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.

Falling Down

Yesterday, I put back my weightlifting ambitions by an indeterminate period of time. The injuries sustained to both hands and my left elbow won’t be properly obvious until swelling has gone down, which could take up to a couple of weeks (knowing how my body reacts to these circumstances generally.) The fact this was my own fault? Totally incidental, in the wider scheme of things. What matters now is far more important: how mentally capable am I with coping with consequence?

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All the positivity in the world will not prepare you for the situation where circumstances go out of your hands. However strong you think you are, there are moments when you will be forced to think of things you never thought would be an issue. For most of us, losing a loved one or someone close is that circumstance in its most raw and unpleasant form. Everybody dies, it’s a fact of life, but when and how that happens becomes at least in part a testament to the person themselves.

It is how you live during the days you have that will ultimately become the remembrance others hold when you are gone. This is what drives me now not to waste days, but do the most that is possible with them, as often as possible. It means that despite having knackered an arm, my legs still work. So, time to get on the bike and making exercise count, whilst doing my best to promote healing. Then, once I get to the Physio next Tuesday, we will see where we are.

I’ve not told my trainer yet either.

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When all is said and done, this is a First World Problem. It’s not a threat to health, it’ll all sort itself out eventually, and I should be grateful for the fact nothing long-term or bad is likely to come of the incident. In fact, the last few days have been a wake-up call for a lot of issues in my life that are frankly non-existent when placed beside others genuine and heart-wrenching problems. The trick should be to just cope with everything without having to talk about it. My husband keeps telling me that I overshare far more than is sometimes healthy.

Should I really be blogging about this as a result?

It’s a fine line; there are many things I could share but don’t, personal issues that never see the light of day. Often there are real-life dramas that should never make it to public consumption, especially when related to my kids. Overall, there has to be confidence that what is shared is the right stuff, and isn’t negatively impacting anything. I’d like to think by now I grasp the balance. However, it is always best to keep asking, checking and adjusting stance. Maybe the next time I do that I won’t trip up over my own feet.

Next time, let’s hope I learn from this mistake.

The Last Time

A particular movie has prompted a vast amount of reaction on my timeline in the last few weeks. I feel this is the right moment therefore to highlight some basic truths about art, entertainment and expectation to this very vocal selection of an audience who feel… well, somewhat aggrieved.

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A long-time contributor to my Twitter feed linked this man’s video into my timeline yesterday. Normally, I’d pay such stuff little mind (mostly because I’m one of six people who’ve still not seen the movie) but the You Tube screencap for the video made me literally spit out my tea:

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NOTHING WENT WRONG with this movie. At time of writing, it’s cleared the 1 BILLION DOLLARS made worldwide mark in less than three weeks. However, if you want to cash in on a huge commercial success, the current trend is not to acknowledge acceptance of how good something is, but to savagely rip off its genitalia and then wield it in the manner of a trophy. That, all told, is not good criticism. Saying something is fundamentally flawed is also not good criticism, but this video is, by its own admission, a ‘discussion starter.’ If this video had been titled ‘What I didn’t like about The Last Jedi’ it would be a vast improvement. But hey, that’s not nearly as snappy, and You Tube remains a pretty cutthroat marketplace.

There’s been an inherent problem with the Internet for a while now, and I’ve experienced it at first hand more times than I care to remember. Not liking something is totally fine, discussing that in a respectful and realistic fashion is also fine, but telling people they’re wrong and you’re right is not. That’s not how art works. It is not how cinema, or books, or TV works either. You are presented with something that is whole, made a certain way, and that’s it. This is not a video game where complaining at the design team will get your issues addressed. Art is what it is and if you don’t like it, that’s acceptable as part of the experience.

Just because you don’t like something does not make it fundamentally flawed. It means you don’t like what you saw.

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I’m making no comment on the content of this movie, because (as was stated at the top of the article) I’ve not seen it. However, there’s plenty to say on people who create an online petition to strip The Last Jedi from Star Wars canon. I get that outrage gets you click throughs and makes money, but seriously? All this kind of behaviour does is reinforce a stereotype that trust me you will not want to hold onto for much longer if 2018 goes the same way as 2017. Yes, you can object to a film if it ruins your idea of a canon, and that is totally fine. The fact remains that if the film-makers decide to take things in this particular direction, there’s a good chance in the second part of a trilogy it has been done for a damn good reason.

That’s the small issue I feel that’s been utterly overlooked by the vast majority of the haters. You’re dissing a piece of cinema that’s not even finished yet.

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I made a promise this year to be more tolerant of those people with whom I do not agree, and so there is just this post to remind myself that when somebody else spends millions of dollars on something and I don’t like it, letting that hate consume my existence or capitalising on it for my own financial gain is not the ethical way to react. As a result, I won’t watch that video, sorry. When this work of art is finally finished, feel free to tear everybody a new set, haters. I still won’t respect you, and that’s the bigger takeaway. However, if by the time we get to the next episode of this serialised content and you’ve learnt some humility? Perhaps we can talk.

It is one thing to disagree with someone’s motivations, but quite another to make money on the back of a wave of hatred.

GSME #24 :: Stupid Girl

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On Friday, I did something stupid, and paid the price by being soundly roasted to a crisp on Social media. What did I learn from this? Thing number one is that if you decide to start a fight, the benefits can initially appear more sensational than the personal trauma that results:

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At its peak, my self-destruction was garnering over 25% engagement. That’s the stuff of legends and ultimately, completely unsustainable. The only way you’ll keep that amount of interaction going is to reply to every thread until your eyes bleed and you’re down to zero followers. In fact, there were so many responses and retweets the entirety of my analytics went tits up for the whole of Friday. It was only when I checked this morning that the real numbers were revealed:

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The truth, in retrospect, is that engagement for the day was a modest 1.9% overall. 65k impressions means absolutely nothing, in the larger scheme of things, and tells me (if I needed to know already) that most people love to sit and watch other people having a fight. It is the same mentality that makes drivers slow down when there’s a road accident. That’s not what I started my journey for.

It is certainly never going to happen again.

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I know when I’m in trouble, and gut has always served me well in instances of drama. However, what I severely underestimated in this case was the responses of those with whom I interact. This is probably the most important lesson of all when ‘doing’ Social media: not everybody is your friend, and ‘business’ is something that some people don’t like to think you’re mixing with their pleasure. Someone asked me a while ago how you know who to trust and the reply has not changed since this entire journey began.

Everybody has the potential to destroy you whether you fuck up or not.

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What matters more in situations such as this is how you conduct yourself after the event. In my case, I issued a public apology on Sunday and wrote a blog post where I withdraw myself from making any contentious comments on the subject in public. This used to be my job, until I stopped writing about that particular game in order to concentrate on the Patreon. If there is a contentious opinion to express from now on, it will be posted on my Blog, where there’s a better chance of presenting my opinions with some depth. My job now, especially this week, is what should be taking priority.

Friday didn’t happen to get either views or attention, I just wanted to discuss an idea. This post however is capitalising on this spectacular failure as a basis for constructive criticism. If I wanted to use anyone as an example of how not to do Twitter, it would be me. I can’t say this won’t happen again, of course, because nobody is perfect.

I can say some very important lessons have been learnt and acted upon.

Take the Long Way Home

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Those of you paying attention will know that Thursdays are now intentionally quiet on the Blogs because I’ve decided to dedicate an entire 24 hours just to writing fiction. The positive effect this is having on mental health is not to be underestimated, quite apart from the actual progress being made. 40 pages of editing was managed on MMXCI and the hope is to double that this week, but that’s not the whole story. I also forced myself to hunt down and seek out half finished works, notebooks full of treatments, and to track down fragments of documents saved on various back up CD ROMS.

The result is a new found confidence over what I have produced, and what can now be built from the foundations in place.

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Not all of these ideas are great, lets be honest. I’m not about to start shouting my proficiency from the rooftops, but there are elements from some stories that can be co-opted into others, for example. There are ways to take ideas and adapt them elsewhere, but the key is that everything is written down. Learning how to notebook, or if I’m on a treadmill write notes on my Phone has become a thing of great usefulness, and I’d argue that any artist benefits from not just working in their familiar spot or favourite space. Taking yourself out of comfort zones makes for interesting writing. By far the biggest buzz I got writing poetry this year was at a local festival. Sometimes, it helps to mix it up and do stuff that’s scary.

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What has been the most significant takeaway from all of this however is that I can write a decent story (if I say so myself.) What hasn’t happened is experimentation, or any kind of extension outside of what were very long-established comfort zones. That’s why I’ve picked the oldest story to start with, because in effect it has the most potential for re-imagination available. As a result, a major character’s changed sex, and a number of key scenes are being replotted in my MMXCI edit, to better reflect what I feel is the true diversity of humanity that should be presented. It seems odd now, looking back on what I feel had to be normal, realising that my own blinkered imagination was only reflecting back the circumstances I was trapped within.

Needless to say, I’m beyond excited at what is potentially possible with all of these works going forward. I’ll be keeping you up to date on progress, and am hoping to pick a completely new work to serialise on the website starting next year.

GSME SPECIAL :: Who are You?

This week, I was blocked by an Influencer for the first time. I know they’re important because they have a six figure twitter account (though not verified, which is a useful indicator to whether a particular @ ‘handle’ is considered by Twitter to be legitimate.) They followed me on the back of last week’s Blog post, so it is understandable they consider my work important. I’ll not be taking my tongue out of my cheek for this whole post, so we’re clear, because I’ve learnt the lesson that often the last thing other people want to you to tell them on a public forum is that you’ve seen through their blag. Oh, and for those of you who don’t know what this means?

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So, to the tweet that started this all:

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I saw this and was genuinely interested. That is the thing to make clear from the outset: I didn’t decide ‘oh let’s see if this person’s being genuine or not’ I assumed because of their reach and their output (more on this in a moment) that this was someone who was selling a service. As an artist (after a fashion) I thought it would be great to check this link out and when I clicked through to the URL?

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Nothing. Zip. NADA. Most people would have probably left it at that but I was curious: eleven favourites (but nine at the time I noticed) two retweets and nobody bothered to check the link? I found this a little concerning, and so I tweeted the owner of the account directly:

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The first thing that rang alarm bells on the last tweet was the timestamp: this person was supposed to be in the same time zone as me, but obviously wasn’t. The second thing that rattled the writer in me was how capital letters completely vanished from the second tweet but were very obvious in the first: however, if it’s 6.30 am for that person, maybe they needed more caffeine. However, I’d not get another chance to engage them because after this polite and informative exchange? They immediately blocked me. That’s when I logged into my second Twitter account, took these screenshots and started digging.

My six figure Influencer spends an inordinate time posting complete and utter crap, it must be said: proverbs with lifted internet pictures, silly news stories, plus stuff that might actually be useful but could also turn out to be a lie. Effectively, a user with hundreds of thousands of followers is filling Twitter with noise. The sad thing is, of course, is that your feed and mine relies on accounts such as these for an important and often vital component of daily life: the inspirational quote account, the personal wellness account, or cats/dogs/chickens/animal of choice daily spamathon. Unless you can prove the person behind the picture is who they say they are however, how are you ever to trust their validity?

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Remember how there’s that one person you know who keeps warning you that the world is being taken over by robots and you think they’re just over-reacting? They’re not. Right now robot accounts form an unspecified percentage of a lot of Social media: posting those cheesy How To Life Hacks and telling you how to lose body fat with a neat trick is all part of a massive algorithmic network that knows what you buy on Amazon and can find you hot singles in your area. All of this following and favouring and even sharing of data is less and less about how hard you work and more about how much you’ll stump up a month to get the reach for. I’m staring at an offer right now that guarantees me 500,000 people who MIGHT read my blogs for the low low price of $19.99 a month, and it is easy to see how attractive that could be.

The other thing that’s scary, of course, is that nobody will talk about it, because it’s the Wild West out here right now with everybody and Mad Grandma Josephine on the take. In these situations, integrity becomes a useful beacon in a storm of often intentional deception. The streamer you’re watching with 100k followers is likely to have a higher proportion than most who are real people, but they too will be towing robots along for the ride, like it or not. Working out who is real is often as simple as spending five minutes reading their profile before you press ‘Follow.’ Today’s take away from this is simple: don’t assume everybody is real on the Internet any more. Do your homework. If you think something is wrong? It probably is.

Most importantly, never be afraid to question anything you see.

Writing as Therapy :: Shut Up

This is only the second time I’ve used that song title for a Blog Post. I’ll take that as a minor triumph. I’m also aware that I owe you another post on Depression, but this is more important, because when I open my mouth and words come out, there are often all manner of unintended consequences I don’t consider. Take today, for instance.

Sometimes I write stuff and know I’m putting myself up for potential issues. This comes down to an understanding not only of the place I work in, but a grasp of the people who ‘live here’, many of whom I never communicate with unless they want something from me. I know the people who just say ‘hi’ and are happy to chat and normally come with a cuppa or a snack when they do. Then there are those people who’ll ask the occasional favour of me (normally reading shit) and for them, I will drop everything. Then there are those whom I know just read my post and need to point out their perceived injustice: typos, meaning, you name it I get the need to pop up, because you guys care too and that’s utterly cool.

Then I look at the people who don’t say anything at all right up until the moment they think they’re being ignored. I’ve written about this subset before, for various reasons, but today I had an epiphany of the like I’ve not experienced before. I am the agent of my own demise: because I choose to stand up and be critical, often that’s all that is needed to start a fight, often from a place where one doesn’t even exist. It goes back to the ‘popular’ opinion Tweet up top. Saying someone is X, even when X is an obvious truth to you just isn’t useful sometimes, because that doesn’t mean stuff gets better. What you really need is someone who ignores the bad and simply focuses on good in order to effect real and palpable change. 

I, in effect, really am the problem because I can’t look at the world 100% positively all of the time.

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Depression makes me want to fight everybody: the world, other people, myself. When I see something wrong I have to try and fix it right away, and only today did I work out why. It came from the most innocuous of conversations too: my daughter saw a meme I made yesterday about my 5 favourite chocolate bars, and went to the shops to buy them for me. When she asked me what I’d eaten while she was at school, I told her I’d gone for the #1 option. The conversation went as follows:

HER – That’s weird, I’d have gone for the number five and built up to the best.

ME – But what if I died today and then I was only on number 5, I’d have missed the chance to appreciate my favourite first.

HER – Wow Mum, way to make this far more serious than it needed ever to be…

This is my problem. Even the mundane matters, far more than it ever does to anyone else. Twice in recent memory I’ve been asked by friends how I feel, and on both times have replied ‘well if I died tomorrow this is the happiest I’ve ever been’ reducing both to a level of incoherence I’d not quite grasped could be possible. I do look at every day as my last, and have done for as long as I can remember, because death sits with me far more comfortably than I realise is the case with others. When you drift close enough to something, it loses grip on you. I don’t care sometimes what consequences I create for myself, mostly because part of the joy now of being alive is to fight for everything, just so you can feel vital and not this terrible, horrific nothing that depression creates inside your soul.

If you’ve never felt how utterly damning that can be, I have no way I can make you understand, but trust me: your entire existence pivots around it, often whether you like it or not.

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Maybe this doesn’t make me the best advocate for building communities as a result. Perhaps people like me really should keep quiet, but sometimes rainbows aren’t the answer. Grabbing your own lapels and physically pulling yourself up to standing is all that works, because all those rainbow colours bleed into a grey, watery mess. You want joy but you can’t, even though your enthusiasm can be infectious. Only at the highest point will you ever see everything? Try being at the bottom and then look up. Your reference point is different, but the place is the same. Which matters more?

Should you try and make a difference, or is it best to leave it to the people who don’t work in the extremes?

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Some days, I wonder if I make the right choices. Today is one of them, mostly because what I love matters above all else, but others don’t see me well enough to understand what I’m trying to do. That’s when I understand that maybe, if I explained myself better, that might change.

So, maybe that is the place I ought to start.