February 19, 2012
After yesterday’s realisation that I’m not actually Xena – Warrior Princess, I’ve decided to pick three activities I know I’ll complete today.
There. Much simpler.
April 7, 2011
It’s funny that I just deleted the first line of this post, isn’t it? Considering that I’m going to talk about the act of deleting. My first line was going to be:
I’m rereading Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas
That was until I decided the sentence to be worthy of nothing more than a ‘good for you’ response from my readers (hello friends) and my inner critic (hello you). But the point of opening with this mundane statement was to (deletes words again and again)
highlight the similarities between myself and Meg, the main protagonist who can’t seem to get her novel onto the page but has deleted thousands and thousands of words already, and rejected multiple ideas.
I know the feeling.
Everything I have written for this novel so far has been, although not physically, effectively erased. The one-and-a-bit chapters for last term? Quite pointless in the grand scheme of things (which as it turns out, is nothing); so how about the 4,000 – 5,000 words I’ve drafted for this term? Equally pointless.
The plot, which was insufficient in the first place, collapsed weeks ago and today, I deleted all but three factors of it: my main character, her job, her complicated relationship. This has essentially left me with a predictable pile of horse poop. It’s a great candidate for Chick lit don’t you think? Except Mum lit appears to be on the rise so nobody would be interested in my flaccid story anyway.
Cixous tells us to cut, to know when to cut as we’re writing, and I feel confident when I do it in my own work. There’s something delicious about highlighting 200 – 300 words and making them disappear forever.
My problem is that, like Meg, I don’t have anything to replace those deletions with. Having read the book once already, I’m conscious of the changes and processes Meg goes through in order to begin writing her book; it’s not pretty. Can I afford to go through those changes too? I’d love to but I’m short on time. I need to find my fast forward button or take the literary-creative equivalent of speed to develop enough in time for my next due date.
After laying in a graveyard for a few hours (that will never sound normal), I realised that my problem isn’t plotting but my ability to spawn ideas. I know I should be putting my characters in situations where they have to make relevant and necessary choice, but I suck at figuring out what those situations should be.
I know the desires of my characters well enough but lack the imaginative fertiliser to cause those desire to drive forward and develop the narrative. Or do I?
Considering I’m now left with horse poop after today’s massive cull, perhaps I should let it rot for a short while? Do I have time for that? 5 – 6 weeks says that potentially, yes I have.
Deleting isn’t the worse thing I can do when writing. It’s more likely the best thing I can do when the ideas / plot / characters / writing I do have are weak, uninteresting, and pointless. Effacement is breathing space.
Note: This post has been deleted repeatedly.
January 23, 2011
Ah, overshot this one by a few days but forgive me because I’ve had one of those mind-altering, snotacular colds that put you in bed for days. And anyway, you got two in the space of a week so ner.
Disease has a way of making me lose focus so as you can imagine, everything I had planned for the past week has been replaced by a waste basket full of sneezed-in-to tissues. But now I’m feeling better and I’m taking advantage of this lack of direction because when you’re standing in the middle of a disaster, you can see everything in detail. It’s got me thinking.
I’ve been making the novel too complicated and when things start to get sticky in my writing, they also start to become implausible. With people vanishing and origins being thrown out of sync, it’s no wonder I can’t finish the first chapter. Reading shouldn’t be easy but it shouldn’t be soul-destroying either.
I’m now trying to reform the plot so it’s simple, whilst searching the top cupboard of my brain for an important answer to an essential question: what am I exploring in this novel?
I’m not sure (lie). I can’t make it out in all the mess of ideas (another lie). I don’t understand it (blah blah blah).
In truth: I’m exploring the absence of a presence.
The thing I’m unsure about is what this means and that’s an uncomfortable thought because it carries a hint of irony in it – that anything means anything. Of course it does! But only because we layer meaning over things. The idea that there’s an inherent meaning to anything is problematic. Pick an object, an emotion, a situation – whatever you want – and then open it up. Go on, don’t be shy! Right open. Now have a good look at it and tell me that the thing you’ve chosen has one definitive meaning. It doesn’t, does it?
Of course this is a bit of a farce because you’ll get the gurus (authority) who say (kinda snobbish in my head): yes yes, we’re all multiple and it’s all quite normal to be that way; there are many things but they all essentially boil down to one thing…
And then I lose interest because they’re doing it again, drawing all the multiplicity into a single point, a bit like this sentence just has. I’m stumped by this point too.
It’s too easy to say that nothing has a presence and it’s too convenient to say we’ll change it when we need to because presence never sticks around longe enough for us to a) recognise it and b) think about changing it.
This is why I need to keep it simple. For some reason my fingers started typing ‘complicated’ when my head was saying ‘simple’. There’s a conflict going on in my head and at the moment, there’s nothing I can do about it. Asides from stop trying so hard and let it go.
- Finish chapter one and polish it so that the narrative makes sense
- Begin chapter two so that Faith finds herself in a new situation and so that I stop rotting in my own boredom
- Gently, gently, contemplate what it would mean to explore absence (TRACE) within the text itself and how this could be done
- Generate a lose and simple plot for the whole novel
- Write a synopsis based on this new plot.
There, simple. Over-and-out.
October 16, 2010
I’ve done something socially abhorrent: I’ve quit Facebook and without telling most of my ‘friends’. I can hear you asking me why so I’ll do the decent thing and answer.
There’s a point where my resilience to people, their dumb-ass attitudes, bigotry and constant negation of my feelings stops, even though I try to remain mindful that compassion extends to all. Including those who resemble parasites under the skin.
I doubt that there are many individuals (asides from the raging masochist but I reckon even they would get sick of it after a while) who would continue to expose themselves to a constant barrage of negativity and ill-will. Perhaps some of you would recommend that I stop taking it so seriously? I’d say that’s rather apathetic and completely against the spirit of community.
Social networking is great for smiling and connecting with friends and sharing the good times with hilarious photos, even for raising awareness; until people start bashing their views into cyber-space like they’re the only one with a valid opinion, photos you don’t want on public view start cropping up and friends constantly fail at the ‘friend’ part despite being able to fulfil it for their other 3,864 mates.
(Disclosure: I have to admit that I’m a little sad to know that I’m going to lose touch with some people but then if either of us truly cared, we’d make the effort and email one another.)
I could have simply removed all of the individuals who have made me lose faith in the human species for the billionth time but I’d not be able to remove the ads and the constant demand that I connect with people I don’t know. See previous rant.
Again there’s only so much resilience I have when being force-fed crap I don’t want to know about, look at, participate in, connect with or listen to. Go away and let me discover things for myself; let me make my own decisions; all is mind-control.
Facebook is a fine example which aptly illustrates my belief that humans aren’t social creatures. On a large-scale anyway. Pocket communities that are interconnected but remain independent of an enormous whole, fine; massive social movements en masse? Not cool. A lot gets done but a lot also goes terribly wrong.
Can you blame me for having had enough?
In other news, I’m constantly thinking about the PhD in The Contemporary Novel offered by the University of Kent. The odds of me getting funding are so slim that if Chance and Luck were physically manifested as deities, they’d be suffering from intestinal parasites and instantly landed with modelling contracts.
I’m relatively optimistic. Note the relative part.
Asides from dreaming up my research area and slowly teasing an idea for the novel out of the fog that is my imagination, I’ve been contemplating the notion of there being a genuine opportunity for me to get the cash I’d need to do this.
Would a charity fund me? I would have thought that being a disabled student might open some supportive doors for me but I’m yet to find anything. Research councils, public bodies, employment grants, university grants. They’re my options.
But there is a problem: the Guvmint is running around with a giant switch-blade (which are illegal, ironically…) which means that getting funding in this atmosphere has just become highly fashionable.
Even if there was a charity out there willing to support someone who lives openly with mental health problems and are committed to dispelling the ignorance currently choking any chances of mental health being understood, I would have to be something very, very special indeed. My writing would have to be a revelation.
Whilst I have no doubts that I could bring my writings to a decent standard with a bit of elbow grease, I’m ever-the-cynic when it comes to believing that I’m special, gifted, talented – whatever. That’s not self-depreciation by the way, I just don’t think I’m that fabulous. I’m good but not cut out for celebrity.
The same concern arises when I think about being accepted onto the PhD itself; am I good enough? Are my ideas, even in their infancy, original? Can they be developed tightly? Is the research I’d produce unique and would it create new pathways for the academic world? Would the novel be engaging? Would it open eyes and encourage independent, rebellious thought – something I think we really need at the moment.
If I can answer ‘yes’ to even half of those questions and survive the dozens of other swimming around in my head, maybe I could survive a PhD.
I desire it greatly. Not for the extra letters added to my name, not for the money from the funding, not even for the fact that I’d be staying on in my favourite institution.
I desire it for the knowledge. To have free reign over what I’d research, to be able to dream and create on this level would be devouring. And I’d not only write my already forming ideas, I’d practice them too.
I’ve already started doing it…
September 27, 2010
The art of learning any lesson is to get down off your horse and suck ‘it’ up. Of course it isn’t as cruel as it sounds (although sometimes it’s a trial).
How many years have passed? I’m still learning. I’m still learning that I need to let go not only of past hurts but also things that haven’t even happened yet – the notorious Future Worries.
I’m still learning that with every episode of insanity (for want of more apt term, although I’m quite fond of reclaiming it seeing as people are so terrified of it now) an episode of reprieve will follow; the disconnection itself is not the problem, but the feelings of dread and sickness are.
I understand, now that I’ve let off a little emotional steam, that it’s been several weeks since my last bout of ‘not on this planet’ which lends reason to why I’ve struggled with it for the past five days. Regularity breeds familiarity, breeds ability to cope? I’d not like to suggest learned helplessness.
(But why does becoming familiar with difficulty mean learning helplessness? I’m not helpless, I’m off my rocker and quite happy about it! It still astounds me how even the most subtle and apparently caring language can disable anyone who acts or exists contrary to the status quo; enrich your minds and read Foucault.)
Having been so long since the last time, I’ve virtually forgotten the ecstatic euphoria, the hunger to read and learn, the fascination with the shapes and colours of the world around me; the pink rose that looked like a sodden wedding serviette, the fence that was missing new paint in a very haphazard place that took on the shape of a cat and the old telephone poles that intersected the brilliant skies with their thick wires and housed jars filled with ancient, glowing insects.
And then the sudden thrashing of the mind as it begins to become too aware of the immediacy of the world. Coming back to a dull, unnoticing reality when you have spent days in stunning places free from worry and despair is a grim shock.
I don’t blame myself for having such a difficult time.
To return is to make a mental note detailing how to land on your feet:
- Always have herbal tea at the ready
- Don’t fear cancellations
- Keep warm
- Eat foods which bring comfort
- Read a book which confirms your reality
- Sleep lightly through the day
- Avoid television at all costs
- Listen to music that feeds your soul
- Become aware of the world again through the radio (BBC Radio 4 is my choice)
- Don’t rush back to socializing
- Re-familiarise yourself with pets as they are much more understanding that humans
- Have a cry if you need to
- Speak truth
- Ask a true friend to confirm love
- Harbour no resentment for yourself, or any other being
These things happen and I have a choice to make now that my head is clearing: shall I fall into misery or shall I sit gently, allow myself to recover and come through this more prepared for the next wave?
August 20, 2010
I had a geography teacher at secondary school who had this notice on the wall that read: compromise is the enemy of achievement.
You get a lot of jobs and businesses and products that say ‘we never compromise on the details / quality / dedication’ etc. but it’s funny because all those who say it expect you to be compliant and sedate in return for their guarantee.
We’re raised to be polite and make compromises as we make our way through life and I for one have seldom questioned why I do it, why I let other people get their way under the guise of ‘compromise’ when I’m not happy doing that.
Prime example: I was back in counselling, but now I’m not.
I made it very clear in my own mind when I started again that I’d not want weekly appointments because I need the space found in fortnightly appointments to deal with all the other rubbish that goes on in my life, such as the Mystery Illness that’s still undiagnosed after three years and still here. Plaguing me.
The doctor said that weekly sessions would benefit me better. Uhh… didn’t I just say they wouldn’t? And I’d know because I’d previously spent a few months in weekly psychotherapy sessions and found that after each fifty minute round I was exhausted, emotionally unstable and feeling worse than before I went in. And then I’d have to rinse and repeat the following week, spending the days in between dreading going back to that room and trying to control the anxiety attacks that resulted.
Weekly session are out of the question. I don’t care who you are. You could be Buddha and I’d tell you weekly sessions are not on the menu.
So what happened today is that I found myself under silent pressure to compromise and accept weekly appointments, even though this isn’t actually a compromise because I get nothing of what I want out of it. If I had accepted what was offered, that’d have been me doing as the good doctor said.
I plucked up the courage for once in my feeble life and clearly stated that I wasn’t going to do something I didn’t want to do and so, my counselling sessions ended before they’d even begun. I walked out of the hospital to find my Dad and ‘Square One’ waiting for me in the car.
My Dad was understandably dismayed that I had walked away from something that I’d been trying to arrange for the past few months but when I explained that I wasn’t going to do things I didn’t want to do any longer and was very unhappy that my rights as a patient – the rights to request another doctor, to arrange visits to a convenient health centre, to be given appointments that are suitable for my life and to seek second opinion – were being undermined – again – he understood where I was coming from and was very supportive.
I made the correct decision today and for once, I didn’t compromise and give up on what I knew with absolute certainty, was best for me. So why do I feel so terrible about it?
I think it’s this culture of ‘you should be grateful’ that I’ve come across before:
you should be grateful that you have these sessions; dozens of people are going without and waiting long periods of time for this
Yes, I’ll be grateful for a service that I’m very unhappy in. I’ll give regular thanks to the gods of guilt for it.
Sometimes it pays to be fussy. Why should I compromise on my health? Why should I sit in a room and divulge my darkest thoughts to a complete stranger who makes me feel like I need to go home and scrub my skin with Ajax?
At the very least, one of the poor souls who has been waiting decades to finally get some counselling will be able to have my slot. I hope they’re happier in it than I ever was.
If compromise is indeed the enemy of achievement, then what have I achieved in walking away? I’ve taken control of my life for the first time in years. I’ve given myself the strength to clearly and firmly say ‘no’ without curling up into a ball and crying or exploding with rage. If I’d have compromised, I would not be sitting here telling you that I’m a better person for being able to stand up for myself and confidently make my own choices.
So what happens now that I’ve ditched that avenue of exploration? As Matt Bellamy says in Muscle Museum:
And I’ll do it on my own…
with a pen in my hand.
The things we think are important in life are illusions, distractions from the voice that says “slow down, please slow the hell down” – and we ignore it. We fake it, wear a mask and all is fabulous.
I keep telling myself that this is what I always wanted, and it is, but it’s not what I can manage. I can tell I’m doing too much because I have to concentrate to relax my shoulders and I’m finding it harder to sleep, even though I’m so tired.
You’re pushing too hard, slow down.
But what if all of this slips away? What if I wake up tomorrow and I’m back in that place again – god I have to go there tomorrow and I’m not sure what day it is today, neither am I convinced that it’s the day people said it is. What do I do?
You slow down. Things won’t vanish because you put your feet up for a bit.
I have so much to do; it’s my fault it’s all piled up because only half of me is dedicated at the moment and I keep forgetting everything. I’m beginning to question myself more and more. Something happened somewhere along the line and I’m not sure if I can recognise it.
Take a break, find some trees. First organise what you can do, work systematically and then let it go. You will remember the things you’ve forgotten. Slow down.
But what if I…
What if I slow down? Maybe my heart will beat steadily; maybe my dreams will be lighter; maybe my feelings won’t screw themselves up; maybe I’ll smile.
April 16, 2010
I’ve been thinking over the past few days about anonymity. Very few people are able to exercise this remarkable feat, even if they’re dead.
You could be one of the most unacknowledged people on the planet, and there would still be something on you, somewhere. For example: the never-contacted-before Envira Indians existing near the Peru border in Brazil who were photographed in May 2008. Never heard of them. Never knew they existed. But now there’s something on them.
I often look over the blogs I keep, my email, twitter, Facebook and think: why the hell am I exposing myself like this? I’ve no real desire for recognition, nor do I hold social networking particularly high in regard, but I often have something to say and that’s probably the only reason why I haven’t erased my identity from the internet. As far as is possible to erase.
Note: I wonder what will happen to all of these efforts when I’m dead…
I’ve got a fair bit to say sometimes but I’m aware that not many people take the time to listen and I don’t especially care. It only takes one person to listen and then it’s up to them to decide what to do with the things I’ve said.
I more or less have reasonable control of my presentation and representation in the material I directly publish about myself on the internet but I have virtually no control when having to relinquish my personal details to say, Amazon or my general practitioner.
Amazon pays attention to my browsing history and tempts me with similar items whilst the doctors don’t do much of anything except sit quietly with my details until another body contacts them and requests information. With my consent of course.
And this is where it begins to bug me.
Does consent even mean anything?
I have to fill in a CRB disclosure form, like most people, in order to breathe. I also need to apply for a passport to prove my identity beyond a shadow of a doubt. And it’s not even that now, is it? Not after recent events where it was shown that passports can be successfully made on a fraudulent and sophisticated basis.
I was under the impression that passports were to enable travel and free movement. Now they’re a fallible form of identity.
I have no choice but to give my consent for private information about me to be passed from one party to another. Sure, I can deny this consent but then that suspends my rights.
Perhaps I’m being far too cynical here but I can clearly see that by not disclosing my mental health to a potential employer, the said employer can, if they so wished, release me from my position with relative ease and no obligation to help or support me if I suddenly go off the deep end. I have to tell but I don’t really want to. Why?
Because sometimes, it’s nobody’s damned business.
This is the crux of my irritation. Why do so few have the right to know so much about my private life but I have no right to protect myself from them? Not without sacrificing my civil rights at the same time.
Disclosure isn’t for my own protection. It’s for interested parties to keep tabs on and exploit.
August 12, 2009
I shouldn’t be given the responsibility of making decisions. Not because I can’t make a good one but because I often start to wonder if I’ve made the right one.
There are a myriad of possibilities when it comes to making decisions, so I don’t believe that there is such a thing as a ‘wrong decision’, just bad ones. Or silly ones. Risky?
You can tell when you’re starting to question your judgement because you obviously make your choice, time passes a little and then the memory of it might surface through conversation with a friend or through random synapses firing; you get that sudden tug in your stomach, similar to the one you get before you’re sick, followed by the feeling that you’re missing out on something.
I’ve made some hefty decisions in the past year and most have died out already. Except one: postponing my studies. And I’m reminded of it at least twice a week where I find myself worrying that I was a bit hasty, if choosing this path will mean that I end up in an undesirable position next year, if I’ll even be interested in going back or indeed if it’ll even be worthwhile.
There are pros and cons; if I go back next year I’ll be able to finish the qualification, maybe get my life back a little, spend some time with a friend, get out of the house, engage in academics again but it also means that I could end up finding that I’ve wasted my time (after finding that I didn’t get much from the first year) and about£2000.
If I don’t return, I get that money back. Yum. I’ve potentially not wasted my time, I don’t have to worry about being unwell at any point, struggling with work or travel, feeling ostracised etc. but it also means I would have dropped out of an MA course. I don’t like that part. And I could actually be missing out on something big.
I could be stressed out and tired all over again in September (by returning early) or I could spend my year out worrying myself sick.
Money or opportunity? In all likelihood, both are bound to lead to disappointment sooner or later.