Knives Out

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Before I took the youngest on the School Run this morning I sat down at my Twitter settings page and removed every mute I’ve placed since the start of the year. I then went to Tweetdeck and took off every filter. Having pronounced last night that my feed was becoming too unwieldy (yet again) to act as a writing tool this might seem the wrong way to go, but as I got ready at 6.30 am an important truth finally registered in my brain. People should always be allowed to speak, regardless of my individual capacity to hear them.

This year will see a number of ‘alternative future’ literary works get a viewing as cinema and TV, with especial relevance to the current state of the world we live in. I’d lie if I said I wasn’t hugely excited to see a TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale with Elizabeth Moss as the titular ‘heroine’ and this morning I saw this trailer for ‘The Circle’, based on what is a fairly generic novel by Dave Eggers, but which has parallels that call to mind both Brave New World and 1984. Both of these pieces, with strong women at their helms, consider what might happen if society diverges from its current path, showing vastly differing versions of the same concept: control.  One shows how the collapse of society brings about the subjugation of fertile women as reproductive slaves, the other considers the consequences of letting everybody know everything you are, all the time. They might seem poles apart in terms of subject matter but in truth, both are mirrors of each other.

It is not surprising, considering the turmoil of modern society, that humanity constantly questions what is right and wrong, and how we might stray from a path of common sense. Pretty much every holy scripture from the vast range of religions available as ‘salvation’ pushes the aspiration of living a ‘good’ life: treat others well, be thoughtful, show the means to be penitent. Except somewhere along the way, individualising every experience is somehow removing people from their own morality, is creating minds that cannot grasp the significance of being part of a whole that works effectively. Judging someone because you find them ‘annoying’ or ‘stupid’ is not far away from proclaiming them as wrong or dysfunctional. Judging full stop should never be a norm, and yet this is now standard for so many people in all manner of places. It doesn’t matter if you know everything or nothing about a person, what is more significant in the end is how you deal with that data on a personal level.

The irony of this Tweet turning up in my timeline as a result of all of this pontification is therefore almost prophetic. The most damning form of control, ultimately, is your own inability to think. Accepting your world for what it is remains the most difficult part of any existence. Trying to rationalise anybody else’s motivation, frankly, will put you on a hiding to nothing and blindly following those who somehow claim to have all the answers? Expect disaster and chaos the moment they lose their way and it all goes Pete Tong. In this age of Hashtag Evangelism (not my phrase but my mate @MethodDarrie’s) I understand now that the answer isn’t to shut out all the noise, but simply choose who to listen to. Pretending the stuff you don’t like doesn’t exist might make it feel like it goes away, but that’s never the case. You are not obliged to explain your reasoning either, it’s okay. This is also your scheduled reminder that there also doesn’t need to be a massive session of internet therapy every time someone walks away.

The reason all my mutes are off is simple. People can speak as they wish, and as long as they don’t cause conflict or harm in my timeline? That’s utterly fine. If I find myself looking at someone and deciding that they do not seem to have an interest in what I am doing, or that when they do communicate I can no longer identify with their point of view or what they are saying? I will just unfollow.

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This is my 500th post, and I think I’d like the next 500 to cover subjects that really matter, which challenge both you and I in both writing and reading. I really don’t care if people like me or not any more, this was never a popularity contest, because if it were I’d have driven off a bridge a long time ago. To exist in the Modern World is hard work, and often painful. Yes, it hurts to be alive as a reminder that you are. Kindness, I am beginning to realise, is not simply the process of being understanding. Often it means the exact opposite.

To live life well means not being afraid of being alone.

Time in a Bottle

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Tomorrow, I’ll have written 500 posts here. A lot of it, let’s be honest, has been dross but as I continue to have my moments, the body of work increases. I’ve been unhappy with the layout for a while now, and decided to go Full Minimalist because the Writing site is going to be a bit blingy at the start. Not TOO loud, I hope, but enough to attract some attention. It seemed logical whilst I was doing one to attack the other, and hopefully this will remain a ‘less is more’ spot to come and escape to when the work gets too hard.

Tomorrow I hope to set the stall out going forward for all three sites.

I hope to see you here bright and early in the morning.

The Dawning of a New Day

Honesty in my life is becoming a rather big deal.

As you’ll see in an unscheduled Writing post on the other site, finding trustworthy people in this great big pile of social media shit can be, on any given day, a rather fraught affair. Everybody it seems is out to make their own fortune in the World without a care to helping anybody except themselves: however, that’s been the way of things for as long as I can remember. That whole ‘if your face doesn’t fit’ saying is true, too, except on a Global stage that doesn’t really matter if you possess enough determination and the right tools of your trade. There comes a point however when even the most cynical and jaded of us are forced to compromise to move forward. I arrived there at the back end of last week, and now comes the moment to make my choice.

In this case, I will hang onto my integrity for all that it is worth, but accept that if I want to take the next step forward, some kind of assistance will be required.

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I’ve drawn some lines for myself as indicators to progress; the main one is whether anyone is prepared to fund my long term endeavours. I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve encouraged me thus far by offering to donate to my costs, and in eight years nobody ever has. I know full well why this is: I’m seen as volatile and unpredictable, and a number of projects begun with high ideals were never completed. Based on that experience I’d not fund me either, and this was one of the reasons why, at the start of this year, I determined to cut back on workload and try and concentrate on specific projects and not throw myself at everything simultaneously. I’d say at present I’m at 60% success rate: when I can maintain 100% for at least a three month period, that will be the time to take another step forward.

Therefore, all things being equal, if I’m able to get to and maintain a 100% return on promises for work produced by September, I will launch my own Patreon. Primarily this will be to cover the costs of maintaining three websites on WordPress, with a long term view to optimising at least one for SEO (which requires me to upgrade to a Business plan.) Because I’m on my own and without the ability to run my own server (and to be honest that’s not something I want to even think about) it will initially be no more fancy than that. This is not about World Domination when it’s taken nearly a decade to learn to run again, so we’ll be taking it slow to begin with.

In effect, this will be me taking the first step forward to becoming an independent writer.

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Using Patreon, of course, allows me to exchange concrete evidence of effort for your hard earned cash, and as the months go on I’ll do just that, with interesting and challenging  incentives for both time and continued support. I’m also aware of the current cynicism in at least the Warcraft community over how crowdfunding can used for less than worthwhile endeavours by those who could be considered as exploiting the concept. I’m not here to take holidays or do nothing with your money, I grasp that if you give something there should always be a balance in return. An aversion to commercialism is also the reason why I’ve refused to use either Adwords or any kind of overt advertising on my sites since the practice became almost essential for writers. That’s not changing any time soon either.

What I’m here and doing today is asking for people to consider an opportunity to prove my work is worthwhile and has merit. I’m hoping that the last few years (often harsh) lessons in learning how to deal with a difficult and confrontational Community has taught me well enough that I can now move forward. I believe I am capable of making a decent job of this, or else I wouldn’t be committing myself to the cause in the first place. This is why I’ve withdrawn from previous commitments around streaming and podcasting. However, it should be said that if things move forward both may yet be useful tools for expression, and I will consider using them both to augment the websites.

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I’m going to leave at the bottom of this post a link to my Paypal account. I am serious and committed to this path, and by the time I’m 51 I will do for myself what I should have done when I was 25. I doubt it will be any easier now than it would have been then, but I want to at least have tried to make something worthwhile of my life in the time I remain on the planet. I am well aware that this could all fail, and that fact scares me every moment of each day, but unless I try, I will never know. You won’t find me shouting about this from rooftops either, or shoving requests for help down your throat. I’m here just to work hard, do my best and try and produce something I can look back at and be proud of.

I’m not going to use another person’s game, or a genre or fandom to sell myself, just me. I will stand and fall on my own words, until my last breath.

If you wish to join me on the journey? It’s time to get ready to roll.

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Well Done

Success is an odd concept. Too often it is defined by somebody else and not you: parents, friends, colleagues. I remember as a child my main desire was to look and feel relaxed, that kid who wasn’t perennially awkward and uneasy in her own skin. I was bought a book, or maybe I bought it myself, I don’t remember: How to be Cool. It had lots of film stars on the cover, most of them in shades, because that was how you cultivated a persona that radiated confidence. In the ignorance of youth (and boy was I naive back then) all you needed was the physical tools to become famous, and that’s how it worked. Not much has changed in 40 years: all you need now is to break 1000 Followers on your online medium of choice and suddenly, BOOM, you’re the person to know. Except success shouldn’t be defined by other people’s beliefs, at least if you want to try and attain some notion of personal peace.

Only now do I begin to understand why ‘do it for yourself’ matters more than any other goal you’ll ever set.

If you don’t enjoy sport, you won’t understand why last night’s PSG v Barcelona game was such a big deal. Barcelona, effectively buried at home in the first leg of their Champion’s League tie by French opposition, did what is normally considered impossible and came back to win 6-5 away from home, with a display of determination that saw their win effectively sealed in the last five minutes of normal time plus time added on. Success sometimes means not assuming you’re beaten, that the opposition is fallible. It also helps if there’s some luck in the mix (one of Barca’s goals was the most amazing of deflections) but mostly you never give up until the game is over.

When history and your critics have condemned you to failure before the whistle is blown, there’s nothing left to lose, and here is where success is never defined by anybody else except the people playing the game. The reason I love football (and I do as a spectacle, because it is) is if a group of players believe enough in themselves and the task to be surmounted, it will happen. That was the case with Leicester City last season, and it will be again, as I’m confident that group of players will survive their relegation battle, but only now because they are fighting adversity on their terms. But I’m not here to pretend I’m a pundit, because success is knowing what you’re good at and not trying to be everything at once, and I’m straying from my own point.

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Success is not what other people tell me it is. I define the parameters, from start to finish. That’s because, when all is said and done, I am the team here. Nobody else edits the Blogs or produces the graphics. There’s no writing team producing the words ever day. If an idea is created or developed, there will be input from other people, but the final production and ‘manufacture’ of the articles from those discussions falls into my lap. Effectively, when you are your own production company, PA and publicity teams? It makes satisfaction a lot easier to both quantify and gauge. There’s also far less stress because being beholden to other people in process can often be enough to send you batty. This means that creative freedom and inspiration don’t get stifled nearly as much as can be the case in collectives. It also allows me the opportunity to pick and choose what gets done and when.

The flip side to this of course is that there is often a temptation to do everything at once, because it is hard to work out what’s the most worthwhile idea in a pile of potentially great projects. That has been the hardest lesson of all to learn, but now I’ve cut things down to small, workable ‘blocks’ of time, it is becoming quite manageable and attainable. What that means in practical terms is as after this post is written, I’ll get a cuppa and a flapjack and spend a couple of hours setting up webpage frameworks for the back end of the Warcraft site, and looking to add a couple of new headers to the Writing one. What I’ve often overlooked is foundations in my projects, and without solid bases on which to build long term projects, things can have a habit of collapsing around me… but not any more.

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I am infinitely grateful for the opportunity to define my own rules going forward. It means that nothing is ever a bind, or a chore, even the stuff that seemed so before because it didn’t appear necessary. Once you realise that EVERYTHING, even the mundane shit, is a way forward, your life can shift about quite rapidly. It is, in effect, understanding that your half empty glass means you’re still not thirsty and it could be so much worse. This has taken many years to comfortably grasp, and there will still be days when I struggle to remind myself that backwards is the last resort. As long as the words keep working that’s great, but now there’s the acceptance that there needs to be more, too. That means the photography is becoming more important, alongside the exercise: a range of interests and not just an obsessive focus on one thing alone.

Fortunately for me I’ve picked a medium to work in where all my interests can effectively mesh. Now it is just up to me to make that happen.

Yeah, I can do this.

Moving On Up

This week, as you will know if paying attention, is the first in which I’ve started doing the writing gig ‘properly’ and by that I mean I’ve shifted my focus towards stuff that is a wee bit more adult. As a result, I went and bought a larger, more flexible monthly planner, and instead of using pencil (which has been my go to medium for a couple of years) I’ve forced myself into writing with a pen: the Uni-Ball Gel Impact (1mm) as it happens, because I’m beginning to grasp there’s a whole cottage industry around people writing stuff on pages and then taking pictures whilst not typing at all. Therefore, today is Day Two of Planning Like a Grown-Up.

#365photochallenge #blogger #smm Small steps into a larger Universe ✅

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Going from pencil to pen is, I realise now, a signal of intent. I can’t rub out mistakes, so everything stays visible. Old ideas don’t vanish but remain to inspire further thought going forwards. There’s the need to stick to plans to allow other things to come to pass. It is a step up from weeks of planning and organising that was focused in one direction, and now I have shifted that to what matters most to me, brain has become considerably lighter. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact gaming is still part of the landscape, but now it is accepted that isn’t where things need to travel long term.

The new direction is far larger and more interesting.

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This does also mean that Drama has the potential to be far more significant, but I think several years in the cesspit of the Internet before Normal People discovered how horrible and unpleasant it is, will be good endurance training going forward. This has been several years in the planning and making, but I only had the confidence last week to push myself past the step where it was all thought and no direction. Now that balance is readjusted, there is only one way, and that’s forward. Whatever happens now, I’m just going to go for it.

I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?

Things to Make and Do

THINGS TO REMEMBER GOING FORWARD
(An Important List)

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Stop worrying about who left, and concentrate on those who remain. Obsessing over followers is bad and wrong. Charlie Brooker is spot on. The future is Nosedive unless you take control of your own destiny. You can still be positive and focused without the need to pander to everyone. Negativity isn’t the answer either, but for many that solution allows them to feel alive, and here’s the bigger issue. If people can only feel human by destroying others or continually belittling what the rest of the world has but they don’t? They’re the problem. Everyone else is just getting on and living their life. That’s what you need to do. Don’t be the person obsessing over anything. Be better.

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Eating better does not mean making yourself miserable. Honey in your tea will not set you back days, but six buckets of tea in a day will. Woman, you really have to learn moderation in all things, which is tough with your track record. The ‘no cake til Xmas’ thing is doable, but not at the expense of your immortal soul. Keep taking the daily vitamins, for goodness sake up the vegetable/roughage content and after that just remember that the number of calories in should not exceed the number expended to facilitate progress. That’s why you have those Internet apps. Use them more. Try and get excited about things that are not processed sugar and empty carbohydrates. It is possible, if you put your mind to it.

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Stop being so fucking hard on yourself, ALL THE TIME. This is gonna be more difficult than the first two, but you can do it. Stop stressing over the shit you got wrong. There is nothing you can do now except apologise if it matters enough and move on. Don’t EVER hurt anybody else with your stupid, and just stop the problems from happening by thinking more and obsessing less. You can do it, without falling into the pit of despair and anxiety that normally accompanies these episodes. It’s okay to worry, just don’t let it consume everything else along the way. This one matters a LOT, and so I’m going to say it all in capitals. YOU ARE YOUR OWN WORST ENEMY. Just relax, okay?

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Practice being a Better Person by just being better. If you can’t? Learn to accept the compliment as it is. Be grateful for the effort. Understand that it might not mean much to you but it is potentially the World to someone else. Mostly, stop being a miserable fucker. See above (RE: Own Worst Enemy)

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People Love You for What YOU ARE. Yup, they know you have to be better too, and that’s okay, because you can do that now, but don’t get freaked out when people care. Just because you get your heart broken twice a day doesn’t mean you can learn to accept affection over time. It’s not difficult. You just gotta let it happen. Just remember that this is all part of the way life works and that if you give out love, it comes back. That’s cool too.

Really, everything is brilliant right now. Even if the World ends tomorrow, remember this is the best it has ever been. Hold onto that. Cherish the moments, every one of them.

Stop worrying and JUST BE.

History

Once upon a time, I used to be a graphic designer.

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I wasn’t great, but I knew what I liked and I was SUPERB at copying other layouts and designs. I used to design t-shirts too, and one of the bags that will be going out to the Charity Shop this week is full of my efforts. None of them are relevant or important now, but at the time my world revolved around this form of ‘art’ and I realised recently I miss it. Therefore, I’ve been poking around the Internets for graphics programmes to tinker with.

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Right now, I am pounding the hell out of canva.com for no other reason that someone else does all the hard work and I just shamelessly lift the results. Yeah, I know how not big or clever this is, but half the problem I possess right now is the time to do all the heavy lifting. This site puts everything in the right place and I just fuck about with it, and frankly that suits me absolutely fine. I have all the pictures needed to make these things unique and special, and it will add a much needed breath of fresh air to my sites. This also gives me the advantage of looking as if I’m paying someone to do all this shit for me.

That’s the bonus that keeps on giving.

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It also means that while I’m struggling with diet changes and the remains of yesterday’s headache, I can do something productive to boot.