It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World

NaNoWriMo 2017

I’m going to talk today, both here and on the writing site, about my NaNoWriMo choice. The latter gets a more clinical attack on subject matter and motivation but here I feel compelled to discuss an issue that continues to irk, and has made me stop and think about what it is I write and how. My main protagonists in this story are a white man and an Egyptian woman. There’s a really good reason for this: I feel really comfortable writing them.

On many days, I believe I’m a true mixture of both.

There is absolutely no doubt I am completely happy being biologically female, especially now the curse that used to afflict me monthly has gone. I’m at ease with the body I am rebuilding and feel no desire to alter the fundamental construct. However, it would be disingenuous to say I believe I think and act in the way I see a large number of women do. Makeup holds no allure. I do not desire to dress or act in an overtly feminine manner anymore, and the same is true of tending towards masculinity as an alternative. In terms of appearance, androgyny is increasingly appealing. However, my sexual appetite and desires remain unchanged.

fun_conan

There is a part of me that wishes we didn’t need to make specific social groups the enemy, but feminists need white men to hate them and people of colour and ethnicity deserve the right to hate everybody who is white because they’re in charge. I get all this, I really do, the complex social and ethnic strata that now damns and defines every action taken as a writer. Yes, I could make my male protagonist Afro Carribean but I don’t feel comfortable appropriating because no, I sure as fuck don’t have permission. 

My Egyptian woman comes from a time period I know a lot about and (again) feel I can write with a measure of conviction. The key here is confidence, not political correctness or social mirroring. I am very much a product of my age, but the characters that are chosen as my cast need to have believability in the story told. In that regard, supporting characters mirror the ethnicity of the World but are not at its core. There’s a reason for this, as will become clear in the narrative, but for now, I’m happy with why my fictional people are the way they are.

normality

A lot of this is down to simple biology, as this is a story with science at the core. There has been a crucial change however to the sexuality of a number of characters, based on acceptance of what I am becoming as a human being. In many ways, this story has the potential to become hugely autobiographical, if I allow that to happen. However, what matters most is the sanctity of plot and action. I’m not here to make a political statement, simply reflect what I am when writing.

Mostly, last night I stayed up late and stared at my work in progress and found myself thinking ‘somebody will hate this because I made a white man the hero.’ Then came the more significant revelation: whatever happens, someone will be upset. If I spend my life worrying about the reaction of others and don’t simply do what matters most to me, then there will be no progress at all. This is about narrative on my terms, and as a result… we stay with the plan, and I stop stressing.

Whatever I produce will be the best of what I am.

Everybody Dance

header47

My legs still hurt from Friday’s PT.

I’m on a fairly strict food and exercise regime right now. The plan is to see if the removal of certain items from my diet will have any long-term effect on helping me finally shift the most stubborn of fat. It is slowly beginning to work. Also, I need to work hard or eat less. Right now that means more miles and more reps so I can still enjoy what goes into my body. It’s taken five months but there’s also a list of foods to avoid, which sadly means that a couple of favourite snacks are now unsuitable for consumption.

It’s a small price to pay to be healthier than I’ve ever been.

brunchface

Mr Alt’s Italian Job is on: I got a phone call from him during the School Run. He was on the Milan Ring Road and it sounded better than when he’s on the M25. Technology’s scary like that sometimes; if you free yourself from the restraint of thinking that says ‘no, can’t do that’ then anything really is possible. I look forward to pictures from his journey too, because my husband is really very good with a camera. It is another one of the reasons why we mesh as a couple so well.

ALSO starting the week with a poem that encapsulates what I am in two verses is brilliant, extremely liberating and frankly the way I want to start every week from now on. On the To Do list is the long form work I’m creating for the grown-up, fancy shmancy Poetry contest. It won’t be nearly as fun as this, but they all count in the end.

Just gotta keep writing them werds.

Saturday

header56

I know, instinctively, that the days of not pushing myself are over. The moments when I’d rather just curl up with a duvet and a good book, especially after a poor night’s sleep, are over (at least for now.) Lying awake at 3am this morning, in the midst of a hot flush that was so fierce my skin felt as if it were melting, I remembered the mindfulness practices I am learning and reduced panic to an inhale, exhale, focus on the breath. Amazingly, it worked. There is always this rueful disbelief when something I’ve been taught turns out to not only be helpful, but a revelation.

This week has been a lot of that.

Journeys are not simply getting to your destination: more often than not is the stops along the way that define the final trip. Today, that means sitting in a clubhouse built as Legacy content for the 2012 Olympic Games: a place that is buzzing with life and enthusiasm, where a continuing commitment to sport has become the true significance of events from five years ago. Watching women warm up outside the window, a really decent men’s hockey game on Pitch One below, is the reminder that life happens in ways I forget.

The TV above me is the reminder of a constant backdrop of concerning and often disturbing World news: Brexit, Iran’s missile testing, an escalation of world tensions that then put my existence against an even larger backdrop. Once upon a time all I would have cared about was the stuff that directly affected me. Now I realise that, with 50 years on the clock, the time for such selfishness must be over. The moment has come to try and find ways to give back beyond my personal bubble. How I do that is still very much in flux.

There are starting points, however: the Patreon this week, when I focused on personal development, got more interest than at any point in three months, and I’ve learnt an important lesson in combining academic and individual experience. I’m writing something this weekend to help a friend hopefully resolve a personal issue successfully, grateful I can utilize a skill for good. Then, I am giving back to my husband, which to my shame I should have done a long time ago. He is the kindest and most forgiving of men in that regard, and I am very grateful that there is still the opportunity to do so.

Once upon a time, a Saturday alone would have been my desire, but I’ve spent far too much time alone already. Destiny remains mine to dictate only to a point, and the understanding now that I willfully, for so many years, wouldn’t push myself out of that bubble… it is like looking at someone I no longer know or understand. Most importantly, at 3am this morning, came the final understanding that introspection makes for great poetry, wonderful fuel for fiction, but crap content when I write a blog. The days of blaming myself for things out of my control may finally be coming to an end.

Sometimes I am told I care too much about things that do not matter, in the wider scheme of the planet. When this happened before, my reaction would always be the same: well, it matters to ME and that is all that is really important. Only now do I grasp the truth, that only by stepping back from emotion and truly thinking about WHY things happen can you ever expect to improve as a person. Only after having children has there been the ability to put self aside and truly learn how basic emotional reactions matter, and that you have a direct control over consequence.

Only by being able to accept what is wrong with me have I been able to change.

I’ve officially had enough of introspection. The best work I do however is with that quality at my core and not the periphery. The trick now is to put aside the stuff that doesn’t matter to focus on the people and things who do. Next week is the most important week of my new ‘career,’ where my own actions will effectively make or break a potential stream of revenue. If I’m going to succeed in this venture, I cannot afford to allow myself to lose belief I am able to do so. Sometimes, you instinctively know when you’ve fucked up, and then there are moments when you simply have to trust your gut that this is the right path.

I am on the right path. This is the way forward.

Last Train to Transcentral

header42

Today is certainly not the first to involve literary disappointment. By 5pm I will be sad, but that maudlin state undoubtedly will be short lived. That’s the problem when you enter contests and someone else wins. However much I could sit the night before and imagine myself as successful, the harsh reality of modern publishing is that inevitably you have to do an awful lot of work for little to no return. For all the sweat and angst  expended, there are thousands of people doing the same. If gambling has taught me anything, it is that odds are not worth knowing, because they won’t ever help in the end. What you need, like it or not, is the patience of a saint and the ability to keep bashing your head against a wall until you die.

I’ve also discovered it helps if you’re rich too: the poem I submitted yesterday (for a contest I’ll hear the results of in December) politely asked for an entry fee before I could enter. The next mentorship I’m considering asks the same for each poem submitted, up to a maximum of six. In this case it’s a sure fire means of raising cash to pay for the mentoring, but I can’t help but feel that somewhere, something is not right. I haven’t really investigated the world of novel submission yet, but even the thought of this currently is enough to give me the vapours. Now I’m serious and capable of a finished manuscript, it will be 2018’s task to get that bandwagon finally rolling.

Iregreteverything

Of course, all of this is simply sauce for a metaphorical goose. I don’t need to expound on the health benefits of writing and that the significance of doing so is continuing to outweigh the desire for critical acknowledgement, but these bills won’t pay themselves. So, whilst I write blogs and essays, poems and fiction need to start pulling their weight considerably more than is currently the case. Throwing work at contests and mentorship chances could end up driving a lesser woman to madness is all I ever get as feedback is silence: ‘no correspondence will be entered into’ is the equivalent of a door slammed unceremoniously in your face, multiple times.

Yet, I know only too well that to be successful, that failure is essential. You must learn from every poem, grasp the significance of each unsuccessful attempt, and hope exasperation can be kept to a minimum. The belief must be that if you are truly good enough, eventually, someone will notice. However, would I be more attractive as a writer  if I paid to submit six poems to my mentorship scheme as opposed to, say, only three? Do I have to ensure I hit a specific word count for a story to show I ‘understand my genre’ or can I just write from sheer love of the task? A lot is expected from authors in the modern world. Knowing how to social media successfully is probably quite a way down that list.

laugh1

What is becoming apparent, at least from behind the screens I now inhabit, is that failure is relative. I’m never lost for things to do of late. There’s never a day where I ponder what there is to be done. Boredom has become utterly non-existent. As I sat yesterday afternoon between two guys at the Gym, both of whom were using lighter weights than I was, it became apparent that success isn’t just relative but increasingly subjective. I can’t confidently handle a mountain bike, yet doing upright rows with 16kg weights is second nature. Everybody has to start somewhere. Not stressing about outcome allows process to become habit, and fear to no longer hamstring your progress.

Yesterday’s poem was possibly the most personal thing I have ever written, and by doing so an important mental block has shifted. I am no longer afraid of allowing genuine, unfettered emotion a release through my work. This ultimately will never be anything other than a Good Thing [TM] and knowing this means that in the next few weeks, nothing and nobody is safe in terms of subject matter.

I am ready to deal with disappointment, however it decides to manifest.

Oh My God

header28

Today is my first WiP (Work in Progress) day where I throw a carefully organised routine out of the window, try not to get too distracted, and just write. So far this morning that’s been surprisingly fruitful, and it means by day’s end not only will I have all my pledges up to date on Patreon, but there’ll be a poem ready to enter a contest. I had to pay to enter: however, what I paid is more than covered by what I’ve managed to produce. Poetry is becoming more and more accomplished with each effort at writing.  That’s all I want, really, consistent progression in quality.

There will also be an effort made to get my novel dusted down and ready to roll, plus a notebook started on all the various other projects I’m dealing with and what states they happen currently to be in. What is giving me most return right now in terms of progress is when I’m really very organised. That means setting out what I want to work on, and finding a time frame that works for each piece. Having learnt in the last year to stick to deadlines (and most importantly not overreach what is possible) it is time to make hay whilst the literary sun shines.

typing2

Son starts 6th Form College on Tuesday as well as the youngest going back to School. After the short and inevitable celebration that will follow, I have to make sure I keep moving forward.

This is the most confident I’ve felt about that kind of progress for quite some time.

Happy

header33

This blog is the equivalent of Internet tumbleweed: extremely localized, and only seen by a handful of people. Every time I hear someone lament that ‘nobody cares about what I do’ there is this sudden and overriding desire to point out that, for coming up for two decades that’s been my life, right there. Seven years of blogging and before that countless fan websites and online hangouts. Instant and stellar fame very rarely just happens, there is a phenomenal amount of work behind it. Only by pushing daily do you achieve any notion of success and then maybe, just maybe the fates will align and you’ll catch a break.

The true and lasting satisfaction gained from writing should be the understanding you were read by other people. Of course, the only way this registers is when that fact is passed on via feedback: good or bad, a hit is still just that. Most of us, like it or not, will not be J.K. Rowling. Getting your name in print is no guarantee of immortality, and many authors have only gained real critical acceptance after death, so what is popular now may well have been forgotten in a century (assuming of course humanity makes it that far.) Everybody, like it or not, is pissing in the Cosmic wind.

areyoucrying

Right now, this moment, what is most important to the majority of the Internet is themselves. Narcissism is that most human of traits: look at me, I’m special, why aren’t you watching my Twitch feed or buying my Redbubble items? Except, if you look closely, the successful people don’t say this stuff out loud. They’re not complaining that nobody subs, or how unfair it is that certain people do well. All those self-help guides which proclaim that the true path to success is self belief are absolutely spot on. The difference between making them work and failure isn’t the guides, its whether you choose to listen and act.

Undoubtedly, some things work for you and others don’t. However, the overriding difference long term between success and failure isn’t about how others mark that progress. Ultimately that will come from within. Age has finally demonstrated that there’s a fine line between listening to criticism and being dictated by it. Finding a balance isn’t just about listening and acting, there has to be thinking and reassessment too. If you insist that you can’t or won’t change, at some point in the journey, you’re going to end up in trouble. The true success stories combine determination with adaptability, and more.

whatdoido

I love the fact that, in this part of my journey, I pretty much know every follower by name. I have made a promise not to forget the people who matter, but expect in return from them a measure of accountability and interaction. Friendship does not mean doing as you’re told and then expecting nothing in return. These days I’m also quite vocal if I feel people are being selfish or unreasonable, but only if there’s the chance they’re receptive to criticism. Sadly, many people on social media can’t hear you, however much they may claim to be listening.

When internet success is as much about an ability to get AI to consider you important by using the right keywords, organic growth can seem irrelevant. When you refuse to follow robot accounts or bow to other people’s perceptions of popularity, there’s a line drawn which dismisses the need for reassurance. You’ve the potential to gain far more out of life by looking to yourself for the answers: it is why meditation and introspection are now considered far more dangerous by some than beneficial. Often, the last thing some need is to have a mirror held up to their feelings.

mylifegif

It seems the true reality of success involves hard work, introspection, understanding and luck. The key is that only part of this equation is an individual’s to dictate. That means making sure your part of the deal’s as solid and locked down as it can be. Then, you work hard, every day, and eventually you might, only might get lucky. The moment the process stops granting satisfaction? There’s a choice: reassess, or move on. After 50 years, this is the first time I’ve truly derived pleasure from anything that could be considered employment, and as a result you bet I’m gonna carry on regardless.

I don’t write for an audience. I do it to make me happy.

Get Off

header17

I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but I can now state I’m loving the mountain bike.

130817

The thing about exercise is that it is addictive, but not in a way I’d recognise from previous flirtations with obsession. Yesterday was a glorious Sunday afternoon, out on the 2012 Olympic Mountain-biking track built just down the road from us. There’s impressive views of the Estuary, some absolutely bonkers mental downward runs, and a sense that when this country bid on the Legacy Olympics ticket, they really meant to inspire future generations and not just line the pockets of the already rich. In fact yesterday reminded me of what a thoroughly amazing place this town is to live in.

Yesterday also made me realise that FUCK ME LOOK I HAVE TRICEPS. The sun-cream makes arms all shiny, I know, but seriously people… MUSCLES!11!1!!1 I can now hang comfortably for 20 seconds on the monkey bars, once I hit 30 then its time to start considering how pull ups fit into my exercise routine. Monday PT today is the last for a week, and I won’t be exercising in the Gym after Wednesday for at least a week. This means doing workouts where its just my body as resistance: squats, push ups and probably some running. The seafront where we’ll be staying is lovely and flat: I’m sure I could do something with that. In fact, I think it will be time to start exercising outside.

running.gif

Today’s liberating start will be part of a week where lots of stuff ends up, I suspect, a massive disappointment. I’m confident I’ll fail to get a Mentorship I applied for, that the poetry contest I entered will show me not as winner or indeed worthy of notable mention. However, unless I keep applying for this stuff, I’ll never move forward as a writer. Failure is a very important part of the writing process. It gives me incentive to move forward, keep trying, and not lose hope. All these things matter too. You just need a sense of proportion, and understanding that if the momentum remains forward, then that’s better than nothing.

You just need to keep moving, and never stop.