Learning to Fly

Some days, it gets old. When publishers use online resources to gather your submissions, but then can’t be bothered to offer the same courtesy in order to let you know you didn’t make it. When rejection letters are so generic and yet positive as to be, quite frankly, depressing beyond belief. The long periods when you sit around, ignorant and clueless, no idea if your work has been chosen, or even if it’s been read. Then, to add insult to injury, some famous writer turns up in your Social media mentions before preaching from their position of wealth and success, telling you to never give up.

Yes, you will continue to fail, but not nearly as much as you think.

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There’s a lot of virtual fatigue around these parts of late: whether you’ve had enough of the news coverage, political turmoil, the naysayers almost joyfully predicting the Apocalypse has already arrived… none of this is any help at all when the future, at least for you, is tied to a bunch of people who don’t seem to care one iota about what you’ve done, until suddenly they decide they can make money from it.

That’s the key to breaking the control such things have on creativity; this is not about what you’re writing to make money. Of course it would help, and we all need to be careful of the promises made to ourselves and others when such lofty claims are thrown about. In the end, writing has to be about deriving pleasure from the action. You need to find the means by which development takes place, allowing creativity to move forward. Without this, there is stagnation, and ultimately depression.

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The key, of course, is to keep trying. The mark of the best writers is the undiminished enthusiasm for all forms of their craft, regardless of their situation. In my mind, the  famous writers sitting on social media, telling others how to succeed are doing it wrong. There, I said it. There are rules, sure, and there are processes certainly, but the best way isn’t what somebody else tells you to do. It’s the way you feel happiest. Learning is incredibly subjective, and if you’re struggling with difficulty in that department, it can feel like an uphill slog.

It’s become an industry out here of coaches, supporters, service industries you can’t live without: programmes for editing and grammar, insistence you need to have never published online, that virtual books are somehow less important than their paper counterparts… and the list goes on. In the end, your individual version of success will vary. Other people will only consider you successful when you earn money from your writing. Personal satisfaction, growth and evolution become completely irrelevant.

Those people are wrong, too.

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In the end, you do feel everything, like it or not. Good and bad, capable or otherwise. As you continue to fail, success can seem a lifetime away, if all you define progress upon is the validation of others. This is my (by now daily) reminder that they don’t matter. I do. This is my journey and not theirs, and although their intervention affects progress, it will never be the best reward. That comes every time someone thanks me for a post, or enjoys a poem. This is the stuff that cannot be bought.

This is the true satisfaction derived from the written word.

Free as a Bird

On my day (which let’s face it is most of them) I am a world class procrastinator. The problem with this, looking at the calendar, is that we’re already three months into 2019 and this bid for World domination is not going to move itself. So, how do you push past failure and remain focused?

The top of those two monthly planners (intentionally blurred so you don’t get to see what I’m working on) has a very clear set of outlines. Next week, without fail, I was gonna push out some poetry (despite telling myself I was done for a bit, which was clearly a lie.) Except this morning, whilst desperately looking for a way to avoid having to tidy up, brain informed the Poetry Department it had a couple of rather useful lead-ins to the work that needs to be done. An hour later, I’ve written two out of four of my initial submission plan.

What occurred to me as I was hoovering up the floor avoided an hour previously was the rearrangement of mental priorities which is freeing up more creativity. What used to be the case is that there’d be no real grasp of what needed to happen when: this would lead to a ton of last minute panics, with work being rushed. If there’d been sufficient planning, more effort could have been put in at the outset. Having used wall planners now for about six months, it’s a far more effective means of getting deadlines to stick, and not panicking over outcomes.

The visual is a really big deal, which should have been more obvious than it was. There’s a third planner up on the wall, a 12 month one, on which deadlines are slowly being filled.It allows my brain the space to grasp what there is to do, what’s coming and where everything fits together. It also, crucially, allows me to plan for surprises. That’s what, if I can do something well before a deadline, it is far more sensible than leaving everything until a week before when inevitably, there’s more pressure.

It transpires that this is how I work best.

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Of course, none of this wins me anything, but that’s perfectly fine. The satisfaction I now feel in being able to manage and feel comfortable in my own skin, to recover from disappointment to get back into the process of writing is worth considerably more to mental well-being long-term. In that regard, this is far more significant a win than anything else that’s likely to happen for a while.

Finally, there’s a freedom just to be that didn’t exist before.

The Big Sky

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I’ve recently replaced my ancient Fruit Phone. Some of you would do a like for like exchange, but I’ve picked the Chinese upgrade that isn’t here for apps or looks, but comes with three Leica camera lenses. Photography is a love affair that began in my teens and shows no sign of diminishing. My obsession, as has been the case for decades, are the images with details often only I seem to find attractive.

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Now, of course, there’s comprehension as to why patterns such as these are so pleasing (and often reassuring, I’ll be honest.) There is a decent spread of subject matter in my work however: places, people, and only the occasional obsession into details. You’ll see my Instagram work linked on the front page, and nearly all of my artwork utilises my own work alongside stock photography. For the more curious, there’s a Flickr page with the complete history in pictures.

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I will admit to an obsession with looking up: late nights, early mornings, and the reminder that another day will take away the pain of before and help build strength going forward. It is also the intractable reminder of our place in the Universe, memo to be grateful for everything that is presented and not waste any time in enjoying the moment. This is the bit that’s still a struggle, but in the glorious brightness of the sunny days, everything is considerably easier.

There’ll be a lot more photography in the future, and as days begin to get longer in a few weeks you can bet that will involve being outside with the camera…

The Universal

The Internet, depending on who you believe, is either the Best or Worst place on Earth. You can find instructions on how to make almost anything, the history of the Planet, what words mean in hundreds of languages. It is teeming with brilliance and productivity, or is a cesspool of anger, resentment and danger. How you view online existence will undoubtedly be tempered by experiences within the Real World. It’s no less dangerous, and can be manipulated in the same ways that transpire everywhere else.

So, why do so many people feel they’re above consequence and can exist anonymously without recrimination?

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Our Twitter short story this month deals with such an individual, whose existence in fiction is very simple to realise, based on the evidence that surrounds me every day. When I’ve personally been attacked online, it’s taken about thirty minutes to track and trace the individuals responsible. If you don’t disable location services from your phone, for instance, anonymity is the biggest joke going. Many people will argue that the future isn’t anonymous anyway: everybody needs to know who you are.

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Read the BBC Article here

That article is well worth your time, but doesn’t consider one of the main reasons why being a dick online is the new ‘knocking on your neighbours’ door and running away:’ who’s going to chase after you and demand an arrest for harassment?  Everybody’s Internet use works on the concept that being anonymous allows a certain freedom, which was for some time almost sacrosanct. At least, it was until that Facebook thing happened: then, people began to realise just how fucking cavalier they’d been with their personal information whilst under the impression a ‘fun online quiz’ wasn’t a subtle means to intellectually profile:

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Except if you’d been here since the 1990’s and paid attention you’d know just how dangerous this place can be when you allow anyone to use it without there being some kind of consequence attached. As a parent, I now know only too well just how damaging unsupervised access can be, and how clamping down on said access has similarly disastrous outcomes. You are damned at either end of the spectrum, and just removing yourself from a platform is no indicator you’ll be safe or in control. There is no real answer to remaining out of the loop: however, if you’re still stupid enough to think you’re smart enough to have it all your own way? Think again.

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Having dealt with some fairly devious behaviour in the last few months, it is clear that nothing is beyond some individuals in an attempt to manipulate and control others. Perhaps it is time to stop hoping that people will simply be decent or there’s some supernatural force available to save us all, and just start thinking more about our actions.

The Internet, after all, is not going anywhere.

Words

As a writer, I commit any number of heinous mistakes whenever words are committed to a screen. Over time, those have become easier to spot: word repetition, bad grammar, a real problem knowing where apostrophes go. Earning a high-grade English degree, back in the day, is no guarantee of competence: nouns are naming words, verbs are doing words, but a lot of definition points in between will need to be double-checked with Google for reassurance. The point to be made at the end of this paragraph is that nobody is perfect.

As a writer, other people place a level of expectation on your ability. Publishers will expect you to know how to present work to them for assessment. Although it might not need to be edited to a plateau of confidence, knowing what flows and works is a bonus. Understanding there is more than one way of stating ‘I woke up and went to kill a dragon’ is useful, but that statement in itself is perfectly acceptable as a final draft if placed in the correct context. Learning how to write is not just editing your work, or knowing which version of your prose is the one you stop fiddling with as a perfectionist.

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I’ve needed nearly a decade writing about a video game to finally feel comfortable with the words that are produced, but it will never be a perfect world. Even with autocorrect and multiple edits, the stupid still gets through. A testimonial was written in the week for the Physiotherapist who has returned my left arm to pretty much the state it was before the incident with tripping up over my own legs. It was sent with one word missing, which pretty much altered the entire point of the piece. I’d read that word in my head, but it did not exist on the page. The best writers still fuck up. This is a constant process, and will never end.

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The one area I’ve not really explored is experimental, off the beaten track kind of wordplay that Arguto will give the opportunity to muck about with. This site now becomes a place not just for the Twitter-related content but for the exploration of how writing can and should evolve, expanding to fill countless spaces available. With the capacity to write being combined with photography and digital devices, new technology and old ideas have the means by which they can be redefined and improved.

However, at the heart of this all there is tradition and comfort to fall back on. Learning how to be a better writer will continue until my last breath.

Vogue

Arguto is an Italian word, which roughly translates as sharp, witty or clever. I’ve chosen it as the title for a fanzine because I’m not comfortable borrowing or punning a title of anything else or trying to pretend this whole project is something it isn’t. The initial idea has been kickstarted by the fact that this year, after several decades of wanting to travel to Italy, I’m going to finally make it there. The birthplace of the Rennaisance in Europe has generated the same change within me.

This is the moment to create something truly special.

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Arguto will combine my love of photography, writing, music and fiction in one place. It will be a Fanzine portal for a number of photography projects, plus other audio-visual gubbins. It has all the backend organised (although Google’s being a bit problematic, no change there) and will begin to propagate next month. I’m not saying anything else right now, but it is me attempting to evolve.

If you’re interested at this early stage, bookmark arguto.net and follow @ArgutoFanzine.

Sunrise

In six hours I’ll take the last of my new course of drugs and (everything crossed) that will be it, the chest infection that poleaxed me will be gone. In fairness, it wasn’t that which caused the majority of the issues over the last few weeks, but details are largely tenuous. Normally I’d be dissecting the consequences of all this somewhere, but frankly, it’s a pointless exercise. There are far more important things to be doing with my time.

I’ve taken some time to think about what happens as a result of all this, and am really excited about the possibilities on the table. For now, however, I’ll spend the next three days getting everything back up to date and then we’ll carry on with April’s content.

You can expect more pictures going forward, that’s for damn sure.