Play to Win

One of my jobs on Monday (21st) apart from finally starting the long-overdue Spring Clean of the house is to make a list of the various Poetry and Writing prizes I would like to start aiming for in the months that follow. Twitter has become quite useful as a means of working out where such things exist, and is slowly allowing me to build a plan of attack in relation to what is possible in the time frames available. Right now, there are two poetry prizes and one short story prize that are eminently doable. There have to be more.

Then, it is a case of believing I’m good enough to try.

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There are people around me (in a virtual sense) whose self-belief and inability to be blindsided by their own shortcomings is frankly astounding. I read blogs and posts and tweets from people who seem to believe they are capable of anything, with parts of my brain wondering how this is possible. I’ve become my own worst critic when it comes to ability, and that needs to change, but this only happens by decoupling the fear and doubt from my equation. All this stuff about how you are supposed to sound a certain way, or project a particular persona is all well and good, to a point.

I am proud of my work, but I’m not an idiot.

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There is a list of dates and deadlines, things to do when on holiday as distraction. There’s a Long List of projects to complete, clearing the decks as planning begins for a new route forward. I think I’ve found an alternative to Patreon that will work for me.

Now to start building a framework to support this change.

Don’t Dream It’s Over

This morning, a lot of things disappointed me.

Some of them I was able to put into words. Others were not as easily corralled. Absolutely the best thing that could have happened then did so and necessity forced body away from Social media completely to go do some important stuff with my daughter. It was even better for everybody that she got Friday afternoon off.

The only way sometimes to counteract the pure toxicity Twitter can generate is to not use it. This has nothing at all to do with contentious topics or difficult discussions, and everything around the fact that, like it or not, it is not a complete version of reality. Thinking that the future somehow involves this and everything else wrapped up in a version of reality isn’t quite the truth either. At some point in the future, when someone looks back to this moment and considers it to represent ‘the good old days’ it will be time to point out to them that it’s a lie. Everything is subjective. Absolutely everything.

The present is where everybody needs to live more.

Without rehashing old ground or trying to make people who clearly don’t listen to do just that, all the issues in our lives right now are often far more easy to solve than is at first apparent. The key, undoubtedly, is an ability to step outside of ourselves and look inwards with a more objective eye than exists in the storm you’ve just left. Watching total strangers proclaim what terrible things they’ve done in order to court reaction sits uneasily beside the real-life tragedies of those who just stopped caring and gave up. For some, it is more important to hate than heal, or hurt rather than forgive. This has been no different for thousands of years. The key now is that you can be a fuckwit on one side of the world and someone on the other side gets to attack you with more vitriol than was ever possible previously.

Oh, what a brilliant thing modern life has become.

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I feel that everybody should now be made to take mandatory leave from the Internet for a sense of proportion. Anyone getting too emotionally invested needs to take a reality break, which involves somewhere with somebody they care about, and the chance to talk about nothing in particular. Most importantly of all, anyone using Social media to further an agenda needs to be far more comprehensively vetted than is currently the case.

These are the good old days, right now, that we’re all pissing up the wall because nobody grasps the real damage being done to society from the ability to say what we want when we want it, and not worry about the consequences

I Don’t Like Mondays

Learning how to take criticism is a life-long journey. Sometimes, it is simpler as a writer to just switch off and ignore everybody, but there are also moments in the development process where the right commentary can completely alter the momentum of a project. For many successful writers, Social media is a place you simply don’t go to. There’s a very good reason for that, and it is seen every day, often with quite depressing regularity from the same group of destructive, morally ambiguous users. Those who now feel their voice is more important than anything else, and will comment relentlessly on anything which they feel an opinion is warranted on, are slowly eroding away centuries of conventions that have kept many institutions afloat.

Criticism relies on some fundamental principles to remain relevant and useful.

Philosophy underpins much of what I am: it should be the same for everybody, but for some, all that matters undoubtedly, is the self and nothing more. Having a reasonable debate with such people can become impossible face to face, so one anonymity is introduced the entire delicately balanced structure will come crashing down. If you don’t grasp the basic concept of the Social Contract, I’d urge taking some time on Wikipedia and other sources to learn about Jean-Jacques Rousseau, because this is a fundamental part of existence that really does matter quite a lot, and extends into pretty much every aspect of our current lives.

Grasping criticism effectively comes from the realisation that your work and your ego are two different things. A criticism of content is not a personal attack, just as a disagreement over ideas or beliefs should not become a fight. Once one is able to establish basic tenets of existence (everyone is equal, regardless of sex, ethnicity and religious belief) all of this should be a simple, hassle-free process. However, that’s not been the case for… well, since that bloke came down a mountain with a bunch of carved tablets which were supposed to keep everybody in check.

Rules only have relevance if everybody sticks by them.

In reality, with so many people now granted a voice that can be heard in places that would never previously have been the case, the rules of our Social Contract on Social media are distorting and warping. Lies and truth become the same thing because individuals are unable to distinguish where one starts and the other ends. Is this country an enemy, or a friend? Is this leader asking for peace because they want it, or have circumstances dictated the need to change direction? What set of circumstances have pushed this movement to emerge now, and why did this not happen years previously? So much of life is filled with questions, yet few people take the time or thought to consider the answers.

Most days, people complain about what upsets them the most.

April 14-20th is Mental Awareness Week, and it is really rather important that everybody, regardless of their own personal issues, grasps how society as a whole is contributing to slow, overall disintegration by refusing to think outside our own lives and issues. Criticism should be an essential part of the creative process, and yet so many people now refuse to take the concept on board. Without it, you will never grow and improve, but most importantly of all, you will lose respect from those who, in many cases, simply wish to help and support.

Learning to deal with contention, now more than ever before is vital to developing as a better human being.

Building the Perfect Beast

I am beginning to see areas in my organisation and planning schedules that require improvement. One of them is having content ready before it needs to be published. This has meant a quite significant re-organisation of how things work and what is written at certain times of the week, leading to a provisioning of days for each particular part of the scheduling process. For now, things are working quite well, but there are holes and issues, especially when the desire to write effectively evaporates. The plan in these spaces is to try and capitalise on the periods when I am productive, and ‘load up’ content then.

That’s why you’re seeing this post on a Friday when it should have been here on a Tuesday 😀

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This means today I’ll be catching up on the backlog, but at the same time planning forward. Friday is now Poetry day so there’s not a panic at weekends about content. YouTube’s often complicated, organic development from the original concept is now scheduled on Wednesdays (and was, quite successfully) whilst Thursday covers the long-term #WarcraftMotivation project. This then frees up Tuesdays and Thursdays for writing and Mondays for forward planning, and once exercise is successfully inserted on top…

Yes, this will all work, but just needs some time to bed in.

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Once it is all established I can begin the process of expanding and stretching the writing muscles a bit more. The house will get a bit cleaner too, and my personal interests will finally be given some much-needed love.

If only all this stuff weren’t so bloody difficult to organise successfully…

Honesty

Yesterday’s estimate of novel editing completion was, unsurprisingly, somewhat generous. However, there’s a Bank Holiday Weekend coming up with lots of free time on the table, so it is not beyond the bounds of possibility to be done by Sunday night. That means giving some thought to the next project: it’s already percolating around my head, and there’s a Spotify Playlist to create as a result. Most importantly of all, there’s a cover.

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I’ve always envisaged a very simple cover for this story because my protagonist is incredibly black and white. As a result, this works on multiple levels. There’ll be some time next week spent building dedicated pages for my first Novel and this one here, so that not only can the process of writing be shared but also some insights into story and inspiration. It also forces me to start creating pitches for them both (a short synopsis of the plot) which will be needed going forward if I’m attempting to get someone to publish.

There’s a lot of enthusiasm and excitement at present for this part of my life going forward. There’s also a very real grasp of the potential disappointment and effort that will be needed to maintain positive and optimistic in the face of a very robust and competitive marketplace. I have no pretensions about any of this and am well aware of what will need to be done in order to succeed. The foundations are in place, and now it is time to start building.

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.