New year! It’s funny I write this in such good spirits, because most of 2015 so far has felt pretty terrible. However, when life gives you things beyond your control, as long as you’re consciously doing all you can to make the best of the situation, I find the notion of acceptance a comforting one. (I conveniently had this realisation on my Google calendar scheduled “Epiphany” day. Anyone else have a good one?) Also, gratitude for all the things that don’t suck. They’re always there, if temporarily eclipsed.
I didn’t make myself any resolutions for 2015. I think New Year’s resolutions are kind of stupid (if you want to change something, do it on any day of the year), but I had the idea of making resolutions for everyone I know and love. At first that might sound horrid, but I think instead of everyone making lists of things that will likely evaporate two weeks into a new year, maybe we could all do these few things throughout the year. I kept seeing on my Facebook news feed how dreadful 2014 was to many people. So let’s make the next one awesome. 1) Stop wishing, and start doing. We only have one life. 2) Get out of your comfort zone. It’s scary, but I’ll hold your hand. It’s made me physically ill, but also led me to some of my greatest loves in life. 3) Think of at least one thing every night before bed you’re thankful for. Better, write it down. Wake up happy. 4) Stop and admire the stars. 5) Every time you judge or criticize yourself, ask yourself if it’s warranted. If so, do something about it. If it’s just a nasty inner monologue, ask yourself what your dearest friend would say about you. How they would see you. Because if you’re reading this, chances are at least one person (ahem) thinks you’re wonderful. 6) Cut things out of your life that aren’t contributing to where – or who – you want to be. It’s hard to give up on what can feel like obligations, but we all have hopes and dreams, goals, great people and self-nurturing to fit into our lives. Don’t run yourself ragged. You don’t have to say yes to everything.
Those were my thoughts going into 2015. Some crap happened, but some incredibly great things have happened too, and we’re not even three weeks in. I attempted to conquer my fear of sudden loud noises. I spent time and many hours with my best friends on the planet, who picked me up when I was physically lying on the floor unable to stop crying, brought me chicken nuggets and let me sleep with every pillow and blanket in the world, talked me through everything with such openness and transparency, love and honesty, even if it hurt, that I felt they were legitimately part of my own mind for a while. I never imagined I would find friendships so close, and for the two of them, words cannot describe my gratitude.
I wrote a new song. I spent a couple of days snowed in with my dear friend and she let me spend a day with my beautiful new baritone ukulele (for which I have to learn all the chords again from scratch! Whole new instrument, but it’s what I’ve always wanted to play! Thank you to The Professor for the wonderful Christmas present! I named him Cogsworth.), writing quite possibly the most heartfelt thing I’ve ever written. The feelings I had were so intense, I had to put them to music. And I wanted it to physically move people – sound very upbeat, as well as hopefully move them emotionally. I like songs whose feel sounds completely different from the actual lyrics. Here’s a very rough draft – recorded literally a few hours after I finished writing it – but with White Foxes we’re going to add in harmony, I hear some sort of kick drum, more guitar, and hopefully it’ll end up as a piece of ass-kicking folk a la Mumford and Sons. I’ve been really excited about making music lately. Just thinking that my whole life I’d wanted to sing or write even just one song, and in the last year I’ve written enough to record a whole EP. And I get to make music with two incredible people. I’m so very lucky.
I also tried the new instrument out on a song I figured everybody would know, along with another piece of new equipment – a Zoom H1 I bought to record band stuff. My phone REALLY wasn’t cutting it in terms of audio quality. So here’s Lady Gaga’s “Applause” I tried about ten minutes before my friend Nicole arrived for a movie night. (Yep, that’s my music stand falling down halfway through and me winging the end.) Excited to actually pair the mic with my DSLR once I figure out how to keep it recording video for more than 8 seconds at a time!
I also got to be part of some amazing photography projects recently, both as a subject and photographer/editor. I always feel strange referring to myself as a photographer, because I don’t consider myself one – all my work is done in post; but I’ve been watching courses with the incredible Brooke Shaden recently, and she’s known in the fine art world as a brilliant photographer, yet she freely and regularly admits not really knowing how to use a camera. I organised my first big photo shoot as a “photographer” at the end of December – an entire series of weird and creepy old timey freak show shots I convinced people to pose for and let me edit. My dear friend Kevin owns a studio in the Exchange District and incredibly kindly allowed me to not only use it, but also his lighting equipment for the day. I had over a dozen models, a fabulous hairstylist and two amazing makeup artists all show up to donate their time and skills to help make my project come to life. I’m not quite finished all the images yet, but here are a few I’ve finished so far. (Of course I had to be one of the characters too – I’d written this character in my book, and it was the perfect opportunity to bring her to life!) I think you can click on each image to see it larger. I haven’t used galleries before. And yes, that’s a cut-up doll attached to a woman’s stomach as the baby that never came out.
I also got to be in front of the camera a few times – and my talented friends transformed me into a robot, an entire galaxy, and an evil disease infecting another poor soul.
I also really, really want to get back to working on my novel soon – it’s been too long, and I realised I’m turning thirty in a few months, and I began this project two years ago. I need to get back at it before another two go by. (But there’s so much to create!!)
Another fun thing that happened was that this very blog got featured on a local channel! It’s on television sets every day for the next few weeks, and I’ve already had people stop me and comment about it, which is very strange. My lovely coworker happened to be volunteering at the station and they were doing a series on bloggers, and though it was about two weeks after we’d met last summer, we’d become fast friends, and I ended up doing an interview.
I realise I’m at about 1,200 words right now. You should know I gave up on the “rules” of blogging a long time ago, and for making it this far, thank you! I also had a bit of a realisation recently, and it honestly threw me. If you’ve been with me for a while, you’ll know how very interested in psychology I am. I love to study personality, the human mind, how we all weave our lives into each others, and how we’re all wired on the inside. People fascinate me, and the study of psychology is something that’s taught me a lot, as well as continuing to bring a sense of personal understanding and reflection. It’s also made me feel that after so many years, it’s okay to be exactly who I am. And as strange as I feel sometimes, I am not alone. The MBTI has been getting a bit of a bad rap lately, and I’ve never been one to call is science, but I have appreciated and learned a lot from it. It’s a psychometric typology assessment I’ve taken routinely for the better part of the past decade, at least, and I’ve eternally scored the same result: INFJ. This is considered, at less than 1% of the population, the rarest of all personality types, and I related to it so much that I got it tattooed as part of my text sleeve a few months ago. Over the past few years, my introversion has gone steadily down, which I’ve felt good about – the closer I got to zero, the more progress I felt I’d made in conquering my anxiety, but I always remained an INFJ, also known as “The Counsellor”.
For two reasons recently, I decided to take the test again. One: I found myself filling out a new type of personality assessment, and noticed I was answering questions in a way I hadn’t before. I had more confidence and answered in a more extraverted way than I have for most of my life. I found this interesting. Two: I was given the biggest compliment in the world. In preparation for the galaxy photo shoot, I was telling the team that I’d like to incorporate something my friend Kier had always told me – that even at my quietest and most afraid, I had “a universe inside.” This meant so incredibly much that somebody saw what I was. My friend Melinda, whom I only met last year and who’s done some of the most incredible makeup I’ve ever seen, told me she “never would have guessed I used to be painfully shy.” Same with a coworker who’s only known me a few months. “Can’t imagine you not being this confident person”. Shy was THE word people described me as since I moved to this country, and I hated it so much. I hated what people saw on the outside just because I was so scared of everyone and everything. I was so scared of being judged that I never let what was inside come out. I feel like in the last few years I’ve tried to put myself in situations that force me to do what I’ve always wished I could. And to have people see that as ME… that in itself was enough to throw me.
I’ve been worried lately I’ve been growing less sentimental, but that’s not it. I’m still the most emotional and sensitive person you probably know, and I’d still do absolutely anything for those I love. I tell them how much they mean regularly and I make a point of trying to put good out into the world whenever I can. I think maybe I’ve just learned to recognize things and see them clearly, and not through rose-coloured glasses. I’ve also learned that I’m more than okay on my own, because I’m incredibly lucky to have the best friends in the world. And I think that’s given me a bit of strength. Anyway, back to the MBTI. I held onto being an INFJ so hard because my whole life, it was me. 100%. But I retook the test. I expected maybe my introversion would have gone down a bit more, but I didn’t expect it to flip onto the side of extraversion. A tiny percent (basically a cat’s whisker over the border between the two), but also? My J changed to a P. Apparently I’ve become more okay with spontaneity rather than careful planning. Things have become more flexible. My entire personality has apparently shifted from the sensitive INFJ to the outgoing ENFP. Reading over this description… I don’t disagree. That’s the alarming part. Have I become a whole new person? I’d always wanted to become someone with strength and courage, someone unafraid to be authentically themselves in any situation, someone who wasn’t scared to try making an impact or putting my stuff out into the world… hopefully someone who could inspire others in some way. I just scored ENFP. The Inspirer. And I don’t know what to think. I know basing your identity on pseudo-science isn’t the wisest thing in the world, but because I’d related to it so very much; because it had made me feel so unalone – a shift threw me. Even if the results and people’s recent comments paint me as… the person I’ve always wished I could be.
I used to be afraid of taking the bus. Eating in public. I threw up if I had to be in front of anybody. It’s a little alarming to see what you only ever dreamed of actually becoming… real. But as taken aback as I am, I’m happy. I’m on the right path. I don’t know where it’s going, but isn’t that half the fun?
And that time is now. I have so much to say that it’s like something was set alight in my chest and my body is a moment frozen in time; the explosion was ignited but is held in stasis inside, ready to go off. I think it has to explode here. I want to write her a song. I want to write about songs. I want to write about incredible performances I’ve seen that made me proud to be a member of the human race. I want to write about my confusion and determination, to try and figure out a plan for the way forward. I want to write about so much happiness. So much sadness. The paradox of being. Thank goodness for words.
Do you ever lie awake at night with so many thoughts and ideas rattling around your brain you can’t possibly sleep? I know each of us is afforded the same amount of time per day, but I feel eternally that it’s not enough. I wish it were a real commodity; I’d buy so much from other people. Nights they spend in front of the television that will disappear into the past completely wasted. I’d scoop them all up and make so many things. Songs. Stories. Photographs. Memories. I sometimes wish I weren’t so invested in so many things.
But I can’t do things by halves. I pour every ounce of everything I am into everything I do, and it frustrates me and sometimes breaks my heart. When it’s not reciprocal, it hurts, and instead of seeing it as the simple fact that other people don’t always feel so extremely (and that’s okay), I feel saddened and alone and confused. My heart will always take my head in any fight, and there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do to change that. I’m a little all over the place right now, so this post probably will be, too. Thank you for bearing with me.
I feel like I’ve been doing a pretty good job at doing what I’m supposed to be doing lately. Storytelling, in some way or another. I’ve made some images, posted a song I wrote, and entered a writing competition with something I made over a few lunch hours, ending up with about 3,500 words. I love being able to tell stories in more than one way, but I sometimes question if I should.
Should I focus on one avenue at the cost of the others? If I want to be a real writer, I should spend all my storytelling time telling stories through the written word. If I want to be a half-decent musician, I should spend my time writing more songs, learning how to perform, and getting things recorded. If I want to be a photographer, I should spend more time taking and editing images. But I’m so very drawn to all three. Writing most. But sometimes an idea has to come out as music or art instead, and I don’t want to limit myself. But I don’t want to spread myself thin, either.
Music is something I’ve been passionate about for probably close to the same amount of time as I’ve been on the planet. As a kid, I remember anxiously sitting by the radio, waiting for a song to come on to record onto a mix tape. I’ll still spend a few hundred dollars I don’t have travelling to other cities to see a favourite band. I curated mix CDs for friends for years (damn modern technology; how do you do that now?) and grew up listening to my dad’s punk and new wave, and to this day we basically have the same taste. We went to a Gary Numan show this week – something I was looking forward to (Godfather!) but had no idea how incredible it would be! This man blew me away. Everyone knows Cars, but holy crap. I loved everything he played, and his performance was mesmerising. It was as if the music had been injected into his every vein, fuelling his movement and delivery; the result an electric art piece (that rocked SO hard) that words fail to describe. Everyone in the audience was awe-struck. There was an excitement and wonder that filled the air as we watched him command the stage with body contortions and vast, stylized gestures that made it appear like he was channelling so much more than music. No wonder so many artists cite him as their biggest influence.
I’ve always adored music, but I never dreamed I’d ever be able to make it. I took classes in school, but always struggled with being able to read sheet music. I was in stage school for a brief period and loved it, but I lost a lot of confidence in my early-mid twenties and though I loved to sing, I’d ensure every window was closed and nobody was home before I ever dared sing along to something. My biggest reason for getting a car wasn’t for transportation; it was so I’d have a space where nobody would see me that I could sing in as much as I liked.
I wrote my first song at about this time last year, and I surprised myself. You know me; I like to write thousands of words at a time. A song is about 200. Yet it somehow worked. My little story fit into a couple of verses and a chorus. So I kept going. Now I’m in the habit of writing down stray sentences and turns of phrase in an ongoing Google document, and recording random bits of melody on my phone if inspiration strikes. But why am I doing it? I’m still terrified of performing, but I have this immense desire to create music. I want to keep writing songs, learning more chords, and strengthening my voice until it becomes one I’m actually proud of. Not because I need to entertain people; far from it. I think it’s because, like my old friend once told me, we don’t have these insatiable longings for no reason at all. We have them because we should be doing something about them. And I think my reason is to prove to myself that maybe I can be good. I’ve spent years trying to let what’s on the inside emerge externally; to become the person I’ve always wanted to be. Recognising the discrepancy between where I was and where I wanted to be and actually doing something about it. But I don’t think I’ll ever be done.
That reminds me. I finally got some work done on my tattoo! This thing has cursed my back for years, and the last time I tried to cover it up it ended with me leaving the shop in tears, insulted, and in ridiculous amounts of pain (chronic abnormality; my back is always in spasm and hurting, and having needles in it doesn’t tend to go well. I can sit through being inked anywhere else on my body!). I finally went back in to see Ivy, who’s been creating this wonderful piece on my arm, and she understood my situation. It was going to be a cover up of a messy, quarter-finished cover up attempt on a back that hurts just to touch: not fun, but it was time. She designed something perfect, and I’ve got the hardest piece done, even if it was quite possibly one of the most painful things of my entire life. A ship, to represent the sentiment of always sailing forward, even if you don’t know which direction you’re going. I refuse to ever settle and stay still when there is so much life to be lived. An albatross, too, because they are beautiful and strong and can last for days and days on nothing at all. And a Frank Turner lyric, “I face the horizon, the horizon is my home,” supporting the ship itself in the same typeface and style as everything on my arm. The sentiment is perfect, and it just encompasses (no pun intended) the way I absolutely have to live my life.
Anyway. Back to what I was saying. I want to make music. I also want to make art and edit images and create whimsical fairytales told by a single photograph. I’m almost at 1,000 on my photography/art type stuff Facebook page, and I could edit for hours and hours. I love compositing, creating magical stories, and I have so very much to learn still. And I want to learn it all. I want to be as good as Brooke Shaden. I have a shoot I’ve organised for December with close to thirty people taking part, and I’m so excited for the day, but I’m beyond excited for the editing process and the resultant album. But again, these things take time.
I also have to finish my novel. Now winter is here I’ll be spending far more time indoors and not running around barefoot in forests, and it’s been a goal to have the whole thing finished before I turn thirty. That’s only seven months away. But if people can Wri Nos in a Mo, I think I can do it. The Professor and I I’m sure will start our writing nights again, just like before. 🙂
There are a few things up in the air right now, but writing this stream of consciousness has helped settle me. This evening I will build a blanket fort and make epic grilled cheese sandwiches and light sparklers for Bonfire Night with one of my favourite people in the world. The rest will sort itself out. It always does. And life is full of a lot of wonderful.
Lately, I’ve been feeling a little bit guilty. When I first started writing here, I did it for a number of reasons: to get my thoughts out into the world because back then, I was a timid thing with a head full of thoughts and a heart too scared to speak up in the world; to chronicle life and bind it into real books at the end of each year; to connect; to document a journey through things I was afraid of and be held accountable to all those goals; to hopefully somehow be some kind of small inspiration, maybe; but most importantly, to make this a place where anyone could come and fall into my mind and know they’re getting the genuine thing.
One of the things I remember being bothered by when I first ventured into the blogosphere was how there was such a difference between real human beings and the personas they portrayed online. I found myself frustrated, searching for authenticity in a sea of best impressions, and I made a vow to myself: put it all out there. All of it. Don’t be a victim or a downer, but don’t be afraid to hide real feelings. Get really excited about stupid stuff and put that out there too. Be an outpouring of enthusiasm for everything I feel deeply about. Think out loud, as a stream of consciousness, and have this space be as close a representation to the inside of my mind as possible. (Though if that were true, the walls would be decked with quotes and beautiful imagery, and there’d be all sorts of music playing in a wandering stream of energy and enchantment.) Be genuine, because by being anything else, no subsequent relationships ever could be.
People question me sometimes, and tell me there’s such a thing as being “too open”. But take one look at me and you’ll see I can’t hide a thing. My heart is literally tattooed all over my sleeve, and a recent costuming endeavour (Observer from Fringe; yep, bald head and everything) proved I was thoroughly incapable of hiding any emotions (I’d be a terrible Vulcan!). I’m wired with a desperate desire to know and to be known. Right now, I feel as if I’ve been doing a lot of reflection on how best to balance that, but I don’t know if I’ve been doing the best job. I’ve been trying to follow my friend’s advice (it’s very good), yet somehow I keep packing my calendar fuller than a Christmas turkey.
I think, as with so many things, it goes back to the whole INFJ thing—one of the things I find most interesting with MBTI is the differences within types—I know a few other INFJs who fit the type just as well as I do, but are happy to only go out once or twice a week (higher I), or are able to remain a little more steady when it comes to being affected by emotions (lower F), for example. I’ve always remained an INFJ, but as I’ve grown older, my introversion has been steadily decreasing. I think this leads to the desire to be in the company of others, which when extremely awesome or extremely meaningful (or both), leaves me feeling energized—yet if it’s obligatory, I feel bad afterward, because it’s time that could have been spent making something. And I always need to create. I always have. Especially since I’ve been alone; I dived into photography and modelling and writing music and doing covers to keep myself occupied so, in all honesty, I didn’t just sit there being sad. But in doing so I fell ever so much more in love with it.
It was a good thing: my loneliness was the catalyst for an explosion of creativity and a deepening of incredible friendships. I love doing all these things, all of the time. But tonight was the first time I actually scheduled myself some alone time. I’ve been feeling guilty of going out and seeing people too much at the expense of things I need to accomplish. Yes, I’m always doing photos, whether shooting or editing or being in other people’s… and I love telling stories through imagery. Yes, I’ll come home from work and between getting in and heading out again, I’ll pick up my ukulele and I’ll sing. I’ll try whatever happens to be floating around my head, or I’ll play some chords and hum a tune and record it for future use if something comes out sounding kind of okay. I’ve missed being part of a joint musical force so very much, and this past week, my stars aligned and two friends of mine, two incredibly talented friends who are already in their own amazing band, said yes to teaming up as a three-piece with me. (Me!) We had our first jam, and I was nervous and awe-struck, but I feel like this is could be the start of something that might just be really great. And I’m beyond excited. But one thing I haven’t been doing much of is working on my book. Maybe it’s because that’s the one thing that must be done alone. “Visual storytelling” is a collaborative effort; it’s fun, and from beginning to end, there’s something very social about it, even the solo work itself. Music too: you either collaborate with others, or you post something on the Internet and talk to others about it. But writing necessitates solitude. And that’s the one thing I’ve always been afraid of.
(Most recently written song, before I found this awesome team)
I’m much better at solitude than I used to be. But I have such trouble turning off my thoughts and focusing them on writing the story at hand. My mind will be full of tales and ideas and will conjure up strings of words all day long, but at the end of the day, when I finally have time to put them to paper, they get all tangled up with thoughts and feelings, wishes, reflections, curiosities and nostalgia. And it’s so terribly hard to concentrate. I feel off balance—like I should be either an extrovert who’s just always around people all the time, and feels good about it, or an introvert who can stay home most of the week, perfectly content to embrace isolation (even my word choice there has a negative connotation) and have ample time to devote so much more time to creative projects… I just feel a little torn between the two, and though I’m doing a lot (and loving it), and though I’m learning to only say yes when it’s a “hell yes”… I’m still not finishing my damn book. And that’s the one thing I absolutely need to.
Does anyone else have this problem? Too many ideas for too many things, not enough hours in the day, being torn between craving company and needing alone time, and the complete inability to shut off all the thoughts and simply focus on one thing? I wish I didn’t have to sleep. I feel that maybe then, I’d have sufficient time to devote to everything I want to instead of squishing it all in and feeling spread thin. I want to do everything. But I also want to be able to focus on one thing at a time without my thoughts wandering off with my feelings. The concept of meditating, or even just lasting more than five minutes in a bath, is one I’ve never been able to fathom. (There’s always so much to be doing!) How do you do it?
Fellow INFJs… I feel like you may have a few words of wisdom. Or at least help me feel a little less strange.
I started writing this book in January, and as of now, I’m sitting at about 25,000 words. Not bad for something written mostly during lunch hours, but still not close enough to where I’d hoped to be as 2012 wrapped itself up with the rest of the year’s gifts. I’ve always loved creating the atmosphere of a story, but I’ve always sucked at coming up with things with which to populate it. Most of my creative writing involves solitary characters who never encounter anybody and thus never have to speak. Their stories usually go on for a few pages and though by the end the reader can fully visualize the environment and feel the character’s emotions, most of the action takes place in the character’s own head. Heads can indeed be scary places, but you can’t pump out a novel where nothing actually happens outside of them and expect to do well. Especially if it’s horror. Unless maybe those heads start falling off.
One thing I’ve been wrestling with since beginning this process is the magic balance between literary fiction and mass-market appeal. I know the horror field. It’s ruled by one Stephen King whose stories have sold over 350 million copies and have been turned into movies, comic books, TV series and quilted toilet paper. He also cranks out 2,000 words every day, and I suppose when you’re producing that amount of material, your chances of something striking a chord with the general public are infinitely (well, I suppose about two thousand times) more likely than had you spent all that time perfecting the one novel. This is why I could never, ever do NaNoWriMo. I’ve tried quantity over quality, and it usually results in something I want to throw into the proverbial fire.
But then again, some people value story, others value style. Maybe I stick to the latter because I struggle so much with the actual ideas. Maybe those who can crank out five novels a year are brilliant when it comes to imagination, but find themselves lacking in the delivery. But maybe it doesn’t matter. I remember in writing class sitting next to a guy whose style couldn’t have been more different. His favourite author was Nick Hornby. His stories covered entire days in a single paragraph. He could convey character, setting and plot in a sentence. He was brilliant at something I couldn’t do, and though I didn’t dislike it, I didn’t – for lack of a better word – respect it in my personal sense of what constitutes good writing. To me, writing is all about building an atmosphere and planting the reader firmly inside a character’s head, where they are carried not through events but through emotions, noting the world around them as if transformed into nothing larger than a field mouse, every noise in the night or rumbling of the street far bigger and more sinister than it should be. There are people who’ll put a book of mine down after the second page because they’ve read 500 words and all that’s happened is someone’s gone down a flight of stairs. (Okay, yes, that’s in my novel, but I promise it’s the most interesting trip down the damn stairs you’ve ever read.)
But no matter how shiny the prospect is of one day having a book of mine sitting on a Barnes & Noble shelf, I can’t bring myself to effectively “dumb it down” for the masses. I was thinking about this last night in the bathroom. I’m going to go ahead and say I can’t remember what I was doing in there for the sake of moving on quickly. Most of the people I know share a similar stance as me on the music industry: the artists that win the awards, get cardboard cutouts of themselves stuck in every store and have their own line of dog food aren’t the ones who put something creative out into the world. They’re the ones who deliver cookie-cutter tunes and fit into the molds that best reach the mass demographic: young people with disposable incomes who haven’t yet developed an appreciation for artistic instrumentation or lyrical mastery. The music charts are ruled by those that cater to the mass demographic, picking their songs from the cauldron of guaranteed hits and wrapping them in formulaic, predictable, easily digestible packages. That doesn’t mean they’re bad – even I can’t resist a bit of David Guetta every now and then, and I think I once covered a Britney Spears record – it just means the level of talent is equal to the level of genuine respect and appreciation. And thinking of it like that, I don’t care if it takes me an entire week to perfect a single page. I don’t really care if my story is never picked up by a publishing giant. I want to strike a chord with those who value well-crafted sentences and imagination. I want to write something I personally respect. I know horror and poetic prose may not appear the best of companions, but I’ve fallen in love with the idea of fusing two worlds I’m so passionate about.
People are always surprised when I tell them I’m writing horror. I don’t look particularly troubled, I live in a turquoise room strung with white fairy lights, I play quite possibly the least badass instrument ever, Halloween means dressing up as superheroes, not vampires, and I own cats. Not ravens. I subscribe to science magazines, bake cakes, drink tea, cry when animals get hurt, and am quite possibly the most hopeless of all romantics. So why the attraction to the dark side?
It’s a dark world we live in.
Because in darkness, there lies the strongest hope. With all genres of fiction, the reader is invited to play a role. With mysteries, they must hunt clues, question characters and solve problems. With fantasy, they must suspend their disbelief and immerse themselves fully into worlds different from our own, accepting all their strange rules as reality. But with horror, readers must feel, imagine, and create these worlds themselves. After the pages have been turned, they are left haunted, questioning their own reality, secretly wondering what may lurk behind the bathroom door or what’s really making those noises in the hallway. A very real sense of uncertainty is developed through turning the familiar upside down. That’s the sign of great art, I always thought. Creating something so strong that genuine emotions are stirred within the viewer or reader. Making something that tangles itself around its recipient’s thoughts and makes them feel something real.
When situations are most dire, emotions are strongest. Fear usurps all other senses, but hope is magnified exponentially. Never does one realise how much their world is worth until it’s threatened with extinction. The reader is left with a changed view of whatever their situation may be; an unsettling disquiet lingers long after the chapter has been closed. Through horror, perhaps the strongest of all emotions emerge: hope and fear. These are the things that drive our most steadfast of actions, thoughts and convictions. And after all, only through being dragged through the deepest of darknesses can we truly appreciate the light. And creating that, I think, is quite beautiful.
So it’s been a full two years since the 26 Before 26 – which turned into a bit of a 26 before 27, but I think I just about got there in the end. Last week I turned 27 (and got a SWORD from my amazing boyfriend!), and, seeing as I think that officially puts me into the “late twenties” category, I’m going to go ahead and do it all over again. This birthday, I’m going to make a 30 Before 30. I’m going to become Jack Nicholson, except without portraying cancer as a fun adventure leading to some sort of clichéd (and rather irritating) epiphany. You shouldn’t wait for something terrible to happen before you decide to grab life by the throat and live it to pieces (thank you Frank) – but that being said, when something terrible does happen, you do kind of realise that life is short, and it’s probably better off not to spend it on crap you’ll either forget or regret when the end is drawing near.
Yes, some pretty rubbish things have happened over the last year. My ex husband disappeared, went crazy, and came back a different person who left shortly afterward for good waving a crucifix around in the air. My anxiety got to an all time high, which resulted in a lot of crying, a lot of damage, and a lot of people sodding off. I lived in a hobbit-sized apartment with a git of a landlord who almost lost my cat, charged me almost $1,000 a month, and let my ceiling remain pretty much collapsed for two of the coldest months of the year. I got into a car crash and totalled my boyfriend’s car a week before my driving test. And the man I love is incredibly sick, and I can’t do anything to take it away. Many of my real-life friends are fully aware of the prognosis and day-to-day details, but it’s not my place to broadcast the details across the internet. But it’s really, really hard. So it hasn’t been the easiest year, but it has put things very much into perspective for me. Two of the biggest things I’ve learned are that a) time is short, that every second should be spent wisely, and that trivial things should never be prioritised over what ultimately means most in life, and b) shit happens, but the only way it’s going to stop happening is if you decide to take action rather than whine about it.
Blogging about my goal list over the course of the last two years is hands down the reason I kept going. Once you put something out there for the world to see, you feel like you owe it to them to follow through on your promises. And you owe it to yourself to stay accountable, and not look like a lazy bastard. Blogging’s taken a bit of a back seat lately because I’m spending most of my free time working on the novel. But it’s still important for me to keep some sort of record of 2012, even if it’s only every month or two. To continue to immortalise life as it is, life as it was, to look back on and remember how everything felt exactly as it happened. My words are my legacy, and I’m not going to abandon them. That’s another thing I’ve learned – we all have the same amount of minutes in every day, and complaining about “not having time” for something important to you is incredibly defeatist. If it’s truly important, you make time.
So I’m going to make a 30 Before 30. And this time, it’s not going to be lame! When I made the last list, it wasn’t just a bucket list of stuff I thought might be kind of neat – it was a list of things I was terribly afraid of, but things I was desperate to be able to do (but that most people probably checked off by the time they reached puberty). Reading out loud and speaking to people on the actual telephone don’t make for the most exciting of reading material, and I think I’ve taken enough of the small steps to move onto the bigger ones. I promise it’ll be more exciting this year. I want to challenge myself, grow, learn new things, throw myself outside what’s comfortable and hope for the best. I want to learn to stop giving a crap about things and people that don’t factor into the big picture, and I want to focus only on the things that do. I want to learn to accept my weaknesses and faults, and actively try to change them. I want to learn what is most comfortable, and spend some time nurturing that as well as trying what’s not. I don’t want to get to the end without any scars. I want to get there knowing I did something, and I want to know more fully who exactly I am. I think once you’ve figured that out, it’s pretty much time to kick the bucket, but I think there’s enormous value in exploring yourself, learning to be comfortable with what’s there, and challenging yourself to be even more. I think I’m on the right track. I think it was good to have tried things I was afraid of, but I tend to give myself a hard time for not having done them perfectly – my goal wasn’t just to attempt them, but to do them fearlessly, and in that respect, it’s hard not to focus on shortcomings. But on the other hand, I think points are generally given for effort, so I think as long as I keep trying, maybe I’ll learn to give myself a bit of a break. It doesn’t matter what direction you’re going or if you even know where you’re going, as long as you’re moving forward. And move forward I shall.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to truly “conquer” anxiety, or not be a worrier. There’s a fine line between habits and innate personality traits, and hard as I work at changing behaviours and thought patterns, I think there’s always going to be something there that’s simply part of who I am. I think it would be a terrible thing if we could easily change who we are, but I think with enough effort and determination, we can change habits that may masquerade as personality. I know I’m always going to be sensitive, and I’m always going to have introverted tendencies over extraversion. I know I’m always going to cry when I think of animals being mistreated (even in Pixar movies) or losing loved ones (also even in Pixar movies… yes, I just finished watching Up), or when I feel like I’ve let someone down. But I just have to look at these things and instead of eliminating them, maybe just working on getting them in check, – maybe trying to see the positive side of them is the way to go. Yes, I hate that I’m so incredibly sensitive and cry so often. But I’m proud of the fact that I feel with the absolute maximum capacity I have, and care so deeply about what’s important to me. And if weeping like a Shakespearean B-lister every night is the result, then I think it’s a small price to pay.
I have two years left of my twenties. I still have so much to learn, so much to improve, so much to tackle and so much to try. I have so many goals I want to throw out there into the universe and make sure I always keep working on. I have activities I want to experience, moments I want to share, places I want to see, and project I want to complete. And I want to spend every day focusing on all of them. Nobody, they say, gets remembered for the things they didn’t do. So here goes.
1. Become a proper ukulele player (i.e. learn more than six chords), and learn how to play guitar. I love that I can play – not well, I might add – something whenever I have the desire to spontaneously burst into song, and I love that I’ve made enough lame videos to not be so self conscious about people other than the cat hearing me. But I want to lose the awkwardness, the terror at the thought of singing in front of a single person, learn to have some sort of presence, and actually not kind of suck at something I actually really enjoy.
2. Finish the novel. All 100,000 words of it. Get it published, whether self or through a publisher, and see just one copy for sale in a local bookstore. I’m about a tenth of the way through my first draft right now, and I’m addicted. I love the premise. I love the poor, twisted characters. I love that I have enough fuel from real life stuff and my own mental meanderings to create such a creepy world. Thank you, everyone who’s ever been a psycho!
3. Go an entire month without crying. Right now I think it’d be pretty accurate to say I cry every two or three days. Not because I’m sad or lonely or depressed, but usually about things I care so bloody much about. I cry because of loved ones in pain and me being powerless to do anything about it. I cry because of how lucky I feel to have such incredible people in my life. I cry at the thought of never having met them. I cry when I think about animals in pain. And I cry because sometimes, the chasm between where I am and where I want to be is bigger than I’d like, and I feel like I’m letting people down. I’m not a miserable person by any means, but I feel things with enormous emotional impact. I’d just like to be able to get the physiological consequence of that under control.
4. Do whatever I can to travel home to England or to see more of Europe. I haven’t travelled far away for a few years now, and I miss it terribly. I did take an amazing road trip back in March though, which was pretty amazing – if I can’t go too far, I’d really love to do another one and make it all the way to SF Comic Con. 🙂
5. Get a text sleeve. Or a partial one. I saw this forever ago and absolutely fell in love with it. Now I’m not going to go as big as my entire arm – initially I wanted to go with the same spot as my other arm tattoo, but then I figured a) it’d probably look like I’d been in prison, and b) it’d probably look like I’d been in prison. Plus I’ve never been one for symmetry anyway. So I think I’m going with my other arm, maybe along the back of the tricep, or over the shoulder. I’ve compiled a few of my favourite quotes and hacked them out visually to get this sort of effect. And I can’t wait.
6. Stop picking my damn thumbs. Is this what giving up smoking feels like? Instead of rotting away my lungs I’m mutilating my hands at every opportunity. It makes NO SENSE. I look nervous, it’s gross, it hurts, and it makes my hands look they they’ve fallen victim to the Vidiian Phage – but for some reason I can’t stop digging my nails into my thumbs and peeling them until they bleed. It’s the most disgusting habit ever. I’ve tried fiddling with hair bands, getting manicures, and putting plasters on them… but logic and willpower are disappointingly weak little buggers in comparison to the ridiculous compulsion. I mean really?
7. Become a more active astronomer. Be able to recognise more planets and constellations without Star Walk. I may accomplish this once my Space Room is completed next month. Painting’s already underway – now to map out constellations on the ceiling, string up hundreds of fairy lights, and make a DIY solar system. I live in the most wonderful and nerdy place in the world, and I love it. I also really want to learn to capture the night sky in a photo.
8. Completely pay off my debt. I’ve started with small things like bringing canned soup to work and taking caffeine pills so I don’t have to spend on downtown lunches or Starbucks (I swear it’s healthier than the ten sugars and colossal amounts of syrup I need in order to get the stuff down). I’ve started eating bachelor food at home, I gave up my gym membership (it takes a good ten minutes just to walk to the kitchen and back), and date nights include building forts and writing by Dollar-store candlelight instead of going out. But one thing I’ve learned in my working adult life is that sadly, you are worth what your job title says you’re worth – not what you actually do. That doesn’t stop me stepping outside the box. I love stepping outside of boxes. This probably stemmed from getting stuck under my bed as a child and being terrified of ever being in one again. My resume may say I’ve been an Admin Assistant for the last six years, but I’ve been a writer, a marketer, a graphic designer, a social media expert, an office manager, an accountant, a curriculum developer, a teacher and a coach. And that’s just in my last two jobs.
I’m all for the sentiment of being the creator of your own destiny, but when it comes to dreaming bigger, that’s not the problem – it’s being financially unable to break the poor cycle in order to do it. Yes, I could take classes in the evenings or on weekends to get myself some sort of certification that says officially on paper that I can do all the things I already can. But there’s always going to be a part of me that refuses based on sheer principle, and there’s no way I can invest thousands of dollars and 100% of my waking time to something that may get me a better sounding title (and subsequent pay package) – that’ll take another decade of being poor in order to pay off. I really, really like the job I have right now. I like the people, the place, and the progressive responsibilities I’m being given. I’m managing okay-ish financially, but for now, it’ll have to do. I know it’s going to take a couple of years to fully tackle my debt, and in the meantime it’ll mean a few sacrifices. But hopefully by thirty, it’ll be under control.
9. In relation to the above, there’s nothing to say I can’t add one based on sheer hope and wishing really hard. By thirty, I want to have a more impressive (and accurate) job title. I have a big goal in my current job, and I’m really hoping that one day it’ll be a possibility.
10. Read 25 books. (I know it doesn’t sound like a lofty goal, but I’m being realistic.)
11. Skydive. Next month I am hosting a party celebrating humanity launching itself up into the sky, and I think it’d be terribly exciting (if predictably list-worthy) to launch myself back down from it. I can’t think of a bigger adrenaline rush, and it’s good to be utterly thrilled every once in a while. I want to jump out of a plane with someone I love, and share the memory for the rest of our lives. (Almost relatedly, I also really want to go zorbing with someone.)
12. Take an incredibly out of character class, like hip hop dance, burlesque, theatre or pole dancing. Just to say that I did.
14. Give a public speech. That goes well.
15. Stop injuring myself and getting bizarre afflictions. I don’t know how, but bizarre afflictions seem to keep popping up that are just downright embarrassing to explain. Last year it was the joints in my hands. It ended up being a few RSIs as a result of living in the pre-Smartphone age, but it got to the point where I couldn’t use my hands. I couldn’t grip anything – couldn’t do dishes, carry bags, hold a pen or straighten my hair. And when people asked what I’d done – I didn’t have a cool bad-ass answer. I didn’t break my hand punching ninjas, I had a random injury I couldn’t really explain.
Since September, I’ve had a weird skin disease that I’ve managed to keep under control with topical steroid creams. Which I learned last week cause a dependency/addiction to be developed – which I already knew, since every time I stopped using it, it would come back – so I’ve just switched to antibiotics and a non-steroidal gel. The withdrawal is absolutely horrifying. The skin around my mouth, nose and eyes has exploded in an itchy, flaky, red, sore ugly mess and I look like I just had a vat of acid thrown at my face. Apparently this is normal, and goes away within a couple of months. I’ve spent all weekend hiding in the dark and I’m dreading facing the world tomorrow. Why couldn’t it be on my elbow or knee or somewhere I could cover up??
Also, this year, I had to have a toenail removed. And in what I can only explain via best guess, the subsequent walking funny did something to my whole foot, and I haven’t been able to put proper shoes on or walk without my foot taped up for the last three weeks. What did I do? I have no idea. I don’t know if it’s torn ligaments, a hairline fracture or a voodoo curse. But I feel stupid not being able to walk and not having a reason why. I suppose the only way I can accomplish this is taking better care of myself. Getting more sleep, eating more vegetables, and doing more exercise. And maybe some more wishing.
16. Learn to be concise. This goes for blogging, writing, e-mailing, even conversing. Nobody has several hours at a time to devote to my two thousand-word ramblings about things that could be described in bullet points. And more importantly, nobody’s going to want to read a book that takes seven pages for a character to leave his apartment and go down a flight of stairs.
18. Stop worrying about things I can’t control. I tend to work myself up into fits of tears over things that often only exist in my head. I need to learn to stop worrying, and have my first instinct to calmly talk about things rather than internally catastrophise them and react accordingly.
19. Focus on quality over quantity. I think part of what they call “growing up” is learning the lesson that it’s not how much crap you have, it’s how awesome your crap is that actually matters. But even though I’ve been putting a lot of effort into embracing my introverted tendencies, things like birthdays still get me down. Last weekend I threw a get-together and must have invited at least fifty people. Knowing this was a Facebook event, I knew that in all likelihood half wouldn’t respond, and maybe a third would come. I convinced myself that even if four people came, it’d still be great, because as a Grown Up, it doesn’t matter how many friends you have, it matters how great they are. But as the event got closer, I kept getting those damn notifications. From people (a lot of whom had sodded off after the events of December, but with whom I still had hope) declining without reason. This shouldn’t matter – it’s Facebook, I’m not hitting a milestone, and grown-ups have things like children and weddings and vacations and evening jobs and all sorts of other obligations. But it still made me really sad and really lonely. It ended up being lots of fun – we had a gathering of a dozen or so, drank lots of wine, listened to good music and played lots of board games (including 12-person Balderdash with Monopoly and Chess pieces), and I think everyone had fun. But I still felt really down about all the people who not even just declined without saying why, but the giant chunk of people who didn’t even bother to respond.
Before thirty, I want to learn to not be so devastated by things like this that are perfectly acceptable and normal, and in no way equal me unequivocally being a giant loser. I have amazing friends, who do amazing things every day, and they mean more to me than I could ever say. I am determined to stop giving a crap about people that really are more acquaintances than anything, and remind myself all the time how lucky I am to have a few absolute stars in my life that made my actual birthday one of the best I’ve ever had. The number of wishes from people, the cards with words that moved me to tears, the incredibly thoughtful gifts, the surprises… I felt like the luckiest person in the world at the end of the day. So next year: no birthday party, or trying to organise something big on a Saturday night. Just a handful of loved ones enjoying each other’s company, and celebrating being here on this Earth together at the same time.
20. Embrace my natural introversion, but do what I can to quell the assumptions that go along with it. Not just those around me, but my own, too. I’ve definitely been learning that it’s okay to spend time in your own company, and not fight my cravings for evenings with no plans like I used to. I’m actually rather enjoying time by myself where I can read or write or play music and not feel like I have to be socialising (and that there’s something wrong with me because of it). But there are all sorts of misconceptions about introverts, and I want to set the record straight. I think it’ll make me feel better, and hopefully make like-minded others feel a little bit better. If you feel like we might be in the same boat, here are some interesting things I learned about introverts from Psychology Today and Cracked – my two go-to sources for understanding the human race.
21. Hug a tiger. I’ve hugged a dolphin (and given him a high five) and it was hands down one of the most joy-filled ten minutes of my life. After my dolphin experience, the trek back to my tour bus included stops at a seal show, petting sweet little birds, and watching tigers clean themselves. JUST LIKE GIANT VERSIONS OF KITTENS. Having a socially accepted and completely content pet tiger would probably be the best thing ever, but since that’s about as likely as scientists discovering a nutrient at KFC, I am more than happy to settle for a simple hug.
22. Learn to swing dance.
23. Have fantastic nails all the time. My appearance has changed an awful lot over the last year. I used to feel the need to tan, have hair extensions, continually be made up, and getting manicures every other week in order to be attractive. But the people who’ve been in my life for the last little while have shown me that none of that matters – not to mention the exorbitant amount of cash it all adds up to. I no longer tan, I box dye my hair, I can go to Safeway without makeup on, and I save myself $45 every three weeks on nails by doing my own. I’ve fallen in love with Poor Person DIY Nail Art – it’s cheaper and more fun than boring old French manicures anyway.
24. Do something big for a good cause. I try to do things as often as I can to make my little corner of the world a tiny bit better. I donate to charities, I sponsor a child, and I’ll buy a sandwich for someone with a cardboard sign if I think they’re genuinely in need of it. But it’s not enough. It breaks my heart that every second there are people losing babies, husbands and wives, diseases taking over and killing amazing people, animals being kicked or thrown into dumpsters or over bridges, people being tortured or exploited or abused, and it along with feeling absolutely devastated and incredibly useless, sometimes it genuinely makes me horrified to be a part of the human race. I want to do something bigger, something more, something that will really do something significant. I don’t know what yet, but I want it to happen.
25. Perform at least three songs at an open mic – with an instrument – and without throwing up afterwards.
26. Change my inner monologue. They say we are what we believe, and perhaps one of the reasons I’m finding it so hard to shake some of my insecurities is because going through the motions without internally believing you’re successful in your endeavours is never going to address the root problem. My thoughts are still a problem – I’ll sit down to write something and tell myself it sucks when I’m finished. I’ll play a song for the Internet and watch it back cringing, telling myself how stupid I look and how bad I sound. If I’m home on Friday and Saturday nights I tell myself it’s because everybody has someone more exciting to be with. Getting this skin infection left me crying and sitting in the dark for days because I repeatedly tell myself I’m not as attractive as others, and this has made me even more hideous. I might be able to carry off being confident by at least doing the actions – but I’m never internally and genuinely going to believe it as long as I keep telling myself otherwise. I’ve started a little exercise – writing down three things I like about myself each night before bed. I haven’t been as diligent as I probably should have lately, but I think it’s a step in the right direction in learning to create my own self image, and not continually relying on others’ assurances, or tearing myself down. The only person that can bridge the gap between how I see myself now and how I want to is me.
27. Be mentally, physically and financially ready to settle down and have a family. I don’t think this will happen by thirty, and as I am right now, I don’t particularly want it to – I’m just learning to love life and tap into what it can be like when you learn the right lessons, and practice the right attitudes. I have so much to see and do and so many memories to make before that time comes. A lot of people my age have now already been hit by the baby bug – I see all the time Facebook statuses about it coming completely out of the blue, and being subsequently unable to think of anything but having a child. I’m not there. At all. In all honesty, the only reason I considered it after I just got married was because the timing made sense. I am so incredibly thankful it didn’t happen – if it did, I probably would’ve been stuck in a meaningless, loveless cycle of settling, disagreements, and obligations. I never would have known what life could be with the right people in it. And now that gift has been given me, I want to live it to pieces with those people. I do want to have a family one day – I believe raising excellent humans is the best thing you can do for the good of the rest of the planet, and it’d be incredible to see part of your soul embodied in somebody else – but I’m not there yet. Hopefully by 30, I’ll at least want to be.
28. See the northern lights. For someone who loves the night sky as much as I do, I still can’t believe I’ve never seen these. I was blown away by the sight of a real, unpolluted meteor shower last summer and I’ve been enchanted ever since. I can’t possibly predict it, but I hope one day in the next couple of years I’ll see the lights dancing across the sky.
29. Inspire someone to change their life. I don’t really blog for traffic any more. But when I first started, the biggest thing I wanted was to be able to be real, and put my hopes, fears and struggles out there, in hopes of finding other people who felt the same things I did. My biggest goal wasn’t to eliminate my fears. It was certainly one of them, but moreso, through taking small steps at a time, I hoped to inspire somebody else to challenge theirs, and live better because of it. I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I’m determined to help someone become more.
30. Learn chess and win a game. I want to learn all the rules and be able to plan fifteen moves ahead and stop losing all my little soldiers and take that damn king. But more (and rather more nerdily): I want to build more neural pathways in my brain. Like life, what’s the point of having one if you don’t at least try to reach its full potential?
Making this list took a lot of time, mental energy and reflection. I didn’t want to make a list full of things like getting degrees, learning languages, or running marathons. These are the sorts of things you put out there to impress others, like new year’s resolutions, that you never truly intend to make happen – going through the motions of being passionate about something without actually feeling any. I don’t want my list to be full of empty actions. I want them to check off everything on this list and be able to give a genuinely good answer as to why it’s on there. I want experiences, not accolades. I want to do things that require courage and bravery, that will lead to growth, or will yield incredible memories I’ll be able to take to my deathbed. I don’t want it to be a checklist of things to experience before the end, but a list comprising the person I want to be. I want it to be challenging, fun and terrifying – the things I was most scared of on the last list resulted in the most growth because, before doing them, I couldn’t imagine ever being able to. I want it to expand the limits of what I am capable of. I want it to lead me to becoming more than I am. And if the opportunity for one of my less realistic goals arises on the course to 30, all the more awesome. Just saying. #TimeTravel
Let the road begin…
Though the stars had retired and the sun had officially staked possession of the day ahead, the apartment remained dim. Ash liked it that way. Fragments of light continued their efforts at conquering his living room, each racing its neighbour in vain endeavours at domination. He was used to this, and rest assured in his trusty fortress, protected on the outside with shields of haphazard, overgrown ivy, and shadows from its tall turrets. The building rose from the foundations like a haunted house, by night, a symphony of creaks and moans and things going bump in the night; by day, a voiceless misfit casting long shadows across the otherwise exuberant street outside.
– Description of my building (an excerpt from the story I’m currently working on)
And so I have made the move to my giant, sprawling, thoroughly creepy new home. It’s a building that’s captivated me for as long as I can remember after moving to this city, in the heart of the recently declared Greatest Neighbourhood in Canada. It houses the oldest copper cage elevator in the country, an inner courtyard with light wells, glass-canopied walkways and bridges, and twisting staircases that mislead their visitors, taking them to nothingness. Voices from elsewhere in the building are carried perfectly through the strangely designed ventilation system and faint music from bygone eras can be heard through ceilings. Some of my belongings seem to have picked up strange powers over the course of my move and have transformed into mediums; voices in another language can be heard through electronic devices even with the power off. Footsteps can be heard in bordering hallways, and doors are seen to open and close with the force of an invisible hand. It’s the setting for the novel I’m working on, and it’s as deliciously sinister as I’d hoped.
The first two weeks were a little difficult – I’d moved in mid-month, and though some of the departing occupants had moved into their new homes personally, most of their belongings remained until this week. This meant I had to live out of boxes for a little while, but it kind of worked out because it forced me to get all the painting and renovating out of the way before settling my stuff in. First stop: my bedroom. One of what could theoretically be five bedrooms, it had enormous windows, hardwood floors, a huge walk-in closet, and solid cement walls through which you could hear absolutely nothing. It was painted a bit of a dismal brown, and I’d had my heart set on fashioning a rather more dreamy, modern, romantic space with deep turquoise walls, a canopy bed draped in sheer organza and fairy lights, empty white picture frames hung above my writing corner, and vines adorning doorways. I started painting the day I moved in – while the bedroom was still half-full of someone else’s furniture, and with no thought as to what my layout would be. It was kind of funny in its Jekyll and Hyde stage, but a week later, it had been transformed, and I’ve never had a room I love more. Coming home to an evening without plans used to terrify me, but now I’m excited to delve into my retreat, read under Christmas lights or write under vintage frames I like to imagine have seen all sorts of things over the years.
Forgive the crappy quality of the pics – haven’t found the box the camera is packed away in yet 🙂
There are two living rooms, both incredibly large, one bordered by a sun room overlooking the Village. Over the next few weeks we’re going to convert it into a Space Room – yep, an entire room painted navy with constellations on the ceiling and lights strung from wall to wall, with a life-size TARDIS and fully operational telescope calling it home. I don’t think a room could be any more perfect. The living room has dark wooden panelling on the walls and huge bay windows; a fireplace over which hangs a mantlepiece and a large, antique clock. The second living room is just as enormous, and after spending hours on hands and knees scrubbing the floors to a sparkle, I painted the upper part of the wood-panelled walls a rich, deep claret. Attached to the kitchen is an entire room-sized pantry, and there’s even a “maid’s quarters” which we’re using for storing bikes and decorations and all the other stuff I haven’t organised yet.
Now all that’s left is to find a third flatmate, and we’ll be set! After some of the royal winners I’ve lived with in the past, I really want to find someone nice, conscientious, and above all, normal – I’m hoping to get someone in for June or July, but until then I’m just enjoying being in such an opulent, character-filled, wonderfully creepy space 🙂 Fancy moving in with us or know someone who might be interested? Let me show you around!
I just got home from a seriously crap day involving some potential bad news, some actual bad news, and a subsequent thirty-minute crying fit in the work toilets. Not high levels of win. But on the bus, I found my thoughts drifting from feeling sorry for myself to writing, to two massive things in my life right now, and I found myself mentally drafting a post about it. I’ve taken to carrying a notebook around with me everywhere lately – I pack it in my bag along with my lunch, several books, and USB chips in the morning, keep it beside my computer at work to jot down ideas and flashes of what I hope to be inspiration, hauling it home at the end of the day and keeping it beside my bed in case I wake up with an idea in the night. It’s a habit I’m enjoying immensely, and it kind of makes me feel like a little bit more of a Real Writer. Note: I wasn’t using it because I was trying to hold a pile of letters, a laptop bag and a bottle of port as well as the handrail, and the remaining energy that wasn’t being spent coming up with this post was being used on Not Falling Over.
That’s one of the things that’s been a big thing lately, as I think I may have mentioned before my giant hiatus from blogging. Writing. I can honestly say I’ve never felt so passionate or engaged about it in my entire life. I used to blog often because I had things to say, and I enjoyed compiling an ongoing archive of the way my life and thoughts took shape over the years. But it was completely different from what I wanted to be writing. It’s always been my biggest dream to write fiction, but though I think I can describe atmosphere and scenes and stuff pretty well, I’ve always sucked at plotting and dialogue – you know, the things that make any story an actual story. If it were up to me, I’d describe creepy old rooms and echoing hallways and buildings that cast looming great black shadows until the proverbial cows came home. (Likely from the library, where they’d gone in exasperation to find anything with some sort of action.) I also learned in writing classes that if you wanted to be a Real Writer, you had to also be a public speaker. Not only did you have to be able to include conversations and actual people in your stories, you had to be charming and charismatic and engaging, and able to read your stuff in public without breaking down in tears or throwing up afterward. So for years, it remained a dream. One of those things people put on bucket lists that they really like the idea of actually happening, but deep down know it’s probably about as likely as life-sized, strawberry-filled, Nicki Minaj-shaped chocolate zombie victims hitting the shelves next Halloween. (Just me?)
But then it happened. I got an idea! And I think it’s a really good one! And to be working on something I’ve always wanted to do, with a real premise… to conjure up characters and and give them all their very own back stories… to have them consume my thoughts throughout every day, to book off days from work just to have time to devote to giving them life, to be able to share a secret notebook of stories and ideas and to be able to create something, finally? It’s quite possibly the best thing ever. It’s killing me not to be able to talk about the actual premise, or show you any of my fiction writing, which is very different from something I just throw together without reviewing and splurt out onto the internet, but I’m bursting with excitement to be taking this on. Every day, I find myself rushing home from work to pour the ideas from inside my head out onto the page, or to do further research on the topic, setting, and history. I’m sure it’ll be at least a year or two until it’s fully complete, but until then, I’m loving every minute of it.
But it hasn’t been without its struggles. I know every writer’s process is different, and, so I’m told, mine is very much like a certain Mr. Vonnegut – I write meticulously, taking an hour to form two sentences and refusing to continue the next page until the current one is perfect. This defies a lot of advice on writing – I’m told at every roadblock to just keep writing, even if it’s shit. That that’s what editing is for. But in perfecting it, you set yourself up for future hardship when something you spent hours on has to be hacked up and reworked to fit someone else’s mould. I know perfectionism is a disease. Heck, a couple of years ago I wrote a thousand words in a blog post on the very subject, and genuinely believed myself to be convinced it was true. But here I am, still unable to shake the habit. Today’s meltdown at work was a result of perfectionism and unrealistic expectations of myself. Every time I hear the word “feedback” after I’ve shown somebody a rough draft of something, I find myself tensing up, bracing myself for criticism, ready for a crushing blow of imaginary proportions. If I slip into an old habit I’ve worked hard to eradicate, or make a mistake at work, the thought of being seen as weak, wrong, stupid or, I suppose, less than ideal, is absolutely crippling. I work myself into a frenzy, beating myself up for not being perfect when nobody in the world expects me to be. It’s something I’m tackling in the anxiety program, and I know awareness is the key to changing bad habits, but my god, it’s difficult.
I think one of the reasons I want to write so desperately because I see a heck of a lot of crap out there that somebody’s decided to immortalise in print, and I know I can do better. Kind of analogous to being a decent person in general (I see why this mental post was drafted whilst on Winnipeg’s public transit system) – you see a heck of a lot of shit being put into the world, and you feel almost an obligation to put something awesome out there instead. The tough part is getting out of your own way. If I’m going to be a proper writer, it’s great to have an idea, characters, and plot points – but I need to be open to what’s inevitable. Edits upon edits, well-intentioned criticisms, processes that may be outside my comfort zone… all things that will help the end product be the best it can be. I just need to learn to stop being such a perfectionist, admit that things may be utter crap the first time around, and apply that principle to life in general. Learn to be okay with just being okay sometimes. And stop beating myself up for not being perfect first time.
I mentioned at the beginning of this post that there had been two big things in my life as of late, the first of which happened to be writing. The second is related, but kind of on the other end of the spectrum, and is something that’s been a part of me for as long as I can remember. Oversensitivity. Notably, crying. I cry all the time. Before shit hit the fan at the end of last year, I cried because I let myself worry about everything. I let my thoughts spiral into imagined scenarios in the future that seemed absolutely inevitable as a result of the past. I worried about spending an evening at home alone without plans because that must make me a socially inept loser that nobody wants to hang out with. I worried that I wasn’t witty or confident enough, that I wasn’t attractive enough, and that my giant emotions about everything would push people away – which they did, which led me back to worry #2. It was a self-perpetuating cycle I couldn’t escape, and I was the only one administering my own entrapment. Then things reached their climax, and I started to get my act together. I tried not to be so reliant on others for reassurance. Learned to see evenings solo as a chance to do things I loved, and not sentences to be served in isolation while the world continued on without me. Learned to see periods of non-contact as simply being busy, or sleeping, or being in class or with people – nothing to worry about; and actually do the same myself. But I still cry. I cry not because I worry about the worst, but mostly because I can’t believe the best is actually happening. My biggest dream of being a writer is coming true. My longest desire to feel confident and funny and smart has materialised, and I’ve found myself with the self-confidence to do things I’ve always wanted to. I’ll be mid-conversation and just start breaking down in tears simply because my dreams are becoming reality. But ever so often, I cry for the wrong reasons. I catch my thoughts spiraling into worry again, and I start sobbing. What is this all disappears? What if my job gets cut, or my Dad moves away, or people still see me as the person I used to be? I know all of those things are beyond my control, but there’s something terrifying about life finally becoming what you wanted it to be, and the very real possibility that something may happen to take it away.
It’s not like it’s a new thing. Anyone who’s ever met me for more than a day will attest to the fact that I am probably the most sensitive and weepy person they’ve ever met. But the thing is, I don’t want to be seen as a wuss. I know I’m bloody strong, I just think I feel things with a hell of a lot more impact than perhaps is normal. I’ve written before about the emotional spectrum, about how keeping yourself from expressing how you really feel can suck away the full potential of joy. Yes, I firmly believe that it’s better to be incredibly happy for a short time than just to be okay for your whole life. But the danger in handing yourself over to the full range of human emotion is that you put yourself at risk of turning from master to puppet, to be taken hostage by them and rendered powerless to do anything about them once they take over. This week I’ve found that happening, and it’s a scary place to be.
Before I started seeing a counsellor and going to the anxiety program, I didn’t have the tools to recognize my thought patterns and subsequent crying fits as unhealthy or detrimental. I believed them to be perfectly logical and rational behaviours. Now, I can see my tendencies, process them, and stop them before they take over the world around me – and I’ve been doing infinitely better. Life has been infinitely better. I don’t worry so much, I don’t react to every little thing like the world is imploding, and I’m happy 99% of the time. But twice this week, I found myself absolutely paralysed – able to see what I was doing as illogical and irrational, but physically unable to stop sobbing and being sad. Now, this may very well be an unusually extreme case of PMS induced by a day without eating, my back being worse than usual, and not having had any coffee that day, in which case I think we can forgive the slip up. But I found myself sitting in a toilet cubicle, giving myself a pep talk about how there was no reason to be sad, failing, and unable to stop sobbing. An interesting thing I’m learning in the anxiety program is that other people have this problem too, and I’m not going to discount the idea of me simply being, as Psychology Today so wonderfully brought to my attention, a Highly Sensitive Person. Please read it. When I read psychiatrist Judith Orloff’s words – “It’s like feeling something with 50 fingers as opposed to 10,” I breathed a sigh of relief. I wasn’t alone, and it may actually have something to do with biology and science as to why I am this way. But that doesn’t mean I’m okay with it. I don’t like being in constant fear of criticism or rejection, and I don’t like bursting into tears if I haven’t heard from my boyfriend for a few hours and I’m worrying he’s lying somewhere unconscious. I don’t like overanalyzing and reading into things that aren’t there, and I don’t like catastrophising every little event in a day. I love that my sensitivity allows me to be incredibly in tune with others’ emotions, or that I read a piece of beautiful prose or hear a great song and want to jump up and down because somebody’s just been an awesome human being. I love being overly enthusiastic about things like simple existence and celebrating creativity and taking the time to see small beauties of nature and spend two hours in the cold photographing them because nature is just so stunning. I love that there may very well be a biological explanation for being extremely sensitive, and I love that just because I cry a lot doesn’t have to mean I’m a giant baby – it just means I feel things more extremely. But I don’t like being a slave to its tendency to send me crashing down faster than an IQ after an episode of the Kardashians.
So what do I do? How do I manage the lows healthily and still exude enthusiasm and passion and soak up excitement from the highs? I tried reading other people’s (hilarious) stories of being sad for no reason. I tried taking my very good and well-intentioned friend’s advice and “manning the fuck up.” I tried giving myself pep talks. The counseling and reading and stuff is definitely helping, but I want to just develop the capability to not be a sobbing mess every time something bad enters my head – or something beyond wonderful happens because I’m terrified of losing it.
Anyway. I realize I’ve just rambled on for a good six pages, and I don’t know if I have anyone left reading. If I do, hi! This is more just a state of where things are right now that’ll go into a scrapbook at the end of the year. Don’t get me wrong – things have been on the up and up for the last three months, and I’ve been doing much better than I used to be. I just know if I could get this under control, I could be even better – for myself and the poor souls around me. But things are brilliant. Writing is brilliant. I’m excited, and being creative, and learning and sharing, and doing something I’ve always wanted to. I even got myself a set of snazzy business cards to go along with the tattoo I got to inspire me to keep writing. And despite the crappy outset of today, I arrived home to it all turning around. A new issue of Psychology Today in my mail box. Finally, FINALLY, a copy of the Dry the River album – the record I haven’t been so excited about since I first heard Mumford and Sons two years before theirs finally hit the shelves. An evening of cancelled plans opening up a good four hours to spend fuelling and feeding my latest character. A snuggly kitten, an already clean apartment, a glass of port, and a desk covered in deliciously creepy warped candles.
I think that somewhere in all of this, there’s probably some sort of lesson in patience.
Another month has gone by in the blink of an eye, and once again I find myself missing writing dreadfully. I feel a bit like Tuvok in that Voyager episode where he’s asked to “fire at will,” and responds with something awesome like “I have the will, Captain, but not the means.” Life has been busy (and wonderful), but I’ve felt the pull toward writing sirenesque and impossible to ignore.
I think the time has come to acknowledge the fact that there’s been a shift in my attitude toward blogging: for the last couple of years, it had become a huge part of my life. I loved carving out my own little space and filling it with thoughts and ideas, immortalising them in a way upon which I can later look back, probably laugh at how young and terribly naïve I was, but remember fondly the hopes and dreams, slip-ups and victories, events and emotions that were my life here and now. Through blogging, I got to know all sorts of wonderful people who lived all over the world, and was lucky enough to meet some of them in person. Through blogging, I landed jobs, created a reason to be accountable to my biggest goals, got published in a magazine, and won a trip to Mexico. I got to express myself coherently and somewhat eloquently (the latter’s debatable) when I was too scared or shy to do it in person. Blogging has done wonderful things for my life, and for all of them I am more than thankful – but the time has come for something that’s sat prisoner at the back of my mind for too long, tapping on the jailbars and calling for release. I have become the jailer of my biggest passion, and the time has come to set it free.
I adore the written word. I love reading beautiful prose and lock away beautiful sentences like treasure. I love, when I have time, to sit at my rickety old desk with a glass of port or oversized cup of tea, turn on the fairy lights hanging overhead, light a few candles, and write away the next few hours. But as much as I’ve loved blogging, I’ve felt limited. Not in terms of expression – anyone who’s read for the last little while knows I don’t believe in keeping silent about things that matter – but in terms of style and creativity. Enormous fervor for the English language is tangled around every thought and feeling that floats across my imagination, and I can’t help but feel it’s my biggest calling in life to try to find the words with which to get it out. When I die, I’m quite sure that they’ll find the inside walls of my heart decorated with love letters, pages of Chaucer, and the inlays of hundreds of CD covers, all their lyrics borne of creative geniuses intertwining around the fibres of my soul. Words are my passion, and it seems that when you feel this strongly about something, it should be explored to the absolute limit. It shouldn’t be limited because it’s more comfortable to stay where you are, or because the ephemeral duties of the day-to-day are given priority.
In life, I’ve always been a fan of the saying “that which matters most should never be at the mercy of that which matters least”, and once again I find it situationally apt. I’ve buried the language I love beneath what’s easier, and made excuses about not having time. But I want to write fiction. I want to build characters and create worlds, to write handwritten letters and tell tales that will move people the way I’ve been moved by great literature. And the time has come where I can no longer keep this inside. I’m transitioning from blogging into creative writing, and I absolutely cannot wait.
Step one comes next weekend: after seeing a photo somewhere on the Internet, I’d designed a new tattoo (sadly my back shows no sign of becoming a cooperative team member, so that project’s on hold for the foreseeable future) which I’d fallen in love with – a circular alphabet in a script that looked like it could’ve been scrawled by Shakespeare himself, which I wanted on my inner forearm as an eternal reminder that I should be writing, and of the immense power that lies in words. Unfortunately, the script was so ornate that the size I wanted would render it illegible, and I really wanted it somewhere I could see. So I met with the artist, who asked me all sorts of questions to make sure she understood why I was getting what I was… and by the end of it, we came up with something that captures the spirit just as effectively: a beautiful, old-fashioned quill. And I have every hope that it will not only reflect my love for the written word… but guide me for the rest of my life toward what I truly should be doing. I’ll still stop by every once in a while and update my blog, but today marks the turning point to the world wherein my true passion lies.
“There are only two worlds – your world, which is the real world, and other worlds, the fantasy. Worlds like this are worlds of the human imagination: their reality, or lack of reality, is not important. What is important is that they are there. these worlds provide an alternative. Provide an escape. Provide a threat. Provide a dream, and power; provide refuge, and pain. They give your world meaning. They do not exist; and thus they are all that matters.”
– Neil Gaiman
This may be my shortest post ever. But it’s Friday, and I don’t usually post on Fridays, so it’s two lines more than normal! I just wanted to note that I finally took a little step (like on my list)… and set up a (very amateur) portfolio site for my writing and design work. When I have actual money, or coding skills, or web designer friends who REALLY like me a lot, I’ll get a proper, professional-looking one. But for now… it’s a step further into the 21st century. And it’ll do. Click that new tab to take a peek and let me know what you reckon! 🙂
My bonnet is usually relatively free of bees. But recently, there’s been a pattern in the blogosphere that’s left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. It’s something Brittney touched on a few weeks ago here, and it’s all about bringing the fun back to blogging, and the reasons we all started doing it in the first place.
When I first started blogging “seriously” back in October-November last year, I was blown away by how awesome it was. By how many people there were out there who were willing to read my stuff, take the time out of their day to comment, and who also wrote great stories about their lives. I loved getting to know people, starting to build friendships, going from a couple of comments a week to emails, text messaging, phone calls and the odd face-to-face Skype date. In the last six months, I’ve met people who may be miles away, but I consider some of my closest friends. As with my friends back in England, I find distance doesn’t have to stand in the way of a good friendship. But there are a few things I’ve seen lately that really turn me off.
1: Bloggers who started with no traffic, just like all of us, who get to a certain level of blog-stardom, and use it as an excuse to all of a sudden become “authorities” on how to be a great blogger. They start posting how-to guides on forums and networking and profile pictures, so you can be as awesome as they are. It’s highly self-indulgent, and I find, borderline arrogant. If I want more followers, I’ll invest the time in finding them myself. Or I’ll ask! I realise everyone’s reasons for blogging are different, but I read your blog because I’m interested in who you are, not because I want to be told I’m not “successful enough.”
2: Bloggers who fuel and listen to gossip behind the safety net of a computer screen. It’s all so petty teenage angst fest. I talked a little while ago about staying to true myself, even if that was at the expense of losing readership. But at the end of the day, I know the person behind the blog is the same person that’s presented to the world. A person with real thoughts, ups and downs, questions and opinions and a good heart. And that’s all that matters. Apparently, honesty is sometimes controversial. Sometimes not what people want to hear. So they’ll whisper amongst themselves and latch on to rumours without even bothering to question the truth. Why? Because it’s so much easier to go with the popular crowd.
I like to form friendships. I like to text and send snail mail to bloggers if they’re going through something bad OR good. I like to surprise people and I remain a loyal reader, commenter and friend. If they need help with a design project or a résumé, I will help them out. I like to build the foundations of friendship the same way I do in life – by showing I care. And it irks me to no end that some people lately have decided to completely drop me off their radars because they’ve “heard” something from someone, and haven’t even bothered to question the truth in it. It’s disappointing when you thought some of them were half-decent.
As much as it’s thrown in my face that these days blogging is a competition and the ONLY way you can be good at it is to have a million followers and a USB port in your ankle where you can stay connected to the online world 24/7, I write when I want to, about things that are important to me, and about things I think will really benefit other people. Things I care about, things I love, things I’m striving for and lessons I’m learning. Don’t get me wrong – everybody likes comments. And I’m so thankful for each and every one of you that takes the time to read, and voice your thoughts every time I write. But I’m not going to compromise who I am because the Internet says I have to. And I’m going to continue making friendships with the people that really are awesome, and stop wasting time on the superficial.
3. Bloggers who sell out. If I wanted to bombard my eyes with advertising I’d go and empty our recycling box all over my kitchen counter. I’m coming across many blogs who used to write for the fun of it, and now seem more concerned with making a quick buck by slapping dozens of ads all the way down their sidebar. It’s not fun, it’s not pretty, and it kind of tells me you’re more concerned about the $2.75 you’ll make in clicks that week than you are about the writing itself. I don’t read your blog because I want to be inadvertently sold something.
4. Bloggers who capitalise on something you did as a favour to them. I try and offer kindness to the world because let’s face it, the world could use a little more of it. I don’t do it for a reward. But there’s something nice about saying thank-you, isn’t there? It’s disheartening when kindness is met with egotism, and behind the blogging scenes things are a very different story indeed. Disheartening, yes… but not discouraging. The world needs more kindness, and none of us can control with what our actions are going to be met. We just have to keep breathing… and reminding ourselves we do things for the right reasons. Right?
4. Bloggers who pretend to be somebody completely different from the person they are in real life. Life isn’t perfect. Everybody has bad hair days and breakouts and stomach aches and snot flying into their face. If your posts are all rose tinted and I leave wondering if you live in some sort of magical secret cottage where woodland creatures must come in through the night to sew your clothes and clean your house spotless, then I’m sorry. NOBODY is that perfect. I get it that we all want to present our best sides to, ultimately, strangers. But how do you think people who DON’T live in said magic cottages feel reading stories (for that’s what they are) about how perfect your life is? Go write a book, or a soap opera, or get your own TV show, instead of trying to be a character. And pick a better one than Martha Stewart.
There’s a difference between being cautious, maybe for work reasons, and pretending to be an entirely different person. Maybe it’s because of some need for personal validation, and if you just pretend for long enough, then maybe people will actually believe it’s real. I don’t know. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’ll write about the bad stuff as well as the good. I’ll write about my struggles and my efforts to overcome them and what’s worked and hasn’t worked for me – not because I believe I’m some authority on personal growth, but because if I put it out there to the world, not only am I held accountable, but the world can see it. The emails from people appreciating the honesty and even finding inspiration just mean the world to me. I may not write about cupcakes, kittens and headbands, but at least I’m honest. I’ll take empowerment over self-importance any day. If you don’t write from the heart, and stay true to yourself in doing so – then what is it all for? A fleeting sense of popularity at the expense of your innermost self?
Brittney said it perfectly when she said:
Forgive me, and I may be a complete rarity, but I miss the personal/intimate side of blogging. It just seems that if we all follow these rules on what to blog, what not to blog, how to write, what to say, what not to say, what topic to avoid, what tone to use, what length to adhere to… then there will be very little point in my reading multiple blogs because we will all be the same exact person and I can just go to a single blog for everything. I like reading REAL blogs, with REAL bloggers writing them. I won’t stop reading your blog if your life doesn’t seem perfect, if your home didn’t just step out of Martha Stuart Living, if you have a zit, if you regularly consume obscene amounts of fast food, if you own exactly one pair of jeans that still fit and wear them for weeks on end (coughMEcough). In fact, I will probably like it MORE because you’re willing to be honest, vulnerable and human. I really wasn’t sure where I was going here, except to say that I want us to be ourselves and be okay with that. Blogging is growing into this awesome outlet, which rocks, but it’s also becoming home to 45243 writers who are creating fake personas for the sake of popularity or marketing and in turn, it’s losing it’s unique-ness.
Ask yourself the question today. Do you really know who you’re reading? Are you okay with being told what to do on your own personal outlet in order to be “successful”? Are you willing to give up your own passion and personality to conform for the sake of a comment count? Is blogging really just turning into another popularity competition?
In life, I think the most important thing you can do is stay true to yourself, and stay focused on being a positive force in the world. It’s easy to get sidetracked by temptations, societal pressures, and worrying about what other people think of you. It’s important to be authentic – and to be able to tell the difference between self-promotion and a fake persona. Unfortunately, I’m realising, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult. Yes, parts of the blogging world have disappointed me lately. But thank you to everybody who I know is willing to be real, who’s willing to stick around through the good and the bad, and who makes blogging such a joy most of the time. You’re all rockstars. And I really wish there were more words to hyperlink in this sentence, because if you’re commenting on this, you’re probably one of them. 🙂
And, now that that’s dealt with, we’ll be back to regularly scheduled programming tomorrow 🙂
A few weeks ago, I had a bunch of really good news. We’d booked our trip to England, I was starting my new position at work, Nan was doing better, we’d signed up for dance classes, and I was just about to start my Creative Writing class. Since then, things have continued to be great. We’ve discovered Sweet is, hilariously, a NATURAL at ballroom dancing (while I’m still stuck on which foot goes backward) – but each class has been filled with fun and laughter, and it’s the perfect way to start our weekends. I also phoned my Nan last week – and not only was she thrilled, but apparently she’s well enough to go home – to HER home, not a care home! – within the next two weeks! Work is going well, we’re making all sorts of plans for the UK trip, and Creative Writing class? ALL sorts of awesome.
I’m going to tell you a secret: I never finished university. I grew up hugely academic, spending my high school years continually on the honour roll and spent Saturday nights in the university library, reading Chaucer for fun and gazing out at the city’s skyline, as the sky turned from pinks to blues and the streets below came alive. I loved school. I love to learn, to challenge myself, to succeed in something I adore – but at 20 years old, life started to happen. I’d moved out just as I turned 19, with A Boy, which lasted about a year – we broke up, and after a short stint on my parents’ sofa , I got my first apartment. I was working part time, and had no savings – or furniture – so I reluctantly decided to take some time off from school, get my life in gear, and work for a little bit in the Real World.
I was lucky enough to find jobs that led me toward graphic design. In school, I’d been studying medieval English literature and psychology – which would serve me really well in the real world [ahem] – but through work, I found I loved graphics. I was offered real-world experience, networking opportunities, and the chance to build a real portfolio. This led me into marketing and advertising, which I adore – but I’ve also realised I have a passion for writing. Blogging has become just about the best hobby I’ve ever had, but I’ve always secretly loved to write fiction, too. I get lost in the worlds of incredible authors, surrendering my mind to their vivid imaginations, and longing to visit these fantastical places in the real world. I love the art of crafting a piece of prose as that’s as beautiful as a masterpiece painting. I love the English language.
Mr Flay appeared to clutter up the doorway as he stood revealed, his arms folded, surveying the smaller man before him in an expressionless way. It did not look as though such a bony face as his could give normal utterance, but rather that instead of sounds, something more brittle, more ancient, something dryer would emerge, something perhaps more in the nature of a splinter or fragment of stone. Nevertheless, the harsh lips parted. ‘It’s me,’ he said, and took a step forward into the room, his knee joints cracking as he did so. His passage across the room – in fact his passage through life – was accompanied by these cracking sounds, one per step, which might be likened to the breaking of twigs.
– From Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake
Isn’t it beautiful? (The text – but yes, Jonathan Rhys Meyers was in the miniseries, we can refer to him, too :))
So two weeks ago, I started my Creative Writing class. I had all sorts of hopes of meeting new people, of indulging my creative passion, and of a place my imagination could really take flight. The first class wasn’t quite what I expected – I don’t think the instructor expected a group of only six, either! – but I was in my element. I’m not usually one to pipe up in groups, but I instantly felt comfortable in a place where creative thinking was encouraged and praised. In class, we all have to read our assignments and classroom activities out loud in front of each other. This is slightly intimidating – but I’m hoping may be just the ticket to keep me going on the whole breaking free of fear journey. Last week, we had to write a “character”, which I initially struggled with – I wasn’t used to having such open-ended assignments! But the second I sat down to write, I couldn’t stop. I ended up with something I was really rather proud of – I can’t use literary techniques and flowerly language on the blog, but I indulged on my assignment. And it went down really well!
We were also told about our final assignment, due in about 8 weeks. It’s open-ended in that it can be a play, a short story, a review, a poem… anything we like. But we’ve been booked a spot at one of the city’s biggest bookstores, where we will do a reading. In public. This is quite possibly one of the most intimidating tasks I’ve ever been given. The way I got through facilitating my classes at work was to tell myself I was in a position to pass along information that would ultimately help people. The desire to help surpassed my fear, so I was able to do it, no problem. But putting something I’ve created out there, where it can be judged by other people? SCARY.
I’m trying to tell myself this is just another stepping stone in my ongoing journey. That I’ve learned how to live without worrying constantly about other people judging me, so I should be able to do the same with my writing. Hopefully the next few weeks will be practice enough that I won’t bomb it in the end… and I’m feeling a mixture of nerves and excitement. Let’s just hope the latter dominates. Until then… hold my hand?