But my comfort zone is so comfortable…

Oh, the bliss of a weekend at home! Which isn’t to say the past two weekends, out and about seeing friends, at weddings, having fun, haven’t been brilliant. They have, and now that I’ve run out of solid dates to be travelling across the country I’m missing everyone badly. But all the travelling and visiting and socialising is exhausting and I’ve been badly in need of a couple of days at home.

(Side note – I know there are people waiting for me to do some things for them, and I swear I will get on to those things this week. I just need one weekend!)

Three things this week that have involved stepping out of my comfort zone. First off: after a very kind offer of feedback on some of my poems a few weeks ago, I finally built up the courage to send three poems to my old uni tutor. I’m discovering that there’s varying levels of fear when it comes to putting things out into the world:

  • Friends are safe. They tend to be nice, so the fear factor is low.
  • Magazines, still not so bad. A rejection is as does, but rarely will an editor have the time to give you the sort of feedback that might break you.
  • Printed in a magazine? Quite bad. Suddenly more people will be reading, and they’ll have opinions and you can’t hang over everyone’s shoulder and explain how they’ve misunderstood what you meant. The reader’s interpretation is the right interpretation for that person.
  • By-email workshopping with writer friends is about at this level, though they remain nice.

But sending stuff to someone who edits and teaches and owes you nothing in terms of padding and niceness? It’s fecking nerve-racking. Especially when this is someone who read your less-developed work ten years ago. At least you hope it was less developed. What if it isn’t? What if you haven’t improved at all?

Happily, the initial response to the work I sent has been very positive and I have leveled up a bit (phew), and the follow-up email, which is poem specific feedback, has been incredibly helpful. So now I’m just marvelling at the sheer generosity of this tutor taking the time out of their day to offer me feedback and advice. It’s a very kind, selfless thing to do and I swear I’ll be paying it forward.

Second thing: I’ve been dipping my toe back into music. I’ve been telling myself for weeks now that I would work on something I’d written instead of howling along to other people’s songs, and that I’d at least record it so that it’s there. For posterity or whatever. So yesterday I finally sat down and recorded a song onto my phone – a song that starts out in a storm, which seemed appropriate given the crazy wind. The singing is not my finest. The guitar playing is as simple as it could be (there is another, more complicated, guitar accompaniment that I’m figuring out, but I’m just not good enough to get it right). And I really need a decent microphone to plug into my computer. But it was fun working on it, balancing the phone on the bed frame, cup of tea to had, dogs (shut out of the room) huffing and sighing by the door, so I guess I’ll do this again. The more scary part – beyond the playback, because if you aren’t used to listening to your own voice it’s weird and also I am hyper aware of every caught throat and slightly bum note – was sticking it up on soundcloud and asking people to listen (albeit somewhat defensively).

That move is part of my new attempt to be less precious about making and doing stuff. I’m not making a career out of strumming on the guitar, so there’s no need to be protective of a less-than-perfect recording, and there’s not much point in writing music if you aren’t going to let people here it and decide for themselves if they want to listen. So. The song is here:

Third thing: I spent the previous week reading the pages of my old/first diary. And when I was done laughing and feeling sad and sometimes just not recognising myself, I scanned some of the best bits, wrote up some context, and sent them to the fab Georgia at Mr Bear’s Violet Hour Saloon for a show she’s working on for August. Mr Bear is, on twitter and on podcast, a tireless advocate for short stories, reading and promoting and just all round brilliant. I have no feelings of guilt about cannibalising my young self’s thoughts for her show. (Said thoughts weren’t very coherent and she wrote a bit saying it would be ok to do that anyway. Also 12-13 is almost literally nothing but boysboysboysboysboys.) I actually have a lot more to say about this, but I don’t know which things Mr Bear will be using, so will wait until then to expand on it.

Also, I finally took the plunge (ha!) and went swimming for the first time since I’ve moved North, which in turn has renewed my enthusiasm for general movement and exercise, which is timely because the Great North Run is only 8 weeks away and my training so far has been sparse and begrudging. No more, though! And if you’d like to sponsor my very niche, very specific charity, the link and the reasons why I chose it are here:


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