It’s been a long year

Tradition, isn’t it, to write a post summing up the year? I’m getting it out of the way a few days early, because 1) I’m having a little flap about the current Work In Progress right now, and so this is a nice procrastination and 2) in a couple days I am seeing my family and will have no time for posts, only for them and actually finishing a reasonable first draft of the WIP.

OH GOD I’m in imminent danger of being a writer bore, I’m so sorry.

Here’s a quick list of good and awful things that have happened over the course of this year, as much as I can remember on a mid-holiday day when I should be doing something else.

  • AWFUL 2018 started with my cousin dying. No big details to be included here except I wish the age for suspecting and testing for certain cancers would be lowered. And I wish a lot of other things, that all end with treatments working and him having survived. He was a Very Good Man and we miss him having him in the world awful lot. I went to his funeral up in Scotland on a day that ran through every weather combination you can think of in just a few hours.
  • AWFUL The day after my cousin, my partner’s grandma died. More of a shock, this one, weirdly. Another funeral. January was not a good time, even if funerals do bring people together. I’m not really expecting this year to be marvellous either because sad anniversaries are a thing.
  • GOODish? The snow in February/March. It snowed and snowed and caused lots of problems and I couldn’t get to work because of being 30+miles away from the office. But I did get to bundle up and pretend to be an intrepid explorer fighting my way down to the train station on the off-chance of a train. (I also had to take photos to convince my boss that I really wasn’t making up the state of the roads.) I found cafes with good wi-fi that were open in town. I got to walk our huskies in snow that came up to my knees and it was the best. I love snow.
  • GOOD Throughout all this the hope of a literary agent as one agent worked with me on rewrites with a view to possible representation.
  • BAD She ultimately decided not to rep me and I was, momentarily, completely crushed and a terrible person to work with for a day.
  • BRILLIANT I sent the MS out to more agents and ended up meeting with, and signing with, the brilliant Alice Williams. That MS is out on sub at the moment.
  • GOODish but ALSO BAD. The sun. It was such a hot hot hot hot summer. Dog 2 got dehydrated and overheated despite our best efforts, and she kept woffling her nose through dust until chunks of it (her nose, not the dust) were dry and crusty and coming off. But it was a very active outdoorsy summer.
  • CRAPPY I lost my freelance work (replaced, essentially, by a computer programme. It was coming, but I thought I had another year), so a fair chunk of my income, so I am even more broke than usual, which comes with its own set of worries. Ah well.
  • GREAT BUT SCARY I was accepted on a creative facilitator course, where I met some incredibly lovely and extremely talented people. It was paid training, and work were good about me dropping to four days a week. The second half (placement) of the course is next year. I’m nervous about it.
  • GOOD Because of the course and because of music and reading in general I’ve spent more time on stage with a microphone this year than any previous year. While I was dressed as a witch reading brilliant spooky pictures books to a room full of little monsters, a parent recognised me as having sung at an event for refugees earlier in the year. I loved that crossover. I read at a Dickens event – where the focus was more on Frederick than Charlies – just a month or so ago, and it was such fun. And my work friends travelled down to watch it. And I chopped my hair short after seeing those pictures.
  • GOOD I edited the magazine I work for, as guest editor, and that issue went down really well.
  • AWFUL but most of the rest of the work year was at a high-pitched level of stress and anxiety that means I’m still borderline to a panic attack if anyone messages me about work out of hours. This is also why I’m not linking to the issue I edited from here.
  • BAD discovering that my change of career plans are not currently doable because the bursary I needed in order to do it has been cancelled (government cuts because why do little kids even need qualified teachers, eh?). Yes, puttering along behind all the writing and whatnot I tweet about is, like every other person, a need to sort out my day job.
  • GOOD Because I was working on the longer stuff, I didn’t do much short writing, but I did do some and even managed a few submissions. So there’s a story up on Visual Verse (and a poem, it turns out, which I thought they hadn’t accepted!) and another on TSS Publishing. And I entered a competition for the first time in ages with a story I have some faith in. Though I have belatedly realised that due to the nature of the prize, even if they like the story and writing it might be a little too bisexual to win.
  • GOOD More music – I went on BBC Tees Introducing again. I’ve got a song coming out on the forthcoming Noisy Daughters EP. I helped out at the inaugural Tracks Last Train Home Festival and had a blast. I recorded a song written by a friend (‘Pills Close’, coming soon); and I also recorded ‘Hope & Poison’, which was written entirely about the events at the beginning of the year and figuring out how to deal with them. All profits from it go to charity, so I was able to mark Christmas with a donation to Beatson Cancer Charity. Profits will continue to go to charity, so if you purchase it from Bandcamp, that’s what’ll happen. There’s also a slightly rushed and very demo-recorded (on a phone in the kitchen, no less), with stock footage video, song for Christmas.
  • GOODish Discovered how to get from Newcastle to home entirely by Arriva buses. It takes about three hours but it’s not so bad.
  • GREAT Parents came to visit for the first time since we moved here, and it was really fun and fairly relaxing once my partner took over all the driving, and just really nice to be able to spend so much time with them. And the donkeys that lived outside the cottage they stayed in. We saw butterflies, and stately homes, and Beamish, and the incredible swan automaton, and ate fish and chips, and finally introduced my parents to P’s parents (we’ve only been together for about 11 years. No biggie.)
  • GREAT Bit of exploring. We spent a week in Amsterdam where we met my bestish friend’s beautiful baby son, and cycled miles north past hundreds of horses and herons and cows. Got a couple of trips down to London for gigs and touristing, and we went to the Forbidden Corner for my birthday. I walked half of the West Highland Way. It was rainy and windy and sometimes sunny, and a lot lovely, and knackering, and beautiful, and I camped wild and on my own and loved it, but…
  • NOT GOOD The bag was heavy and my knees are wearing out (like the rest of me) and by the halfway point they stopped working, so I had to quit for fear of permanent damage. My core muscles and arm muscles were in great shape, though. I will be trying again next year, using my new, practical, knowledge.
  • GREAT New friends – more people closer to home that I enjoy hanging out with and (I think) like hanging out with me. Odd, maybe, to have that as an achievement, but I’ve moved often enough to know how much more difficult it is to make friends as an adult, and especially outside of work when you work miles away, than it as a kid when you’re in school. But also old friends – weddings, and a weekend in a brilliant farmhouse that probably wasn’t haunted but we made a video implying it is, and a day in York in the pouring rain, at the Jorvik Museum. Very grateful for the wonderful people in my life who make such an effort to be in it.

Stopping the list there, partly because I’m getting bored of finding links. I suspect I’ve missed out a lot of things because I don’t keep  records anymore. So in 2019, I’m going to start an actual diary of sorts properly for the first time in years. Not a blog, but an on-paper thing. I cringe when I read my old teen diary (because I was a cringey teen, and still am quite a cringey adult), and I think that put me off for ages. But I think I’ve also been swept up (without fully realising it until quite recently because it’s all been so insidious) by the unhealthy idea that All Things Are Public – a side effect of 10+ years of Facebook and Twitter and blogging, and not a good one.

(I KNOW there’s been a lot of other side-effects of those sites, too – BIG HUGE POLITICAL things. But I write music and I write stories, and having Facebook and Twitter accounts means, like, 12 people read/listen to the stuff I make instead of none. So I’m not going to be deactivating either of them for good anytime soon. I might still take the odd week/month break here or there though.)

Other things happening in 2019 – house hunting in earnest.

It’d be lovely to also say  Sell A Book, but that’s a ridiculous resolution to have, cause it’s so out of my control.* All I can do is keeping writing and then cross my fingers thereafter, but having an agent means it’s at least more of a possibility than it was.

* Please, well-meaning people who keep telling me if the book currently out on sub doesn’t sell I can always self-publish – I know. It’s my job to know, so I know there are really stunning and successful self-published books out there. I also know how much time, money and effort that takes, which is why I also know I don’t have the marketing skills, design skills, money or time to make a success of it. I like advice, but I am also pretty well-researched in areas of publishing opportunity.**

** Yes, I am very very very aware of the existence of and potential behind small presses as well. I promise.

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Warning: accidental pep talk

Saturday, April 1st – and the local council’s April Fool is to set workmen going with a jackhammer right outside the house, uprooting lampposts. Again, it’s Saturday. It’s the weekend. Everyone’s home trying to have a little lie-in and then do some household chores – at least, they are at this time in the morning. When the noise started up, I went to the window to snoop and scowl, and it seemed all the people in our little cul-de-sac had moved as one. We scowled at each other across the tarmac and then at the poor workmen who, let’s face it, probably don’t want to be working on a Saturday any more than we want them to be. I imagine in a short while there will be a mass exodus just to get away from the rattling.

Continue reading

2Unlimited

It’s a bit of an unpopular, defeatist sentiment (especially in this web-world of pinspirational quotes and nature pics) to accept limitations. Throwing your hands up and saying ‘I can’t’ tends to come across as either defensive, or is read as a need for some reassurance, or as fishing. This not any of those things.

If you’re lucky enough to have been raised in a household where the attitude has always been that nothing should stop you, that you can and should be able to do anything, then admitting that you have limitations to abilities can be a bit of a head-f*ck, actually. Genuinely. Not being able to do something comes with the additional shame of thinking you should be able to do it.

Not being able to do something when you really, really want to be able to do it, is worse.

Continue reading

Whys and wherefores

Hello lovely readers (if you’re still out there after a month of silence).

It’s that point in the evening when the sun drops low enough to sit on next door’s roof. If I’m sat on the sofa, working – which I am, and have been all bloody day – the light blinds me for about five minutes. It is very pleasant to be wilfully dazzled. Seems like the time to crack open some cider.

For the purposes of this weekend, I have renamed cider ‘Don’t Care Juice’. Continue reading

There’s no title because there’s no subject

This is not the post you were supposed to be getting this weekend. I had the whole thing planned – but I left important pictures on the wrong computer (YES I have dropbox. YES I have an external hard drive. NO I didn’t have the wherewithal to move the pictures before the weekend. It’s been a long week, all right, and excitement about meeting up with a couple of favourite people on Friday evening trumped the organising of computer files). Continue reading

I have no spur… but only vaulting ambition

Earlier this week I came across an article that introduced me to the idea of ‘morning pages’. That sounds slightly kinky, but actually it’s more boring than whatever you just imagined. Morning pages boils down to writing three pages of whatever-the-hell-you-want (single words, notes, novel, poem, whatever) in longhand every day, as a way to empty the junk out of your head so you can focus on creative work without other random thoughts cluttering up your head space. Continue reading

Painting over the cracks

I am really, really grateful for my friends (even those that are currently not in touch and who I miss badly). They’ve been keeping me going this week, even if they’ve not realised it. Although it’s been a great few days in terms of passing hours and spending time with people, I feel as though I’ve been snatching at ways to be happy with increasing desperation.

It’s partly my own fault. Against everything I intellectually know about health and tests and waiting times, I stupidly managed to convince myself last week that the doctor’s appointment on Friday would be IT. That that Monday’s  blood test would be the concluding result, they’d stick me on meds, I’d be fixed and life goes back to normal. And that didn’t happen, of course. Instead there’s more tests to be done; referral to a respiratory specialist with at least a three-month wait; results to wait on before I can expect some sort of workable information. It seems like an age.

This year, in which I managed to get places in so many balloted races and which I was so excited about, is a write-off in terms of physical activity, and Friday was the first time I really had to face up to that. I had a bit of a weeping break down outside the doctors, then went out to a wine and cheese evening where I smiled and chatted to people and drank and deliberately didn’t think about it. Then I cried again on the phone to my mum in the morning, and then kept busy busy busy all weekend, meeting a new friend, chatting to my sister, going to the fair. It wasn’t until I was sat in front of a computer at work on Monday that I realised how much just keeping busy and seeing people had been holding off a fairly dark depression.

And yes, I know it could be worse. I have nothing fatal (I’m assuming), I can walk around and do most things, I have my job, my life as a whole is not so disrupted – so yes, bearing all of that in mind I’m just being a brat. But the total lack of endorphins, and the lack of reason and ability to get outside and away from people and turn off my brain because I’m thinking about nothing but breathing and moving, is the equivalent of going off my antidepressants long-term and without psychiatric approval. As a friend of mine said in response to an email I sent (which may have contained the line, If one more person asks me if I’ve considered maybe going for a walk instead of running, I’m going to kick a fucking wall down): “I read somewhere that runners are people who have figured out how to self-medicate for depression.” Exactly.

Another thing: I’m losing my sense of self. I wrote to my friend –

“… Also, I realised today that the more out of shape I get, the more effort I’m making with make-up and hair, because I don’t feel good about myself any more and I’m trying to cover it up. There’s a direct fucking correlation between how good I feel and how much of an effort I make with my appearance.  I am wearing LIPSTICK and a FUCKING DRESS. This is like code red territory.”

Yes, there was a lot of swearing in that email. I’m cussing like the metaphorical sailor these days.

Ordinarily I don’t care about make-up and clothes much, but I’m spending more and more time and money on gussying myself up.  I don’t really recognise myself in the mirror at the moment, and I don’t like it, but I don’t know how else to get myself up and out of the house at the moment, either. Maybe the effort is nicer for people who have to look at me, but I was always a scruff even when I cared, and I’ve spent 2+ years not caring so much because I was happier in myself and could have gone out in pyjamas and still be happy with myself. I really, really miss that confidence. I don’t know this person who tuts because her lipstick isn’t in her bag and who applies eyeliner on the train. I don’t like her very much.

mirror

I’m a fan of the natural look.

This weekend, I should have been at Wimbleball. Tomorrow morning I would have been travelling to Devon. Plan B, after cancelling my entry in the race, was to go to Devon anyway, but that has had to be called off. So instead I was at the doctor’s again this morning (spirometry test) and now I’m stuck in London, looking at day trips I can’t afford (because I’m broke because I spent all my fecking money on red lipstick and hairspray) with no clue precisely how I’m going to avoid thinking about all the things that I would have been doing this weekend if circumstances were different.

Monster and I signed up for a jive dance night on Saturday, which should be good. I’ve organised a few bits and pieces (the dancing, go loosely swimming, meet up with a couple of friends – including another blogger who is currently dealing with the hell of finding a social group in London). I’m really tempted, though, to just bring in an awful lot of whiskey and wine and drink myself into a stupor for four days. Because that’s the mature, adult way to deal with this.

One brain-melt with a side order of crushed optimism

Sometimes there’s so much to do, or one thing to get done is so massive and overwhelming, that I freeze up and don’t get anything done at all. This never happens at work, but it does happen at home, and it happened with this blog last week.  I had a dozen ideas of things to write about, freaked out about not being able to do all of them and ended up not writing a thing. Really, the way to handle it would have been to do a few different entries over the course of the week. But God forbid I should break my arbitrary one-entry-a-week rule by writing too much instead of too little. Continue reading