Talking to myself

country road sepiaI spend an awful lot of time talking to myself.  It started years ago, when deep in a bout of anxiety, I doubted every single word that came out of my mouth.  Every conversation, however small, was later examined in detail. I’d beat myself up for the idiocy of what I’d said, my self-centredness and my lack of empathy for the person with whom I’d been conversing.  (Jees – self absorbed much? But selfishness, as I’ve mentioned before, is one of the side effects of anxiety.)

I’d resolve not to talk at all, but that didn’t work in the real world, so I started to practice conversations I knew I was going to have. These took place mainly in the car while driving.  I told myself other people would assume I was singing along to the radio or talking on a hands-free phone. It did get me through some necessary conversations, but it also became a habit.

And it’s got worse, because for the last year I’ve had to do a lot of driving. The kind that doesn’t get me anywhere, but is helping someone out. (Or maybe it isn’t, but that’s someone else’s story.) Anyway, I have to do it and so have plenty of time to yak to myself.

Last year, I had my first interview in about 25 years. The build up to this resulted in many, many practice sessions en route to nowhere. As a result of that interview I now, alongside the journeys to nowhere, get to go somewhere: my other world, the lovely Corsham Court, for the MA in Writing for Young People. Of course, this means writing workshops and, in these, I need to talk. It’s essential to discuss books, give feedback to others, comment on feedback given to me, and so, more practising of talking is required.

Once, in full flow while driving to a workshop, I failed to notice that the satnav had overheated and was no longer functioning. Hence, I missed a turning. For a considerable amount of time I was lost in the wilds of Wiltshire.

So, I’m back to Uni after a bit of a break and talking to myself has begun again, not least because our first reading-in-public event approaches. So, if you see a slightly frazzled woman driving though the backwoods of Gloucestershire and Wiltshire in a dirty and battered Volvo, apparently singing along to the radio, you know who it is.

P.S. Coincidentally, I have just read this: ‘my habit of practising even the most mundane conversations repeatedly before I actually have them.’ This by twitter mate: @blondiecamps  on her blog: blondiecamps.

Coming Out of the Closet: the introvert writer

My guest blog for Writers Bureau is out there.

Their next competition is Flash Fiction and closes on 30th November 2014.

Retweet

I’ve just realised that when I changed my profile pic on twitter, it accidentally removed the link from here. Not as cool or clever as I thought.  Please excuse, I’ve been on holiday and therefore not blogging. I have been getting acquainted with twitter, though. Still learning. Have made a couple of errors – one, inexperience, and two, lack of judgement. They’ve been rectified and I have ‘met’ some good and interesting people. I have 126 followers.  It’s amazing. I’d go so far as to say it’s enhanced my life (a bit).

So, this is what I look like on twitter now.

Actually, this is what I look like in the real world, too.  I know, big step. It came about because I need an author photo for a project in the works. More details to follow. It had to be black and white with simple clothes and background. I hate having my picture taken but the offspring were on the case immediately.  In fact, they don’t like this photo because it doesn’t look like me, apparently. Maybe that’s why I do quite like it.

Anyway, this wasn’t the post I was going to write today. That will be coming to you soon. In other news, I have been asked to write my first guest post.  Details to follow…

 

Back to Me

Blog posts are like buses in rural Gloucestershire.  Nothing for a month, then two come along on the same day and, meandering around several tiny hamlets on the way to the final destination, take three hours longer than necessary to get there.

I’m getting worried about spam.  It used to be that it offered medication for body parts I don’t have and technical advice I don’t understand, so it didn’t bother me much. However, it seems that they’re on to the real me as I am now receiving how-to-get-a-flat-belly spam. Depressing.  Like someone sits inside my computer screen and sees the ring doughnut round my middle.

Writing news.  My aforementioned first-placed ghost story Playing Out is now available to read for free at writersonline.

And that thing I’d been working towards for a long time?  Very excited – I have been offered a place on the MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa Uni.  Looking forward to September and spending time at the stunning Corsham Court where the course is based. I thought I’d taken a photo of the amazing architecture or gorgeous grounds or perhaps one of the peacocks that wander freely there.  But, no.  Turns out the only thing I photographed was the loo.

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Still, toilet humour and writing for children, goes hand in sticky little hand, surely?

How (not) to blog

blue flowerBeen reading a lot of articles in writing magazines about blogging recently and turns out I am doing it all wrong. Key points seem to be:

Do not write about yourself

Do not write about writing

Do not write about writer’s block etc

Good job this is just my practice blog, then. You know, the one before I am a famous author. Ha ha.

Even my spammers are telling me what I am doing wrong in terms of SEO optimisation. At least I think they are, they write a different language these techie folk.  I understand it about as much as the ‘comments’ received in Cyrillic script.  Although if the Russian feedback is anything like the rest of the stuff I get, I’m glad really. (See Being Someone Else.)

Plus, someone recently reminded me that whatever you put out there is there forever. That’s a scary thought. All those anxieties and little foibles on display for eternity.

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Perhaps I should follow the wise words in Mslexia, issue 61. In Digidoings – Plan B, Katy Evans-Bush suggests inviting guest bloggers to write for your blog and hoping that you will be asked to return the favour. Wendy Clarke in “Be a Good Blog Host” (Writing Magazine March 2014) advises on the etiquette of approaching and hosting guest bloggers. Writers’ Forum issue 149 has an article “Make Money From Your Blog.”  That would be nice. Time to set myself some new objectives and get serious about this bloggin’ lark.

Of course, that will be a distraction from the other thing…

blossom

By the way, the photos are nothing to do with the post, just that it is spring and actually springlike. What a difference a month makes. The offspring got hold of my phone and took these splendid shots at Westonbirt Arboretum.

Being Someone Else

fog.bmp

This week I’ve had a series of dates, dancing till dawn with Insomnia, Lady of the long, long night, followed by early morning travels through the Cheltenham Races traffic, and fog as thick as snot.  I have been constantly driving into an abyss.  A white wall and them I’m in it; a white wall and then I’m in it.  Perhaps, it’s a metaphor for raising teenagers.  After an hour or so, there was something akin to snow blindness – fog myopia, maybe. At one point, I saw a woolly mammoth before it morphed into a cluster of trees. Of course, trees. Why would a mammoth be roaming rural Gloucestershire in 2014? Fog steals time, though, and sound, and place. I could have been anywhere, could have fallen through to somewhere else. Been someone else.

I’m thinking about this at the moment, being someone else. I began this blog as the Great Procrastinator. It was a persona, something for me to hide behind because this modern need to put everything out there repulsed and terrified me. It hasn’t worked. Sometimes I don’t like the Great Procrastinator’s tone, or the fact that she’s talking about domestic minutiae when there is a world of trouble going on out there, and mainly because I have put my insecurity and vulnerability out there anyway, albeit predominantly to purveyors of dubious pharmaceuticals and faux designer baggage.

I’m not sure what the point of this rambling is. Just tired, I think.  Insomnia is a demanding mistress.

Today, while fog still hung about in vast drifts, the sun came out; a disc, whiter somehow than the white sky; more perfectly round than the moon; a colossal sequin behind the mists, waste product of a giant’s craft project.

The Great Antiprocrastinator

No, I haven’t gone all anti procrastination.  I vowed this blog would never be about ways to stop procrastinating, mainly because the first point I would make would be to stop reading blogs and get on with something more important.

I’m still on the subject of Rome.  As if the architecture wasn’t enough to make a great procrastinator feel bad, we visited an exhibition of Leonardo Da Vinci’s designs.

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That man had a finger in many a (pizza) pie – anatomist, artist, scientist, city planner, engineer, weapon designer, architect, musician, sculpter.  Not to mention, vegetarian.

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How amazing to have such a mind, to be capable of doing so much and seeing so many possibilities.  So many things he had foresight of, that have taken the rest of the world hundreds more years to develop – flying machines and medicine, among others.

design for a tank

design for a tank

I wonder if he ever slept?  He certainly didn’t waste hours wittering about invented problems and insecurities and thinking endlessly about all the stuff he wanted to do but not actually doing it.  I bet he never had a ‘To do’ list.

He is the father of all anti-procrastination and inspires in me both the desire to get on with it and a sad apathy.

It’s much the same when I go into a book shop.  I think: ” Wow! Look at all these books. So many people have managed to write a book (or several) and get them published.  If they can do it, there’s no reason why I can’t.”

The other part of me is thinking: “Oh, no!  Look at all these books.  They’ve used up all the ideas that ever existed.  How am I ever going to come up with something original?  There’s no hope.”

Sadly, the latter usually wins the argument.

 

I started writing this in July…

On 30th July, my submission count for the month was at zero, instead of the four I had promised in my self-imposed “treat-writing-as-a-job-this-year” campaign. There was a competition I definitely wanted to enter – Inktears Flash Fiction.

I got my act together and submitted two pieces of flash, then went on to the site to catch up with Anthony’s blog.  I discovered this:

http://www.inktears.com/Inktears/Thoughts/Entries/2013/6/5_Should_I_blog_or_should_I_write.html

which really says it all.

 

I should be doing something else…

I’m only here because I should be doing something else. And there you have it, the blog about procrastination has eaten itself.  I’m supposed to be writing. Not a blog post, either. On January 1st, I resolved to submit four stories a month and I’m struggling in June to submit one.  The anti writing gremlins are still staying with me, and as they’ve been here a month, they’re getting somewhat tiresome.  They are little worms burrowing into my brain, with their negativity. Much like the person, who having kindly given me a top, size Medium, looked at me wearing it and said, “I should have got you the Large.”  The AWG’s have the same effect on my self esteem when they whisper “You’ve read David Mitchell, haven’t you? Hilary Mantel? What are you still doing with a pen in your hand? What makes you think you have any chance with this writing lark? Give up now, loser…” etc etc “Oh, and by the way, you are too old and fat to wear sleeveless tops.”

Not only the writing worms are saying this to me, but an actual editor too. Yes, the one I spent all my time creating a pen name for, rather than concentrating on writing a decent story.  A polite letter arrived with the killer sentence –  “we felt the story line was a little too weak to hold the reader’s interest.”  Arggh! Stab me in the heart with a fountain pen, why don’t you?

But you know what? This feedback, like all the other critiques and comments I have received over the past couple of years, makes me think that editors are really rather good at their job. Without fail they manage to pin point, far more accurately and succinctly than I can, what I’ve been vaguely feeling is wrong with my story.

A story may be weak, but it is never dead.  And this one’s still got a chance of life.  I’m planning to turn it into a flash fiction.  In the spirit of rallying my writing reserves and getting some work out into the public domain, here is one I prepared earlier.  My first ever piece of flash fiction, it was placed third in Flash Fiction World’s March 2013 competition.  Read it herehttp://www.flash-fiction-world.com/going-back-to-frank.html

 

Blogcrastination

My, but setting up a blog is a marvellous way to procrastinate while kidding yourself you are actually doing some writing.

I can now add a number of blog related procrastinations to my list each morning. Blogcrastinations, as I have named them.  This is the start of my effort to get a new word into the OED. It was a new year’s resolution, and now it’s April so I’m moving forward at my usual pace on that one.

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Half an hour later and I’ve discovered that I haven’t invented a new word after all. A few moments on Google and I am depressed to learn, once again, that I have never had an original thought in my life. There is always someone who has got there before me. Someone who doesn’t procrastinate, perhaps?