Coffee Shop Struggles

Fallow. Regenerative. Maturing. Observant. Mining.

This was how I rationalised my quiet 3 months as I contemplated structure and direction. So I went back to the Internet and did a course. It’s a writing course. Why? Because I wanted to bring some order and structure to my chaotic and random thoughts. I did it to punish myself for not writing…like going back to school.

I have done this now. It’s finished. Completed. I’ve sort of enjoyed doing this and I would recommend any other chaotic soul to do something to break out of the comfort of not writing.

I’m using a 15 stage story formula to organise my characters into a series of actions that are coherent and understandable. I am intertwining the story with a weave of dialogue and scenery that brings the story to life.

I shall do this for a while longer to see if it actually liberates my realistic but dystopian world or whether it strangles the whole thing into a stage of dry realism without any kind of passion or adventure.

Mint tea with honey and my laptop…we can take on anything.

Life At The Margins

Life only exists at the margins; we go to the centre to die inside.

Yesterday, I had a thought. At the time I thought it was just another one of those fleeting thoughts, a small inspired notion, a flash that would burn away quickly and die. Gone forever. It’s a daily occurrence.

But yesterday, when the thought had lodged itself deep in the recesses of my brain I had the urge to write it down on a Post It note. I have around fifty of these notes stuck to various surfaces on my desk. Some flat on the desktop and some in front of me stuck to the monitor. yesterday’s note is front and centre on the monitor.

I’ve been held at gunpoint. I’ve had several motorbikes (the last one could do 200+ mph). I’ve flown a plane. I’ve been at the helm of a Volvo racing yacht in a force 9 gale and I’ve driven a single-seater racing car. I have known life at the edges and what it feels like to be grateful for being alive.

It was at the extremes where I felt the most single minded. I felt focused on the moment. I felt calm and peaceful when all around me wanted me dead if I failed. I was alive on the edge of life and living on the edge of reasonableness.

George Bernard Shaw once said that ALL change must come through unreasonableness (The Reasonable Man) and this change happens within. If we spend our lives being reasonable and living life at the safe soft centre, then we will never change, we will never grow, we will never experience the state of otherness.

“So these instructions were carried out. Two cows were hitched to the cart, and their newborn calves were shut up in a pen. Then the Ark of the Lord and the chest containing the gold rats and gold tumours were placed on the cart. And sure enough, without veering off in other directions, the cows went straight along the road toward Beth-shemesh, lowing as they went.”

I grew up on a farm and anyone that knows cows knows not to get between a mother and her newborn calf…in this story, the cows responded to a calling far greater than from their own newborn calves. They were at the limit of their instinct. They went beyond their own understanding. They pushed beyond their fear and insecurity to fulfil their destiny.

It’s up to you. Choose a life being either reasonable or unreasonable. Choose to live on the edge or exist at the centre. Both are ok…both are a choice.

Life only exists at the margins; we go to the centre to die inside.

It’s just a thought.

Photo by Joshua Newton on Unsplash

There’s Two Of Me

The Carapace Child

Putting on yesterday’s trousers, shirt, jumper and socks, the room smells musky and dark. It’s massive and silent. The sun casting early morning rays across the dewy reeds in our meadow. I could see the rear face of the mill fortress forbidding, unwelcoming and derelict. My house was silent except for the old kitchen boiler firing up and the pipes signalling their participation. I had my pocket knife and a small set of hand tools. Shall I take matches? No, I won’t need them today.

It was going to be another good day.

I walked out of the shaded kitchen door covering the twenty paces, to the slippery stone path, in a matter of seconds. Silently and stealthily moving before anyone else had stirred. Moss clung to the dripping rocks ranging upwards against the high bank of the river. Towering above me they climbed upwards towards the hills above. In the valley below, the stream was terraced to form naturally gliding silky weirs. Trees hovering silently over the water’s edge. Reeds standing defiant against the flow. This dark, forbidding theatre and nature’s silent players, playing their scenes to an audience of deserted farmhouse windows below.

Climbing the bank at the last river bend and sheltering in the soil cave above it, I could look back down and see the house where they all were. I hid here, I felt good here, I was in my own world. Alone but never lonely, my world came to life and the players were all in place.

It didn’t matter that I wasn’t missed. It was no concern of mine what they all thought of me. I couldn’t change the way my mother looked at me. The unwanted child of a loveless fling. I didn’t miss being loved, I just didn’t know how it felt to be loved. What was I supposed to do to make her care for me? I wasn’t seen, no, I was unseeable. If she looked at me then she would surely turn to stone. She was stone. The small seven-year-old child that had nothing within him that could please the narcissist woman I called mom. And while she lays still in her grave, the child still lives within me.

The Plastron Adult

I care passionately about many things but I don’t care that much about most things. I’ve no interest in stuff other than the few bits of stuff that I like. That’s generally just my stuff. A handful of things dear to me. I have no interest in flashy cars or designer labels. I’m loyal to the very few obscure brands that blend with my blended lifestyle. I work to live. I’ve been very good at what I do. I’m a good person, kind thoughtful and loving. These are some of the positive things that people have said to me. Things only they can see.

As a young and angry adolescent, I had five fights. Five confrontations that I didn’t start but I won them all. As a sportsperson, I saw my opponent as an enemy to be beaten. When driving my cars or riding my motorbikes I was aggressive and territorial. During my time working in Camp America, the mess sergeant (ex-Marine) identified me as the ‘queen bee’ of our small group. I was always team captain and when we played, we won more than we lost.

Then I grew up. I replaced anger with determination. I replaced aggression with motivation. I fought inequality for the downtrodden and I competed against inequality so that those around me could express themselves. To be the best they can. To stand a chance.

As I aged, I became soft and gentle, loving and kind. I like this version of me. Others like this version of me. I live without stress, anxiety or insecurity. This person, this new person, was born out of great people bringing out the softer more feminine side of me. I consider myself a third stage person. I am also feminine and someone that loves a full range of emotions and feelings. I embrace all feelings and learn from each of them.

I’m still curious, optimistic and interested in what life has to offer.

Photo by Hans Eiskonen on Unsplash

Thoughts – Before We Had Language

Walking on Derbyshire’s great Chatsworth and Haddon estates today I came across signs of a small neolithic settlement. Stone outcrops marked by the hand of ancient beings in a way to communicate the messages, instructions, directives or directions to others.

It made me wonder when language started and why. How did we communicate before language? What did we have to say to each other? Was language born as a result of a more complex way of living? Has language made us lazy? Do the words we use to arrange our thoughts into manageable chunks remove the gift of intuitive conversation by worldless nuances and gestures?

But my most lingering thought was how did we think before we had language? What was in our head before we used the structure of language?

In terms of writing a book, maybe it’s not such a big question. That is until we start to think about the way people use language. The way we ‘see’ language as we use it to translate our actions and deeds towards them.

Moving along the evolutional scale from swamp to swank we must have started to think rather than react instinctively. A nod or shake of the head, universal signs and signals. When a smile didn’t have a name, how did they know whether it was a warm and inviting gesture or a baring-of-teeth hostile warning?

Writers use language to provide an invitation to their reader. Once invited, the reader then decides at which level they want to participate in the story. Some writers peel away the layers for the reader to ‘see’ their intentions. Others draw you in and make readers work things out for themselves.

The proposition is laid out, the protagonists and antagonists introduced, its premise is founded and the first defining events set the story in motion. All of this is contained within one great monolith, the novel. Good writers make you think in your own language and through your own experiences. Great writers change everything.

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

Deference – a Tribute

I looked up details of an obscure screening of the movie Hedwig and the Angry Inch this week. It sounds bizarre and is probably something I will go and see. I don’t usually read the blurb about movies because I always think that my opinion of it is better than theirs. That’s because all creativity is about personal meaning to the observer.

The thing that really struck me in the blurb that accompanied this listing was how it subtly challenged me to go and see the film. Every blurb needs to have a catchy hook, some fascinator that draws you in and intrigues you. This one nailed it for me.

“See John Cameron Mitchell’s underground queer rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch as you’ve never experienced it before. Hosted by queer trans icon Grace Oni Smith performing as the internationally ignored songstress herself…”

“The internationally ignored”

Now, this struck a real chord with me. It was self deprecating, self effacing and humble. There was something visceral that happened as I read it. I immediately fell for the charm of these words. They made me feel a genuine sense of warmth towards the film (not Hedwig or The Angry Inch).

There is something very powerful about humility and something very subtle about how it is used. Here they used it as a deferential appeal to subordinate the film, its characters and its promoters to me, the viewer. This has the effect of setting me above them. I’m now fully engaged and made powerful.

Used sparingly and in the right moment, self deprecation can be a powerful tool to win over your audience. Humility is always greeted with compassion, deference with respect. This is called engagement. We are now in a relationship and I respect your views.

I truly believe that my opinion of any movie, book or art is as valid as anyone else. By putting me at the head of opinions and validating my authority over these views, the writer has made me want to test the efficacy of their blurb by inviting me to form an opinion. Only by going to watch the movie and forming my these opinions, on why Hedwig remains internationally ignored, will I exercise my authority over all opinions.

Photo by Jeremy Yap on Unsplash

Somewhere Otherness


The process of writing is a process of leaving the place where I am looking from and occupying the space I’m looking into.

When I enter my writing zone I leave everything else behind and move to somewhere new. Somewhere that is vaguely familiar but I’m not really there. I have receded and the writer steps forward to shine a light onto a new place for me. It’s as though the writer holds my hand as I take each reverent step onto somewhere otherworldly.

Earlier today I was discussing the art of writing and it made me reflect upon what I wanted when I read a book or saw a play or film. I wanted to be taken to new places and shown new things.

I couldn’t read a book about my life because I have seen and experienced all there is to see there. I want to be led somewhere new, somewhere I haven’t been before, even somewhere I couldn’t have imagined. I want to be surprised, shocked.

I want my writing to take people away to a place where they discover more about themselves as they navigate a pathway through their own thoughts when reading my pages. I want people to leave behind the all knowing self and discover a part of themselves they didn’t know existed. As if they were meeting a version 2.0 of their own self for the very first time.

So, do I take them by the hand and show them somewhere new? Do I take them to each vista and step aside? Or do I whisper gently into their souls in order that they see the void and wait for the mist to clear?

Maybe this is what I will do, create a sense of otherness as they leave themselves behind.

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