May 6, 2013
I think change is a beautiful thing. I’d hate to be stuck in the same pattern and denied variation.
February 10, 2013
I'm a scatty writer. I have around 150 words on a sheet of paper at the moment, a piece of flash fiction under construction for a competition. My bid to fulfil a promise to myself this year: get some fiction published. Anywhere.
I'm not lacking in opportunities.
What gets at me is that when it comes to sitting down to write, I dedicate myself wholeheartedly to doing so. But then I end up doing this – distracting myself with some other medium – instead of focussing on the goal.
It's no mystery and nothing to worry about. What I'm doing is simultaneously discovering and destroying the self-imposed myth that writers sit down and write, like a river cuts a path and flows, unrelenting. Now when I get into a groove, the words come quick, but most of the time I start off doing something I imagine to be the staple of most writers: staring into space.
It's my bread-and-butter, watching everything and nothing in my peripherals whilst fragments of what I'm writing float about and join up, decide they're not right for each other and break up. Between those thoughts are other things: this post; which vinyl album I'd next like to invest in; whether I've messed up a quest on Skyrim; how can I connect two elements of a story to make them symbiotic; I'll email about that short course to give me a leg up; what should I write for this bit now that I can't identify anymore rogue thoughts.
And whilst all of that is drifting and colliding, the story I'm working on is fermenting. I don't believe that procrastinating (as I am now) is detrimental to my writing. I think, without it, I'd write a lot more crap than usual.
It's a trick though, to find the balance between procrastinating and doing nothing.
I blame a lot of my inactivity on my health. It's true: some days are just nasty and those are the days where I need to pea-bug in order recover and prevent myself from getting worse. That sort of behaviour becomes tattooed onto me and results in days where I 100% believe that I can't lift a pencil, that doing so will be pointless because whatever I put down on the page will be empty and worthless.
'Pea-bugs', by the way, are what I used to call wood lice when I was a kid because they curl up and look like peas when threatened.
No writing is worthless. All writing, whether it grows and is sent out into the adult world of scary, discerning readers or is screwed up and tossed away after five minutes, has value. It has value because of the effort it contains, the thoughts that have happened around it and the decisions that have been made about its future. These are all essential processes with which, at least for me, writing would be dead without.
I welcome distraction but am vigilant against despair. One stops me from being too serious whilst the other makes me so serious, it disables me.
If there is one thing I can do, it's find a pencil and a sheet of paper, and commit acts of words. That ability is open to the elements of life, like everything else, which is why I always take the time to follow a stray thought, avoid the issue at hand and spend some time exploring so that the creative brain in me can bubble unconsciously.
Watching a kettle boil doesn't make it boil any quicker or better.
November 6, 2012
I've been in two minds about writing this post. It's something I want to say but not in order to moan and berate. I'm going to say it because it means a lot to me, because I want to reverse it.
I'm socially isolated.
I rarely get to physically see my friends or my family because they live a long way from me and have pretty busy lives. I don't get to go out and build a social life because I have medical conditions which prevent me from living a full life, safely.
I have no control over those things. I can try to bridge the gaps where possible but I can't click my fingers and bring everyone I love into the same space, free up a few hours a week so I can see them, and then magically cure my conditions so that I can lead a socially active life.
Sorry if you're reading this and happen to be a great optimist, but the above scenario, where I alone make everything perfect, is unrealistic. I'm not a defeatist by any means. I'm just in touch with what's possible given my circumstances.
So I'm unable to make regular physical contact with those I love. The solution is social media, right? Kind of yes, kind of no.
Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, WordPress and any other social platform you can think of, are all brilliant tools. I use the first four regularly, connecting with people not just in my close social circle but also with other people across the world that I have never met. You're probably one of those very people, reading this now. Hi! How are you? Thanks for reading.
But social media, for me, falls short. Why?
It goes back to the people I'm closest to having busy lives. I wouldn't deny them that, though I would appreciate being spared a thought. Sometimes I go off radar and whilst I'm absent, I rarely get a message asking where I am and how I'm doing. It may not be the case but it often feels like nobody has noticed I'm not there.
That is isolating.
I try my utmost to keep in touch with friends each week when I'm able to. It's at least once a week, even if it's a quick comment on a Facebook update. It shows that I'm keeping track of my friend's movements and paying attention to their thoughts. When I'm not having a rough time with my health, I go all out and write an email or even better, I go Old Skool and write a letter. I'll also pick up the phone and call my sister, or arrange a Skype/phone call with a friend.
This is how I connect with people 90% of the time because I'm unable to do it physically. Even with my alternatives, I'm limited by my conditions. Talking for an hour on the phone is knackering, for example.
So what am I asking? For people to connect with me more often. I don't want to be socially isolated, even though social situations make me anxious, and I think this is pretty obvious in how I communicate with my family and friends, and how I blog openly and honestly. I reach out.
Please reach back.
And it's not just me. We're on the crux of the loneliest time of the year: Christmas.
The 2012 festive season will be an empty and miserable time for many people – those with no home, children with no parents, the elderly, the estranged, individuals who have lost their families. Last year, I made a donation to The Salvation Army so that someone would have the company, care and attention that they deserve. And even though my finances are tight, I will be doing it again.
It doesn't take a great deal to keep in touch with someone. A few minutes out of the day to send a message. Arrange a phone call. Write back. Doing one of those things for me will make the difference between a week where I start to believe that I'm the most insignificant person on earth, making my depression worse, and a week where I think
I am not forgotten. My friends still think of me even though I can't do the normal thing and go out for socials with them. My friends acknowledge and respect that I live with a complex tapestry of illnesses.
Props to those of you who who do tweet and message me. Extra credit for reading my thoughts! You help me feel so much better and a lot less isolated.
Photo courtesy of takethea
October 14, 2012
If I were to choose a picture which personified me, it would be this one. I took it on a bright day during the Spring months, when the sun was mistaken for its Summer sibling. It was a day when I felt well enough to venture out and sit on my own for a while.
The stick is further out than you'd expect; the camera I used was at full zoom and it took me several attempts to frame the shot I wanted. It's a marker, the stick. It guides boats moving up and down the river, pointing out where the deep starts and the mud ends. Boats still end up stranded on the flats, regardless.
It's a thin thing, easy to ignore, though it has a lot to say. It's out there in all weathers, even now as I type, bent over and bearing the weight of the tide as it pushes up the estuary to join the Thames. Beneath the mud, the stick hides metres of itself from the world. It has a good anchor and needs to have one if it's going to remain upright.
Birds don't land on it.
You might think that it's just a stick in the mud and it doesn't mean anything. Nothing happens, nothing changes and even though the stick is there, it has no genuine impact on the world as it comes and goes. People in their boats ignore it, after all.
But it watches. The river smoothes every inch it can touch, washes it in silt and chill. Fish pick at algae that forms on the wet sunlight when the river has finished caressing it. Winds are sliced by it, and the mud shifts all about with each tide, providing new landscapes for it to guard in the night.
Beneath the surface, other creatures rely on it for the water and food it secretly funnels down the sides of its shaft.
The stick doesn't need to be near the shore. It isn't meant to be. Out of reach, the stick is in a world that doesn't exist for anyone else and it is happy there. Speed boats, jet skis, flocks of Oyster Catchers and gulls – these things just happen. Their presence, their meaning, holds nothing for the stick in the mud.
A boat could ram the stick and snap it, it's true. The river will eventually rot the shaft and it will fall one day, it's true.
Until then, most keep their distance because the stick says things, quiet things, about the world that it lives in and the world that it doesn't.
It'd stay there for ever, crooked and surrounded by salt and sky, if given the choice between that or coming inland. Who would want to come inland when home is out there?
To live slow and quiet. To give warning, to feel the movement of the moon in the water, to give eveything to things unseen; to watch the world go by. To one day disappear and be forgotten. To be simple. To be a stick in the mud.
March 29, 2012
I have a white bar stool, rustic in style, and a bit rickety, which I picked up for free outside someone’s bungalow. I was on the way home from an appointment and as soon as I saw it, I knew it was meant to come home with me.
It sits beside my bed, acting as a seat when I’m contemplating my writing board, and as a small desk for me to sit at whilst perched on the edge of my bed as I type my novel. A space perfectly positioned in front of the writing board, my back to all electronic temptations, and the lure of books for research in the peripherals of my vision.
I’m thinking of fixing a board on the foot rests so I can place a beverage on it.
Why the importance of a stool? It’s one of the few things keeping me real at the moment, in the excellent company of the guttural night-stock scented Welsh of Cerys Matthews and the soft, bobbled warmth of one of my favourite jumpers.
A sort of silence, a familiarity as I come to terms with my lowest ebb in months. No use in fighting it because that leads to violence. Sink into it and find that place which lets you ply your craft in peace amidst the strange comforts of insignificant items; stools, bare feet, lullabies, layered clothing, lack of appetite.
But still an absurd yet pleasurable thrill to go on because of these things.
May 6, 2011
March 24, 2011
Sometimes I avoid things because I don’t want to face/do/experience/deal with them.
Other times I avoid things because I’m acute and aware of everything I have to do, confident in my movements.
It’s not really avoidance in this case; it’s arrogance.
Not the nasty type of arrogance though, but the innocent type that you allow yourself, that small space where you remove yourself and observe, with a sincere and smug smile, that for this moment in your life, you’re managing.
Today I’m touching everything.
A word that sticks: glacial. Reminds me of Fox’s Glacier Mints. Small, translucent blue cubes.
My world is a small, translucent blue cube that I can suck and roll about in my mouth for as long as I like, or turn it to shards in one bite. Look into it. What I see and what you see will be very different things.
March 8, 2011
You can’t be ‘on’ all the time. There’s a reason we turn lights off, and not just to stop them from burning out before their time; switching off reveals everything that is smothered.
I think we can officially declare my ‘post-a-week’ promise a failure, but I’m not upset because I think I’ve done significantly better than 2010. And I’m still working through my list of things to do during 2011.
Allowing myself to become dormant, to let the shadows fall on me for the past two weeks, has given me a lot of room to think. I can’t think like this when I’m in the thick of things, I need a bit of introversion to tease circumstance apart. So with a retreat, a sleight of hand, I’ve turned my face away and discovered.
30% interaction, 70% isolation. Nice round numbers that work for me but probably mean very little.
It’s not personal when I shut down.
January 13, 2011
Two within a week. Who’d have thought.
The truth is I’m feeling dismal and the novel is starting to absorb all of that truth; it’s starting to breathe.
Updates to the week:
I did something on the list. I gutted part of my room. I would have done it all but I exhausted myself and for anyone who knows what it’s like to live with chronic fatigue/pain, overdoing it is a risk. It was worth it however because I threw out multiple trinkets from a dead past, and I burnt years of notes, diaries and writings. I’ve never experienced something that silent and cathartic before. I’d say crying comes close but that isn’t exactly silent, especially when I sob
I’m pleased I did it because now the room looks and feels airy, neat and reflective; organic. I also got round to stealing that gorgeous wooden table that had been used as a platform to cut wood on. It’s stout and heavy, obviously hand-made, and it has a couple of nicks and hack-marks but they’re charming. The wood is a mix of faded brown and gull-grey. I fell in love as soon as I saw it hauled onto the deck, a freebie from a neighbour, though I forget who. It sits, warm and steady beside my bed, and the room is finally light (although I have other areas to clean out, mainly the wardrobe, but they’re not important right now).
I’ve been wanting to take up yoga for a while but have lacked the confidence, money and stamina to join a group at the gyms in the area (to my disgust earlier this year, I discovered my local leisure centre had axed yoga from its timetable). To my delight, the Chronic Fatigue Clinic gave me a leaflet about a small group held twenty minutes from where I live which was not only accessible and cheaper than a gym but was also run by a teacher who is trained in teaching yoga for people living with M.E. / Chronic Fatigue / Fibromyalgia.
I took a risk and went along. An hour later I’d done very soothing, flowing postures and a bit of chanting, and I felt so relaxed that my smile came naturally, without incentive for once. No persuasions, no materialism, no promises or bribes. This one came from just being calm and happy. I don’t have to say I’ll be going again next week, do I?
I’ll be going next week.
I used to second-guess myself because of uncertainty and a lack of confidence, but recently I’ve been doing it because I’ve been thinking of different possibilities. Something clicked in the past eighteen hours (give or take) that’s made me readjust my perspective on the things I thought to be real. This wouldn’t be such a huge thing if it hadn’t happened last week or the week before that (it’s been happening for a while actually, I’ve merely been ignoring it), and I’d think little of it if last night’s eye-opener hadn’t got personal and exposed the soft, delicate bits inside to its starkness.
To be a little less cryptic, I’m wondering if pursuing a PhD has more to do with my desire for a systematic life and a shot a job (I’d be obliged to teach if I got department funding – they’d have to give me work) than my desire to have another notch on my Epic Belt of Education +5. I gave up worshipping the value of education when I realised my BSc accounted for little more than oh say, nothing, and that the paper my now defunct name is printed on is worth, wait for it, nothing.
So why the PhD? I wanted to get close to people. I know, I know; I’m full of contradictions. It’s hard to know you’re any good when other people aren’t there to remind you; this is also an absurd contradiction because I never believe them, barely care, and am more content to satisfy myself with my flat, salty focaccia bread than anyone else who’s more interested in making it perfect to create cultural, monetary and mostly unseen profits (because ‘profit’ is a concept, not a tangible thing; can you imagine having your profit in clementines? I’d be blissed-out on account of my clementine addiction).
I’ll encounter my dreams soon. PhD or not.
I leapt off the cliff and plummeted straight down onto the rocks with a thud and felt ecstatic when I opened my eyes and saw that I was sitting on the shore, cradled by a deserted cove and the sea. I thought I’d died before I’d hit the bottom but it appears I simply woke up to the idea of making this novel my novel and not a book of suggestions made by others. I’m still trying to figure out my message but like any good story, it takes time.
Things are making more sense and I understand now, that I can create the worlds/lives/people I want and send them off into the atmosphere where they’ll exist on without me. It’s like having kids I think: you spend a lot of time and money on them and even before that there’s the sex and the growth and then the birth. Never thought I’d use a metaphor like that in my lifetime. I’m becoming more domesticated and I blame the novel. But the novel is opening me up and holding a mirror, saying you’re writing me and you’ve always written what you want; I’m your dreams, so write me and free me and then you’ll have me.
The dissatisfaction I was experiencing a few days ago hasn’t gone but its real cause has finally shown up now that I’ve lifted the novel off its head. Have you noticed how everything is spectacle? Aristotle says that spectacle is a shitty way to develop a plot. I’m not saying life is a script in any inherent way but that we’re making it like that. And we’re doing a rubbish job of it. This is a brief observation on my part, but everything looks like it’s being slotted into categories:
- Insurance (car, home, life)
- War (flu epidemics, hay-fever, self)
- Appearance (fashion, beauty)
- Cars (that we don’t need)
- Money (quick loans, banks, credit rating)
- Price crunches and sales
And everything is spectacle; if it doesn’t dazzle and shine, or isn’t near-naked, it’s worthless. I wonder what the world would look like if it washed its face, put some clothes on and sat down for an honest conversation.
I’m shocked that I’ve written this much, but then I did promise. I’ll need to look over the list from Jan 2nd again and refresh my memory. I’m sure scrap-booking was in there and this is probably what I’ll do next, seeing as I’ve found a bunch of leaves I pressed last autumn, along with a wealth of postcards I’ve collected over the years.
November 23, 2010
I thought the multiverse was something external but apparently it’s within, next to or somewhere very close to the universe we think we live in now. I’ve not read enough on the subject to go into depth (though that will probably be remedied by January) but I’ve heard enough from Derrida that it’s not possible to entirely escape metaphysics, that we remain inside of it (whatever it is) whilst trying to figure it all out into a straight line.
I have visions of paper bags and many people trying to fight their way out of one. What are we so determined to prove? That there’s something bigger than us? Something outside of our crappy little system whether it be solar, universe or language, that will confirm us?
I’m personally more concerned about getting on with things in this universe but that’s not to say I wouldn’t jump ship if the opportunity arose, on account of my thirst to vanish from this awful reality once and for all. No not suicide you ninny; there are countless ways to escape ‘reality’ without having to resort to death. You’re engaging in one of the methods right now if you’re reading this.
Which makes me wonder if we’re being too tactile when we try to find alternate universes. Maybe we make them all the time and billions of the things are floating around waiting to be taken home and loved but we’re all too materialistic and desperate to be ‘real’ to notice.
What inhabits these places? Lost words I reckon. Things that we’ve forgotten (like how to be polite and smile) or maybe some grand secret that will finally reveal the meaning of our existence and then hurrah! We all find out and then what? We drift. We become aimless. A few of us might rebel against it and start screaming ‘No, no, no! There must be more! I don’t believe a word of it!’
You don’t believe it now but you invested an entire system of belief into it before? You really believed, before you found out the truth, all of that other rubbish? You believed in money, love, honesty, truth and authority but now you refuse to believe in… you?
I’m working on a project designed to turn me into a ghost. Not a dead one, before you start with that clap-trap again, but a ghost of a former self (okay so a little bit of death is involved but nothing serious).
Derrida bangs on about ghosts be like a sort of reminder about our responsibilities to each other and I reckon that if I can pull this off then maybe I’ll remember the things that I owe myself like learning how to change and live despite the awkward predicament I’m in with the madness and all.
So how to become a ghost? I think you have to lose something first. Let’s see… my marbles? Check. My faith in our consumer-lead society? Check. My patience with those with their heads buried in the sand? Check. My lack of compassion for even the most awful people? Yup, getting there.
But being a ghost isn’t about sacrifice (which is handy because I don’t believe in sacrificing anything for anyone); being a ghost is about letting go – of everything.
Spectral impermanence. We’d love to think that ghosts hang around all the time just for us but if we take a closer look, it’s us that hang around for them. Becoming a ghost means getting on with things and not being compelled to stay in one place. Ghosts move.
They move like a plot. Plots change as you think about them, invent them and break them apart. They come out of nowhere and scare the snot out of you. Then they run off tee-hee-ing, glancing back before morphing into something you can barely recognise.
I lost a plot but four days ago it turned up and split right in front of me, wide open and said:
‘Take a look at me now.’
How could I resist?