some measure of peace and stability.

Next week I’ll write about my first experiences with words and the Internet, but for now, I want to make sure the pictures I’m painting are clear. Someone called into question the way I’d presented a part of their chronology in relation to me a while back, took issue at the manner in which I’d presented a situation, as if I’d somehow intentionally removed what they saw as their influence from my life. The truth is, for about forty five years of the last half century, I’ve let no-one really close to me except my husband. If you called me a friend up until a couple of years ago, it was a quite carefully engineered, one sided affair. For that I am very sorry.

Only when I felt confident enough to reach out to someone did that situation change. I’m still pretty much fumbling in the dark, inspired by others on an almost daily basis. I have nobody that remains as a contact from school, college or two decades of fandom. Everybody has been left behind, by my own choice, because I could not find a way to comfortably communicate with anyone as I was. I’m still learning, pretty much every day and even now the people I’d consider close don’t need a full hand to count.

However, the difference between before and now is that I feel I could pick up the phone and talk to any of my friends without a panic attack or not understanding how they felt in return. I feel truly relaxed and myself when in the same room. That has nothing at all to do with them, of course, and everything in the world to do with me. In all of this, I have been the problem. Its why I don’t talk about the past very much because… well, I was a terrible friend. I’m better now, so let me just take responsibility for how badly that all worked out and just move on.

There is an almost certain inevitability that if things go the way I hope, I’m going to have to deal with someone from that past in the future. When that happens, I’ll cope a damn sight better than I ever did before. Until it happens, I’m going to lay it all on the line here, for anyone to read. I’ll never name names, and never have, because nobody else in any of this is to blame. I was the one who caused your issues, with one key exception. It is probably why now the notion of Internet drama makes me laugh, because these are tiny drops in enormous ponds and really, truthfully, nothing matters unless you’ve been  really stupid. Then, you’re on your own.

If you’re going to live your life in public, be ready for every consequence that involves, including the very real possibility your past is not only reading, but waiting for the right moment to return and make existence living hell. I’m ready to do this. Honestly, there’s nothing now I won’t be able to cope with.

Give it your best shot.


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