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Since you were all so helpful last time

7 Feb

I am going to ask another question.

To those of you who get shit done (paintings painted, plays produced, frocks stitched, essays footnoted, gardens sculpted, projects generally conceived of then see through to the end), how do you do it?

Because myself, I have: determined what it is I want to achieve; written plans; started meditation; got up early; stayed up late; installed programmes that block my ‘most distracting’ websites; baked another cake; explored the flaws of my personality and the dark secrets of my past which underlie every moment of my self-sabotage; written it all out in pencil; written it in coloured markers; written it on whiteboards; written it on post-it notes; bought another set of folders in a shade to match the drawers; finished the laundry; ignored the laundry; re-examined my goals; asked myself what it is I want to be remembered for; given myself a stern talking to; stopped drinking; started drinking; stopped drinking again; even, from time to time sat down and done something that isn’t faffing about on the internet. And I still have pretty much fuck* all to show for my time. Unless you count the shitload of dishes that all this baking is creating. (And don’t say, ‘But you’ve got the cakes’. The cakes have disappeared long before the dishes are done).

*Sorry, I know some of you swear less than I do, in fact prolly most of you swear less than I do. I’m trying to cut down, truly I am.


It’s time for something new

5 Feb

Dear interwebs

I have been listening to the same music for the last ten years. Do you have any suggestions for new(ish) music I could try?

Thank you in advance


Why I will never finish another manuscript, let alone have another book published #457

28 Oct

Nothing like a pile of unfolded laundry to ruin the Zen-like ambience of your study.

this time with less laziness

18 Sep

That was nothing more than extraordinary laziness that last post. Goodness me, what would my self help books think of me?

Fifi and Pen raise the questions to which I should have posted the answers, so let’s see the question again. When considering whether or not to include someone, or something someone has done, in my blog or memoir, a question I sometimes ask is:

Does the person have right of reply?

Rather than providing me with a yes/no answer, the question acts more as a prompt, giving my thinking some direction. Probably, I could draw you a flowchart of sorts, but I’m too lazy for that.

As an aside, much of this thinking is instinctive, subconscious or unconscious, but when I do need to take the time to sit and think it through (for example, every now and then I think, ‘Oh, I wonder why I have never mentioned such and such’), I find that I have made this a consistent starting point.

So, back to the question. Does the person have a right of reply?

Because the people I write about do not have their own blogs or write for publication, or speak publicly, I often consider that it is enough if that person has the right of private reply.

Consider the mister. He would never start his own blog or publish a piece of memoir or have the funds to plaster his comments on a billboard, but he has every opportunity to say (but rarely does), ‘Erm, do you not think the way you related that story was a little, you know, one-sided’. I guess the mister’s ultimate right of reply lies in my commitment to our relationship and the kind of relationship that we have.

My parents have a different kind of right of reply. For obvious reasons, they couldn’t actually write or say anything, but they’re my parents – I might be forty years old and they might be dead, but nonetheless, I am constantly seeking their advice and their opinions and chatter with them constantly. Of course, there is a danger in imagining the way in which someone exercises their right of reply, but I am confident that I come to those relationships with enough honesty that if I do make a mistake in how they actually would respond, it is an error of judgment and not one of defensiveness or lack of generosity or revenge. Also, my father gave me explicit permission to say whatever I wanted to say.

Anyway, when it comes to my parents I use a different kind of question, based around whether or not I have the right to tell the story, and the parent-child relationship is, I think, a unique one in our ‘rights’ to a story. Perhaps I will talk about this another day.

Some people do have a right of reply, but I still choose not to write about them. For example, an alarm bell rings if I imagine that person exercising that right, and even as I am imagining it, my heart races and my breath shallows. This is a sign to me that I can not write about that person with sufficient objectivity, which is, in turn a sign of other things, for example, that I am unable or unwilling to write with honesty or generosity. In such a case, we all lose. I am limited in expanding on this point by providing examples, because it would immediately mean that I have to write about people and events I have already decided I don’t want to write about. Sorry bout that.

What if the answer is no, no the person does not have a right of reply? Sometimes, I might decide that doesn’t matter and write about them anyway, perhaps because they are completely unidentifiable or sufficiently anonymous. But generally, if they do not have a right of reply, I proceed with caution, because it is so often a sign of a power imbalance (this is where a discussion about the rights to a story would be useful, and I really will come back to that another day).

In this case, I might consider the consequences. For example, in telling this story, is there more gained than lost? As a human rights activist, I have very often made the decision that yes there is more to gain by discussing this situation publicly, but as a blogger or potential memoirist wallowing in middle class privilege, I have to know that ‘giving voice’ is fraught with opportunities to patronise or appropriate. Am I doing either of those things?

In my previous life, this was less of a problem, but at the moment, I am definitely having to weave my way through this. Luckily for you, this is one piece of angst and over-thinking you will be spared.

I do have other things to say, and I know that this is all a bit superficial, but this cough I’ve been fighting for the last few months seems to be developing into one of those pre-sinusitis infections which means my ears are ringing and I’m quite light-headed (not in a good way), so I’m going to lie down and possibly go back to sleep for the afternoon.

So begins the first day etcetera

12 Sep

Right then, I’ve finally wrangled a draft of the memoir into shape enough that I can call it a draft and today I will ship it off to someone for their feedback. Which means that it is time to take step two in the return to my freelancing career.* I have determined that I am strong enough to return to the cycle of rejection, rejection, rejection, sniff of success, rejection, rejection, acceptance, oh sorry journal has just folded after all, rejection, acceptance.** This means, today I shall be finding a journal or magazine currently taking submissions and then, over the coming days (or weeks – see asterisked explanation of career) writing an entire complete piece and submitting it for consideration.

*career applied here in the loosest of possible applications
** yes, yes, happiness and success gurus, I know I’m supposed to be envisioning success, but please to be allowing me some reality…for as Dr Phil says, ‘The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour’

On not

6 Jul

I’ve been reading a lot about creativity lately, particularly about writing, but about creating more generally. And particularly about doing it. About sticking your bum to the seat, about putting in the time, about letting the housework go. And so on. I’ve got myself good goals and am filled with optimism and the joy of getting it done. I’m more or less sticking to my programme of little bits lots of times, stitch by stitch, step by step, brick by brick and so on.

Now, I’m not sure why, but all this reading has led me to wonder about all the people who don’t become writers. All the brazillions* of people who go to weekend workshops, join groups, find mentors, go on retreats, invest in scrivener, but don’t, in the end, write ‘writer’ on their departure card.

I know some of them become lawyers or travel agents or gardeners or nurses instead. Some of them are lazy or unfocussed or find they’re better at something else. Some of them are handed lives which making writing impossible. And a not-small number must be a bit like me, setting plans and meaning to get onto it, just as soon as I am settled in to Abu Dhabi, once I’m back from Edinburgh, after Christmas, once I finish work and so on and etcetera.

But some of them, one or two at least, must, at some point, have looked around and thought, ‘This isn’t working, is it?’. There must be some who looked at their words on the paper and thought, ‘I know I could do this, but the world won’t miss me if I don’t, I’m going to finish knitting that silk, lace scarf instead.’

There must be someone out there for whom not writing was an active decision. And their’s would be an interesting book.

*still my favourite George W joke

If only I could invent something

25 Apr

I imagine I’m not the first person with dreams of making a living from her words to stand in front of this exhibit at a museum in London and snap.

From miscblogphotos
From miscblogphotos