Blog a Day in May

So, I did it. Every day this month I have shared a little something with the world through this blog, writing each day and committing to a challenge that I wasn’t sure I’d accomplish. Yet, here we are. I persevered even through the failure of my laptop hard drive, using my ‘phone as a substitute, and I learned a number of things throughout the month:

It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be.
On days where I opened up the screen for a new post and I had no idea what to write, I turned to places like Pinterest for inspiration. I often took the first thing I saw and ran with it, but this scenario didn’t occur as regularly as I assumed it would from the beginning. In the end, I simply wrote about life that was right in front of me as it happened. And I think it helped me make sense of the world I’m living in, allowing me to voice a few of the thoughts that usually race around in my mind never to be released.

I surprised myself.
Many days I wrote more than I intended. What started as a quick visit to make that day’s mark on the blog usually developed into a solid diversion from whatever I had planned immediately afterwards. Cups of tea went cold. The dog got restless. My fiance had to be patient, unable to press play on the series we were watching because I ‘just have to finish this’. The words sucked me in and while I’d only have thought to write a sentence or two, my over-writing self kicked in and it became a post fat with text.

I enjoyed it.
It sounds odd to state it so blatantly; as why would I start the challenge if I didn’t think I’d enjoy it? Well, I committed to it because I wanted a way back into the blog. I wanted to be writing something everyday and I was struggling with fiction. I wanted, in essence, to have written. It wasn’t about enjoyment or attracting an audience: it was a challenge to see if I could write everyday – and I can. Not only that but I’ve proved to myself that I like it. The passion for it is still there, lurking in the shadows waiting for me to put in some legwork to coerce it back into the light. Writing isn’t the chore I had labelled it.

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My current blogging corner

I reconnected.
I haven’t blogged for so long I assumed I would have fallen out of favour and off the radar. But no, I recognised many of the user handles that have been liking my posts, and even reconnected with one or two via Twitter. I’d forgotten the camaraderie that exists online, but I’m grateful for it. So, thanks goes to you – the audience who have travelled this month with me through these posts. In many ways the simple act of knowing there are people out there reading is reassuring; this is something that my current fiction is not rewarded with.

I want to keep blogging…
After all this, the challenge has encouraged me: I want to keep on blogging. Probably not everyday – but regularly; once a week perhaps. It’s time to rejoin the #MondayBlogs tribe again methinks. And I’m smiling just thinking about it, even though I have no clue what the next blog post will be about.

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How to handle the bad stuff…

This struck a chord with me today. There is something about realising the part we play in our own self-destructive emotions and our responsibility, not just for how we act, but also how we respond to the world around us.

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When we get angry, or sulk, or even resent other people for what they have and we don’t, then this is a choice we ourselves make. It took me a long time to learn this. Negative emotions such as these may serve an immediate purpose (to identify emotional needs that might be present/lacking) but they need rarely be a sustained response.

It’s easy to get bogged down in frustration and hold onto feelings instead of releasing them. This is perhaps where blame comes in. Often we latch onto external reasoning for why we continue to experience festering emotions. But, if we allow blame to melt away and understand the role it plays in keeping us in a continuous state of bitterness we can realise that, sometimes, our reactions are within our own control. This can be particularly powerful when you’ve spent your life as a slave to such negativity.

Being a Planner

I am an excellent planner. I can plan almost anything and I adore it. The issues arise when I have to stop planning and actually start doing. In which case, I’m pretty good at small persistent action…unless I have to stop to re-plan, which happens a lot. Because, well, let’s face it, it’s always easier to plan to do something rather than actually do it.

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This is the current case with my writing. I’m still “planning” to release an Ebook of short stories by the end of the month, although I have no clue how to put together an Ebook or how long this process takes. That’s because I’m still only planning it. I have, I am pleased to say, identified the stories I’d like to include and am in the final stages of tidying them up to send to a friend to check over. After that, well, I’ll need to put some more thought into that because I really have no idea what happens next.

I know I’ll need a cover; my lovely partner has agreed to help with that given his skill in Photoshop etc. He’s already got a pretty good idea once I showed him an image of what I thought might work and the themes that run through the stories.

I am aware that the text will need formatting in the right way. I’m not sure what that is either, yet. And I need to do some research on what platform I might use to create and distribute the Ebook.

I’m beginning to think it might not be achievable in a month…unless, of course, I plan it well. And planning is within my skillset, as I said. However, once I’ve planned it, then comes the hard part: doing it. So I know I need to plan out small, consistent steps to help me accomplish my goal, and that if I do genuinely want to get this Ebook out by the end of June then I need to do that which I plan. I have to commit. I have to stay motivated. I have to remember why it is that I started all this in the first place.

Planning is all well and good, but it’s only acting on that plan that will ever see your dreams come true.

Did you know…?

…Today is apparently National Hamburger Day?!

I was just scrolling through my Pinterest feed, in a moment of procrasta-boredom (I think most of my life is spent being bored while I try and avoid actual tasks), and this blog caught my eye. It’s a whole list of National Days for the year!

I can’t believe I missed some of these! I mean, who wants to miss National Wine Day on the 25th May? Or National Fudge Day on 6th June? And apparently Donald Duck even gets his own day!? Granted, these are American, but I could adopt these I think.

There is this site for UK Days, which reliably informs me that World Hunger Day and the start of National BBQ week fall on the same day – today, in fact; which seems a bit odd to me. Not quite as odd as “Put your pillow on your fridge” Day, which seems to be happening tomorrow…

I feel like there should be some potential in someone writing a book, or having a TV show, where someone celebrates all of the strange National Days for a whole year and what affect it would have on their life. It would be comparable to the Yes Man franchise, or such like. Anyone willing to give it a go…?

When to stop reading?

I’m an avid reader, but when do you stop reading a book? How do you decide that it’s just not the story, or characters, or writing for you and close it up and never pick it back up again?

I can admit that, sometimes, when I expect to struggle I carry on reading regardless. I had to accept that this would be the case with Middlemarch, which I recently finished reading. The language and sentence structure and general style of writing was so different in the nineteenth century. But once I got past the first hundred pages, I was hooked.

I ended up adoring this book, unwieldy and complex as it was!

I’ve tried some Ebooks too – by new authors – in an attempt to support my fellow emerging writers. But if there are spelling errors, or the point of view alters half way through a paragraph, or they contradict themselves within a few pages, then I have to give up. Irritability takes hold and I can no longer connect with a story, no matter how good it might have been.

However, I’m now reading a novel by an established author. There isn’t anything wrong with it as such, I just can’t quite get on with it. The characters are flat somehow, as though they have no depth because they are keeping things too close to their chests. Some of them are unlikable, such as the husband who refused his wife a chance at a career but took one for himself based on the conditions he told her were unaccepptable, not to mention that he blatantly cheats on her.

I was confused from the prologue, as from 2014 it jumped back to 1975 and currently I’ve just started a chapter from 1940. I’m less than fifty pages in. I don’t think it would be so bad if it was from a single character’s point of view, but there have been at least four: one of which, in the prologue, doesn’t even seem connected to the story!

I’m on the brink of removing my bookmark and moving onto another novel. But then I consider that this is a top bestselling author and there must be a good story here… somewhere. Yet, should I read it even if I don’t care about the characters whose story it is?

Part of the process…

I had an idea today. One that has been used before, that I probably won’t write as a story or even attempt to draft. But, I had one.

It’s been a while and when I got over the initial shock of realising that my brain was turning over a plot, considering characters and thinking about a sting in the tail type twist, well, I was pleased. The thought of sitting down at my desk and writing doesn’t make me cringe as it has for a few months. I haven’t been able to visualise the image of me writing, not with any passion or verve. Now it’s beginning to emerge again. I smile when I imagine a story starting to form as I type the words. I sigh contentedly with the thought I could make characters manifest on a page, with pasts and passions as complex as real people.

So it may not be me actually writing as yet, but it feels closer than I’ve been in a while. It’s comforting to know I might be back on track, and reassuring that this may all just be part of a process.

Dreaming with Disabilities

I’ve always been open about my condition in an effort to make the people in my life better understand why I can’t do certain things, or how it will impact me if I do. But I know many more who prefer not to talk about it, or keep it hidden because they feel weak, or ashamed that they have an invisible illness; one that gives the impression that all is fine but that will rob you of any dignity once you have struggled through an event.

I don’t know why I feel the need to share how ME/Fibro changes the way I live my life. Probably because it’s easier to let work colleagues know that my memory is so shocking that if they don’t see me write something down it isn’t going to happen (no guarantee there either I’m afraid!). I don’t want to have to explain each sickness absence when I’m too exhausted to clamber our of bed, or why I need to block out office conversation with my earphones. It’s simpler to have it out in the open and allow people to accept that although I look ok, I’m really not.

Someone recently said to me that, by writing, I could inspire others with similar struggles to live their dreams too; that it’s always easier to push yourself to accomplish a goal when you know it can be done, and I could help demonstrate that it can be done. Regardless of if I could inspire, I have to do it for myself. I want to be a writer and be published and live the life I dreamt up when I was twelve years old. That life didn’t include two devastating disabilities, but whose dream would? But that doesn’t mean it’s not still in reach.

Languid skies

This is my view today. I’d forgotten was it was to look up and just enjoy the serenity in the sky. Watching the light, weightless clouds slowly glide past, guided by the breeze.

I can hear the wind in the trees too, swooshing and shushing. If I close my eyes I can almost imagine that it’s the sea gently rolling into the beach.

There’s a word for today. One that encapsulates the mood and action of this lazy Thursday in the sun. Languid. I have no desire to do anything, nor am I really capable; my condition making me fatigued and foggy.

So I laid back, looked up at the sky and felt peaceful and relaxed. It’s refreshing, just staring at the blue and white patterns above, breathing in and out in time with the wind, imagining I could be at the beach. Perhaps we don’t look up as often as we should, just for no other reason that to see the sky that stretches above us all, the same sky we would all see, if we took a moment to look above.

Can you characterise Grief?

Grief can impact different people in a mixture of ways. Some will be unable to hide their emotions, allowing them to bubble at the surface. Such emotional turmoil can manifest in varied ways too; sobbing inconsolably can lead to guilt and then anger, which can be seen in the fervid desire for action in whatever circumstances they may have control over outside the death of their loved one.

Others may do their best to conceal their desperation only to have it show in the furrow of a brow, clench of a jaw, or downcast gaze. Each thought they have – hopeful or distraught – is hidden away deep beneath, but with an indication of it in each expression, like a wrapped present with a corner torn away.

Still, there are those that lie in between, able to contain their anguish in an appropriate manner and take it home with them. Only then may they break down, in solitude, no one to watch or judge or comfort. They are perhaps the people who know that such times are not to be centered upon their particular sorrow, but that focus should be instead on the one who has suffered their final moments and will never again be given the chance to cry, or speak, or love.

Then there are those who are stoic and seemingly uncaring, who do not shed a tear or break down, who cannot sit by a bedside or stop going about their daily lives. These are those who are unfairly judged, I think, as they do not react the way we ourselves would behave. The world for them is more black and white, they see situations where they can do nothing and choose instead to make use of their time in alternative ways. They appear to cope remarkable well, and are able to continue as if nothing at all may have changed. But, by and by, when the truth settles within them, when they have accepted the circumstances and have inwardly grieved, they will share their process with those closest and reveal their heart.

To take away something from this scenario, to even consider making the experience some use, I ask those of us that are writers; how would your characters grieve? Which of these, if any, would be their response to losing a loved one?

Do we even know our own character when it comes down to that particular heartache? Could you predict yours without having ever faced the loss of the one who brought you into this world?