Friday, 27 May 2016

It's almost everything I need

I worked head-down to finish the first novel of my time here. It was one that I liked, and it has merit, but it wasn't the one that I came here to write.

So now I'm trying, with the time that's slipping away here, to write the one that I've been failing to do for a couple of years. It's almost painful. No, it is painful. There's nothing that flies off the page about it. It never really moves by itself at all. I am shoving with my shoulder braced against it, and the full weight of my pushing-self pressing into it. I feel it pressing back. Pressing down on me. This is the last time I'll try to make this book work.

I've pulled together all of the separate segments I had, and typed them up together, which brings me to about a third of the way through the book. I had a brainwave about the ways that the storylines need to be connected together, and I've put that in, but now everything hangs in the balance of me figuring out the details of that connection, and making it work. I feel like I'm trying to chip off wall-paint with my fingernails. I'm revealing tiny little details bit by bit, and it takes a huge amount of work in order to be able to see any progress. And it fucking hurts.

This song feels right to me today:

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Pretty soon now, I won't come around

I've started a new blog - just temporarily, and with a specific purpose that has nothing to do with this one. But, that new blog made me think of this old one, which stays here limping along, mostly being updated when I need a hole to scream into.

I love this blog - love being able to look back on it at all the things that have changed for me over the years that I've kept it....almost seven years apparently, though I know that I've been very poor at doing it for the most recent couple of them.

The Beautiful Girl was asking me to update this recently, but I think that sometimes I feel that this is a space I turn to when I want to work through a problem I'm having. Usually, not a personal one, as that would go into my paper journal. It's often a creative one...or a lack-of-creative-powers one. And I guess that lately I've been far more successful at keeping my work on the page, and getting my writing done in a dedicated manner.

I've been having a break from writing for a bit though - trying to gear up to start a new project...or rather, to restart a project that I've been trying and failing at for a while. So, perhaps that's why I'm in the mood to blog. Hopefully, from next week I'll be going at it without pause. I'm leaving the internet and other distractions behind to head into the Italian hills.

Mostly, it's scary, because if I can't write there, then there are no excuses - no complaints about lack of time or space to think. There's only me to blame. I hope that doesn't happen.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Joan Didion

It's been so long since I wrote here that really I ought to be coming back with more to say.

Instead though, I am just coming to deposit this little gem from Joan Didion:

"Novels are like paintings, specifically watercolors. Every stroke you put down you have to go with. Of course you can rewrite, but the original strokes are still there in the texture of the thing."

From another wonderful Paris Review interview. Love those interviews!

I'm two more work days away from having several months off to write. I absolutely cannot wait!

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Whole years

Isn't it strange to think of the way that we reflect back on things. I was skyping with a friend last week - she was talking about the years it can take to write and publish a good book. That it's normal for this process to be slow. I think that she was being generous to lump me in as an element of this process, but still, it got me thinking. Often, when I hear about writing (or other creative and unplannable pursuits like comedy or drama), people talk about the times when things weren't working - sum them up in a sentence or two. But they were whole years of a person's life. Those's hard to know what they are when you're in them, and whether they're all you're ever going to get.

Also, I just started to read Bodily Harm by Margaret Atwood. It's so good that almost every page is getting lipped up - both the style and the substance are good. That is so rare, and so wonderful.

This is the cover of the edition I'm reading:

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Just a place to park this

Nothing more today than something I want to be able to find easily in future:

“The ones who are not soul-mated – the ones who have settled – are even more dismissive of my singleness: It’s not that hard to find someone to marry, they say. No relationship is perfect, they say – they, who make do with dutiful sex and gassy bedtime rituals, who settle for TV as conversation, who believe that husbandly capitulation – yes, honey, okay, honey – is the same as concord. He’s doing what you tell him to do because he doesn’t care enough to argue, I think. Your petty demands simply make him feel superior, or resentful, and someday he will fuck his pretty, young coworker who asks nothing of him, and you will actually be shocked.

Give me a man with a little fight in him, a man who calls me on my bullshit. (But who also kind of likes my bullshit.) And yet: Don’t land me in one of those relationships where we’re always pecking at each other, disguising insults as jokes, rolling our eyes and ‘playfully’ scrapping in front of our friends, hoping to lure them to our side of an argument they could not care less about. Those awful if only relationships: This marriage would be great if only… and you sense the if only list is a lot longer than either of them realizes.

So I know I am right not to settle, but it doesn’t make me feel better as my friends pair off and I stay home on Friday night with a bottle of wine and make myself an extravagant meal and tell myself, This is perfect, as if I’m the one dating me. As I go to endless rounds of parties and bar nights, perfumed and sprayed and hopeful, rotating myself around the room like some dubious dessert. I go on dates with men who are nice and good-looking and smart – perfect-on-paper men who make me feel like I’m in a foreign land, trying to explain myself, trying to make myself known. Because isn’t that the point of every relationship: to be known by someone else, to be understood? He gets me. She gets me. Isn’t that the simple magic phrase?

So you suffer through the night with the perfect-on-paper man – the stutter of jokes misunderstood, the witty remarks lobbed and missed. Or maybe he understands that you’ve made a witty remark but, unsure of what to do with it, he holds it in his hand like some bit of conversational phlegm he will wipe away later. You spend another hour trying to find each other, to recognise each other, and you drink a little too much and try a little too hard. And you go home to a cold bed and think, That was fine. And your life is a long line of fine.”

(Gone Girl)

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

I wish I knew how to describe this feeling

I've tried to put it together in my mind, but nothing quite covers it. Here's a list of some things that go into the mix, but the quantities shift and roil like an ocean of sand:

  • Infinity - a yawning gape at the centre of my chest that both sucks in and spews out all of the possibilities related to everything in my life. It's far far too much to look at closely. I don't really know what it contains.
  • Constriction 1 - a physical pressing in of my body from the air around it; from the walls of the room; from the light; from the darkness.
  • Constriction 2 - a feeling of inflexibility in my mind; dark tunnels railroad my thoughts down the same dead-ends over and over again.
  • Inaction - I can see all of the things that I need to be doing right now. I know how easy it would be to do them. I do not do them.
  • Weight - movements both in my body and in my mind are heavy beyond belief.

Don't worry, I am aware of what these things add up to. I am not ignoring them and hoping that they will go away. I am trying to seek out glimpses of a route away from this. Those flickers of light will come, they will. I can wait for them. I just wish I wasn't always waiting for them alone....though who could sit here with me through feelings like this?

Friday, 13 June 2014

I do not want to write

Usually I can get a few lines in my head that I think sound good. I write them down. And then I can carry that on for perhaps a page...all the while thinking 'ok, this is going ok.' Then if I lift my head up out of that immediate world, even just for a moment, and I realise that what I'm doing is just terrible and pointless. Even if I could perfectly capture a scene in some way, or convey a particular feeling...what's the point? What's the objective of the exercise?

I often have this feeling in me of wanting to write. But I know that it will spiral into that wondering about the essential pointlessness of the activity. And so it's easier not to start at all.

I know I'm not the first one to wonder about this. It's not even the first time I've wondered about this. But right now the feeling is so strong. It's entirely possible that the entire driving force behind my own persistence with writing is the worry that if I can't do it then my life really doesn't have anything in it. I don't want kids or a husband. I don't want a career. So what? I just drift aimlessly and accept that in all probability my writing isn't that good at all and even if it was good then I still wouldn't be able to come up with a reason why it would be useful to show it to other people.

It's easier to just go to the gym and watch TV and work and sleep and try to do anything but think about these things. And yet....while I do those things, some deeply burried nerves are plucked like taught violin strings. They itch, but there's no surface on my body that can be scratched to calm them. Do something. Do something. Do something. That's all the plucking brings in terms of tune. Do something.

But what?

Saturday, 15 February 2014

One minute to midnight here, and I am neither asleep nor awake

Just feeling sort of aimlessly creative at the moment. Really, I want to reach over the side of my bed to get my writing folder out of my bag. But I feel fairly certain that anything as concrete as a piece of blank paper and a pen will shrivel this urge. I can't even bring myself to open Word.

Here, things feel sort of temporary. Well, not quite that, but there's no pressure here to fit into any particular format. It doesn't matter if something is fact, fiction, letter, fact, most of the time I'm writing this with just my own self and the Beautiful Girl in mind as possible readers.

I just want to write, or to express something. I keep feeling snippets of something forming in the back of my mind. I can't catch onto anything, but there's something there. I'm sort of sad when I think about the fact that it's been years since I last woke up in the night and HAD to write something down. I used to sleep with a pen and paper in my bed just for that reason. These days, if I wake up in the night, I'm usually worrying about work, or remembering some errand that needs doing.

I'm more sensible that I think I'd like to be right now. Really, I'm in a mood to stay up all night, but I won't. I have a long day tomorrow. I need to be up early and have my brain in gear. But, oh how I long for that 4am feeling! It's both wonderful and terrible. It's bleak and lonely, but empowering. I alone would be awake then (or so it would feel), and my mind would be stretched thin: tight like a hair about to snap between fingertips. There is a feeling then of being right at the edge of something. Of pressing up against another way of existing and understanding.

When I was travelling just last year, I stayed up late sometimes reading and writing. It was wonderful. There's no real reason why I couldn't still do it. But I am feeling old, and hating the idea of being tired all tomorrow. Of coming back from work and crashing instead of doing something productive. Is this sensible or sad? My eyes are feeling heavy now, even though my brain is wiry and darting between ideas 'like a puppy loosed from its leash'.

Friday, 14 February 2014

You went into the kitchen cupboard, got yourself another hour, and you gave half of it to me

That's exactly what I'm listening to right now. My mouth is still sticky with peanut butter, and the crumbs of rice cakes are spread through my bed. My hands are cold right up to the wrist, and I can feel a draft seeping in to the room and over my shoulder. I wish there was heating here...anywhere here in this whole town. The air smells of woodsmoke from the pot of lapsang on my bedside table, and I can almost believe that there's a fire in another room nearby.

I opened up this page about an hour ago, feeling that I'd write something big. Some sort of overview or evaluation of the state of things. But I've just wasted today by pottering online, and everything feels so very small now. And anyway, the big things in my life are just a bit too big to look at without the bottom of my stomach falling away in fear at the immensity of it all.

Mostly though, I'm just feeling ok. I've spent some time on various blog posts about body image related things, and I realise that I probably feel better about myself than I've ever managed to in the past. That's nice....not in an earth-shattering way. It's just crept upon me as a nice thing that exists in my mind.

I also think I feel more secure about most things. My friends at work are 22 and 23, and every time I talk with them, I know for sure that I'd rather be 29 than go back to all of that uncertainty, and that sense of barely being able to grasp at a sense of your own wants and needs.

I'm reading the Beautiful Girl's blog, and wishing there was more. Wishing I could spend a day burried inside her thoughts and ideas. But that understatement is so her that I still feel strongly connected even by those few scraps of sentences.

One admission: this week, I have become afraid of writing again. I am back in the place where I prefer to dream of my untapped potential than sit for hours on end and look at the rubbish that comes out of my pen. I am using any excuse to avoid putting that pen to paper.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

I deleted the first version of this post...

...I worry that I recognise too much of myself in Hannah in Girls.....but mostly that's when I'm watching it....the rest of the time I can put that out of my mind....but when I'm faced with her I get this awful sense of connection with her.

I'm just rambling, but only to distract myself from the idea that my life being is some sort of horribly intangible way.

I think I'm ready to start planning to move on....I've not been here long, but I feel uncomfortable with the settled-feeling here.

Can't move forever then what?

This is an annoying post....I thought it would help to write, but I'm too unfocussed.

Monday, 23 September 2013

And I

And I suppose as always I've come here to complain - to peer with giant eyes at all the ways my life is not 'more'.

I think that this feeling has a cause - it's crept up on me slowly, but it's been building for a while. There is no way to pinpoint its origin though, as so many variables were altered at the same time.

I've stopped meditating. My writing is going badly. There is less newness about my current experience. Work is busy. I'm not socialising much. I'm not doing much of anything outside of work. I'm feeling disconnected from my friends. I'm brooding over the mental list of things I have to do instead of actually getting them done.

I believe that one of these may be the root cause of all the others. But which one...........?

Sunday, 11 August 2013


I keep meaning to update this.....but it's like when you get a letter from someone and you intend to reply when you have the proper time to do it justice, and then you put it off for so long that it feels worse to reply at all and acknowledge the delay than to just ignore the whole situation, even though you feel awful for doing so.

But then the Beautiful Girl has started a new blog, and it's so good to see her writing again, and to feel the closeness of her through that. So I'm going to give this a go, and see what I want to get out of it.

I don't want to get too involved with this, because I'm being so productive with my fiction writing. But I just looked back through my old posts and loved being able to see my past so clearly. I don't want to miss out on that for this time in my life.

Just to start with, here's a random selection of recent photos:

 Starting my travels in Hong Kong
 Malaysia with my little brother
 Batik class in Malaysia
 Scary bat cave that I crawled through in Malaysia
 Lovely street art in Malaysia
Back in Hong Kong

Now I'm here in Hong Kong for at least a year. Hopefully I'll be posting more about my life here.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Youth Summary Launched

My brief foray back into editing has resulted in this fantastic Youth Summary of a recent UNESCO report:

It's made up of real images and stories from young people all around the world, putting their own perspectives back into the subject of Youth, Skills and Work.

The process of getting this together was a lot of hard work in a very short time frame. I'm still recovering from that, and my mind is taken up with all of the editorial side of things. But I know that I'll be able to look back on this and see something I'm incredibly proud to have been part of.

What I'm reading, and nothing more

I just want to make a note about the book I'm reading at the moment:

I'm really loving Diana Athill. In a sort of selfish way, I think. It's the way that she makes me feel better about my faults. She opens the book discussing why it is that she can't do some things - she's not sure if it's that she can't or won't, but regardless, she's incapable of doing things she doesn't want to do. It's nice to not be alone in that...though obviously, she managed to get into publishing several decades before I did, when it was seemingly quite interesting and she was afforded the opportunity to be engaged by it. I had no such luck, and came in at the business end of the whole sorry enterprise, way after books became nothing more than another commodity. So, yes, still alone, but only by an accident of history that had me born a good 70 years too late.

It's too far in the evening and the big glass of alcohol for me to be even trying to make it any clearer than that. You should read the book really. Also, it is incredibly funny! Literally laught-out-loud-on-the-bus-even-though-strangers-stare funny.

My absolute favourite part is where she describes something foolish, and then leaves a line of empty space on either side of:

This space represents a tactful silence.

There is nothing not to love about that.

Friday, 19 October 2012

My Former Me

I got an urge to do something this evening. I started messing with my camera...then I kept going.

This is the result:

(music: First Aid Kit - Blue)

Monday, 15 October 2012

Photos, many, many photos

I've been really busy with the project I'm working on at the moment. I think I throw myself into things a little too completely sometimes, I can entirely lose any other aspects of myself. This weekend I've purposefully taken two whole days off - the first time I've done that since I started this thing I think. It's actually allowed me to regain a big chunk of myself - I read the paper, wrote a little, sorted my photos, played with my camera...all of those things I had completely failed to even think about for far too long.

I'll still be busy here for a little while. But these couple of days have reminded me that I have so much else I'm interested in, and I need to make time for all of that soon.

Here are a few photos from today's Great Camera Clean Up (the bulk of my entire last year's photos were on it - 2500+):

This is actually taken today. I've been playing with camera settings, and as always I love the light blur.

This is trees taken through the grass. I tried this a few times, it's a nice effect, but I want to see what else can be done with it.

Best pig ever.

I was trapped by these cows - the whole herd charged across the field to where I was walking, and the cows were fighting over the gigantic bull. I took lots of photos but discovered that cows are not very photogenic. They pulled a lot of faintly unhappy faces.

This was the blossom outside of the tree-house compost loo. How I miss that place!!

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Long time no see

I don't know why.....there aren't really enough good reasons, but anyway...I've been gone a long time, but now I'm least for today.

I'm feeling really disconnected - or it's more that I'm incredibly up and down on that front. I can't get to a place where I feel great about what I'm doing.

It's not about the job specifically, the project I'm working on is great, and bureaucratic messing about aside, it's actually going remarkably well. I think that I'm more bogged down in a sense that I'm missing some things that I need. I don't really know what, but I'm feeling sort of empty at the moment. As though I'm going through the motions of having a life, but I'm not in a place where I can really build on anything.

And now here I am moaning about that, which is also unproductive. But that's just the way I feel...Things are just too heavy at the moment for me to do anything more than bear the load.

Maybe I'll try and post again when I'm in a better mood so I can share the good things that are going on.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Campfire and Art

We had a campfire at the farm this weekend. There was a really beautiful collection of sculptures that were errected around the fire - they were huge mirrored pieces. Some teapots and farm animals - they were beautiful.

I'm really in love with light at night at the moment - the trails and delays of it - the paths it creates.

I've also made a video for the farm. I'm supposed to be doing one a month, but there's been a bit of a delay in getting started. Here's the first one:

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

199 posts, that's a good number

199 feels better than 200, I'm glad I've got this far, it's much further than I've ever gone with any paper diary.

I'm in London today, ostensibly here to go to a talk on European Lit at the British Library, but the trip has expanded to be a great day of culture which will hopefully make up for what I miss by living in the countryside. I wouldn't want to undo my rural experience at all, it's inspired so many interesting thoughts and ideas (which I will hopefully expand upon here at some point), but it does cut me off from lots of things that I really love.

Today will be art, great bookshops, inspiring talks and lovely cakes. I will post all about it later I presume, or not - consistency on this stuff is not my strong point.

At the moment, I am reading A Supposedly Good Thing I'll Never Do Again, which I thought I would save as a treat for myself, given that I only just finished Consider the Lobster, but it was calling to me:

(Sadly, I don't have this edition. I wish I did)

It's really good, there's nothing more I really need to say. You'd be a fool not to read it, but it's not for me to prevent you being foolish.

Here is a secret that only one real-life person knows (it is only a secret because I don't want people asking me about it): I am writing a novel. It's just a writing exercise - sort of to see if this is something that it's possible for me to do. I think that once I've got over the question of whether this lies within my grasp, then I will be able to focus on making something that is the novel I want to write.This one is just composed of what comes into my head at the rate of 300 words a day. It is surprising how it's taking a direction I never would have predicted, each day brings something unexpected, often completely at odds with what I had previously planned. I'm really enjoying it.

I think that's all for today. There are three 50-something men in suits at the table next to me having really boring conversations that make me so glad I don't have a real grown-up job where people have all-day meetings about sales-forecasts and delivery-projections. I want to leave to get away from them.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Too Tired Really

Too tired by half, but I'm here in the room with the internet for once, so I thought I owed it to the blog to stop by. I have a LoveFilm trial and got unlimited streaming for a couple of months, hence the internet connection (and the new-found love of Cougar Town).

I don't have any new photos to share, partly because I've not downloaded from my camera in a while and partly (mostly) because I haven't taken many recently. Not really sure what I've been doing for the past couple of weeks - not really got into a book properly (just dipping in and out of a few), not taken photos....I have completed a cross-stitch flower from a kit a friend brought me, but that's probably the only constructive thing. Think I may make this one next (from Subversive Stitch):

By utter coincidence, I came across this quote just as I finished writing that bit about procrastinating and writing:

"One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment." Hart Crane

I should be doing more. Today at lunch I considered writing something (fiction I mean), but leapt away from the idea as soon as I realised I urgently needed to write a letter (since when has a letter been urgent? Certainly not at all since the invention of the internet, or even the phone really, but this one seemed necessary).

I have a secret - I should be writing non-fiction. I know it, and I have been told it in the past, but it isn't enough for me. In fact I actively avoid it, even though I would be good at it. Even though the news of a friends PhD place makes me yearn for detailed research and complex arguments. I am avoiding it. I am avoiding all things that might seem sensible but don't feel right. I think that's OK, I think that it will turn out alright for me...well, in some way, in some sense of alright that may only make sense with a very long-lens sort of hindsight.

This week I saw a duckling and a gosling hatch, so I'm pretty certain everything is fine.