Back and Forth

You’ll no doubt remember the mini mental issue that happened at the end of May/start of June around some poetry. I got the rejection letter yesterday, but it wasn’t like previous ones. Over 500 manuscripts. I made it into shortlisting, roughly 10% of that total. I made it to shortlisting. I understand why people shove that in Twitter bios: you’re close. What I don’t grasp is those who don’t then capitalise on the knowledge.

Once I’m done here I’ll be splitting up that body of work into three pieces. All of them will go off to different places. I’m going to reorganise another collection instead of something half-written for summat in August. This failure has inspired me to greatness, and if all this fails again we’ll just pick ourselves up and start again. An important transition has been completed.

That’s all there is to it, I suppose. There is nothing else to do now than get on with it.

Time to do the work.

Cough, Cough

It is becoming apparent I can still be who I was at the start of 2020. There was some thought given to the idea the ‘old’ me would need to be retired for good, because it was becoming impossible to be heard. Then, yesterday, an important online epiphany took place. This was never about me. That’s the point to so many things that only just registered.

When I am truly honest and authentic, people listen. However, when I enter other people’s conversations and suggest a contrary opinion to the one they are expounding, dynamics changes. A conversation yesterday in which I did this was, on reflection, created as a speech and absolutely did not invite disagreement.

This happens a lot when I challenge people in a certain age group. It happens even more when men are involved. ‘This is my statement of why X is wrong and you will not argue’ has become a stance on Twitter that I never get tired of picking to pieces. It’s the people who expect to be heard, respected and never challenged because they are in charge.

We all know someone like this in our timelines.

I am really enjoying rocking up into other people’s conversations at present. If it’s on Twitter, it’s a public forum, and I am absolutely allowed to be involved. Unsurprisingly, this often does not go down well. I have a job to do however, and it is high time I got on with it without the constant concern that I am somehow not worthy or qualified enough to do so.

This is my aesthetic going forward, and I love it.

Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

Once upon a time, I was horrendously inflexible as a writer. The ideas would supersede everything, including good sense, and in those days a great deal of spontaneity and honestly was lost. However, in the last few years, relaxing away from the rigid forms that a past would often forcefully impose as being right has begun to bear quite fragrant and juicy fruits.

Someone I respect a great deal has also pointed out in the last week that I can commit myself to too much too quickly, and often end up spreading myself quite thin, a sentiment that was echoed by my family after the poetry meltdown in late June. As a result of all of these disparate factors, this week has steered me into a new form of discipline.

Welcome to a game plan that understands that less is more.

The format for the Patreon, which was started without really knowing where I was heading, only that I needed to be online and offering content during Lockdown, has now established itself. A poem a week, a piece of long form fiction and some flash fiction. A LANzine and two newsletters per month. All of this can (and is being) organized far enough in advance to not overwhelm.

There are extra bits, which will sit in the IoW Website, but can easily be slipped into the schedule. It also keeps space free for other ventures: everything placed in a sensible, thoughtful manner. Some stuff won’t happen, and quietly other things will be removed from view, making this whole journey as stress free as possible.

I’m really happy with the way things are working out.

Today I have two grown up Zoom meetings: both will be significant steps forward in real life attempts to become a creative. I hope one day to pick up Patrons from outside the Internet I consider my home, and to do that the content will not be enough. There has to be more depth and breadth to my output. Patreon, like it or not, is only a smaller part of a larger whole.

Being my own boss however is the best feeling in the World.

Yesterday’s Men

I was rejected yesterday, twice. Normally, this would have been the cause of much angst and hand-wringing: now there’s simply not enough time to stress about it. I’ve got fingers in so many places that being told I’m not good enough for awards/prizes I could have told you is true is far less of an issue than it ever was previously. I’m never gonna have a fair swing at at least one of these things until there’s a far bigger CV to waft, for starters.

Realism’s a great leveller, when you’re on the right side of it. By that, I mean you can get upset when work is rejected, of course you can, but knowing what you’re currently producing is not consistently good enough to stand beside your peers… Looking back on one group of poems, written back in August, it really is a bit of a wake-up call. So much has changed, for the better, in just over six months.

That thing about practice? It’s so utterly, honestly truthful.

thisisgood

There’s therefore six poems, sitting to my left, asking to be repurposed elsewhere. I have a whole pile of early poetry to print out this morning, all of which is going to get reworked in April. There’s a lot to be said for having a well-organised collection, and with one of the two days this week I get to work in the Arts Collective in Southend, I will be systematically trawling through my stuff to see what can be recycled going forward.

The other day is the first proper re-write of a series of poems that are incredibly dear to my heart, and which will form the basis of my first self-published work this year. I’ve already scoped out a path with which to produce these, now it’s about getting the work to a stage that I’m happy with. They will be sold in association with Patreon, via the medium of Gumroad. 

I’m already looking forward to the process.

reading-icarly

After that, there’s the redesign to work on, of which more shortly on the writing blog. For now, however, I have two days in Leeds to look forward to, a number of new and interesting places to go take photographs in, and a kids’ 15th Birthday to plan for. It’s all go here, and I’m having to do it all whilst struggling to be able to type properly. All that exercise yesterday has made me ache, rather a lot…

I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Symmetry

Yesterday, I started a project to reboot my online life. It could have been quite simple to keep going this year without such massive upheaval, but on reflection this all has to change. I’ve been spinning this line for the last fortnight, but here’s where the hard work really starts. I have a plan, and lots of places that need a redesign. There are new projects too, one of which inspired me to take the plunge to change direction.

There’s a story too, about how I decided to move this way, which would normally be told here. Instead, today, I’m going to tell it on my Patreon, and ask you to go read it there. Except, like the smart woman I am, it will go behind a paywall. That’s what’s going to happen from now on with the best articles created, and although some will decry this as another sign of western civilisation’s imminent destruction, it has to be done.

Please consider supporting my Patreon.

thatsbait

This will, I’m sure, be impossible for a lot of you. The survey responses I’ve had so far tell a damning story: we’d love to support you, but we can’t afford it, and there’s total understanding of this stance. However, I’m also in the position of being unable to support anybody else’s Patreon right now unless I can find cash from somewhere. Something has to give. This is the thing I do best, so it’s time to monetise.

The ‘official’ launch is March 10th, for reasons that makes sense on paper: I’m able then to build up a stack of articles for people to read, plan ahead a bit and iron out what are a number of issues with my page. However, right now, all the stuff is up there and ready to roll. I’m reasonably confident that if you wanted to become a patron today, you could. If you do, it’s the means by which I take the next step in my online evolution.

I am on the way to becoming something that already makes me extremely happy.

spaceman

I have over half a century of history as yet unexplored in this new state. There’s a love of ideas and concepts that is re-emerging after decades in darkness. The ability to discuss this, describe it and produce unique, varied content has been a skill set I’ve worked on now for over a decade. This is absolutely the moment for everything to come together in a perfect storm of creativity.

It will happen regardless of how many Patrons I end up with, I suspect, but I’d like to think I could persuade more people to come along for the ride just by sheer force of will, and there are early signs that this might actually be working. The only way to ensure that impetus doesn’t get lost is to plan, and be ready for anything. I know the people who won’t listen, have seen them and understand why.

Not everybody is going to like this, and that’s perfectly okay.

skateboarding

I’m here, talking to the people who do. Entry Level on the Patreon is a fiver (or about $8 for the US people) That’s the equivalent of a decent bottle of wine, a good book or a takeaway. I can guarantee you’ll get more value for money spending that money with me. You might even learn something along the way. Take a chance on me, just this once, and when everything takes off, you can say you were there at the beginning.

The lowest tier also guarantees your name will be remembered for the rest of time as someone who took a chance on me, via a special piece of my website. If you go highest tier, you’ll be forever remembered in the acknowledgements of my first self-published collection later this year. I won’t ever forget the kindness of everyone who supports me at this crucial juncture. Of that you can be utterly assured.

Time to begin a new chapter. 

And So It Goes

This is a funny game I’ve played, for a couple of years. Willingly, money I can’t really afford to give is handed over to people in the vain hope someone will like my work enough to publish it. Only by being published does one have any hope of being noticed, and it is virtually impossible to self-publish without cash, which I’d have more of if I wasn’t entering all these contests.

Then, the ultimate irony comes along. A poem I wrote for myself, part of a selection that was meant to help me improve as a writer, gets picked to be published in an anthology. No cash needs to change hands, they even pay me. Who is the more foolish, I wonder to myself this morning as months of hard work finally vanish into the ether, the writer or the writer not writing for themself?

Except this work breaks the mould, for so many reasons.

partyhardreindeer

This one IS mine, and when it fails (as it undoubtedly will) I will publish it myself. Then I will sell it myself, and nobody else will make money apart from me, because there is only so much artistic stupidity I am prepared to accept in the name of progress. So what if other people consider the pinnacle of success is to be published by this or that company… I’m not here to fulfill someone else’s notion of achievement.

I’m here to be happy.

Ride on Time

I could have stuck my dream from last night up here, but chose Social media for a reason: the reach is better. However much writing this way continues to benefit, the figures are damning. There’s 12 of you here, and me. I refuse, point blank, to go the aggressive blogger route, it’s just not happening. This, of all the places that exist, remains the haven for whatever pops into my head at any given moment.

However, I am a realist. In principle, one of two things will happen, eventually, with this space. It will either become popular, or it will remain in glorious obscurity. Ultimately, I am aiming for the former. Let’s not beat about the bush here. In all these years, various facets of interest and popularity, there’s never been the cult following that will be required to propel nobody to someone.

Knowing what you need to move forward is an important realisation.

waffles

However, that whole ‘sell thyself by whatever means’ thing is still not happening. I can’t reconcile capitalism with my own journey. It’s just not right, or ethical, and so going forward it is time to look for better means and values. They’re out there, of course: however, there will need to be a measure of compromise along the way. Comprehension is my first step towards true enlightenment.

Waffles are also incredibly important. No, really, they are. These tiny morsels of wonder were the reason I gained so much weight over two pregnancies, which it has taken nearly two decades to shed. Only now that I understand the true relationship between eating and weight management, have they reappeared in my life, under the strict understanding that it takes X minutes to burn the calories they contain.

They’ve become a symbol for the ability to control my own destiny.

cookiemonster

This bit here (/points at ground) isn’t a metaphorical crossroads, it’s the real thing. What I know is that the way forward is very clearly marked, for the first time in probably a year. We’re going this way, and the next time we stop to regroup or have a snack, an awful lot will have been left behind. It’s no bad thing either: with the writing not just metaphorically on the wall, this was always going to be the next step.

This weekend, undoubtedly, has been a game changer.

The Eve of the War

As my fitness journey continues apace, there is a realisation that the ‘way’, such as it is, entirely depends on what you’d like to experience from a fitness journey. If, like me, there’s nobody to beat but yourself and a requirement to balance strength with tone and definition, going balls out at everything will, inevitably, result in something going wrong along the way. To prevent this, inevitably, there must be balance.

Yoga therefore has become my trump card. It’s helping me literally feel how muscle groups are being conditioned. I can sit on a mat, do a forward bend, and if you took a photograph of that moment and gave me a Sharpie, I could mark on my body exactly which muscle groups are improving as a result. That’s how good this is becoming, right now, for me and my evolution as a human being.

It’s not just here that expansion of belief is having an effect.

I get tired of using the Emperor’s New Clothes metaphor around here (even my daughter tells me this now) but honestly, it’s just so relevant. All those people in traditional publishing telling me that the only way to become ‘famous’ is ‘their way.’ It’s really not, the lie that is continually perpetuated to keep the status quo intact, means by which a great deal of literature is kept out of bounds to those deemed ‘not worthy’.

Then you watch people trot out the ‘sour grapes’ counter argument and insist that reading stuff on tablets is somehow degrading the entire experience because people can pirate your work without consequence plus nobody sensible reads on Kindle anyway… just because it’s not a book in your hand does not make this somehow less of an experience. I’m as much to blame as anyone else for perpetuating snobbery, for that is what this is.

People can exercise and publish their work however suits them best.

baitersgonnabait

The future is everything, equally relevant. It’s of course understandable that those currently in traditional positions of power will be somewhat reticent to relinquish their positions as the Revolution hurtles towards them, headlights ablaze. That’s how these things often work, but eventually, everybody will be swallowed. Newspapers are heading that way. Public Service broadcasting is no longer as safe as it looked a decade ago.

Exercise is not just gains or achievement or extreme sports either. It is ordinary people like me just doing what they want to feel better and in control. Nobody’s expecting you to run faster than anybody else, or to lift more weight. If you make these decisions, they grant by definition both freedom and choice that did not previously exist. That’s the future, people. What you want, the way that makes the most sense.

Everybody has a choice, going forward. A lot of massive companies are only beginning to grasp their rate of change is perilously, almost terminally slow. It’s happening in shopping centres, across gyms, in publishing houses and online. The Best Way [TM] of the past is on notice. Just because that was correct yesterday, doesn’t mean that it’s true today. If you’re smart, and can find the route nobody else has trodden?

This could be a ticket to instant success.

Burial

Yesterday, I did a two and a half hour poetry ‘workshop’ at a local place I wasn’t aware existed until earlier last month. The details will be covered in a Writing Site post tomorrow, but there is one part of that process I’d like to highlight here. For one of the exercises, I was asked to look in a mirror and imagine myself as an animal. Except I panicked, and almost ran out of the room in terror.

Mirrors and I have a long history of not liking each other.

mirrors

It’s a complex equation: body dysmorphia, general anxiety, plus a lot of other neuroses. It is still tough to look at myself completely in a mirror and be comfortable with the image I see looking back. Certainly over the last few years, it has become easier. I end up watching myself however sometimes, just because it is tough to reconcile what is seen with what I know is a far larger and more complex truth.

It’s what makes the Gym some days quite a tough ask, and why I tend to just get on with what needs to be done and not focus on things that use the mirrors as notional guides for positioning. Last night however, I was hugely proud of myself. I took what was the initial panic and reined it in, thanks to my counselling, before pushing through the exercise. It began largely negative, but then ways were found to switch it round.

The final resulting piece was a revelation.

It’s odd how somebody else’s definition of understanding can alter yours, if you allow the process to run its course. It is, of course, the basis of all education: some questions will only have one answer, others are laid out, shades of gray so subtle and often interchangeable as to be indistinguishable from distance. It’s only when you allow complete acceptance of someone else’s ideas that you accept ability to shift your own.

It’s that concept which is vital to make your children understand quite early on: the reason why you teach people rules is so that you can understand them, but once you know them, they are a lot more flexible than you might first realise. The fundamentals of poetry and art are complex and often frustrating, but to know them is to allow the ability to then move away, at your own pace, to new and exciting places.

Last night’s unassuming two and a half hours has started something rather interesting.

COMMENT

Everything Connected

Rejection email arrived at 2.30 pm yesterday, exactly as it was promised, which is undoubtedly an improvement on a large number of previous submissions I’ve made. There’s stuff in my Submittable account from two years ago that organisations have failed to even answer or remove. It’s an exercise in torture that is made worse by the realisation you’re not quite there enough to be relevant or noticeable.

On the plus side, I can cycle through the stages of grief quite effectively:

  • Shock and denial (I don’t believe it, it’s happened again, how many times etc)
  • Guilt, added pain (did I polish enough, were my answers not smart or memorable)
  • The anger ‘dialogue’ (this isn’t fair, I deserved that, why won’t someone notice me)
  • Depression (fuck this I’m going running/weightlifting/walking)
  • Realisation (this is how life works, stop judging yourself by others’ benchmarks)
  • Reconstruction (tomorrow, we work harder and will LEARN FROM THIS)
  • Hope/acceptance (what a brilliant sunrise, gonna be a good day to progress)

all happen in increasingly shorter amounts each time one of these submissions that matters takes place… which let’s face facts is EVERY SINGLE ONE.

If I didn’t feel everything, this would be a lot easier.

allthefingers

Today therefore we are exploring other avenues in terms of exposure and interest. They may come off, they may not. The key is to not close yourself off to alternatives and at least walk down every avenue once that potentially opens to you. You’ll know which ones are right over time anyway, it’s part of the ‘trust your gut’ portion of this exercise. It also helps having a good working knowledge of the environment you find yourself in.

In this respect I’m ahead of the game. Sure, being live and immediate really helps, but it is also about the business of building a presence and reinforcing that over time. Most people scrabble to do this after they hit the target and get recognition: I’m already here. All this stuff is created and is slowly being added to, a useful resource and testament to how slow and steady holds its own benefit.

planttotheface

There are two more submissions today, they’ll be my best work again. Whether I’m successful or not is out of my hands. That’s someone else’s decision to make and ultimately mine to accept: with each one a part of me is lost. It is replaced with an acceptance that this is the path I choose willingly to tread, and as such all that can be done is to hope that eventually, one day, we hit a target first time.