Things We Lost in the Fire

Sometimes, I take things WAY too seriously. It’s been like this for decades, too: it isn’t just a mental shortcoming, either. I’d love to be able to say the wiring in my head is to blame, which means I’ll often completely misinterpret signals. Yes, that happens, and there’s comprehension as to why… but other times, it really isn’t. Really specific stuff upsets me. Thoughtlessness, arrogance and the inability to possess even basic empathy. When you politely disagree with someone and their reaction is to give you the finger. Nothing says mature and sensible like the bird, actual or metaphorical. That’s probably why I use it so much because, on my day, I’m that person too.

Except you’ll never see it happen.

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I am tired, and need a holiday, and so my tolerance is low. Things other people find funny I will object to, but with a perfectly sensible set of reasons… except there’s no point in listing them. Repeating them is largely redundant if your target audience is gonna flip you the bird and explain that you’re the problem. Get a sense of humour, lighten up, why are you so serious? I’m this way because these things matter to me: when the tables turn, and you get incandescently angry over summat I agree with, remind us to have the conversation again and then perhaps you might listen, though I doubt it.

Today I realised how my writing has become the means by which these problems are solved without conflict.

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Short stories and poetry are becoming metaphors for far more than simply my own internal demons. Other people’s actions are now being exorcised, their attitudes that can be so painful to read or observe. I have, in my poetry submissions, also dealt with Brexit and the Internet as general contentious topics: it was never meant to be political, but just ended up that way. What was provocation at 2.15 then vanishes into a poem or paragraph by teatime and all the angst is forgotten. This is certainly cheaper than therapy.

Ironically, it is the level of noise and discomfort that the Internet has always emanated which gave inspiration today for another project, which will be presented as part of a submission for the Hollingworth Prize for Poetry, the closing date for which is the end of August. If unsuccessful, I’ve already got plans afoot to self-publish, as this will make up a fully fledged creative project. Experience has shown me that you don’t go into these situations without being prepared for failure, and whatever happens, this is already a concept I’m proud of.

This is all part of the process of remaining sane, arguments and all. I’m not here to be lectured to or shoved about either, there’s been far too much of that in the past. Now, things happen on my terms.

If I fall down, it doesn’t matter.

Promenade

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‘Why do you write?’

Sometimes, it is compulsion: a injustice observed, moment recalled or future imagined. Often the urge strikes at an inopportune moment. It’s why a notepad and pencil have more significance than transcribing into the Cloud or dictating into an iPhone. Whilst fingers can grasp an implement, the default is always a pencil, making it easier to correct mistakes. There are many in those initial moments. Then there’s my keyboard, copy of an old style typewriter, to remind of the days that was the only option when creating formal work.

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‘What do you write about?’

Everything is up for debate, nothing beyond the remit. Once upon a time, for about thirty years, poetry was evil and impossible to fathom, but with patience and thought that fear is now overcome. I dealt with learning difficulties and social dysfunction via blogging, granting a freedom of expression that remains a constant joy to manipulate. It’s also a source of amusement to observe the interpretations of what gets written. Those loved the most in that regard grasp that writing, like most forms of expression, is supposed to offer at least some level of ambiguity unless you’re told otherwise…

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‘What does writing mean to you?’

Words are my salvation, and my Kryptonite. To be able to express myself is the greatest joy and freedom that has ever been granted in my half a century on the Planet. This is not about a massive follower count or critical acclaim, because neither of those will ever grant the same joy as a well-written story or the blog post that truly expresses my feelings. When those words fail me, inability to express what ails or distracts, it is as if I’ve been struck down. The incapability to write, once destroyed, brings relief that cannot ever be appreciated enough.

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‘What is your favourite writing form?’

Blogging (literally) saved my life when all other effective forms of communication had failed, so to admit a soft spot for just being able to write ‘today I woke up and felt happy’ probably ranks quite highly. However, the storytelling aspects of the craft are where the real satisfaction increasingly lies. There’s been an extension of that into photography too in the last couple of years, and that media degree in my twenties might yet have some actual use going forward.

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‘What advice would you get to start people writing?’

Routine and practice, as is the case in most pursuits, will garner real returns. However, for some people the ability to do this daily can end up stifling creativity, so the better path inevitably includes finding a routine that suits your lifestyle. Write everything down. Planning in advance will help, especially if you’re writing a massive fantasy epic from scratch. The best advice of all however is be you, especially in blogging. An audience will invest in your life far more readily than you will realise, and the more that is given… that’s up to you. All of this, ultimately, is in your hands.

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.

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.

The No. 1 Song in Heaven

This week has been the most important in some time.

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The last time I edited something this significant it was fanfiction. I’ve never found the means previously to overcome individual inertia and have faith in my own narrative before but here we are, probably about a third of the way through. I might not end up at 120k but it feels that way right now, with absolutely tons of stuff cut away from the original plot. The problem now, however, is we are into the story-light territory which always stopped any real progress.

However, this time around, I know exactly where things need to go.

The soundtrack method, which got me through both Bondfics, has been employed here to stellar effect. It has become the means by which I saturate myself in narrative progression, and therefore don’t panic when a place is reached where it doesn’t exist. It also provides the opportunity for existing narrative structure to evolve, as has been the case over the last couple of days. The pictures in my head now exactly match the words on the page, and that means there is an overriding confidence that this isn’t simply the right path, but the best path.

I’ve reached a significant point in the story today: my protagonist is finally in a position to live alone, without supervision, but is unaware that her life cannot be as easily dictated, especially with the amount of emotional and physical baggage she carries. The next day or so will set up a couple of important set pieces. One has this a-ha song as a background, another is written with Duran Duran as the constant. These songs have absolutely no relevance to the action, in both cases. They are there to make things happen in my head, and it works.

There’s also an important point to make: the World, as you and I know it, ceases to exist in this narrative after 2005. That means all my musical choices are at or before that point, to allow me an additional means of getting inside the head of my protagonist. There’s another twist to this too: all of it is written in the first person, which I have found incredibly difficult to get my head around. However, that issue was addressed midweek and suddenly this seems like the most normal and correct form that’s ever existed. It has to be first person for a very good reason, too, but all that is revealed in time.

For now, I’m having a cuppa, making myself some lunch and then it will be 50k done before I consider stopping again. The chances are there’ll be a lot more words than that, but I’m trying not to let the domestic side of life slip completely into ruin. However, it would not be a lie to state that this is one of the most enjoyable things I have done for many years. The satisfaction gained from it is enormous, and the end result will, I know, be something I am immensely proud of. That’s why I began this journey, after all.

Torn

At the end of last year, I quietly announced via Social media that 2018 was the year I’d learn how to draw. I suspect that a number of people will have seen the intent and expected this was happening because of a desire to produce art for people in exchange for cash. That has, and never will be the point. The only reason I’m here, lets be honest, is for me.

I’m looking for various means of expression this year, and Inktober awoke in me the understanding that art is not just a full torso shot, or a lovely picture of a dog. It is the means by which I am finally able to take the mess of feelings and emotions inside my brain and makes sense of them in an environment that is non-threatening and helpful. I picked a comic strip format, it is now apparent, not because it needed to be filled with my slowly evolving sketches. I already know that the process of even basic visualisation is having definite and positive effects. So what if I’m beginning with boxes and easily createable metaphors I’m comfortable using? It is still drawing.

Admitting any problem, after all, is the first step to solving it.

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I’m also REALLY conscious of stepping on other people’s artistic toes. This is not an attempt to try and ride coattails or steal other people’s thunder. I don’t admit to being an expert at anything except my own feelings (and even that is stretching the definition at present.) What this daily process allows me to do is make sense of a part of my mind I’ve simply been too frightened to address… and already this is having a positive affect not simply on workload, but the means by which I can become happy. There’s a desire of course to help other people out and try and make thinking more attractive on a wider stage… but the comics need to remain mine. Just for me. It’s satisfying if someone else can associate with them, or compliment me on them but honestly, that’s not whey they’re here. This is not a Twitter account set up just to cash in on the concept. I’m not here to make a story and ask you to back it.

I’m here to learn to live with myself.

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I made a graphic so when I upload all the art to Flickr at the end of each month I have a space to store it all, and can archive it here. After that, I can look back on the first real and tangible effort to deal with my mental fitness for several years and know this should have happens a LONG time ago.

You live and learn, if you’re doing it right.

NaNoWriMo :: 50 K DUN

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Except… I’m not finished, not even close. I’ve provisioned two days next week to knock the last 20k or so off in a couple of sittings. I’ll make sure I commit to the Revision Camp that happens early next year. I just want to write more fiction now, not less. This entire process has revitalised my desire to tell stories, and will now serve to help me totally redefine how the Internet of Words goes forward. Mostly, I’ve enjoyed having to think again in a Universe of my own creation.

Let yesterday be remembered as the one which began the redefinition of my writing adventure. Let today be filled with the memory that I need to sleep better, and relax more too.