Breathe

I never finished my Mindfulness course.

Begun what seems like an age ago, in the heat of stress and concern pre-Operation, it has been so long since my last session that the automated e-mails have stopped coming. I feel, especially considering the events of the last few weeks, it might well be worth going back to the start and going from scratch. I learnt so much even from the brief time I had with the materials, which helped enormously during the stress leading up to surgery. As I consider all this, the middle of May seems like a lifetime ago. So much has altered mentally, I can’t easily identify the person prior to all that.

This is a FAR better place to be than the past ever was.

PIES!

Planning is going remarkably well this week, despite the number of hours sleep per night dwindling. I managed to hit 12k steps last night too, and (fates allowing) that should keep happening for the forseeable future. Yesterday’s Gym session wasn’t great, but the scales are shifting again so there’s increased motivation to keep going. I can sense a period upcoming of simple dedication to task: if I was riding a bike race, the plan would be to ‘just keep spinning’ making sure my legs didn’t stop, forward movement never arrested. That’s a good metaphor, as it stands: keep walking, running and lifting and eventually, via sheer force of repetition, weight stays off.

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After that, there are plans for many things, but the biggest priority is getting the IoW infrastructure established so that can also become habit in the months that follow. Being a content creator is SRS BNS, after all.

For now, today’s just about making sure I make it to the end with as much done as possible.

Time

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My life is coming to a fairly significant crossroads. In just over a month, I commit myself at 50 to becoming my own arbiter, attempting to create a new career as a 21st Century Nonconformist. In a World where so many shout their mantras into the ether, which some believe rotates far too closely around circles of electronic Hell: will I be seen as any different to the heretics and fools that embrace diversity, speeding us all towards the World’s end? This historical period is as close to chaos as many will remember, but for me I am reminded first of the early 1980’s and before the 1970’s: the Cold War and the Three Day Week are memories I carry a world away from what now passes for normal daily life. If the last few days of dreams are any indicator, my subconscious grasps only too readily that these are turbulent times ahead.

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I have always been considered as a troublemaker: however, I never really wholeheartedly embraced the concept of rebellion until I hit my late twenties. I’ve come to most things later than others, I realise now because of the ability to properly grasp implication behind those actions involved. With the benefit of time, an environment was created which allowed me to both develop and evolve at a pace that suited mind and body, and that was not dictated by circumstance. Only now is it becoming apparent how useful that has become in order to be able to see a larger picture. It is also a daily reminder of just how lucky I am as a white, middle-aged woman to have the opportunity to begin with.

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If I went to the Bank on June 1st and asked for a loan to become a full-time digital writer, they’d laugh at me. I could submit articles to a hundred online sites and be rejected for every single one. This is a profession that is so subjective as for it to be impossible to quantify what matters on any given day: the way in which we devour, create and even transmit our communications alters sometimes on a daily basis. My online newspaper of choice doesn’t simply provide written commentary any more, there are short video ‘articles’ peppered amongst the headlines. If you want a novel to be a success, having robots recognise your website is as important as a set of good reviews. My ability to communicate in 140 character bursts is as important as long form mastery, and textspeak. It isn’t about being ‘down with the kids’ and more either, there are languages for every part of the Web. If you don’t know your Deplorables from the Untouchables? You won’t last long in the Digital Wild West.

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What I bring to the table in this Digital relationship is time: not only have I been here since inception, but I’ve grown with trends and diversification. I am very much anti Facebook and pro Twitter, but it doesn’t mean I don’t grasp the commercial implications of both. I may avoid SnapChat because of the filters and vanity, but it doesn’t take an idiot to grasp how significant the platform is for a generation of users, for whom instant information is key. Learning how to be a better person might seem a waste of time in a place where nobody needs to know who you are, but when you’re willingly giving away personal details to anyone with a contact form? Consequences will matter. In fact, there will be a generation of Internet users for which the repercussions of digital immersion will only truly become apparent if we can survive the next forty years without the Planet disintegrating around us, mostly because lots of people failed to pay attention to Science when it mattered. Of all of this, in the digital world around us, a grasp of Biology, Physics, Chemistry and every sub-branch in between is more important now than it has ever been.

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I’d love to say that telling stories is the real reason I want to be a writer, and although that is true, I’ve realised in the last few years it isn’t all that now matters. I can still spin fictions in the manner I choose, but not at the expense of ignoring bigger stories. The Internet of Words is my way to do many things at once: fulfil my dreams, yes, but also expand the potential of others, because without learning to better communicate as a planet, we are all doomed to failure. It cannot just be any more that you work towards your own ends, making individual success matter. Without everybody being able to win, frankly, there’s not much left to live for. If you think the future is living in your own, safe and consequence free bubble, I suspect there’s some major shocks coming very soon indeed. One of the races in my favourite computer games have a phrase: ‘Time is money, friend’ and this morning I realised that’s more true on an intellectual level than I’d ever previously grasped. The time I have lived is indeed worth something, what I have left to use so precious that not a moment should be wasted.

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I’m now sitting on a lovely pile of CoPromote reach and on Monday I’ve decided to use the IoW site to officially launch my concept to a bunch of total strangers. I have no idea how this will go down and frankly, I’m not that worried if the interest is minimal. What matters most is having the confidence to stand and fall on an idea, and nothing else. Bringing unique perspective is what I’ve always done best, and I’ve ever been afraid of being unpopular as a result. After all, as I never grow tired of reminding anyone who’ll listen, the reason why you fail is to learn how to succeed. Once you know what not to do, the options become less complex to grasp.

Then all you need is courage to take that first step.

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.

Nothing

There has never been a better time to have an opinion than RIGHT NOW. Social media allows everybody the opportunity to not only hold a point of view but be able to express it, regardless of any ability to do so either well or politely. Once upon a time, if you disagreed with a review of a play or film, the only means to ensure that the writer was aware was a green pen and some A4 lined paper (if you were a certain type of complainant) or Basildon Bond and a fountain pen, at the other end of my cliched, stereotypical scale (for effect only.) Now, if you don’t like what’s been said, it is simply one click to make sure that your opinion is registered. If you’re lucky and that burst of righteous fervour catches the right wave of popular algorithmic indignation, you’ll be viral just before tea.

A lot has changed in a very short space of time, and language is struggling to keep pace with this evolution.

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It is apparent that the issues in most of these short lived, inflammatory discussions is how one person uses language and how that is subsequently interpreted by others. I am reminded of a fervent debate over quest text in my favourite MMO as a perfect example: one person saw casual racism, whilst I understood a historical reference that was based in definition from hundreds of years previously with no relevance to an insult. Then there was that time where I used the word ‘inclusion’ to someone who decided I meant their grasp of a related concept and not the strict dictionary definition… and the list goes on. It is one of the main reasons why the Internet of Words was born as a concept, that how we use language online is often vastly different to the manner in which we both communicate and exist in the Real World. When all you had before was paper and a pen, you had to make every word matter, and interpretation was perhaps even more of an issue.

Now you can delete your words, except the smart Internet users will happily inform you that never happens. This place remembers everything. If you don’t want your awful tirade to be remembered, never type it to begin with. In twenty years, a huge swathe of early internet content might have supposedly been lost to time, but you’ll be amazed what remains, or what others will keep ‘just in case.’ Then there’s the increasing trade in image manipulation, how a basic understanding of how webpage markup can be accessed and then altered can make it look like the President actually said that. The bigger irony, of course, is that certain people’s comments remain ridiculous and hugely ill-conceived regardless of the ability to paint them otherwise.

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There is a wonderfully simple answer to all of this, why suddenly the opportunity to have more than five seconds of fame matters so much to so many. The Internet is not a place to game or play, is so large as to make it virtually impossible to control outright. Many companies may like to think they can do just that, but the sheer nature of this beast means that anyone still can be the hero, or the overnight sensation. There is a chance for everybody, regardless of their sex, race or anything else to become the Next Big Thing. If you are to be remembered on your brief and often painful stay upon the Planet, this is as good a place as any to start. However, there’s no guarantee that it will work but at least while you are alive you’ll be known as the person who topped 10 million subs of You Tube or who condemned civilisation to robot servitude in the 22nd Century as the inventor of Facebook.

Mostly, you’re here for the validation. I totally understand that feeling.

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I have written my fair share of complaint blogs in my time, and I stand by pretty much every one of them. At that moment my indignation was enough to temper a response I wouldn’t have written if it didn’t matter. That’s my mantra for all of these things: if it’s important enough to spend time on a blog, then press send. There is an important caveat now to those rants, and that is if I cross a line drawn only recently, as a result of my adventures on Social media. I’ve learnt the important lesson of personal involvement only too well. You can never plan for the stalker, anybody has the potential to become that obsessive individual, but there are certainly means by which you can a) not make things worse or b) inflame already confrontational situations. Very rarely now will I get into discussions with total strangers on contentious subjects. Far easier to write a blog post on the subject and stay friends with everybody, than risk losing someone over a difference of opinion.

This is where people end up mattering more than principles.

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I need my opinions heard because it is the way I can judge whether what I think is worthwhile. I’m not here to be right, or to win. I’ll leave that to other people to control and dictate. For now, I’ll simply continue to say what I feel, without attempting to antagonise too many people, and see what happens. For the record, my complaint letter would have been created using a typewriter. I would have handwritten it several times first, then redrafted until I was happy, before the blue A4 paper would ever have been stuck in the machine. Because I wasn’t using white paper, correction fluid would have been a safety net I didn’t have. It would have taken HOURS, a letter at a time.

That’s probably why it’s taken me so long to find a public voice.

The Numbers

Yesterday, I completed a task that it has literally taken me 15 years to address.

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My writing folder has been a mess since somewhere in 2002, and I could never face the horror of delving into it, mostly because of a number of very, very personal files that I’d written, then forgotten the names of. That meant reading anything I wasn’t sure about became a bit of a trauma, but yesterday I took a deep breath and went for it. This, I realise, is the complete body of work I’ve attempted in fiction since that time, only one part of which has ever been completed. Well, starting this month, that is going to change.

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Most of the titles above are not complete or are simply outlines, but a fair few are significant works in progress. Once I take a day to go through them all and work out what I think is most doable, there’ll be an effort made to bring one to completion. Right now, I realise, I don’t have the tools available to finish the work I was doing with my November NaNoWriMo piece, and I’d probably be better off trying to complete something at this point with the story already completely plotted. That gives me a few options for editing starting next week, as I want to spend at least an hour a day doing just that as a way to effectively get my groove back.

The plan is to not beat myself up over what hasn’t been done, and to focus now on what I can do well to move this fiction journey forward.

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The trick now is to not let my enthusiasm and impetus falter. I’m going to plan as well as I can, and not give up until I’ve finished at least one novel length work. As relaxation and a counter? I’m going to go back through the Bonds and pick up the spellings and typos I’ve noticed on subsequent re-reads. That’s the plan, and the Writing Site will reflect this going forward. For now, however, I’m going to see if my body can sustain a Gym trip, followed by a quick zoom to the local Shopping Multiplex for the youngest, where I’m going to take my passport and finally visit the Bank of the department store where I had a credit card that’s just been paid off, and cancel the account once and for all.

This week, after all, is all about concrete progress.

Afraid of the Dark


I’m not talking to you when I write a blog
. You, reading this now and then assuming that we have this glorious and intimate relationship via the Internet, do not understand how language works.

My biggest issue, without doubt in the last couple of years, has arisen when some bloke who found me attractive then concluded that my blog posts were some kind of bizarre confirmation of their desire being reciprocated.

This has played out more than once, and I have found myself wondering each time the scenario unfolded, why on earth my combination of letters and spaces would be enough to make someone form an unhealthy attachment, under the assumption that this was somehow acceptance of their misguided belief.

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The problem when you write a Blog, undoubtedly, is how to get people to read and remain past the first paragraph. That’s why SEO (how spider robots stick your posts at the top of Google search engines for maximum visibility) has become de rigeur: the start of each article I write ought to look like the one above to let people take in a sentence at a time. The problem for me however is when I give into this and accept I’m just here to get the views, the entire point of my personal mantra effectively disintegrates. I WRITE FOR MYSELF. Everybody is out here, shuffling and hustling their own particular ‘version’ of blogged reality and sadly, most involve you never getting past 600 words or having to think for more than three minutes tops. If that’s you, I’ve already disappointed so maybe it’s time to start attacking me for not being honest.

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Words are clever; rigid yet tactile. I’ve learnt the lesson now not to promise too much, I won’t publish if something’s not good enough, and if I need more time it will be taken and not simply rushed out. These are my rules, and I refuse to allow other people to dictate what is done or not. As I learn the process better it becomes less about how you do something but why, and the messages I send need to use words in the optimum manner. Swearing is not abusive to anyone else if all you do is use it chastise yourself. The problem undoubtedly arises when a person arbitrarily decides that you are a problem because you refuse to play by the same ‘rules’ they do. Then, I’ll tell you to fuck off, and be perfectly justified in using swearing to reinforce a point. Nobody asked you to turn up and police me, thanks very much. Go find somebody else to vilify.

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The problems inevitably arise when you threaten people, or attack by name. If you’re stupid enough to do that in a public forum and the person upset is smart enough to know what they’ve seen is libellous… well, we all know how that story ends. You might think I’m talking about you or someone you know but without names, that’s all you have, a might. Some stories will never get discussed. What you consider important I might look at as irrelevance. That’s the great thing about words. They can do whatever you want, assuming you have the correct mastery over them. You thought grinding in gaming was hard? Try 50 years of attempting to get words to do what you want.

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What this all boils down to is incredibly simple: freedom. While I still hold breath in my lungs and have the ability to put fingers on keys, I am here to speak freely. Some of it will be self indulgent, but hopefully not to much. Maybe I’ll get lucky once in a while and hit all the right letters and spaces to produce things that are worthwhile. I certainly intend to try and help people more going forward, and make sure that I don’t allow injustice or stupidity any place in proceedings. In the end, all I can do is what I’m best at, and that remains the ability to string words into sentences. Everything else is an uphill struggle. If I practice every day, maybe by the time I hit 51, I will have finally begun to live a dream I  was too stupid to ever start working on in my 20’s.

The only way to find out is to try.

New Sensation

I’m involving myself in a number of new things this week, allowing creativity to mix with a bit of risk taking. The first one of these is writing for an aggregation service, for want of a better term, that pays me on a per click basis. I know that I’m initially making nothing on this, but I’ve not signed up with the lure of easy money to begin with. This is about exposure on parts of the Internet where I’m not currently able to reach, and understanding that sometimes, principles will get you nowhere.

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The plan is simple: I’m giving it three months of ‘articles’ (and for the record I intend to stack these up and schedule them in free time so I’m not wasting ‘important’ time earmarked for other projects) and then we’ll see if there’s any real mileage. This is the equivalent I suspect of getting people to buy stuff on Amazon via a link on your website, and I will be interested to see what the other parts of the ‘conglomerate’ are like in terms of views: there’s a range of sites I can write for, all which (presumably) have their own Twitter feeds and reach. If it all ends up as a massive bust? Hey, at least I gave it a swing, and the Internet exists currently on far less worthy means of making money.

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The advantages for me are that I can produce my own header images going forward, that I have a grasp of a range of subjects which can be used as subject matter for articles, and that really there’s nothing here to lose. I will 100% agree that artists should never take on huge projects simply ‘for exposure’ and that down that way mental ruin and exploitation lies, but having spent a while working on a range of ‘copywriter’ websites I know that sacrificing principles for a £5.99 paycheck is neither fun nor sustainable long term. As long as I am in control of what has my name on it, that’s totally fine. If the exposure gets me possible notice elsewhere? That’s even better. Most importantly however, if my words aren’t being used by other people and remain my own? I’ll take that over having to demean myself any day.

There’s an awful lot of places that need more than a lorum ipsum copy/paste to fill their spaces right now, after all, and as I’m already doing that with a selection of websites of my own? I really don’t see a problem.

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The future for me is being flexible and understanding that whatever happens, I’m the one that matters the most. Trying everything once just gives a sense of confidence that the unexpected is not a problem. I realise that if I pinned all my hopes on this and wrote obsessively for a month as if this was the answer to my problems, then disappointment could be both swift and damning, and I’m not that stupid. It’s another feather in a cap that I want to show others is vibrant, varied and unafraid.

For that alone, this is another positive step forward.