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:

dejavucover

(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.)

Advertisements

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)

 

 

 

A Bad Attitude is Really Really Not the Only Disability in Life.

Can we talk about this?

theonlydisabilityisabadattitude

Like, no.  Just, no. No no no.

If you’re short on time today then feel free to stop reading now and get on with your afternoon, because to be honest- that’s a pretty good summary of what I’m about to say.

I thought I’d blogged about this issue before, but a quick trawl through old posts didn’t turn anything up, so possibly I *thought* about blogging about this before, but then bit my tongue.  Hard.  The way I frequently do.

But I’m feeling a bit, umm…sensitive at the minute.  After a week in which the kids went back to school and I went back to my fitness regime (that had given way during December to evenings under duvets and increasing volumes of Baileys), my body is protesting, I guess you’d say.  Not quite dramatic enough for me to bust out the word ‘relapse’ but enough to mean that I am a quivering wreck- literally.  My hands have been shaking near constantly for about three days, which leads to anxiety, which leads to panic attacks, which leads to adrenaline- which REALLY helps*, obviously.

(*sarcasm klaxon)

And the thing is, throughout all this, I can’t get this fucking meme out of my mind.

It’s not the image.  Let me repeat, for the cheap seats in the back: IT’S NOT THE IMAGE! I don’t know why I’m even bothering to emphasize that, knowing full well there’ll still be someone out there who thinks I am bitterly opposed to such a powerful image of a disabled person displaying power and strength and all the things we’re told by society, a disabled person can’t have/be. It’s an incredible image.  My problem is not with the image.  My problem is with the slogan someone has helpfully superimposed onto it.

 

‘ The only disability is a bad attitude’

Really?

Really?

*raises eyebrow until it lifts off my forehead and floats off into fucking space*

Anybody who thinks that the only thing preventing people from accessing public spaces, education, work opportunities, social events and from taking care of their activities of daily living is their attitude, should refer to the diagram below:

wheretoputyouropinion

Most people reading this will know why this kind of able-ist bullshit bugs the crap out of me, but in case you’re one of those who doesn’t- here’s the deal:

Three years ago I went from being a busy young mum of two small boys, working part-time nights as a nurse on a neonatal unit, running (ok, jogging) 10ks and generally ‘leading a normal life’ to lying in a hospital bed, largely unable to move.

But the only disability in life is a bad attitude, right?! So I got my shit together and got me the fuck outta that bed and GOT ON WITH THINGS.  Because really, it was only my bad attitude holding me back, amirite?!

Umm…no.  You see what was actually holding me back, was my body.  Specifically my immune system, which had decided my nervous system was a foreign invader and begun stripping all my peripheral nerves of their myelin sheaths.  Don’t know what a myelin sheath is? Well, let me tell you- they’re important af.  Without them, your nerves can’t transmit signals .  So, to be clear- my brain was like: LET’S STAND UP

And my legs were like: …………..

*neurological tumbleweed*

 

This kind of message, this idea that anyone can overcome ANYTHING as long as they’re DETERMINED, sounds very aspirational and wonderful, but there’s one teeny tiny problem- it’s not true.  And it’s damaging.  It’s damaging because it makes people- vulnerable, scared people who’s lives might be falling apart, who might be in pain and terrified feel RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR PROBLEMS.

I know, because I literally sat on my toilet, stared at my legs and thought “Maybe I just didn’t try hard enough last time…come on legs, we can fucking do this.”

And guess what happened?

Nothing.

Of course.  Because pure longing doesn’t actually repair biological damage.

I also know because I told myself, in the brief time I spent at home deteriorating rapidly, that I CAN DO THIS.  I SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO THIS.

THIS being: EVERYTHING.  Driving (yes, I cringe now but I drove around Manchester unable to feel the soles of my feet, unable to change gear one-handed.  I could have fucking killed someone but hey, got to admire my can-do attitude right?  NO.)  Looking after my kids- even though I couldn’t lift my one year old. Dressing myself- even though my hands shook so badly I couldn’t fasten my bra. Walking down the stairs- even though I fell, multiple times.  Yes one fall down the stairs was not apparently enough to convince me that I could not actually ‘do this’.  And what’s even more terrifying is that I was pregnant.  Pregnant falling down the stairs.  We all know how this ends of course, i.e. not well.  It turned out, to my relief that those falls- particularly the one bad fall I had, hadn’t actually caused my miscarriage, and that the pregnancy was doomed from the start.  But I didn’t find that out until a month later.  A month is a long time to carry that burden of guilt.

Able-bodied people (because to be honest, I’m pretty sure that’s who images like this are for- to make able-bodied people feel GOOD and INSPIRED and MOTIVATED etc) suggesting that anything can be overcome with the right mentality are not only grossly mistaken but also contributing to the societal idea that disabled people come in two categories:

1.Wonderful celebrated specimens of humanity- patient, humble, kind, achieving above and beyond what seems possible even for able-bodied people.

2. Bitter, twisted people who ‘let their disability rule their lives’.

We all love “Doctors told me I would never walk again but I did!” stories.  Not so much “Doctors told me I would never walk again and actually they were right and I still can’t walk but hey guess what I’m still a valid fucking human being and actually not your motivational piece” stories.

Disabled people, sick people, chronically-ill people are told “you don’t look ill/disabled” and on the face of it- yes it’s a compliment.  Who the fuck wants to be told they look like they’re about to dodder off this mortal coil?! But on the other hand, it’s a bit of a backhander isn’t it? “You don’t look disabled” i.e. “Well done hiding your disability.  God it would be awful if us ‘regular’ folk were confronted by the notion that we’re all just one biological failure away from disability.  Thanks for keeping it tucked away there, sport.”

I love an inspirational picture/article as much as the next person.  I love stories where people overcome barriers- regardless of what those barriers may be- to achieve things that are important to them.  I don’t want people to stop pushing themselves, to stop shouting from the rooftops when they achieve things that they, or other people thought impossible- whether that’s pull-ups in a wheelchair or just wiping your own ass when you’ve previously had to rely on others to do it.

But let’s not kid ourselves that pushing ourselves- that Positive Mental Attitude is the only thing that’s required.  For disabled and chronically ill people to achieve their full potential- their personal, individual full potential- not the dreams and goals YOU set for them, but their own, a can-do attitude is only a very small part of what’s needed.  Societal acceptance, and wide-scale change is also pretty essential.  Psychological input, a strong support network, and acceptance that some things might not be possible.  Reassurance that even if it turns out you’re NOT capable of pulling yourself up in your wheelchair, or indeed wiping your own ass. that you’re still- shockingly- a valuable person, who deserves to live and is worthy of time, and space and respect.

Of course, my story falls into the “happy ending” category- so far at least because I did walk out of the hospital.  It took time, but I hobbled out on crutches and now my remaining crutch waits in the hall, for a day in the future when I might need it again.  Because the reality is- it isn’t a “happy ending” until The End.  And I’ll be living with CIDP for the rest of my days, and I’m really hoping I have a lot of those left.  There’s no guarantee I won’t deteriorate, that I will remain ‘inspirational.’ Will I be less worthy as a human if I can’t ‘perform’ physically, if I can’t contribute to society in the only way it knows how to measure- labour and profit?

So when I see able-bodied people sharing the above meme, complete with caption (note, not the stand alone image) you should know that I don’t think “how wonderful that you’re celebrating this man’s achievement” I think “Do you even know what the fuck you’re talking about?!”

And if that makes me over-sensitive, well it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been accused of it.  And perhaps you’ll be better able to understand my ‘sensitivity’ when I tell you that I had a panic attack in my bathroom this morning because as I brushed my teeth I caught sight in the mirror of how badly my hand was shaking, and from there it was only a brief leap for my brain to the memory of when I first bought an electric toothbrush (summer 2013) because I no longer had the strength required to move a regular toothbrush around my mouth.  Yes, I was really that bad.  And it only got worse- the electric toothbrush was a temporary fix, but as my condition deteriorated it became too heavy- I had to use two hands to hold it, and then eventually the concept of brushing my teeth unaided became a pipe dream.  But throughout it all, of course, I maintained my positive mental attitude- which only served to make me an utter bitch to be honest, because I felt I should be able to do all the things I couldn’t and if I couldn’t….well I just wasn’t trying hard enough. That kind of pressure is destructive.  Just ask my boyfriend who bore the brunt of most of my outbursts

“I should be able to do this!”

“Why can’t I do this?!”

“I don’t want to be like this”

“This can’t be my life”

It’s hard enough to accept you’re not in control of your own body, life, future, without being expected to OVERCOME YOUR BARRIERS and FIGHT YOUR DEMONS and ALSO BE INSPIRATIONAL FOR ABLE BODIED FOLK TOO PLEASE.

So please, stop with the able-ist propaganda.  Yes some disabled and chronically ill people might put your complacent asses to shame, but others might be struggling to exist without help, and perpetuating the myth that ANYONE can overcome ANYTHING if they only want it badly enough, is not just insulting, it’s damaging.

 

 

 

 

2016

Well, here I am again, rounding-up a year in which I hardly blogged at all, in a blog post.  It does seem a little disingenuous, but the alternative was to continue letting virtual tumbleweed blow through here, and have all five of my regular readers wonder if I was ever coming back.

Well, hello to the loyal few, and thanks for sticking around.  2016 was an utterly bizarre year for a whole host of reasons on both a personal and global scale and honestly, there were several parts of it I would rather not revisit mentally here, but there was a lot of good too.

I started out the year with ALL THE INTENTIONS.  We’d just said goodbye to our foster baby and I was about to throw myself into the return to nursing program and full-time work and I also had other more personal plans afoot- but quite quickly, like literally by February- I knew that the year was not going to turn out how I had planned it would.  I quit the course- sorry, stepped off (sounds much more considered and responsible) and I’d been in a minor but fairly traumatic car accident, and totally separately to that been given an official diagnosis of PCOS.  Basically, by spring I’d scrapped every single resolution/goal I’d set myself and instead was in a place where my mission for the year was to- get a job, and survive.

Fortunately I managed both. And not only did I manage to find a job- but a job I actually really enjoy- working as a library assistant. Bonus! I also set up my own etsy shop, and managed to break even before the end of the year (another major bonus) and started work on no less than three separate WIP’s- two of which I abandoned and the third of which I’m still working on right now, well…not *right* now, since I’m here writing this, but you know what I mean.

The thing is, 2016 felt almost quiet in comparison to what I’d had planned for it- I was braced for so many HUGE changes to our everyday lives, that what happened instead- my quiet contentment with my part-time library job, and pootling away with my crafting and writing- seemed almost sub-plots, with me waiting to see what the over-arching storyline would be, but then there wasn’t one (aside from the world seemingly crumbling around us that is) and now it’s over and we’re three days into January and I’m wondering if I should even bother to make any GRAND PLANS for 2017 or just suck it and see.

I’m tempted to go with the latter although I do have a couple of things I want to pledge to myself- I WILL finish the first draft of this story, no matter how many times I read it back and groan or find myself writing notes to myself like WTF IS HAPPENING HERE in the margins, and I WILL NOT give in to the temptation to just shave off all my hair despite it’s unbearable appearance during this weird in-betweeny growing out stage.

Hugely important life goals, as you can see, but whenever I try to think bigger/look wider I feel overwhelmed, so for now a commitment to getting words down on paper and leaving my hair alone are all I can manage, and that will just have to be enough.

Happy New Year to my readers- I can’t promise a greater frequency or quality of blogging in the coming year but I won’t entirely abandon you either 😉

On swimming & writing

I’ve blogged before about my love of- but not necessarily skill at- swimming, here and here.

Well this week I went for my first swim of the year, and by that I mean not only my first swim of 2016 but literally my first swim in almost a year.  I am usually a seasonal swimmer anyway, as the thought of leaving the house after dark in the winter months and voluntarily plunging into luke-warm water wearing nothing but a small amount of lyrca just seems, well wrong.  But I didn’t manage much swimming- or really anything at all- last summer on account of fostering a newborn baby, which left very little time for anything else.

So I was looking forward to getting back in the water, but I was also apprehensive- we have a new local pool so I’d never been before, I didn’t know how busy it would be, where the changing rooms were, I was worried I’d be so out of practice after my year of very little exercise that I’d get in and promptly drown.  But actually?  It was fine.

It was moderately busy, but I was able to swim up and down without getting in anyone’s way (or anyone getting in mine).  Yes there were people there swimming faster than me, and people with better technique, people who weren’t afraid to put their head under the water…but there were also parents with kids struggling to just stay afloat, an elderly man with his daughter practicing rehabilitation exercises, and a woman not much younger than me wearing armbands.  No one cared that my breaststroke was sloppy, or that I kept my head above water.  Everyone was too busy with their own stuff to notice how wide my thighs are or how long it took me to make it from one end of the pool to the other.

It’s no secret that I haven’t been writing much lately, here on the blog things are pretty quiet, and behind the scenes not much is happening either.  I told myself that this year would be the year I would finally DO SOMETHING with my writing, that is- start showing it to people other than my close friends and family, enter competitions, query the book I wrote in 2014 etc etc.  But it’s the middle of April and I haven’t done any of those things yet, and truth be told I’m not sure when I will.  I’ve been crippled with self doubt for weeks now, thinking that every word I put down is pure garbage, reading over the fourth (and so far, final) draft of my YA novel and thinking there’s not a chance in hell of it being published, holding back from the blog because I don’t know how to put my feelings into words, and because there are some things I don’t know if I’m ready to share.  I’ve been comparing myself to anyone and everyone, and always finding myself lacking- in skill, in accomplishments, in LIFE and EVERYTHING.

It’s been pretty shit basically.

I vowed to do Camp NaNoWriMo as a way to push myself to JUST GET WORDS DOWN and get a new project off the ground, but it backfired horribly when I realised I wasn’t 100% on the project and felt completely unqualified to write it.  For a couple of weeks I didn’t write anything, and I thought maybe that could be the answer- to just STOP.  For a while anyway, to not force it and hope that whatever was missing would come back, or whatever had gone wrong would somehow right itself.

But as I swam up and down the pool on Tuesday, I began to feel lighter.  Not just literally, but metaphorically too- does it really matter if my new WIP is a wobbly disaster?  Does it matter if only a handful of people visit this blog?  Does it matter if other people are getting agents and publishers and PHDs and I am scratching down vague notions in a Tesco Notepad?  Or does it only really matter that I do things because I enjoy them?  Like swimming…

I used to be able to swim between 40 and 50 lengths in an hour, so I was torn on Tuesday between setting my goal at 50 lengths or setting it at one hour.  And then I realised that what was important was that I’d got in the pool in the first place, and anything after that was just a bonus.  So I swam for an hour, in which time I managed 35 lengths.  I could have beat myself up about that- last year I could do 50, that guy over there must have done about twice that in half the time, I really need to synchronise my legs and arms better and try putting my face in etc etc etc.  But instead I thought how pleased I was to have made the time to go, how nice it was to try out the new pool, how pleasantly tired my limbs were on the way home, how glad I was that I learned to swim as a kid and how fortunate I am that my CIDP is so well managed that I actually physically CAN swim right now.

And it hit me, that I could apply that same mindset to my writing too.  Sure some people have a stack of writing qualifications, and have won prizes and secured book deals and have a billion followers on twitter and enough money in the bank to not need to worry.  But there are also people who can’t read or write, who wouldn’t know where to start coming up with an idea for a story or who are staring down the barrel of their first ever first draft.  There will always be people ahead of me in swimming- and in writing- and in life, and there will always be people behind.  And actually it’s not a race, and no one is keeping score.

Maybe it is good to take some time out now and again- if everything is frustrating and nothing is working and even trying is making you feel bad about yourself.  But in this case, I think I need to do the opposite- and just push through.  I abandoned my WIP (which was really just a character list, vague plan and a folder of research) and instead jumped on an idea I had a while back and just rolled with it- no planning, no thinking about target audiences or marketability or if it would be The Best Book Ever Written (it won’t).  Just writing.  Making words appear where there weren’t previously any words, and not beating myself up if those words are a bit naff at times, and what do you know- I now have 2500 of them, and my aim is to get enough of them (probably about 10,000) to know whether this is something worth throwing myself into and that’s IT.  My aim is not to have a polished MS by the end of the year or to have an agent by my next birthday, it is just to write.

I thought having clear goals this year with my writing- like entering a short story competition or sending my first query letter would help me feel focused, and truth be told help me justify the vast swathes of time I spend writing when I could (and sometimes should) be doing something else.  But actually it paralysed me with fear, so for now I’m sticking to VAGUE and trying to remember that it doesn’t matter if I am never the Best Swimmer or the Best Writer in the world, and that’s good because I never will be either- it only matters that I don’t let my lack of confidence stop me from doing things I love.

 

writing