Saturday, 19 November 2011

Some thoughts on writing.

Writing is a funny business. First of all, it’s hard work. I used to imagine it’d be easy, that things would flow naturally, that the process of creating a work of fiction would be fun and sexy. But it’s not, it’s boring at times. Really boring.

Writer’s block is often a problem, though rarely from a lack of ideas. It’s more brought on by a lack of motivation to write the next bit of dialogue – which I hate doing – or to figure out how to get from one scene to the next in a natural, yet interesting, way. Or else, slightly more positively, there’s the fear of spoiling what might be, so far, a good piece of work.

Some days each word takes an excruciating amount of effort, and the word counter at the bottom of the document barely seems to move, much like the clock measuring how long I’ve been working.

But then on other days words just seem to flow. The story seems worth telling again, exciting even, and forming sentences is a pleasure. I begin to feel like that interesting, slightly mysterious, writer sat in the corner that I dream of being.

And for these days, it’s worth ploughing through the ‘work’ days, sticking at it in the dry spells when even fifty words is a major achievement.

Writing is fun and sexy, just like playing a musical instrument, or dancing a complicated routine. But it takes effort, practice, behind the scenes moments when it seems impossible. It’s only through the effort, practice, sweat, that something of worth can be accomplished.

Monday, 31 October 2011

'In a relationship...' *

I thought I’d take a little time out from the recent focus on my employment status (and emotional state!) to say something about my relationship status.

It probably didn’t go unnoticed, if you have been following my blog for a while, that I am in a relationship after a period of singleness.

At first the news was greeted with some derision by some of my friends because of my posts about staying single etc. But those posts were never about ‘staying single’ for the sake of it. They were about the amount of thought-time and energy I was using to find the right person.

Then, along came Steph, kind of out of the blue, from somewhere I never imagined I would meet someone ‘compatible’. Funny how these things work out.

There I was, thinking I was happy being single, when along came this utterly delightful, enchanting young lady who has taken my world, a world that, largely, I was happy with, and shown it to have actually been lacking something – someone – so...integral, who I never even knew.

(I’m very aware that she’ll probably read this, which is a bit weird for me as I try to be honest but not say anything that she’ll a) think is purely for her benefit or b) scare her!)

I wanted to outline some of the differences between being single and being in a relationship. Things that I hadn’t really thought about before: I’d expected there to be good and bad points to being part of a couple but, really, I can only think of good things. (Aside from the realisation of just how selfish I’d become, which was/is a difficult thing to see, but is undoubtedly a good thing to improve upon!)

I’m hoping that this post doesn’t come across as, ‘Hey, look at me, I’ve got a girlfriend!!’ I know that, if ‘single-me’ had read this, I’d have probably immediately been bitter towards the smug-coupled-up-person. So I want to say that life was good whilst I was single, I was happy that way...and if you are feeling that bitterness, then I understand and I’d say try and find things that you love to do. Work on being the person you’d like to be. While you wait for ‘someone’, start to live; fill your days building the foundations of a future – whether you remain single or not.

And then, one not very significant day, maybe someone extraordinary might just waltz in and re-paint your life with such vivid colours, that it’ll make the grey-wait entirely worthwhile.

And, if they don’t, you’ll still have your own dreams in the making.

Alternatively, roll your eyes, tut, utter things like, 'Easy for you to say,' and close your browser...it's probably what I would have done!

*Credit to Stephanie Angus (aka ‘other-Steph’) for this post-title - she used it first!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Winter blues?

As I mentioned last-post (it seems weird that ‘blog-posts’ have become a unit of time for me), I have reluctantly accepted that I’ve entered a period of ‘Depression’. I’ve been trying to deny it for about a month, but it’s obvious.

Mostly this has left me feeling frustrated – there’s no real reason for it, other than the job-loss, but that’s not what the empty-hollow-sadness-in-the-stomach is about. I don’t know what it’s about: like one of those itches you just can’t find, scratching at the spot you think it’s at doesn’t provide relief.

There’s a blog I like, and this week it had this post.


The beginning, at least, is how I feel at the moment. I feel frustrated because I can’t just seem to ‘snap out’ of my sadness, and I feel disappointed in myself because I’m better than this: I’m not being ‘me’ – the fun-to-be-with, creative genius that many people have come to know and love.

On the plus side, I’m out of bed (writing this in Starbuck’s (other coffee shops are available)), and refusing to give in. Yes, my days are a struggle at the moment, and leave me feeling somewhat weary just by living: CBT is great, but the thought processes take effort, and when it’s a near-constant stream of negative thoughts you have to challenge, it can be draining.

But there’s a song that cheered me up a little this morning: Fader by The Temper Trap.



It contains the line: ‘I pledge myself allegiance to a better night’s sleep at home,’ which, whilst grammatically awful, contains a kernel of some way forward: I might not feel like doing much, so why not just get a better night’s sleep? Sleep is healing, after all, and it’s Winter anyway, so what better time to hibernate a little?

And maybe my frustration can serve as a catalyst as well – I wrote about anger being a motivation once before, so, if I/we let it, perhaps frustration at a situation can give way to a stubborn refusal to give in. So far, at least, that’s where I’m at.

I’d just like a happy day or two along the way if that’s not too much trouble, Santa. Thanks.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

What to do in a crisis of confidence?

Hold on to whatever talents we have...
So, the fateful day of my redundancy has arrived. Tomorrow I leave my job. And, yeah, it sucks. 

I killed my blog for a while as I took stock of my situation and threw myself into job applications etc. But I’m back. Because it’s good for me (and maybe you too?).

Sometimes things can affect us more than we think they will. I didn’t expect losing my job to matter that much to me, but it does. Several people have noted that I’ve gone into a bit of a ‘winter depression’ lately and I’m certain a) that they’re right, and b) it’s largely due to my impending unemployment.

What to do about it, then? A colleague of mine yesterday commented that being unemployed can vastly hurt your self-confidence: even ‘low’ jobs can start to seem overly aspirational (I’m not going to list any through fear of offending someone!), which is partly why I’m resurrecting my blog. Writing is something I believe I’m good at; it’s one of the few positive things I actually hold true of myself regardless of what anyone else thinks, and that’s due to some great, supportive, honest and trustworthy friends of mine who have given me confidence and chance to ‘fly’ with it. (Rebecca, that means you!)

My unemployment certainly has hit me hard. But I’m still a good writer. So, I’m trying to focus on that and the fact that not having to go to a 9-5 job gives me time and chance to pursue my writing. 

And that’s my advice for this post – losing a job, girlfriend/boyfriend, opportunity, or anything else doesn’t mean we’re any less of a worthwhile human being. We still have our unique strengths, talents, and great characteristics, so cling on to those and the fact of their existence. 

Which actually only leaves the financial implications of being out of work...I’ll let you know if I think of a solution to those.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Create because you want to, not to impress others.

A few things have happened lately:

  1. I stopped blogging. This wasn’t intentional, I just did. I was tired, I was stressed, one thing led to another...yadayadayada.
  2. I started comparing myself to other ‘good’ writers.
  3. I started feeling that I’m not a good writer.

I think that counts as ‘a few’ things.

So I had a bit of a creative meltdown. But then I had an epiphany:

STOP TRYING TO PLEASE OTHER PEOPLE.

What I mean is I’d begun to try and write stories that other people would like. It had become my primary focus: writing to impress my friends/my colleagues/my tutor/potential publishers etc. I ended up tying myself in knots about how it wasn’t going to be good enough for them and I lost the joy of writing. I sat at the screen, unable to type through fear of writing ‘rubbish’. A form of writer’s-block, I guess.

Having realised this, the very same day I sat down to work on something, and just wrote to please me. I wrote what I wanted to write,  switching off that harshest of critics – the one in my head – who tells me my work is no good. Sure, my attempts might not be as good as those of my idols, or others in a similar field (I discovered one Jane Flett the other day, and was perturbed by the similarities) but, who cares? I like writing. Besides, that’s what editors are for, right?

Whatever you want to do in life, do it because you want to, not because someone else might like it. That’d be selling out, and no one likes a sell-out.

Except maybe concert hall managers.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Thinking about things.

Inside my brain!

Taking my lead from Jo Swinney, as I so often seem to do, this blog post is an insight into some of the things on my mind. You can read about the things on Jo’s mind here.

I am waiting to hear about a million jobs I’ve applied for, most interestingly one I just sent off today. Am really excited about that one – watch this space!

I am (very) happy about being in a relationship with Steph. She’s awesome in many ways. Hopefully you’ll meet her one day, or maybe I’ll get her to write a guest post sometime...

I am grateful for having time and ability to pursue many different interests, such as this blog, my uni course, music and Dr Who! And I am very grateful for my family and those friends who are just always...there, no matter what. Thank you.

I am working on my final assignment for my latest Open Uni module, as well as job applications, a couple of short stories and my non-fiction project (which I really should explain a little more about sometime!). I am also working on worrying less about silly things, and not stressing as much!

I am enjoying simply being alive, to be honest, most of the time anyway. (Crap. I’ve become one of those people, haven’t I?!) And I’m definitely enjoying getting to know S and spending time with her.

I think this is a good exercise – invariably I spend too much time considering the negative things on my mind, so it’s nice to stop and deliberately remember there’s a lot of positive stuff in there too.

What kind of things are filling your brian (sic)?

Monday, 12 September 2011

Life at break-neck speed.

Just a few of the things I need to do...

A good mate just told me: ‘You need to take some time to chill, otherwise, it’ll kill you – perhaps even literally if you end up so tired you drive into a tree on your way home one Sunday evening!’

I worked out today that I’ve not had a weekend at home since the 6th August. Add to that coursework, day-work, housework, job applications, redundancy-fears, new-relationship-excitement, this blog, short story projects, a novel in the back of my mind, a non-fiction book on the go, music to play/write...and you get the picture.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, not at all. Life is good at the moment, very good. I’m just aware that I could burn out if I don’t...well...’chill’. (Though for anyone who might worry, I won’t be driving into any trees, I promise!)

So, I’m trying to find ways I can relax in amongst doing things. For example, I like a good cup of tea when I’m writing/working at home, and usually I’ll put the kettle on and go back to the computer while it boils. But I’m trying to just stop. Wait, just for the five minutes for the tea to be ready. The (few) times I’ve managed it, it’s helped my brain to re-focus, and, occasionally, even helped the creative process.

Now I’m trying to find other little ways I can just slow down.

And, I’m remembering I don’t have to do everything today; there’s always tomorrow. What’s more, I’ll probably do a better job if I don’t panic and try and squeeze everything in to one evening.

Relax. Take an hour to read even! (Shocking!) The tasks on that list will still be there, and we’ll probably be better equipped to do them after a little break...

Either that, or it’s a good excuse for procrastination. (Now that sounds like a great title for a song...)

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Dealing with stress.

I’m not particularly stressed today, but I have been – what with not yet finding a job, uni work on my mind, creative projects being pushed out etc etc. And I know a few other people who are feeling pretty pressured at the moment. Sometimes it’s difficult to deal with.

I am grateful to have learned a little about Mindfulness, as I’ve mentioned before on this blog, and it’s been a help during some of my more fraught moments over the last few weeks.

Just to expand a little, so often we’re focussed on something else: our destination, what we’re going to do tomorrow, the jobs that we’re not getting done right now. I guess I sound a little like Yoda: ‘Never his mind on where he was, what he was doing.’

We can miss out on so much of life in this way. Earlier this year, I got stuck in traffic at rush hour near Heathrow airport and I was pretty vexed about it, until I remembered about Mindfulness. I started thinking about where I was, navigating London rush hour, something I’d heard a lot about but never done. Suddenly, it was actually quite exciting.

Eventually I made it out of London and onto the M40, where I still kept focussing on the job in hand – driving my car. What did it feel like? The steering wheel; the sound of my tyres on the tarmac; the other cars nearby me. What was the weather like? And as I looked to the sky, to the horizon, I was treated to a beautiful sunset. I felt privileged to be there.

If I hadn’t been stuck in traffic, I’d never have seen that. If I hadn’t stopped to consider the now, but remained frustrated, stressing about something I could essentially do nothing about, I’d probably never have noticed the warm orange sun melting into the distance, leaving purple clouds behind...

And the very act of stopping, remembering to just breathe, taking in my surroundings, was in itself calming. I enjoyed my journey in the end, and perhaps these techniques can help us all when we start to feel things are getting on top of us.

Though I still won’t be rushing to plough through London’s tea-time traffic again...

Monday, 5 September 2011

Learn to laugh (at yourself).


I think buying matching 'laugh' plaques
 is a good way to start any relationship!

Recently I began a relationship with a wonderful girl. (Hurrah!) But that’s not what this is about...

A good friend of mine offered me some advice prior to the beginning of said relationship. He said: ‘Take her out, go for coffee, laugh.’ For some reason, it was the final piece of advice that stuck the most.

Laughter is the best medicine. It can diffuse many tensions, let people know you’re not upset, and, more importantly, it’s fun!

But there’s something else: Rob Bell (again!) at Greenbelt said we really need to learn to laugh at ourselves, because, if we don’t, we’re just going to take everything to heart and end up hurt a lot more than we need to be (or something like that anyway).

I know I’m a bit unusual in some ways, and I take pride in that – ‘It’s all about the quirk’, I say. And I make stupid mistakes, like taking a load of large cardboard boxes to the recycling centre right before going to collect something packaged...in a large cardboard box. (Doh!) I could have gotten annoyed at the waste of time, but, actually, it’s quite funny – better I laugh at it, than someone else does when I’m feeling frustrated and annoyed!

The final thing I think about laughter is: we shouldn’t take life too seriously. We’re not here that long, let’s have fun while we are! Do silly things, just for the hell of it: sing Christmas songs in July; wear daft glasses – or a fez – on family occasions; play the wash-board at jam nights.

Take photos of it all and then, in years to come, laugh at it again.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Some days the world can get you down. But...


Don't despair!
Some days the world just gets you down. It might be some bad personal news, or a tragedy reported in the media, or, as it was for me today, just a simple line bringing to mind some of the flaws in the world.

There are so many things that can bring pain, upset or difficulty in life. Sometimes it’s really easy to let them drag you down into a pit of despair – what’s the point in trying in the face of such problems?

But, in this short post, I just want to say that, whilst there are many ‘bad’ things going on, don’t let them drown out the good. The line in the email I received today was about a church (and the very mention of that ‘c’ word in itself will conjure up negativity for some of you!), and, though it depressed me, it also reminded me of why I’m working on a particular writing project at the moment, spurring me on all the more to make progress.

That’s pretty positive, for a ‘bad’ thing.

And, even if we can’t turn something round like that, there’s still no cause to throw in the towel completely. Yes, things go wrong, but look at the good work done by aid organisations and individuals across the globe. Or consider the friends we have, or the partners, pets, housemates – whatever – those people who are there, who have shared times, made memories, laughed, cried...just lived alongside us through everything. I believe there is always some good to be found, if we only look for it.

As Martyn Joseph – and 6,000 or so fans – sang at Greenbelt: ‘There’s still a lot of love around here...’

I wholeheartedly agree.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The only thing we have to be is ourselves.


This was basically the essence of Rob Bell’s talk that I referred to in my last post about Greenbelt, but it’s been on my mind a lot.

Someone commented today that the talk sounded like the purpose of my blog – to inspire people to be ... whatever they can be. I’ve written before about using our own unique talents to create something, or to do some good in the world, and I just want to reiterate that really.

I wrote a piece of mildly creative writing today in an email, and the recipient asked me: ‘How do you write like that?!’ I responded that it’s just my talent, I guess. I equally cannot understand how this person creates the brilliant artwork she does, when I can barely manage to even draw a stickman!

But it doesn’t matter – we all have our own abilities: I can write, she can draw, someone else can make pottery, and another can tend gardens.

So often we try to be like someone else, or to emulate the achievements of one of our idols or role models. I say: ‘Stop!’ Don’t try and be like someone else, just be yourself. Do what you’re good at, and do it to the best of your ability. That will be far more impressive than copying someone else – and far more satisfying.

I think I’d rather someone said: ‘He’s a really good writer’ than: ‘He writes like Jon Mcgregor’ (not that I ever imagine I’ll be as good as him!). It says something about me, rather than someone else and, after all, it is all about me... ;)

Monday, 29 August 2011

Greenbelt (Well, some of it...)


For some reason, it always rains when
Martyn Joseph performs!
So, I went to Greenbelt, but came back early. There were a few reasons for this, but mostly it’s because I couldn’t deal with camping!

I got to see/hear a number of things though in the two days I was there, so thought I’d share a little about them.

Brian McLaren – On Friday evening I heard his talk about the importance of a fair tax system. Sounds incredibly dull, right? Well, it wasn’t. Through some illuminating stories, McLaren showed that, for a country to get out of poverty and remain so, a fair tax system must be in place so that a proper justice system can be maintained, so that necessary infrastructure can be created, so that education can be provided etc etc.

It made me think that, next time it comes to voting, I will take a good, long hard look at tax policy, and what the parties propose to do with the money, so that maybe my tax ‘dollar’ will be put to be better use in the world.

Martyn Joseph – This artist is my favourite of all. And his set on Friday night showed why. Playing with a small backing band, for the first time I’ve seen, he performed a series of songs from his latest album, and older ones, interspersed with insights into the things that really matter in this life.

It was, by his own admission, a mellower Martyn than perhaps seen in previous appearances – he made reference to the ‘trouble’ he got into last time he performed on Greenbelt’s main stage. But he had lost none of his fervour for fairness, justice and a better world, expressed through poignant and apt songs. Brilliant.

Rob Bell – I think most of this man’s work is excellent, and his talk on Saturday morning about how the only thing we have to be is ourselves, was no exception. We spend so much time trying to be like someone else, dismayed that we can’t do this, or we can’t do that, that we sometimes lose sight of the fact we were created to be no-one but who we are. So we should stop striving to be like someone else, and just focus on being more like ourselves. Something like that anyway.

Flight Brigade – I was really looking forward to seeing these guys live, and I’m glad I stuck around to hear them. Their song, ‘A girl who loves her smoke and wine’ is rapidly climbing my chart of ‘all time favourite songs’.



And that’s about it. I’m disappointed to have missed some other talks I really wanted to go to but, armed with my MP3 player, I will catch up when they’re available for download! And, in spite of the camping, I did have a good time, meeting some cool people – notably comedian Andy Kind – and just generally soaking up the atmosphere at this little festival that always feels a little bit like a homecoming for me.

With its theme this year of ‘Dreams of Home’, this seems an appropriate feeling to have, even for just my short stay.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

A few days away...


This weekend I’m off to Greenbelt festival, so there’ll be no blogging for a few days.

Hopefully the festival will give me lots to think about and ideas for stuff I can write about! And, if not, well, maybe I’ll just review some of the stuff I went to...

If you wanna check out some of the acts/people who I’ll be checking out, then have a look around the Greenbelt website, or here are a few links for you:

Martyn Joseph (My absolute favourite music act!)
Flight Brigade
Duke Special
Jo Swinney
Mark Vernon
Rob Bell

... And hopefully many more besides!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The journey of life.


We don't know where this road is heading...

I’ve been thinking about this journey we call ‘life’ – and what a journey it is! Sometimes I think it's just wild and crazy, as yet another drama or surprise comes along.

I’ve talked a lot lately about experiences being worthwhile, whether good or bad. People ride roller-coasters for the thrill: the ascents provoke excitement and anticipation of the drop that will follow; the freefalls give a rush, a feeling of freedom and, of course, danger. It’s the combination of it all that makes it what it is.

I’ve had some serious ups, and some even more serious downs. And now I’m here – and the ride isn’t over. Whether tomorrow will be the beginning of another high, or whether we might go headlong into the deepest pit ever, we’ve got this far. We can make it through.

Looking back at life, remember that we wouldn’t be who we are if it weren’t for the experiences we’ve had. Those things that have caused us pain have helped us to learn about ourselves, about the world, and to adapt accordingly, getting rid of undesirable or unhelpful character traits. Maybe we wouldn’t like the person we’d be without some of those difficult things...

Soon enough (too soon!), I’ll be made redundant from my job, but there are other things making me happy. Sometimes it seems that we just get one thing sorted, and something else goes wrong. But that’s ok – life is a journey, full of twists, turns – and occasional loop-the-loops – and each of them leads onto the next.

You truly never know what tomorrow might bring; I wouldn’t want life to be boring, after all...

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Music to 'be' to.


This summer, for a variety of reasons, I’m doing a lot of travelling around the country and it’s got me thinking about the soundtracks to my life.

Music plays a big part in my life and, at certain times, there’ve been songs that have provided the backing track, and are then forever associated with the memory of that time/event.

So, having arrived back home from one of my travels just now, I thought I’d share some of the songs that are on the soundtrack to my, so far outstanding, summer. Hopefully they might serve to bring you some good memories too!

1) Mat Kearney.
I love pretty much everything on this guy’s debut album, 'Young Love' and have had it on repeat since I got it last week. This song in particular stands out for me at the moment though:


2) Keith Urban – Somebody Like You
This is a song I’ve liked for a long time, but the CD found its way back into my car stereo in recent months. Great driving music...



3) Noah and the Whale – L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N
This band’s latest album, ‘Last Night On Earth’ is a cracker. And no track is better than this one.


4) Bebo Norman – Perhaps She’ll Wait
I think this is just a beautiful song, and it really resonates with me:


5) Martyn Joseph – Seahorse
I didn’t like this at first, because I didn’t think that being a ‘seahorse’ was particularly poetic. But as I listened to the lyrics and thought about the meaning, I changed my mind. Love it now, and the album ‘Under Lemonade Skies’ it comes from.


6) Jason Mraz – Wordplay
No playlist is complete without a Jason Mraz song. Fact. And this just happens to be one of favourites!


7) MxPx – Move to Bremerton
Another band that made their way back onto my listening list, largely because I’d run out of anything else in my car I wanted to listen to! But I remembered how much I love some of their stuff!


8) Owl City – The Real World
Yes, I know he’s supposedly not cool, but I don’t really care about that; sometimes what you need is a bit of sugar-coated synthesiser pop. And this one has particularly good lyrics, I think!


9) Coldplay – Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall
Again, I know it’s not really fashionable to admit to liking Coldplay anymore, but I do. And I think their latest track is one of their finest ever.


10) Elbow – Dear Friends
When I first heard this song early in the summer, it really moved me. ‘Dear friends, you are angels and drunks, you are magi.’ Seemed to some up ‘my’ crowd pretty well! Love you all, folks. I dunno where I’d be without you. :)



Enjoy the rest of your summer! What's on your soundtrack?

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

It's ok to rest.

Sometimes, with all the different things I have/want to do, I need to remind myself (or someone else to remind me!) that it’s ok to rest. And I’m probably going to get such a reminder (though it might not be so polite!) from someone later today, just for writing this!

Usually, I feel like there’s something I ought to be doing – be that uni work, writing, job applications, or even, shockingly, housework! Which means, if I stop and sit down to watch a movie, read a book, or some other leisure activity, it’s not long before I start to feel guilty about wasting time. But, once again, I refer to Don Miller, who wrote a blog-post about how guilt should rarely be a reason for doing something.

So, it’s ok to rest; we all need to. As the Kit-Kat advert said, ‘Remember, you are not a salmon’.


Of course, there’s a difference between ‘resting’ and ‘shirking’ (it’s interesting how that’s one of my favourite words!) and if we have things we need to do, we should do them. The trick is not to let them consume us so that we get over-tired and burn out. ‘Cause that won’t help anyone.

It’s about balance, and it’s something I’m still trying to find. If anyone has any tips for getting over the guilt of ‘wasting time’, I’d appreciate them. 

Or perhaps the reminder to just ... breathe from time to time is enough. 

Monday, 15 August 2011

Being who we want to be.


Who do you want to see
when you look in the mirror?
Who are the people you admire most? And why do you admire them? Can we become more like them, and therefore be people who we admire?

I’ve realised that many of the people I look up to are, shall we say, slightly more rebellious by nature. People who don’t really conform, and who look to challenge those ‘norms’ that shouldn’t necessarily be ‘normal’.

Now, I’m not really a rebellious person. At least, not outwardly. I love to think I am, and I have grand ideas about being an activist and protester, but mostly I don’t do it because I’m actually quite reserved, contrary to appearances at times!

Instead, I try to use my writing to inspire or challenge others to think or act differently. I end up being a hypocrite sometimes, but we’re all on a journey, right?

(Just as an aside, one of the things I learned in my creative writing course was that, to make characters more ‘real’, you should give them apparently contradictory traits. In my case, that means being both shy, and a bit of an attention-seeker!)

It might be that you look up to someone who has talents or abilities that you don’t have, much like my lack of a real rebellious streak. But maybe you can use the talents you do have to achieve similar goals. How that works out will be different for each of us.

I suppose another way of putting this is: what sort of person do you wish you were? There’s a line from a song I’ve been listening to recently that says: ‘When I look at myself, I don’t see the man I wanted to be.’ (One Step UpMartyn Joseph © Piper Records 2010 – a cover of a Bruce Springsteen song)

I don’t want that to be me; I want to be the person I want to be.

The only thing stopping us is ourselves.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Finding spaces to re-energise.


This was one of my favourite spots in Yorkshire.

Life is busy for many of us, especially in these fast-moving days, and this week I’ve been trying to find space – time just to be ‘me’.

I’ve always been drawn to the idea of favourite spots: places where I can retreat to and be by myself, collect my thoughts and consider the things that are going on with me. When I lived at home, I had a couple of places I loved to go and, since moving away, I’ve looked for similar spots.

After a stressful day, or during a time when there’s a lot on the mind, I think it’s important to take time out, to stop and rest and re-calibrate. The other night I was feeling a little fragile after a hard day, so I went for a walk along the river, music on my headphones, a little rain in the air; it was bliss.

After just half an hour or so, I felt re-charged, relaxed and ready to carry on with life again.

This might seem a little woolly or nebulous but I hope you can understand what I mean! If not, give it a try.

I recommend finding places – they might be in your own home, or somewhere in your neighbourhood, or even just a time-slot – somewhere you can find to become ‘yourself’ again. And then retreat there whenever you need to, whenever life just gets a little bit too much. I think it’s a practice that helps to remain in a good frame of mind, more often, and for longer.

Whatever we have to do will still be there when we get back; the world will not end because we take a half hour break, I guarantee it. And, when we do return, we’ll probably be better equipped to carry on.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Too busy?


This week I’ve been busy – too busy – and so have had to consider which of the many things I do are most important.

In life, knowing what you want to do is at least half the battle. That can be a pretty difficult thing to decide and many an office is staffed by people who never quite worked it out. (Seriously, who grows up saying, ‘I want to be an administrator!’?)

But once you do know, then everything can kind of flow from that. Decisions are made easy: should you do this, or that? Which one helps you make most progress towards your overall ambition? Say yes to things that help, and no to things that won’t.

To that end, this week I’ve shelved plans for a podcast series after just one episode (sorry to those who enjoyed the first! It may return eventually...), and I’ve had to tell a friend I can’t do a music-jam we’d sort of decided on, because I'd need to practice. (Felt bad about that one...)

Overall, though, I feel better for it: it’s freed up time for uni work and my numerous writing projects (Bambi and The Chopper 2 is coming along nicely, as is a brand new non-fiction project!). If I’d allowed myself to be distracted by other things – good though they are as well – I’d have ended up further from being the writer I want to be.

So, find yourself too busy? Then think about what it is you want to be.

Maybe it’s time for an activity-cull...

Monday, 8 August 2011

Relationships.

Beer-mat wisdom...courtesy of Timothy Taylor's!
I’ve blogged quite a bit about singleness, and now I want to say something about relationships!

First of all, I’m not in a relationship at the moment, so may not be best placed to talk about them. But I’ve had some in my life, and so feel my insights are valid! And it is definitely something I want: after all my talk of ‘staying single’ and stuff, I said to my mate the other week, ‘You know what, I don’t actually want to be single anymore!’ So here goes...

One of the main causes of misery in my life – and I am sure I am not alone in this – has been romantic relationships, or the lack thereof. I seem to have spent much of my adult life feeling down about not having a girlfriend, or down because the one I had didn’t want me anymore! A friend of mine remarked: ‘The fact is that this thing we desire the most, is the thing that can cause us the most pain.’ Or words to that effect anyway.

It is something we all desire: to connect with another human being, to have that intimacy, closeness and sharing. No man is an island, so I’m told. I’m also told it’s worth the risk: ‘It’s better to have loved and lost...’ and all that crap.

One thing I used to look for was a girl who shared my taste in music, or movies, or maybe liked the same food or some other interest. But I’m beginning to think that’s not really important. Those aren’t the things a relationship is built on. 

Of course, it’s important to have some common ground (otherwise what will you do together?!) but it’s far more important to be able to talk, share ideas, dreams and passions, and then we can work together to help each other fulfil whatever potential we can. Beyond that, just being comfortable in each other’s company, without even necessarily the need to talk, is enough, at least for me. 

Whether or not you like Dr Who or Jon McGregor books is really pretty irrelevant. Any relationship I have is hopefully going to outlast such fads anyway.

As I’ve said before, I think this whole thing is about being ok whatever state I’m/we’re in, which includes whether single, or part of a couple. So yes, life’s good being single – I have my interests and ambitions, and I’m happy to work on them. I don’t need someone to fix my life or anything like that. 

It would just be nice to share it.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Being privileged, and being better...

'There's a world outside your window...'  -
Band Aid
We are so privileged in this country, and we scarcely remember the fact.

We spend so much time complaining about the things we don’t have, and chasing after more and more things we want, that I think sometimes we forget how much we do have. I’ve said before how I think there is great joy to be found in being content with where we are and what we have.

I look at the news and see people across the world who don’t have things we take for granted – children starving without food, families without clean water. And it breaks my heart.

But then, only hours later, I find myself browsing DVD racks in HMV, or considering spending hundreds of pounds on a games console. And I wonder at my lack of consistency, my own hypocrisy.

I think if we dwelt a little more on what we have, on our privileged position on this planet, we’d be far more ready to help others. I don’t need an Xbox, I’ve lived perfectly well without one for years, but there’s a guy on the street somewhere who could use a sleeping bag. I might not be having a holiday this year, but there are people right now in the world who might not even have a proper meal this year.

My PC broke last week and if I’d wanted to replace it, I would have found the money from somewhere. As it is, I also have a laptop and decided to ‘make do’ with that. But the challenge is this: why haven’t I taken the money I’d have ‘found’ and donated it to charity?

I’ve always intended this blog to be about being ‘better’ – being the best we can be. So this post is about that. Let’s be more than we are, let’s stop thinking so much about how we can please ourselves, only one person, because I reckon we can do so much more: we can please a whole world of people if we try.

I’ve talked before about life being about experiences. Well, it’d be a hell of an experience to go on ‘holiday’ to help those in need, for sure. I’m not saying I’m going to do that, or that you should either. But I do reckon we should all look to find ways we can use our own unique talents, creativity and circumstances for good. It doesn’t have to be major – I consider writing a song for others to enjoy as a 'good' thing! And we can make life better even just for those around us: a friend in need; a sick family member; a colleague having a rough day.

And I’d bet that, in the process of looking to ‘please’ others, we’ll find that we have a ball as well.

You in?

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Focusing on the good things.

I do love my hats!
I’ve been reflecting on just how much progress I’ve made in the last 6 months. From a place where I couldn’t imagine being ‘ok’ again, never mind happy or excited, I now find myself feeling both of those emotions.

I think that’s twice as impressive in the light of my redundancy.

One of the things I’ve learned is not to trivialise the good things in life. In the past, I might have said something like, ‘That was a dreadful day,’ which would naturally make anyone feel pretty down if it was true. But that statement would ignore a good conversation with a friend at lunch time, or even the very fact that I’d ‘survived’ the day; I’d managed. Some days, that in itself is no mean feat! And so, it wasn’t an entirely dreadful day – it had some good points.  

And that might be enough to make anyone feel a little better. (For the record, today hasn’t been a dreadful day at all!) Applying this practice to any situation can really improve … everything, I think. 

I’m someone who used to always focus on the negative – ‘I’m not a good guitarist,’ or, ‘My hair is falling out’. Both of those things may well be true and, if I dwell on them, they might make me feel low, or lack confidence. 

Instead, how about thinking, ‘I can play guitar,’ and, ‘I like my new, shorter hairstyle,’ or even, ‘I look good in a hat’! The statements are just as true, and make me feel better about myself, so why not dwell on those instead?

I’m lucky to have a good GP, and I’m sure my anti-depressant medication helps me by redressing an undoubted underlying chemical problem, but there’s still the work to do to develop better thought patterns. 

So I guess my point is: don’t forget the good things, however small. And remember where you’ve come from. If you suffer with Depression, you may have come through a difficult time in the past – celebrate and remember that you made it. And remember how you made it as well, just in case it happens again!

And if you’re in a difficult period now, then I feel for you. I hope it hasn’t always been that way and, if there were indeed good times in the past, who knows? There could be good times again in the future, even if we can’t imagine them. You never know.

I know I couldn’t imagine it 6 months ago, yet here I am.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

It's the little things that make a big difference.

It’s late, I’m tired, and I’m writing this from a laptop in my little Travelodge room at the side of the A1, just outside Grantham. But it couldn’t wait…

Today has been the best day of 2011 (so far), though it didn’t start out that way - far from it. I actually woke up feeling quite low; a (metaphorical) hangover from the night before. I headed off on this work-trip feeling a little uneasy in myself, relying on Mindfulness/CBT to keep it together.

But then I arrived at my destination and managed to sneak in to the back of a seminar one of my favourite authors was taking part in. Jo Swinney has become a friend of mine, but I am still a little bit of a fan-boy towards her. I love her work and, after the seminar, it was an immense privilege to spend ten minutes talking with this truly delightful young lady.

That would have been more than enough to make my day, but there was more to come…

I raced off to my hotel room to catch the Formula One Grand Prix, which was won by my man - Jenson Button! Trivial, yes, but it raised my spirits even further.

Especially since, during the race, I’d checked my messages to discover a friend of a friend had written a blog-post about something I’d said! Highly flattered, I was, and as a result I now have a new lovely friend too, it seems!  

And, as if all that wasn’t enough, just this evening I had the further privilege of striking up another potential-friendship with a fellow exhibitor (and an extremely talented artist!). My thesaurus tells me ‘enchanting’ is a synonym for ‘delightful’, so I’m gonna go with it to avoid repeating the superlative… It seems an appropriate way of describing today’s events!

All these are small things; I didn’t win the lottery, or get married, or go on an exotic holiday. Those things, great as I’m sure they are, are not necessary. I believe, if we watch for the flashes of sunshine, those moments of delight - often unexpected, especially on a ‘blue’ day like mine started out as, life can be transformed.

Today has become the Day of the Year – one of the happiest I can remember in a long, long time. So, look out for the little things, however you're feeling right now. You never know what the next moment might bring.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Stepping out of your comfort-zone is the only way to grow.

Comfortable!

Doing things that don’t come naturally, or that we don’t think we can do very well, is always going to be a bit scary, but it’s the only way of broadening our horizons and developing new talents.

The other day I played some tunes at a local jam night, and didn’t feel like it went very well. My ‘comfort-zone’ musically these days is playing at acoustic nights, on my own, after lots of practice. After the jam night, I thought I might stick to that, and not perform in the more difficult (to me) scenario anymore.

But then I remembered that playing at acoustic nights used to be out of my comfort zone as well. It was only by doing it, over and over – and messing it up a few times too – that I got better at it.

We can cling to our comfort zones because they’re safe. We know them, we understand them; they’re not going to hurt us too much and they’re not going to bring us any unexpected traumas.

It could be anything: staying single to avoid getting hurt, or staying in a relationship we don’t really want through fear of being lonely; living in our home town, rather than taking a job somewhere else; going on a beach holiday, instead of the snow-boarding we’d really like to do but are afraid might break our bones. Or even small things, like staying in with a DVD and a take-out instead of going out and meeting people.

The safe option might not bring unexpected trauma, but it won’t bring unexpected joy either. We won’t learn anything new; we won’t discover new things – both beautiful and difficult – that we hadn’t experienced before. We won’t be really living.

So, what scares you? What do you wish you could do, but don’t think you can? Go and try it. Even if you fail, so what? Try it again. The only people who might make fun of you are those too scared to try it themselves…

Friday, 22 July 2011

What makes you angry? Act on it!

My friend, Rachel Harding, posted this on her blog the other day. My comments continue at the bottom...


It caught my eye, mainly because it’s pretty much awesome in its entirety, but I especially liked the line: ‘Pay particular attention to what makes you angry’.

This is something I’ve thought about before, and it’s to do with passion: if something makes you angry, it’s likely you’re passionate about it. And that’s why it’s important to pay attention.

Throughout history, great things have been achieved because someone was passionate about them. Slavery was made illegal; women were given equal rights (ok, more equal); we’ve begun to see fairly-traded products in our supermarkets. These things happened because someone saw something, some injustice, and felt strongly that it was wrong – I don’t doubt it made them angry.

Destructive anger is no good – these people could have gone on an anarchic rampage, destroying lives and invoking fear, I guess like the terrorists of today. But, instead, they used their anger as a motivation to do something constructive, to put right the injustices they saw.

So…what makes you angry? What do you see and think, ‘Things shouldn’t be this way’? Everyone is different, and we all have different passions. Follow yours; you never know what you might achieve.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The stuff life is made of.

Life is everywhere.

As I’ve worked on this blog, I’ve sometimes thought it felt like a ‘productivity’ blog. How to do more things, better. I’ve mentioned the Radiohead song, Fitter Happier, and I’ve been conscious of not wanting to sound like that!

In my last post I talked about how there is more to life than simply making enough money to pay the bills. I’ve said a few times to friends recently that life is about experiences – even bad ones. A dead person can’t even have those.

That thought really helped me whilst going through the, pretty stressful, application and interview process for my job last week. I actually found myself sat in the room waiting, feeling pretty nervous and unsure, but thinking I was privileged to be going through it.

‘So, this is what it feels like to be at an interview; this is what it feels like to be facing redundancy; this is what it’s like to have to wait for the outcome.’

Of course, I’d rather not have to do it again. But I have done it; I can sit here and tell people I’ve been through that. I now understand; I can now empathise. And I can add it to that metaphorical list of experiences.

In some ways, I’m even glad to have had such an experience. For these are the things that life is made of.

I think there is great joy to be found in being content with what we have, to enjoy the lives we lead for what they are, whatever they are. Because we won’t pass this way again.

"I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good thing, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow human being let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."
Stephen Grellet, 1773-1855 (French-born Quaker Minister)

Monday, 18 July 2011

Thoughts on redundancy and following your dreams

© Edward Monkton
In the last couple of days, I've learned that I will soon be joining the ranks of those who have been made redundant in recent times. But I'm feeling pretty positive about it, and here’s why…

Last week, I read a blog-post by a guy whose stuff I really love reading. Don Miller talks a lot about telling good stories with our lives, and on this occasion he wrote that, most of the time, the best stories come out of facing our fears. Of course, sometimes it ends in tragedy, and we have to accept that might happen, but the potential gains can be far greater. You can read his post here.

If you or I want to achieve our ambitions, live our dreams, then sitting at a 9-5 desk job, pushing paper or moving numbers around a spreadsheet probably isn’t going to get us far towards it. In fact, it’s likely to have the opposite effect: stifling our creativity as we get more bored and more frustrated with every passing year, becoming regretful and bitter about wasting our lives.

That’s certainly how I would feel anyway. That desk (or checkout, or assembly line, or bus driver’s seat) might be safe, it might offer a certain financial security, but is that what life is all about? Is there nothing more to do than simply make enough money to pay the bills and perhaps enjoy some sort of leisure time, if there’s time, out of hours?

I’m not na├»ve enough to think those bills don’t need paying and I, more than most, understand that very few people can afford to jump out of the ‘plane’ of employed stability. But there are foolish gambles, and then there are acceptable risks.

I’d say that few things in this life are more important than being the person we feel we're supposed to be. Whether you believe in a Creator who designed you for a purpose, or whether you just want to make the most of the brief time you have on this planet, what’s stopping you from chasing after your dreams? Why not make a start on removing whatever those barriers are – today?

Sure, it might take time, especially if money is the main reason you haven’t done it. But if you make a start now, that time will no longer be wasted, however long it takes. We’re fortunate in this country to have luxuries much of the world can only dream of, and I’m particularly mindful of this with the current drought situation in Africa. So let’s not take these luxuries for granted; let’s make the best use of them we can. Perhaps your ‘dream’ might even be to help others less fortunate?

For me, losing the comfort-blanket of secure employment has made me re-focus on going after what I really want to do. Yes, it’s scary, but it’s also exciting. And I can’t wait for the next chapter.

How about you?

‘Even though it’s a long, long way from Hollywood
At least it’s a start, it’s a start.
You can end up places you never thought you could
If you make a start, so just make a start.’ 
‘A Girl Who Loves Her Smoke And Wine’ © 2010



Saturday, 16 July 2011

Work, rest and play?


I’m pretty good at working – not just in my day job, which I do alright at, but at home as well: you might notice I’m always ‘working’ on things like this blog, or my stories and songs.

I’m also pretty good at playing too – I go out with my friends, have fun, watch a movie or engage in some other past-time.

I’m less good at resting; I really struggle to just…stop. When I do, I feel like I’m wasting time: I feel guilty for not doing the other, more productive, things on my list. Consequently, I often have days when I get up, go and do a day’s work, then come home and immediately crack on with some writing, uni work, music or website creation. It can be 10/11 o clock at night before I finally down tools and go to bed.

If you discount meal breaks, that’s easily 12 hours of ‘work’ a day.

Even if I go out of an evening, I’m not really ‘resting’ – it can be a lot of effort to get ready, be sociable (especially on days when I’m not on top form), and if I’m performing at an open mic, then that’s a different sort of ‘work’ as well.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy all these things, very much so. Many of them I class as ‘leisure time’ and I’m very grateful to have the time, ability and privilege to pursue so many different interests. But I do get tired and burn-out for a time every now and then.

Does anyone else struggle with this? How do you deal with the ‘guilt’ of un-productivity? I’m thinking if I organise myself better, manage my time and build in ‘rest’ to my schedule, then I might feel less guilty.

But, again, I’m reminded of songs warning against treating everything like a business-plan. A good friend of mine, John Froud, once sang: ‘I see a world wounded, or should I be blind? Downsize my ambition, better manage my time?’ (John Froud, ‘Finished’. © 2000)

I might not be looking to ‘heal’ the world with much of my work, but it resonates even so…

Thoughts?

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Staying single

I wrote a post a while ago about some of the positives of being single. This one takes it a stage further…

Recently I realised how much time and energy I spend thinking about and actively seeking a relationship. It’s a lot, and I’m not sure if that’s such a good thing: would it be better for me to actively forget about it? Make a deadline and decide to stay single until that point, perhaps till the end of the year?

It’s not that long since I was in the metaphorical hell of broken-heartedness. In the last 6-7 months, I’ve made a complete U-turn depression-wise, turning that pit into a relative ‘high’, or at least a level-plain, thanks to my CBT, medication and an excellent GP who has worked with me through it all to get the right treatment. Maybe it’d be a good idea to take some deliberate time out and enjoy my new level of ‘sanity’, free from the risk of getting knocked down and hurt again.

Of course, being single is not entirely up to me anyway; I’m well aware there’s a good chance I’d remain that way anyway, even if I don’t make the decision to. But this is about how much of my life and thoughts the search takes up.

Most times I go out, it’s with the hope of meeting someone and, so far at least, it’s been pretty much entirely unsuccessful. I’ve remarked a few times now that Saturday night has become my lowest point of the week, when each time I come home having failed to meet anyone who might be interested in me. I do get very lonely, but that could be because I’ve been so focussed on it.

Maybe if I am ‘not looking’, my focus will be on other things – I’ll know I’m not going to meet anyone, so maybe won’t feel so low when I don’t…? I’m sure there’s some logic in that somewhere…

I think I need to allow myself a little disclaimer though: if someone should come along, and it just…happens, then that’s a different matter. I’m not going to stop a relationship happening if it does, I’m just thinking of not actively focussing attention on finding one. Perhaps as a result (at the risk of sounding ominously like a Radiohead song) I’ll have a better, happier, more productive year…

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Want to boost your self-confidence?

Many people, myself included, struggle with low self-esteem from time to time (if not constantly!).

But, I’ve found something that can help…

A couple of years ago I was asked by my manager to read the book ‘Now discover your strengths’ (Buckingham, 2005), and take the quiz that forms part of it. I love those personality questionnaire type things, so I jumped at the chance. Maybe you’ve heard of, or done, a similar exercise – like Myers Briggs or something.

Anyway, as I read the results, I found myself thinking they described me really well. And the good news: it was all positive!

If you feel you’re no good at anything, or you don’t know what your strengths are, or you just want a shot of self-confidence, then I’d recommend this book. I re-read my top five attributes today (printed below, if you’re interested), and it definitely helped me feel a whole lot better about myself, especially since the questions were designed by people who (supposedly) know about these things…

What have you got to lose? (Except the cover-price, obviously…)

Martin Flett - Your Signature Themes

Empathy 

You can sense the emotions of those around you. You can feel what they are feeling as though their feelings are your own. Intuitively, you are able to see the world through their eyes and share their perspective. You do not necessarily agree with each person’s perspective. You do not necessarily feel pity for each person’s predicament—this would be sympathy, not Empathy. You do not necessarily condone the choices each person makes, but you do understand. This instinctive ability to understand is powerful. You hear the unvoiced questions. You anticipate the need. Where others grapple for words, you seem to find the right words and the right tone. You help people find the right phrases to express their feelings—to themselves as well as to others. You help them give voice to their emotional life. For all these reasons other people are drawn to you. 


Intellection 

You like to think. You like mental activity. You like exercising the “muscles” of your brain, stretching them in multiple directions. This need for mental activity may be focused; for example, you may be trying to solve a problem or develop an idea or understand another person’s feelings. The exact focus will depend on your other strengths. On the other hand, this mental activity may very well lack focus. The theme of Intellection does not dictate what you are thinking about; it simply describes that you like to think. You are the kind of person who enjoys your time alone because it is your time for musing and reflection. You are introspective. In a sense you are your own best companion, as you pose yourself questions and try out answers on yourself to see how they sound. This introspection may lead you to a slight sense of discontent as you compare what you are actually doing with all the thoughts and ideas that your mind conceives. Or this introspection may tend toward more pragmatic matters such as the events of the day or a conversation that you plan to have later. Wherever it leads you, this mental hum is one of the constants of your life. 

Input 

You are inquisitive. You collect things. You might collect information—words, facts, books, and quotations—or you might collect tangible objects such as butterflies, baseball cards, porcelain dolls, or sepia photographs. Whatever you collect, you collect it because it interests you. And yours is the kind of mind that finds so many things interesting. The world is exciting precisely because of its infinite variety and complexity. If you read a great deal, it is not necessarily to refine your theories but, rather, to add more information to your archives. If you like to travel, it is because each new location offers novel artifacts and facts. These can be acquired and then stored away. Why are they worth storing? At the time of storing it is often hard to say exactly when or why you might need them, but who knows when they might become useful? With all those possible uses in mind, you really don’t feel comfortable throwing anything away. So you keep acquiring and compiling and filing stuff away. It’s interesting. It keeps your mind fresh. And perhaps one day some of it will prove valuable. 

Adaptability 

You live in the moment. You don’t see the future as a fixed destination. Instead, you see it as a place that you create out of the choices that you make right now. And so you discover your future one choice at a time. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have plans. You probably do. But this theme of Adaptability does enable you to respond willingly to the demands of the moment even if they pull you away from your plans. Unlike some, you don’t resent sudden requests or unforeseen detours. You expect them. They are inevitable. Indeed, on some level you actually look forward to them. You are, at heart, a very flexible person who can stay productive when the demands of work are pulling you in many different directions at once. 

Connectedness 

Things happen for a reason. You are sure of it. You are sure of it because in your soul you know that we are all connected. Yes, we are individuals, responsible for our own judgments and in possession of our own free will, but nonetheless we are part of something larger. Some may call it the collective unconscious. Others may label it spirit or life force. But whatever your word of choice, you gain confidence from knowing that we are not isolated from one another or from the earth and the life on it. This feeling of Connectedness implies certain responsibilities. If we are all part of a larger picture, then we must not harm others because we will be harming ourselves. We must not exploit because we will be exploiting ourselves. Your awareness of these responsibilities creates your value system. You are considerate, caring, and accepting. Certain of the unity of humankind, you are a bridge builder for people of different cultures. Sensitive to the invisible hand, you can give others comfort that there is a purpose beyond our humdrum lives. The exact articles of your faith will depend on your upbringing and your culture, but your faith is strong. It sustains you and your close friends in the face of life’s mysteries. 

Monday, 4 July 2011

Personal seasons

It's brighter, it's sunnier...so cheer up?
I seem to have a predisposal towards hibernating at the wrong time of year.

For a couple of years I’ve thought that, in the Summer, I tend to feel less sociable, and more like staying in on my own to get on with stuff. My friends, on the other hand, tend to start going out more once the brighter months are upon us, whilst I’ve spent all Winter trying to find people to socialise with when they were ‘hibernating’!

I don’t want to over-dramatise this though, because it could simply be that I’m in a bit more of a ‘down’ period. There are some very valid reasons for this, that I’m mostly dealing with ok, considering. Or it could be that my personal ‘season’ is changing – for years I’ve been aware of a sort of 9 month cycle of Depression, where I’ll have 9 months of feeling ok, and then some-number-of-months feeling less so. Admittedly it’s not 9 months since my last ‘episode’ ended, but there were mitigating circumstances for that, and, actually, it may well be around 9 months since my last one began…

But anyway, I just wondered if anyone else experiences a backward-seasonal change? Or if you’re aware of your own personal ‘seasons’? 

And, apologies for the lack of real substance to some of my posts recently; I’m blaming the ‘weather’. 

I’ll try and get back on it soon…

Thursday, 30 June 2011

What were you born to do?

Ok, so it's my album artwork. Cheap plug, I know, but it
felt appropriate too!

Today I thought I’d write about discovering what you were ‘born to do’, because more and more I feel like I’ve found the thing for me and I wanted to celebrate that, and encourage you lot to find your ‘thing’!

Recently I’ve been struck by a big brick…(no, hang on, that’s not right…) I’ve been struck by how powerful words can be, particularly when written down. So many times people get worked up, positively and negatively, about something they’ve read – be it a news story or a best-selling novel, or even just a Facebook status/Tweet. I keep being fascinated by the level of impact words can have, and I am increasingly desperate to be a part of it.

I am quite deliberate (ok, very deliberate) about the words I choose to write down, usually making sure what I say is actually what I want to say. I try to consider what other people might think of what I’m writing, and perhaps change the wording if I feel it could be misconstrued. Some might call it OCD.

But, in spite of my considerable effort, people still sometimes misunderstand me, or maybe project their own thoughts and feelings onto my statements. It used to annoy me, but now I just find it, well, interesting. I think the right word for this is semantics – the study of meaning in relation to words, phrases etc. And I love it!

As well as these things, I have a bit of a penchant for making things up (not in a lying type of way, more in a fantastical sense), and wondering ‘what if’. Some might call it day-dreaming, but it translates in my mind to writing stories. I’m forever coming up with ideas for characters or plotlines (many of which are fairly ridiculous and not appropriate for mass-consumption!)…my problem is actually seeing them through to completion. But all careers have drawbacks and, as my good friend reminded me the other day, writing is a discipline, thus it requires practice and effort. There are times when it’s still ‘work’.

For me, though, it is so rewarding and well worth the effort.

So, here I am: 30 years old, and I finally know what I want to do – and more than that: in a sense, it’s what I need to do, in order to be ‘me’.

To link it a little with the purpose of this blog, perhaps in discovering and doing what I was ‘born to do’, I can find more relief from Depression as I find pleasure, satisfaction and worth in my ‘work’.

What about you?

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Being honest today...

Looking for sunshine on a dark day...

Some days you’re just too tired to be positive.

Various thoughts going round my head today, and very few of them helpful.

When I started this blog, I said I might document some of the struggles as well as the things that help me, and so this is what you get today…

I guess my question is: what do you do on the days when you just can’t find the gumption to think/do the things that might help?

(And, just to rule out one obvious solution, even vegging out with chocolate and a movie (or some other, less girlie, option) wouldn’t help tonight, since one of the things getting me down is my lack of productivity tonight…)

Answers in comments (or, if you really must, on a postcard) please…

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Ghost-busting and fire-fighting: dealing with the past.

Sometimes the past creeps up on us, taking us by surprise with something we maybe thought we’d forgotten about. It could be a painful memory, or a relationship we thought we were ‘over’ but discover we’re not really.

It could knock us down for a while, if we let it.

The past can also shape our future, as we react to things differently because of previous experience. We see it all the time – for example, if a child touches something hot once, they’re unlikely to do it again! (Not that I’m advocating allowing a kid to play with fire!)

This kind of thing happens to me sometimes – I get so hurt by something that the temptation is to close myself off, stop taking risks, play life safe so as to prevent further hurt and upset.

But, there are ways to ‘play with fire’ that can be amazing – enjoyable for everyone and, with the right training, perfectly safe. I’ve seen many fantastic fireworks’ displays, for example!

And so, I want to get, and apply, the right training so I can take ‘risks’, in love, in life, in creating my future, without having to fear periods of full-on brokenness and unbearable negative emotion as I have in the past.

I’m not there yet, and some things jump out of the proverbial cupboard to haunt me, taking all my reserves and ‘training’ so far for me to remain on a relatively level emotion plain. Such a thing happened just in the last couple of days, prompting this blog post.

But the good news is that I am, at least, 
ok. I got up in the morning, focussed on some of the many positive things going on in my life, made progress on a couple of my projects and, whilst I still feel a little 'shaky'  suddenly life seems less scary, the future more hopeful.

Here’s one of my favourite songs (although, technically he doesn’t ‘sing’ the lyrics) about this subject from Money Can’t Buy Music , a project by the frontman of one of my favourite bands, Ballboy:



 Don’t let ghosts of the past ruin the rest of life. After all, ghosts are already dead and, if we survived them when they were ‘alive’, surely we can deal with their pale reflection in our minds…