Stones in the Road

That’s not how I expected the last couple of weeks to pan out, all told.

I’ve said elsewhere that I don’t want to talk about what’s happened: what’s done is done, and there’s no point in picking certain events to pieces. However, what this does mean going forward is a process of recovery which has put into relief other parts of my life that were being neglected pre-illness. In that regard, this is the right moment to take stock and consider what happens now.

There are a number of submissions I’ll do this month, but less than planned. I have a speaking gig booked locally for the 19th of this month, which is a priority. After that, everything else can wait. Therefore, this site and the Twitter account will go on hiatus until October 1st. This gives an opportunity to sort the world around me out a bit more (and it needs it) before coming back both fitter and stronger.

There are some other things too that happened whilst I was away. Whether or not I managed to get featured or not is yet to be seen: I’ll be poking the people concerned over this during the week to see if they can tell me if my consent form was worth the effort I had to make to get it printed whilst on holiday. Whatever happens, it’s been an eye opening fortnight.

Here’s to more surprises going forward.

Look Out Any Window

One of the most important things learnt in over twenty years online involves other people’s perception of what’s right. Not everybody has the same opinion as yours: those opinions aren’t facts either, often they are a view of reality that’s distorted through a series of deeply personal, subjective lenses. Challenging your view of right should be everybody’s default stance: learning, growing, and most importantly accepting that multiple ‘right’ opinions can exist alongside each other harmoniously.

On the third day of Mslexicon, it became apparent just how many good things can co-exist happily alongside each other without any conflict occurring. When you are prepared to be vulnerable, truly willing to allow other people into your personal space,  astounding things can and do happen. More importantly, allowing yourself to be kind, not judging yourself on other’s benchmarks, can offer significant transformation to mindsets that previously were unwilling to shift.

My life has undoubtedly changed after three days away in Leeds.

These ladies deserve all the love: hardworking, enthusiastic and genuinely interested they also make a cracking cuppa when required. Events don’t work properly without solid, well-organised management at it’s core, and this whole event owes a significant debt to the people who created it. More of us who come to enlighten ourselves should remember how lucky we are to have such opportunities available in the first place. This weekend really was something utterly special.

On Sunday I’ll freely admit I hit maximum brain capacity, thanks to two stonking talks by Rosie Garland and Margaret Wilkinson. Quite honestly, I think more’s been taken from this couple of hours than I’d managed to glean from several years doing English and Drama at degree level: sometimes, you need somebody with whom you just totally click and then understand without months of thrashing about feeling perplexed. I’d have killed to have met both these ladies as an awkward twenty-summat, that’s for damn sure.

I’m also aware that there wasn’t enough sleep over three days to do everything that was presented to me justice. Assuming I can afford to do this again next year, lessons will be learnt. An extra day for travelling, for starters, so it’s easier to get comfortable quicker. I need to ask more people’s names, spend more time just talking and decompressing between sessions. Adrenaline’s a great drug, but it really does make switching off quite difficult when required.

I now have an idea for a novel that two total strangers have encouraged me to write. There’s confidence in my social skills that simply did not exist previously to last weekend. I know I’ve done a lot of that work, that accepting I had mental health issues and going to get them identified is half the battle; having people who support without thought and encourage unconditionally is an amazing way you can grow and develop as a person. So much of that is still happening too, seven days on.

The Mslexia people knew this concept was a winner when it was created. I don’t need to tell you that sometimes, all that is really needed is the means by which great ideas can become brilliant experiences. This is the gift to myself that will continue to keep on giving many, many months after Leeds itself becomes a happy memory. The fact remains however, this isn’t somebody else providing you with all the answers. If you came expecting to become a better writer, you have a lot of work to do.

I have a lot of other feedback too, and over the weekend intend to throw an e-mail off to the organisers to cover what were, in the main, minor quibbles. Nothing at all made this event anything other than hugely satisfying: that’s really important to state. This isn’t shameless fangirling, but the honest truth. I was given a space in which I could exist with utter safety, with only myself as the restriction. Moments like this need to be grasped, embraced, and then loved for the joy they produce.

This is just one of the many stops on a journey to true enlightenment.

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.

Mirrorball

I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few weeks staring inwards, at places that previously were difficult to even get close to. An awful lot of these are inextricably linked to long form works which, it is now apparent, served purpose not simply as narratives. Amongst these, amazingly, was a selection of work which I thought only existed as A4 documents. This weekend I was able to find saved versions of everything, which means the paper versions can finally be consigned to recycling.

I wonder, should the files also get deleted?

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It is great to think that sometimes, the answer to everything is just pretending that the bad stuff does not exist. There are undoubtedly moments when doing so is useful, but in other cases, ignoring the past is unhelpful. These bits of writing show up some major shortcomings in my processes, that’s for damn sure, but they are undoubtedly useful demonstrations of what is done best. For every negative there is also undoubtedly a positive.

Deleting them frees up hard disk space, sure. Re-writing them is a waste of time and effort, undoubtedly. However, and probably most importantly, acknowledging what they represent in a personal chronology is absolutely vital. So, I’ve gone back and re-read them all, returning brain to a time where everything changed forever: my fist pregnancy and the birth of my son. On reflection, I wasn’t ready for any of it, and this probably has a lot to do with what happened subsequently.

I’ll be discussing this undoubtedly in counselling going forward.

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Maybe one day, if the urge strikes me, these stories will be shared again: that’s the irony in all of this, of course. Once upon a time everything existed on the Internet. I even have the self-designed webpages where all these things were housed. However, that was a lifetime ago. Maybe, if you are really smart, you can find the places where some of these stories still remain.

We all have to start somewhere.

Rip It Up

As a wise man once said: break’s over. Time to get back to work.

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On my way back from Blood Donation #6 this morning [four more and I GET A BADGE] the entire plan for January’s Short Story got thrown in the furnace. Instead, we have a NEW PLAN and, in even more SHOCK NEWS, the luxury of a cushion of content at the get-go. I do love scheduling things, but that largely involves having the ideas ready to roll. This time, WE DO. This is, quite frankly, unbelievable scenes.

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It’s not just this stuff that’s raring to go either. The reason why EX/WHI‘s not on the site either (but should be tomorrow) is that late last week, an opportunity presented itself to take all the sad, rejected poetry from this year (of which there is a fair amount) and reinvent it as a collection. How could I refuse? Add to that the best of my online output for the year (I checked, they’ll accept work that has been published online but that isn’t part of a collection) and BOOM there was a lovely flurry of very productive activity.

Quite a few things were ‘refreshed’ from the ground up, whilst a couple simply got cut and pasted into the .PDF. It was a particularly good exercise in knowing what works with my poetry, and being brutal over what used to be good and is absolutely no longer the case. Oh, and for a contest that closes tomorrow, there’s a new poem too: the chances of that winning its particular prize are astronomically tiny. In fact, should even get a mention in dispatches, I’ll eat a snood.

I don’t have time to chat, there’s still far too much to do here. If I can truly get on top of this as the New Year rolls in, there’s a good chance to feel suitably invincible for several weeks.

That’s something worth making an effort for…

Blue Sky Thinking :: Dread

[INT; Alt’s Brain. Good and Bad are standing on opposite sides of a very large sinkhole, which has unexpectedly appeared in a vital part of the organisation structure. They stare at each other with uncertainty.]

BAD: Nope, this definitely wasn’t here yesterday.

GOOD: Wonder how much stuff we’ve lost down there…

[From the darkness of the hole there is movement, then a small, hesitant voice calls up.]

DREAD: Er… is there any chance of a rope…?


It’s not been a great week. I’m behind, but am determined to get everything back to a semblance of normality as quickly as possible. It would help if I didn’t have this constant, nagging fear at the back of my mind that there’s really no point, because if there was only one reader total on my blog last week, why exactly am I bothering?

One day, that could all change, but if I don’t try, how will I know?

Imposter Syndrome is a bitch.


DREAD

Between breaths, dread slides,
hand to shoulder, slightest pressure
restrict movement, arrest progress
perfect assassin, silent killer.

I will prevent, hold back, disarm
progression, confidence, belief
this life, not yours, penance made
each joy, removed, destroyed.

Hole opens beneath, hope swallowed, receding faith, destruction
sucked downwards, spat outwards, crushed beneath, opened up:
depression formed, weathered front, low pressure, happiness drowned…

You win.

I’m lost.

Sanity

smallest cost.


 

Paranoid Android

I have a problem with self-promotion.

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Things have improved over the last couple of years, but the whole ‘sell yourself’ thing is tough. It isn’t just the British reserve either, far more significant worries from beginning to grasp there’s been a lifetime of misinterpreting the signals of others in personal situations to assimilate first. Getting all that settled in my head’s been a fairly notable undertaking but finally, there is light at the end of the mother of all tunnels.

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This means that, starting in September, the promotion machine will move into high gear. I suspect this site will undergo a revamp, to try and make it more friendly to potential individuals and organisations who may wish to approach. For those of you who don’t like the idea of me getting all commercial? I’m sorry, but at least part of my future is now being pushed this way, and there’s no going back now. This week the first of many applications for writing support is submitted, plus poetry finalisedto be considered for financial gain.

There really is no going back from this path now.

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I’m cautiously optimistic for the future, because pinning all your hopes on summat and then watching it fail is no way to live a sensible existence. We’ll just keep plugging away at this stuff for as long as is needed, and keep on writing in the spaced in between. That’s what matters most of all: not the recognition, but the words that narrate life’s inevitable progress.

That’s something I’m getting increasingly good at controlling.