Job Search Hell

That’s where I’m at right now.  One of Dante’s lesser-known circles.

Possibly the worst bit is that I actually already have a job- one that I love and don’t want to leave.  So why am I looking for something else, you ask?  Good question.  The answer of course, is money.

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Turns out that working seven hours a week as a library assistant, and about fifty hours a week as a ‘writer’ pays…well…pretty close to nothing actually.

I’m aware we’re not supposed to talk about money- that in doing so I’m breaking some weird universal taboo, but honestly- who is this secrecy helping?  We all need to eat and somewhere to live, and I’ve yet to find a landlord or supermarket that accepts poems in lieu of payment, (not that I’d do much better even if I did, since I can’t write poetry for shit).

So, with a heavy heart I find myself looking for other options.  I spend about half of my time feeling really MAD about the unfairness of the situation, and the other half telling myself to STFU and stop thinking I’m some special snowflake who isn’t subject to the same economic strain as almost every other working class person on earth right now.

In more dramatic moments I hear Jim Broadbent, as Harold Zidler in Moulin Rouge:

zidler

(just change love to live)

In less dramatic moments, I tell myself that I’m no different to anyone else and that I’m lucky to at least be (vaguely) employable.

One thing that is really pissing me off as I trawl through job search results, is the demand on applicants to not just be willing to do the job for the pay, but the requirement to declare it your life’s ambition.

Seriously, if you’re looking to employ someone as a neurosurgeon, or helicopter pilot perhaps, I can understand you wanting the role to be one of that individual’s defining characteristics, and for them to display a real passion and significant dedication to the field.  But when you’re looking for a cleaner?  Isn’t it enough that they’re capable of doing the work, and that they’ll show up and give a shit, at least within proscribed working hours?  If you want someone to display AMBITION, ENTHUSIASM, FLEXIBILITY AND PASSION about cleaning a toilet, you’re possibly going to need to offer more than £7 an hour, and appreciate that you’re appealing to a very niche audience.

Ehhh…I don’t know, this could just be me having a surly attitude and poor work ethic, but when I stumble across yet another minimum-wage job that not only wants me to spend forty hours a week away from my children, my partner, my home, and my writing but also wants me to demonstrate that I will treat it as my #1 priority and life’s work, I find myself getting a bit ‘Braveheart’, yelling at the screen.

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It’s times like this I wonder if leaving nursing was a terrible terrible mistake.  But, when I (briefly) went back to it last year THAT felt like a terrible mistake, so how can that be true?

Gah.

Regardless, I should probably get back to it.  Incidentally if anyone knows of any kick-ass jobs that would allow me to keep my Saturdays at the library, and pay me enough to feed my children who basically never stop eating, then HIT ME UP.  As you can see, I am totally AMBITIOUS, ENTHUSIASTIC, FLEXIBLE AND PASSIONATE etc etc etc 😉

Déjà Vu

That’s the title of the story I’ll be releasing on Wattpad, starting this Friday (24th February)!

I promised last night that I would a. actually follow through and DO THIS and b. tell you, my tiny but loyal readership, a little more about the story itself in case any of you want to read it.  So, here I am.

Déjà Vu is a young adult contemporary novel, set entirely in North Wales, and dealing with- well, basically a lot of the stuff I dealt with as a teen, so- friendship, identity, trying to overcome past trauma, underage drinking, crushes, self-harm and a generous helping of snark.

It is not, however, in any way shape or form autobiographical.  Yes there are little snippets of my experiences parcelled up in my characters, but no more so than in any other character/story I’ve written.  I think all writers put something of themselves in what they write, like little two dimensional horcruxes, but that doesn’t mean that any of the main characters are actually me.  Likewise, although setting the story where my boyfriend grew up, and enlisting the help of our family (thanks guys) to translate some of the Welsh for me- it isn’t in any way based on him or his experiences either.  It’s fiction.  Just to be super clear about that:  I made it up.

It currently stands at 76k words, across 46 (quite short) chapters, although I can’t swear I won’t start tweaking and editing along the way- so the exact figures may vary.  I’m planning to upload new chapters every Monday and Friday.

 

Here is the cover:

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(Ta daaaaaa!)

And here is the blurb:

“Ryan Lovell detests the sleepy Welsh village he has lived in his whole life- along with most of the people in it, and in some cases the feeling is mutual. All he wants is to get out the place, but to do that he needs a university place- and to get that he needs a-levels, and money. Neither of which is easy to come by when you have an alcoholic Dad, and are living in the shadow of your own reputation.

Ryan’s best friend Hester is living in foster care and battling her own demons, and his only other friend Dewi has grown distant since they left school. When a new family moves into the village, Ryan gets both a way to make money- in the form of a part-time job as their gardener, and a distraction from his worries- in the form of the new girl Pippa, who joins him and Hester at the local college. For once, Ryan thinks things may finally be looking up- but when he starts blacking out and waking with no memory of what’s happened, he realises that his university plans- and hope of a relationship with Pippa, may be sliding out of his reach.”

 

So, if you like a bit of angst in your literature, enjoy un-pronounceable place names, and are down for strong romantic subplots, then Déjà Vu may be just your thing.  Or alternatively, if you’d just like to offer some support/critique my debut then that’s all good too 😉

This is my profile on Wattpad, where the story will be appearing, so…maybe see some of you over there?  And of course I’ll try to update here too, to let you all know how it goes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

N.B. (And I’ll be putting this disclaimer on Wattpad too).  This story does contain reference to (but not descriptions of) self-harm, previous SA, and suicide.  As a survivor of all three, I would hate for anyone to be triggered by that.  I like to think I’ve dealt with the issues sensitively and not used them for shock value- but really, who am I to say what might be triggering to anyone else? So if you think this might apply to you, then it might be best not to read Déjà Vu. I’ll be putting helpline links in the relevant chapters in case anyone is affected.)

I wrote a book

I wrote it a while back now, and I even blogged about writing it at the time, so this is not really news.  I came up with the idea in 2004 (!) forgot all about it for a wee while, had some babies etc etc, and then finally came back to it and started writing it in 2014.  I edited it in 2015, gave it to some beta readers (thanks you lovely lot) in 2016, and since then I have done…PRECISELY NOTHING WITH IT AT ALL.

Seriously.  I looked at the file information on the word doc today, and it was last modified in March 2016 (i.e. when I received it back from my final beta reader).  I also have a paper copy in an A4 file, that has been sitting on a shelf in the study for so long it has gathered a significant layer of dust.

Why haven’t I done anything with it?  You might ask.  Well…a billion reasons really.  I still wasn’t sure if I’d achieved what I’d set out to do with it.  It had evolved so much both in the decade between the idea and the execution, and also during the writing, that it had become something else altogether, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that.  Also it had some flaws, as all stories do, and I wasn’t sure how minor or major they were.  The feedback from my beta readers was good, but two out of four of them were related to me, and another shares my bed, so I mean…how critical were they ever going to be?  Was it secretly shit?  Should it ever see the light of day? Etc etc.  And so you can see, I think, how it almost became easier just to move on to writing the next thing, rather than devote my time to working out what if anything else needed doing to the book and how it should be shared with the world- if at all.

In the time since, I’ve successfully bashed out a first draft during 2015 NaNoWriMo (that I’ve yet to go back and edit at all), as well as starting and then abandoning two separate WIP’s (oops), and right now I am busy working on the first draft of two very distinct stories, and they’re actually going- dare I say it- ok?  One is probably a couple of weeks away from being ‘done’ (in the sense that I’ll have completed the scenes necessary for the plot, and be ready to step away from it for a while) and the other is nowhere near done, but I’m not rushing it and I’m enjoying myself in the process.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about that first story- the one that’s been idling in the wings, and wondering what it’s fate will be.  It seems a shame to have spent two years on/off working on something for only four people to ever read it, so I brushed the dust off the physical copy yesterday and had a flick through, and to my amazement I felt like- it wasn’t awful??  Usually when I read my own work I find myself cringing in that way that basically everyone does when they hear their voice on a recording.  Like: “damn, is that really what I sound like?”  And yes, ok reading some passages, I was like “Dafuq you on about in this bit?” or “Goddam girl, you need to get you some grammar lessons,” but on the whole I came away thinking that it seems a shame for it to go back onto a shelf and be ignored for the rest of eternity.

And so…I am probably going to put it on Wattpad.

I only joined last month, and I have a grand total of 2 (yes, that’s two!) followers, but if they both read it, that will increase the book’s audience by a whole 50% at this point, and honestly, even if no one does- at least I’ll have put it out there.

More and more (and I genuinely think WORLD EVENTS are having an impact here), I am coming to realise that putting stuff out there, is what’s important.  So long as what you’re putting out isn’t hateful bullshit I mean.  But just creating things that didn’t exist and saying “hey, this is a thing I made,” and spending less time worrying about:

  • If it’s the best thing you will ever make
  • If it’s the worst thing ever made in the history of the world
  • If everyone is going to hate it/you or
  • If your efforts will in fact be ignored completely

Because honestly, all that shit is a. exhausting and b. uncontrollable.

I don’t actually think that this story is the best thing I’ll ever make (pretty sure my kids take the biscuit there tbh), nor do I think it’s the naffest story ever (otherwise I wouldn’t have inflicted it on four people I love), and as for people hating it/me- I’m trying to get my head around the fact that someone always will, and I can’t let that stop me.  As for being ignored- honestly I don’t think shouting into the void on Wattpad will feel much different to talking to myself on here 😉

So really, the only thing that remains is for me to DO IT.

I made the decision today, and this blog post is a way for me to hold myself accountable in case I wake up tomorrow and go “Whaaaaat?  That’s a stupid idea, past Rebecca- no way!”

So my plan will be to post two chapters per week (the way Wattpad works, you have to release a section/chapter at a time, like a serialisation) probably on a Monday and a Friday, and see how it goes.

Before I encourage any of you to join Wattpad and read along, I should possibly give you a bit more information about the story, but I’ll do that in a separate blog post (probably tomorrow, because this one is already super long, and it’s almost midnight- when my laptop turns into a pumpkin and my jeans transform into pyjama pants- oh, who am I kidding, I’ve been in pyjamas since 7pm already 😉 )

So yes, if you want to know more, then please do subscribe to the blog/ follow me on Wattpad / follow me on Twitter / but probably don’t actually follow me in real life that will definitely freak me out.

 

Patrons and Patreon

Two blog posts in one week?! Apparently I have a lot to say right now.  Either that or I’m procrastinating in order to avoid writing a tricksy scene in my WIP…hmm.  Could be that too.

I DO have something to say though, and that is this:

I am now on Patreon!

The idea of setting up a Patreon page has been something I’ve mused over for a while now, and in great depth (as my poor partner will attest to).  I’ve read success stories, not-so-success stories, how-to articles.  I’ve mulled over what it means to be a ‘creator’ and the pros and cons of asking people to fund your creativity (which is essentially what Patreon does).  I’ve spent literal hours debating all of this and more, and then finally, on his way out of the house this evening (no doubt happy to be escaping yet more hmming and ahhing on my part) my boyfriend said “just do it!” And so…I did?!  Apparently Nike really were onto something with that, huh?

In an ideal world (Ha! Hahahahahahaha) I wouldn’t need to ask for financial support to write, but clearly this is not that world.  I am not a starving writer (yet) but the reality is that without some form of patronage or a lottery win (and I don’t gamble, so that seems…unlikely), I will probably need to start looking for a second job on top of my library post soon.  Two part-time jobs, two small children, a chronic health condition and spiraling anxiety doesn’t seem like a recipe for success though, and certainly not a scenario in which I imagine my creativity will flourish.  Hence, I have finally bit the bullet and set up a Patreon.

To be honest, given my online following (all ten of you reading this) I doubt I’ll be the next Amanda Palmer style success story, but nonetheless I have set a goal of $500 (annoyingly, Patreon only works in dollars, for those of you who can’t convert in your head- like me, that’s about £400) because if I were to get enough patrons to reach that amount, it would mean that I could forgo the ‘second job’ idea and just concentrate on being- well, me.  I.e. raising my boys, being the best goddam Saturday girl the library ever had, continuing to be a CIDP warrior, and- of course- writing.  Whether that’s blog posts, novels or short stories- just getting my words out there.

So, there you have it.  If you’ve got $1 to spare (that’s 80p to us UK folk) you can become my patron.  And if you haven’t, it’s all good-  I’ll still be here, wittering away when the mood strikes me.

“a bag of nerves”

I guess that’s essentially what we all are, but I feel like it sums me up quite nicely, as it manages to encapsulate both my damaged nervous system and my propensity for anxiety.

My anxiety, and in fact my mental health in general, is not something I’ve ever blogged, or really spoken about before to be honest, and I can’t say as I feel a great yearning to suddenly change that now, but as those of you who know me “IRL” will be aware- I have started making a nod to it on Facebook now that I’m actually at a stage of acknowledging it and seeking help.

I think it’s really telling that I have written at length about my experience of being diagnosed with and living with CIDP and had a lot of (mainly positive) feedback around that, and yet still not felt willing or able to share my similar experiences of suffering from startlingly common mental health problems.

As it’s 2017 (although you’d be forgiven for some days wondering if we’ve slipped back in time to the 1930’s) I think we all like to think that we’re pretty open-minded, and terms like ‘depression’ and ‘anxiety’ have lost some of the negative connotations or power that they once held, and in a way that’s probably true. After all, this morning I admitted to no less than four separate people in the playground that yes, I did have a good time on Friday night thank you, but I then had a panic attack in the early hours of Saturday morning that kind of took the shine off.  Being able to share that information with people and not think they’re going to start slowly backing away and turning down my childrens’ party invites, means that yes- we’ve definitely moved on from the notion that suffering from mental illness makes you inferior, or to be avoided.  But on the other hand, here I am still feeling incredibly hesitant about hitting ‘publish’ on this post, because the truth is- there is still that suggestion- whether internal or external, that your mind is something you can FULLY CONTROL.  So if it’s not working quite right- it’s within your power to fix it, and your fault if you then can’t.

I’ve been experiencing anxiety attacks for well over a decade and am only just now holding my hands up and saying, “so this is a thing I need some help with.”  I live with a mental health professional who has been (supportively) encouraging me to get help for the majority of that time.  So if it’s hard for *me*, then how much harder must it be for other people who don’t have someone holding their hand (either literally or metaphorically), rubbing their back and reassuring them that no, they’re not actually going fucking insane, or you know- if they are- then it’ll be alright and no one will hold it against them.

Until recently, my mental health mirrored my circumstances quite accurately, so when things were not going well, my mental health wasn’t great either (makes sense really), and so I told myself that it didn’t really matter how shitty I felt because sooner or later, things would calm down and I’d calm down too.  And that kind of philosophy worked ok for a while.  But for the last couple of years it hasn’t worked out that way- the sea can be flat, crystal blue without so much as a ripple on the surface and I’m still there in my boat yelling “WE’RE GOING TO DROWN!!!!!!”.  This juxtaposition has finally prompted me to actually admit that this is something I can’t just keep ‘riding out until it settles’ and that I need help.

Three little words with so much power.  How terrifying that is to type, let alone say.  But it’s true- I do need help.  I can’t keep waking up feeling like my heart is about to explode out of my chest, struggling for breath and wondering why the hell my body and mind are conspiring to kill me off while I sleep.  I can’t keep squashing down all the inconvenient, messy and downright traumatic bullshit that I’ve put off dealing with.  I need some help, and although that help might not take the cure of a magic wand wafting all this ridiculousness away, I hope at least it will mean I can steer my ship safely, regardless of the tide or the weather conditions, without constantly feeling like I’m about to be nommed-to-death by sharks.

I’ve also decided to be as transparent as I can be about all of this.  Because frankly, if I can blog about my feelings on fostering or that time I collapsed on a bathroom floor, or about pregnancy loss, or my Dad’s death etc etc then I should be able to be open about this kind of thing too.

So…my name is Rebecca and I have anxiety.  The level of anxiety that means that the woman who did my assessment a week ago called me up today to tell me I’m not suitable for low-intensity CBT and she’s referring me for high-intensity instead.  The level of anxiety that means answering phone calls is terrifying, the level of anxiety that wakes me in the dead of night to go check that my children are breathing, the level of anxiety that means I am constantly expecting SOMETHING TERRIBLE TO HAPPEN without knowing specifically what that might entail, so just worrying about every possibility- as a precaution.  The level of anxiety that means my panic attacks have gone from an occasional annoyance to a regular feature that if I wasn’t hyperventilating and crying at the time, I’d probably roll my eyes at.

So- that’s a thing and I’m getting help for it, and because there might be someone out there who is remarkably similar to me at any other point in the last decade, going “oh that’s familiar, but the idea of asking for help is scary”, I’m going to try to keep you all updated on just how scary (or not), this whole ‘getting help’ thing is.

In the meantime- have some helpful links:

https://www.selfhelpservices.org.uk/

(support, services and signposting- this is the link a friend sent me, that finally prompted to action, and I’m now on a waiting list, so if you’re thinking about taking that step, do check it out)

https://mind.org.uk

(Mind are a well known mental health charity and there’s loads of useful info on their site)

http://www.nhs.uk/pages/home.aspx

(nhs choices website, you can type literally any condition in and get some reliable information on, and usually some information and advice about getting help too)

https://anxietyuk.org.uk

(a user led organisation)