Shut Up

Let me tell you a story, this sunny Monday, of how words can set you free.

In an attempt to try and kickstart my writing career, I took a course at the local Community College. It remains a very Victorian building on the outside, but vastly modern within, and is exactly how you’d imagine Community College from TV shows.¬†It was, that first time (two courses were taken) new life in the mornings after kids went to School, and made me feel like, FINALLY, I’d escaped the confines of my own personally-imposed prison. For context, this was (I think) 2011. It seems like a lifetime ago, which with the changes that have now been wrought is not far from the truth.

My teacher was a revelation. He ran (and possibly still does) a comic book appreciation website… yup, it’s still there. I’ll probably follow him once I’ve written this and see if he returns the gesture, but I digress. He was the person who made me realise that my reality, the one that had been self-imposed and created in the panic of Post Natal Depression wasn’t anywhere near the truth of my potential. He was the person, when I read a piece of work with a swear word in it to the group, remarked at how much I clearly relished saying something that wouldn’t normally be uttered in public.

On reflection, this man’s actions began a significant moment in my renaissance.

The restrictions others attempt to place upon you, in their attempts to mould existence in their own image, have been an issue since that bloke on the mountain with his tablets of lore.¬†Ironically, that guidance is still being used as truth in a modern would which bears no resemblance to the one that book was created for as rules. It doesn’t stop those who want to make their points with fire and brimstone, so I wonder why people like this get so bothered that women won’t be happy, submissive partners. Fuck that for a game of soldiers, why not just let people do as they wish?

We all know why that doesn’t happen.

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If you want something enough, you work for it. My creative writing teacher, whether it was intentional or not, provided me with some vital fuel for a fire that would not previously burn, but thanks to him, now does.¬†When I look back at those weeks where there was purpose in my actions, that it felt good to be surrounded by individuals who¬† had at least one thing in common. That’s what’s missed the most in this journey, that there’s still a desire to hang out with those who enjoy words as much as I do. Perhaps it is time I sorted that out.

Maybe this can be that beginning.


[PS: He did follow me back. Cheers Carl, this blog’s for you <3]

Find Time

The Internet has changed my life.

It has been a long, often painful progress, but since 1992 (when our first dial up modem was purchased) a phenomenal amount of crucial, life changing events have taken place online. Many of those moments had the air of fiction about them, on reflection. Visiting a number of pen-pals I’d written to, who were all really annoyed there was a boyfriend in tow.¬†Finding other people who shared my love of genre TV, and then making a fatal mistake in judgement… and the list goes on. However, there is one overridingly significant result from all these years online, and it has nothing to do with anybody else.

This is the place which gave me space to learn, at my own pace.

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This is where the truth about my body and how pleasure could be derived from it finally made sense. Reading articles about editing, writing and technique, over and again, finally began to stick. The fiction read was not nearly as important as news and opinion, in the end, because the path to storytelling was grounded in current affairs. The people met in Azeroth, via LiveJournal and Facebook, both which were ultimately ignored for Twitter, opened my mind, and were a reminder that people can be mean, cold and arrogant regardless of the environment.

However, eventually, the right people were found.

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The significant of positivity in this journey cannot be underestimated. Those who would hug me when I asked, and listen when needed. The faceless, anonymous nature of individuals wouldn’t matter after a while, because you would get to know those who mattered over time. Then, there would be the need to adjust behaviour to match the moods of others, or the situations that would arise online, and from this came the vital confidence to believe a strength existed to change other things too: fitness, general health, what was worn and how those in the Real World could be less intimidating as a result.

Without the Internet’s ‘fiction’, many facts in my life would never have been exposed as truth.

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Most importantly of all, the innermost workings of my mind would never have been exposed to critique or examination without the Internet as a backdrop. It has been the longest time to find the pieces and construct the puzzle in my head, but finally there is the understanding of what it is I am and what is being looked at. That has been the hardest journey of all, but looking backwards to where everything started, the path is now very easy to retrace. That says to me that everything that brings life to this point is intrinsically right. Both good and bad have their part to play. It has become an exercise in grasping everything, them making sense of those pieces as and when it is possible to do so.

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Sometimes, it is an act. There are moments when self-defence takes over and I’m just making what seem to be the right noises. Most of the time however, there is method and confidence, where before it did not exist. As each new piece is fished from subconscious and placed in the puzzle, those moments are less and less frequent. This is a place that is where I want to be, and remain.

This is the place I truly call home.

Silence is Easy

After yesterday’s post, I realise there is an important coda that needs to be heard.

Sometimes, talking to people you trust on the Internet¬†can make everything better, especially when you’re alone and lost. To every one of those 44 people who took time out of a busy day to find me a GIF, or simply say yes, you can have a hug, I owe a debt of gratitude that needs to not only be celebrated but held up as demonstration as to how amazingly awesome these kinds of online communities can be.

It is becoming increasingly apparent to me that there’s a significant gulf of comprehension between those who ‘understand’ how the Internet really works (with all the attendant good and evil that encompasses) and those who don’t. Most significantly, those of us who claim to be experts seldom are and must be reminded at least daily this is the case. Every day is a School day for a reason: the most expected and predictable¬†can (and does) surprise. If you truly wish to live as an Internet citizen, professing ‘you know how stuff works here’ is putting you on a hiding to nothing. Time to give that up.¬†

Instead, like most things in life, the better time spent seems to involve learning how the Internet best works for YOU.

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Reaching out for help is perfectly and absolutely the right thing to do. Living your entire life in minute detail via Social media, however, may NOT be the ideal state of affairs, especially if other people are involved. In fact, from recent experience, do that and it does only end in tears. If I’m learning at 51 when to pick my battles, I can guarantee everybody else could take a look at themselves and pick up their averages.¬†Knowing when to ask for help is, after all, just as important as¬†grasping when to say NO.

I’ve also realised that today it would have been very easy to have broken my posting record here¬†because I don’t feel 110% able to cope. Making the effort to preserve routines, work to deadlines and accommodate¬†others are beginning to matter far more than was ever previously the case. by doing so, everybody benefits. That’s why today I remind myself that knowing when to speak up is a skill I’m awful at, and it needs work. I can ask for help now without a problem. Now comes the part where I’m comfortable¬†speaking up about what is going wrong.

It’s another J Word to add to the rapidly growing pile.

Go

It might be Sunday, but that’s traditionally been my most productive time of the week in previous months, and today will be no different. Once I’ve done my Gym visit shortly there’s going to be a ton of online stuff appearing, to give you good people an idea of what to expect in the months going forward.

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Needless to say, when I see you again tomorrow, it won’t just be a New Year. It is the next step forward in a journey that is altering both body and mind on a daily basis. Without putting to much babbly bullshit into this, I’m already looking forward to what’s on the schedule. If I wasn’t, we wouldn’t be doing it to begin with. Last year a lot of what happened wasn’t enjoyable personally, and that showed in the quality of output. The stuff I loved doing had far more enthusiasm and depth, and this is the direction we’ll be taking moving forward.

Let’s get ready to rumble, shall we?

If Leaving Me is Easy

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Yesterday, instead of writing (as I’m spending a whole month on NaNo) I had a day of making.

I have two types of friends at present: those who will be really pleased that I made their Christmas present for them, and those who wish I’d bought them some alcohol… or a gift token, or something else that makes me look like I’m not some kind of cheap-ass. Forget for a moment the amount of personal effort and thought that goes into my hand-made gifts. After a while, some people get tired of this and simply wish I’d spend the money. This year, those friends won’t be getting anything, because I am no longer caring.

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There comes points in every relationship where inevitably the path forward (or not) is defined by the actions of the people involved. Sometimes, this can happen without you realising the other person is even listening. Over the last few months, as I have pushed myself forward and into new spaces, it has been obvious that some people whom I care about are not really as keen about me as perhaps they once were. It is totally understandable, considering the complex set of variables at play which define how you interact as friends, that variance will occur. However, then you reach the situation¬† where it becomes apparent your path is not the same and that’s absolutely fine.

As I keep telling my daughter, not everybody in life will like what you are.

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For those ‘friends’ who are online, sometimes the Mute button is all you need for a quiet life, except there are those people for whom doing this will cause more affront than currently exists, because they have no idea how much they annoy you. What ought to happen in situations such as this, and which rarely does, is that people have the balls to admit up front ‘yeah well I stopped listening to you for a while there because you really pissed me off but now I agree with you again everything is okay.’ Except for somebody like me, that’s quite hurtful. If you have an issue, we can work it out. If you don’t care about working it out, then maybe we shouldn’t be here to begin with.

The bigger, long-term issue with this selective hearing is that the serial offenders, people who have pissed off group after group of people yet still continue unabated, can keep doing that if no-one has the balls to go public with their concerns. More and more, the counter argument of ‘just don’t start drama, nobody needs it‘ is roughly akin to that bit in Pride and Prejudice where Darcy admits to Elizabeth that if he’d been honest about George Wickham at the start, he’d not have eloped with Lydia. Except, of course, without that plot twist our protagonists would never have become an item… so what is a girl to do?

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This year will be remembered as the one when the past came back to destroy what many entertainers believed was untouchable popularity in a manner that is completely right and proper, considering the severity of the offences now becoming apparent. As I watch and slowly digest the manner in which respect and care was strained, ignored and flattened underfoot, it becomes even more important for me to maintain a personal integrity that reflects the person I am, both good and bad. I’ve made no bones about my mental issues, but some love to use them as a reason to control. Not any more.

I will do my best to be your friend: I can be polite and encouraging, perceptive and caring. However, there is a limit to how much shit anyone will take. Taking advantage of other people for your own end, parading them as your friend without asking permission, wilfully baiting or attacking their opinion to make a point or prove your superiority and then laughing about it in public… this is where I draw the line. You don’t use other people’s actions as a means to justify your own. Personal responsibility is just that. When I fail, I’ll make sure I pick up the tab. I expect nothing less from the other people around me. If those standards are unacceptable?

Door’s over there.

Communication Breakdown

Origins

Those of you paying attention will know that yesterday was my 51st Birthday. These events are often odd affairs: I can remember my 40th as one of the darkest periods of my life, whilst a decade on I was in Paris, with my family and staying in the fanciest Hotel I’d ever experienced. As human beings, we tend to put a lot of emphasis on these celebrations, and it is only this year that I’ve begun to understand why that is. Those revelations will undoubtedly serve as personal blogging fodder for several days: for now, I wanted to spend some time explaining how a very particular group of people have influenced my journey to this point.

You see, without exception, it is those who take time to be critical whom I respect the most.

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Being positive is, for a writer, often the coward’s way out.¬†I can remember moments when asked to critique other people’s works, I’ve struggled to find anything positive to say.¬†In those cases, the compliment sandwich becomes a difficult meal to make. You know how this works: two positives that act as the bread to a filling where you get to lay bare all the bad stuff. Except sometimes, there is only filling.¬†As a society, we are now pushed to be positive for a lot of very good, noble and totally correct reasons. There are extremely sound foundations for encouraging this behaviour… except when your sandwich is sans filling…

It is a balancing act I’ve always found hard to maintain because I was made a blunt instrument.¬†I’ve had to learn to communicate a balance, and over the years on my three blogs you can, if you take the time, watch this evolution take place. There will be days when I continue to say ‘fuck you’ to various sections of the establishment, and that remains the case because there is the realisation that these people just don’t listen regardless.¬†If your idea of criticism is the passive-aggressive format that at least one of my stalkers took in an attempt to try and make me feel guilty for ostracising him?¬†I can see the difference now. That ploy’s not going to work anymore.

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With everybody else, I can find a working relationship. Language differences do not matter: I can Google translate now if required (and I do when the need is there) and honestly if the willing exists on both sides, everybody wins. The best criticism I get, consistently, is that which simply holds a mirror up to my own failings without fear.¬†It happens far more than most might realise too: the exchanges via Social media, realisations that are highlighted by (often) the most unexpected of people. The number of individuals who still DM me when typos turn up in posts is a true joy and is never going to get old. It isn’t pedantry, but a physical manifestation of care,¬†and I will forever remain grateful.

Being online is becoming less dangerous with each passing day as a result. Those who are annoyed enough to block me from their lives have done their job in teaching the lessons around how sometimes, however hard you try, people will just hate what you are regardless.¬†Occasionally those blocks, however, are for sanity, and the understanding that someone isn’t listening to anyone but themselves. For the people who really matter you just mute and allow them the chance to vent, because they give you that respect in your space to do the exact same thing. Having taken all my Twitter mutes off this morning after a period where I just needed to breathe (metaphorically speaking) there a readiness to engage again.

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Writing isn’t just an exercise in self-satisfaction, despite what some authors might say to the contrary. It is as much about being able to grasp and accept the critical responses of others as it is being able to do the same to them. I am happy to be edited, which was once not the case but only to a point.¬†If I feel someone’s suggesting the removal of a point I feel is crucial to an argument or a narrative, it will stay intact. If someone sees the World in a differing way to me that is absolutely fine (and I can respect this) but not at the expense of my own view or indeed feelings on the matter. If it is obvious someone is not prepared to compromise… then you walk on.¬†With too much else to do, some fights are simply not worth your time.

However, I listen to all the criticism I get.¬†Good and bad, positive and negative, I have found the means to assimilate it all. That is something I know many people just can’t do, but for me, it has become as much of the process as the writing itself. I have been forged in the heat of decades of pitched Internet abuse, attacked by trolls and fools as well as finding some of the best and most brilliant friends a girl could ever ask for in her journey to enlightenment. Sometimes, you take it all because there’s the understanding that on some days, you get nothing at all.

This is what I have become, and it is glorious.

Word Crimes

This song speaks to me on a lot of levels. Given half a chance, I’ll be as pedantic with grammar as the next annoying twat, mostly if someone’s trying to give me a sideways slap via social media. However, most of the time when I’m writing my own Blog? I’m really not that bothered. There, I said it.¬†There are some notable exceptions: anything fiction gets the full 100% full on grammatically correct treatment, because STORIES ARE IMPORTANT, DUDE. Same goes for the stuff I get paid for, or that turns up on other people’s sites.¬†However, if I’m writing my own Blog (which I make zero pounds and zero pence for) I really don’t give a fuck. That’s about reaction and passion, and long may this continue, grammar issues¬†and all.

That’s why the World has editors, after all.

Today, I finally let go of the last person who’s been holding me back from truly being free in my creative spaces. I took inspiration from a friend who’s done much the same, and told it how it was. These parts of the Internet¬†are mine to control as I see fit. Everywhere else I’m subject to the¬†rules of others, but here that’s not the case. I don’t give a flying fuck how aggrieved people might be at this: while I’m capable of making the stand, I will, and what happens here begins and ends with my choices and NOBODY ELSE’S. If you don’t like it, tough. Most importantly of all, please don’t be deluded and¬†mistake this as some notion of censorship.

Some people I just don’t want here. Not because I disagree with them, but because they are controlling, unpleasant and manipulative shits.

Now that’s up in print, we can move on.