May 6, 2013
I think change is a beautiful thing. I’d hate to be stuck in the same pattern and denied variation.
March 19, 2013
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.
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.
October 1, 2012
I got up and lit the fire. I'm still in my pj's and I don't intend to get out of them. Outside the sky is all gloom and grey swirled with milk and the wind is flicking the plants that have spent months hoping for the summer that never came. It never came last year either, not properly.
I like how everything winds down as the earth tilts away from the sun. The pressure is off and it's more acceptable for me to be a hermit, swaddled in ugly (but oh so cool) jumpers and hand-knitted socks.
Every year I spend March to the end of September waiting for now. Now is when I'm happy. Now is the familiar smell of wet and earth. Now is the feeling of warmth. Now is the ebbing sun and the coming of long nights. Now is home for me.
I made a decision last night to stop pushing myself to be all these things that silent societal rule dictate. I'm not healthy; I'm not social; I'm not sane. And despite appearances, I'm not a woman.
I probably write something similar each year but I need a kick in the toosh to follow my instincts. In previous years, I've lacked the stimulus but this year? I've been as unwell as I've ever been and nothing I've done, things that I have been told to do because it's how things are done, has made a difference. I could be a pessimist. Should I be?
I think I'd rather slow down. I think I'd rather forget what I should be doing and do what I want.
Photo courtesy of Dan Zen
September 25, 2012
I ignore the outside world. We don't get on.
Things slip through though, things about calling other people horrible names, people invading the privacy of others, people lying for gain. People thinking that they're what matters.
This afternoon I took my chihuahua, Misty, to the vets to be euthanised. Her mobility had rapidly declined, she wasn't enjoying her food and she looked downright miserable. I think she was in pain with her back because she wouldn't settle. She'd also taken to isolating herself from the others.
I spent some time with her in the morning and then let her be with Ruby and Crumble, our other two chihuahuas. Crumble is her son.
The vet said they could probably treat her for heart disease and any other afflictions, but I don't have the money to do that. Previous experience has also taught me that once a dog declines, the best thing to be done is to let them go peacefully, not to draw out their suffering.
I did the right thing for my loved one today. I didn't do it out of selfishness, laziness or malice. I did it because I loved Misty with all my heart as I loved her mothher Tilly, and as I loved Phoebe too.
I have no regrets.
I've been bed-bound since the end of July. Things have started to pick up a little in the past two weeks, though I still need extensive periods of rest. I'll get up and eat, perhaps do a small chore and read for a spell, but then I must rest.
If I have appointments, I must spend the day prior and the time directly after taking complete rest. I'm having to walk with a stick because I feel unsteady on my feet and am physically weak.
I've had an infection in my chest that lasted all of August and was left untreated by my doctors because they felt that an infection was only an infection if it produced gurgling in the lungs. Never mind that it was painful to breathe and impossible to use my full lung capacity. Never mind the obvious symptoms of a viral inflection.
It was so awful at one point, I called an ambulance. Five hours later, though reassured I wasn't suffering a cardiac episode, I remained untreated and exhausted.
Despite feeling so unwell and going down the pan, I'm still thinking ahead to better things. I'm still hoping that consultants will discover something treatable in me and that I'll start to recover from what has been a year of rapid deterioration in my health, part of a four year pattern of general decline from a healthy twenty four year old to a bed-bound twenty eight year old.
I still try to write a bit each day and I get out of bed, no matter how unwell I feel, to attend my appointments. I got out of bed to put my dearest pet to rest the way she deserved.
It makes me think of all the things from the outside world, all of those people being cruel, greedy and fickle. I don't feel above them. I feel sad. I feel horrified that those things are considered more important than living a good and just life, and doing the right thing no matter how hard it is.
I was in the process of giving up with this whole 'trying to continue with life' thing but I've changed my mind. I don't know why. Maybe it's another thing for me to work out once I get to see a therapist, which is this week as it happens.
It's autumn and I'm ready to knit again. Small blessings.
March 30, 2012
I don’t know you, have no idea where you are, whether you’re living or dead, and you know just as little about me. But the thing is, I love you and I know you’re somewhere.
We’re made for one another so in the event that we finally meet, we’ll know.
The difficult part is trying not to sound rigid when I say this: one thing I know is that you’re female. You always are.
I’m female on the outside too at the moment, but I know you’ll look beyond my skin and see the man inside. And you’ll appreciate the woman in me too whilst I rest in the arms of your masculinity. Together, we’re no spectrum but a universe, a complement without the necessity of being complete.
Whatever we’ve both done in the past that has put us here were we are now, I don’t think it will keep us apart. If we don’t find one another in this life, we’ll try again in the next.
I’ll never give up because I have so much to give to you, and I need you more than anything.
I hope that we’ll cross paths in the next few decades (sooner rather than later) but until then, all you need to know is that I’m here and ready to settle and learn. I’m sorry in advance for how tough it’ll be, but i know you’ll understand and we’ll love each other all the more for it.
“Evangeline, hold me once more / and then never look back
Evangeline, kiss me like that / how will I ever forget?”
‘Into the Derelict Night’ from Explorer by Cerys Matthews
January 25, 2012
It’s not my strongest virtue. At times I have a hidden store of endless patience on which I can meditate but for the time I don’t have access to this treasure trove, I pace, stubborn and indignant. Frustrated. Irritable.
Come on, I say. Hurry up.
Nothing makes me so impatient as having to wait for books. I order them sometimes on a whim, other times in bulk, to satisfy what Lewis Buzbee describes as ‘book lust’ in his memoirs The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop. Lust always demands satisfaction.
I could swallow my agoraphobia, dose myself on chill-pills and descend upon my local book store but my desire for books often extends beyond their catalogue. Then the paradox comes; I have the patience to search out the best possible deal.
(Note: I do love supporting bookstores but I long for the secondhand store that thrives on people as much as it does profit. Online secondhand stores that donate proceeds to charity are my preferred choice even though they lack that physical, human element. Support your local bookshop, corporate or independent. Imagine the world without them… Disgusting, isn’t it?)
So whilst I’m suspended between contemplating prices for days on end and waiting furiously for days on end for the books to arrive, I find myself thinking about my lack/abundance of patience.
It’s application extends beyond books by the way; I have as much patience for waiting for my root vegetables to sprout as I do waiting for the dentists to send me an appointment; both can take as much time as they need, though for different reasons.
I become devoid of my staying power when cravings are involved. Chocolate for instance, is an insistent addiction. It’s said that waiting five to ten minutes when experiencing a chocolate craving is enough to render it mute but after having waited almost two hours last night, I set upon a long forgotten packet of baking chocolate chips and satisfied myself that way. Not as cathartic as a small square of Lindt, but it put me at ease.
(Note: I didn’t eat all of the chips by the way, just a small handful. They were sickly).
My composure disintegrates when there’s a hole to be filled; knowledge (book lust), sweetness (chocolate), loneliness (friends, letters, phone calls). It’s the expectation, the anticipation of the fulfilment of those desires, all of them base desires, that drive me to twisting my fingers about themselves until their joints are so loose, they disconnect from one another with a gentle tug and then slide back into place.
My grit exists when I expect nothing. I’ve answered a few calls to writing submissions and I’m calmer about this than I am about anything else in my life. Part of it is confidence, part is knowing that there will always be someone better. As long as I have done my best at the time of submission, I have nothing to feel anxious about.
And if I fail to catch the attention of the judges this time, I can revise the works and do my best for the next set of submissions, the effort itself being better than my last attempt because I have learnt more, matured, and am comfortable with perseverance.
July 12, 2011
I thought I was overdue for a winding, miserable post, so here it is.
I’ve probably said it before but there’s only so much smiling and ‘happy-happy’ I can do before I want to drop the facade and do something out-of-character. A lot of people will tout inner peace and personal responsibility, blah-blah, and so they should. Those things are good. My gripe, the cynic that I am, lies in the obvious problem with this type of thinking.
Inner peace is all fine and dandy but why neglect the world outside of that ‘inner-ness’? I think, no wait – I know – that real happiness comes from not just our attitudes but also from our surrounding circumstances. What good is a warm, cosy feeling in the bottom of your gut when you’re in an unhappy relationship? Does serenity alone really negate constant disappointment?
I suppose it could be said that being in a better state of mind when going through those things helps but how long can they hold for? The environment finds its way in eventually.
I try to adapt. I try to change my circumstances where I can. I put up with the things that I can’t do anything about (at the moment). How long do I have to wait for these things to bear me fruit?
And here’s the emo tag.
I’m without a voice, still, despite everything I’ve done to grow one. But you have a voice here, you say.
And who hears it?
Who listens to me when I express concern, anxiety, frustration, or my desire to do things my way?
Only the people who tell me to smile and do it their way.
But having the attitude I have, I’m optimistic that I’ll break free of all this tripe of my own accord.