Of Meddle, Of Genuine Joy, Of Crushing Embarrassment

I’m 3/4 of the way through my final edit (although I know myself well enough that there will be at least two more edits before it’s done) and at last, 217 pages into my tale, I can see in my writing that I am having more fun than anyone ought to have with their own story. The point at which I fall massively in love with everything and everyone I’m writing about, for better or worse, is disturbingly clear to me. Perhaps that’s where the book should start, but if I hadn’t set out the everything beforehand I don’t know how much of who everyone is and wtf has happened would make any sense. Anyway, the point is, it’s as much like looking at a photograph of my happy smiling face as anything that isn’t doing that could be. It’s a curious experience for me.

We held the Meddle thing this week. It was one of the most intense, crushing, invigorating, frustrating experiences I’ve ever had, for precisely none of the reasons it was meant to be. But it did put pressure on sore, sore wounds I didn’t know I had, awakened just about every fear of myself, how I come across to others, how I interact with people I like and what I do when I’m in situations that stress me out…it was supposed to be a creative, collaborative time, but I’ve come home with a brain that feels like someone started rewiring it but didn’t get around to finishing. Part of everything I’m doing right now is, I presume, some personal attempt at closure and progression.

It’s a fascinating thing, throwing yourself into a soup consisting of people for whom you have a great deal of respect and interest, especially when you haven’t been in a group of more than even five people for over eight months. Honestly. I’ve barely been in a group of more than three people in the last eight months. I don’t get to collaborate and interact that much that often, and I think it shows, rather, but that’s okay.

I have a terrible habit of cataloguing my own embarrassments. I remember all the things I’ve said that I’d like to have phrased differently, I note every time I find something I’ve written that makes me cringe in horror (I found an instance of having written ‘lesson’ instead of ‘lessen’ yesterday: this will haunt me for years), I make a sound like ARRRR out loud in the middle of nothing because I’ve suddenly remembered a conversation I really meant to seem different than I think it did. And because I don’t see enough people enough, whilst I’m certain that everyone has these experiences, I don’t know that for sure.

This is okay too. Whilst I hold on to all my embarrassments and panics, I don’t appear to let them stop me from crashing right in and capslocking verbally at people, or indeed from trying to express the things I find important. I don’t respond by keeping my words and thoughts to myself: I just want to put everything out there more. I can’t tell if that’s because I want validation, or because I’ve a strong masochistic streak, but, either way, that doesn’t matter.

I can have good things without being perfect. I think that’s what I took out of Meddle. It doesn’t matter how far down any particular road I am: I wound up at something excruciatingly interesting through applying all the things I’ve learnt in my small and curiously intense life, and had an eye-opening return on that. Yep, I could’ve spent the entire time at home and filled it with all the things I have to and want to do, but I wouldn’t have had any of the chances to work through some very real issues I have with the nature of being a self-employed creative, or to chase some sheep up a hill, or to locate the Coconut of Destiny (which now lives happily alongside the Polo Ball of Manifestation) or to sleep an average of 3 hours in 24 for four days, a state I haven’t accomplished since I was at uni.

I’ve come home in a state of absolute feeling, whirling disorientation, and, most of all, a focus and drive to get something done I haven’t known in years, as well as an ability to see that drive as everything I have ever wanted to feel about something I call work. A pretty good outcome, no? I think so.

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Five Things People Don’t Tell You About…Being Busy.

Maybe you’re usually a busy person. Maybe you work a proper job and commute a fair way to and from it. Maybe you have small children, or care for someone, or run your own business and don’t recognise the ‘off’ switch, or one of any other possible human combinations.

Until last week, I didn’t really have anything to do in my day. That is to say, no-one told me to do anything, and I didn’t have anything demanding I do simple things like get dressed, or open my front door. Obviously this state of affairs didn’t also include someone rocking up and handing me money for nothing, but my time was my own, and I could ‘work’ (doesn’t matter how much of it I do, I really struggle to call writing ‘working’) whenever I felt like it, as much or as little as I wanted.

The downside of being an unagented writer is that one must spend precisely fifteen times the amount of time spent writing trying to work out how to get an agent. Now, I have a sneaking suspicion this isn’t the genuine truth of things, that I could, in fact, have got an agent if I’d only spent more time writing something saleable, but that’s another blog post for the future. All the same, it’s meant that any semblance of being busy – writing query letters, polishing words, researching who I should try and how – has been reasonably grim, and that therefore I have had no qualms about spending at least an hour out of every afternoon in the bath watching Hawaii Five-0 or Supernatural or The Good Wife (these are the three most perfect bathtime shows: fact). I have been perfectly able to fit in at least one workout per day, if not two. I have had no worries at all about spending two hours chopping vegetables and cooking them slowly and making something delicious and, perhaps, even nutritious.

But this week, this week I have suddenly become busy. I’ve realised I need more money quite urgently. I can’t take my time. I need to actually sell some writing, get myself out of my shell, and achieve some paid work. This need has coincided with the coming together of the plans for Meddle, a project I’ve been involved with for several months. Suddenly, I’m in charge of tweeting (follow the Twitter!), which also means learning how to use HootSuite (which is apparently an application so complex that it requires an entire ‘University’ course and an exam to be any cop at it) and organising all kinds of things to make this exciting creative conference not just possible, but properly awesome.

To be fair to my previous self, I also felt that, because I had no money and no specific demands on my time, I also couldn’t, y’know, go out. Anywhere. At all. For anything. So I’d just be here at home, doing not much.

And now I’m still here at home, but I’m doing all the things.

This is fun.

That’s thing #1.

1. If you’re lucky, being busy is fun.

Now, I’m not stupid. There have been other periods in my life (ill parent, ill partner, anything to do with ill at all, tax return season, deadline time) where being busy has not been fun. But, if you’re working on something you love (eh, this is the theme of our first Meddle!) being busy is actually really nice.

At no point do you spend five hours concocting serious opinions on Lindsey Lohan. There are things that actually need to be done, and one realises that having an opinion on Lindsey Lohan is not, contrary to some sections of the internet, important for me as a woman, or indeed for me as a human.  I don’t need to learn about stuff that doesn’t require my attention right now.

2. Time has lied to you.

Long hours become short. Every minute is a possibility. At no point do you become angry that you’ve got five minutes to stand in the middle of the room and do nothing. No, any five minutes that presents itself to you feels like a vast swathe of time in which you might make a telephone call, check your to-do list has been done, remember to take your glucosamine so your knees will stop crunching, see if there’s any food in the kitchen, that sort of thing.

3. Having a to-do list is fun.

No, really. It is. I know some people love them. Traditionally, I haven’t, but that’s probably because my day previously looked like this:

  1. Breakfast.
  2. Write.
  3. Query.
  4. Make dinner.
  5. Drink tea.
  6. Work out.
  7. Research more things about what I ought to be doing.
  8. Have a bath.

There are plenty of people who actually do this before the sun has even risen. And that was taking up my entire day. Today, on the other hand, I barely managed #1 and #4, and justified a list with at least twenty different items on it, at least three of which I still have to do tonight. Why I decided I ought to blog instead of having a bath and watching Supernatural, I’m still not entirely sure – perhaps I think this little corner of internet might, might be more use to me than swishing about in warm water for a while. (40 minutes of staring at Dean Winchester’s face is, though, definitely something that is missing from my life right now.)

But back to the list thing. I have spent YEARS accumulating notebooks, stationery, all sorts of things that I would never write my fiction on because, to be honest, I struggle to commit fiction to physical paper in case I need to delete all the things and do it again. But when it comes to lists of objectively important things? Those, those I can commit to paper. Those I can commit to really awesome Sanrio stationery and super, unbearably cute notepads that I bought from the incredible Korean stationery shop at home in London because I need to look at those things multiple times per day and they in themselves aren’t that interesting, but if they’re surrounded by a happy duck saying “Good friends put a smile on our faces!” and “I can fly! I am faster than the wind!” and the magnificent “Dreams create hope! Hope creates chance!” (who doesn’t love a motivational happy duck?) then suddenly they seem like MY DESTINY and everything is great.

4. It is genuinely possible to forget to eat.

I don’t think I’ve forgotten to eat…ever, really. I’ve never had any kind of job that didn’t leave me desperate for it to be lunchtime for me to have a break from my desk, as much as for some food, and when I didn’t have anything else I HAD to do, creating a decent plate of food out of beans (I can do a lot with beans) was as accomplished as the day got. But today I got to about four o’clock and wondered why I was suddenly so stupidly hungry, and, lo, that was because I had forgotten about lunch. I even had lunch, and it was even a nice lunch that I wanted to eat, but it was still there. Perhaps I’ll remember to eat it tomorrow? Bearing in mind that I am in the middle of a general nutritional overhaul, this is definitely the kind of thing I must prioritise.

5. It is actually quite difficult to stop being busy.

I’ve never really understood the concept of workaholic, although I’ve known a fair few of them. I don’t think I’m an inherently lazy person, or anything, I’ve just, always been quite good at saying, now it’s time to sit down and have a cup of tea and not do anything at the same time. Today I have caught myself chasing after my phone and laptop and constantly checking said to-do list for everything, whilst panicking that I’ve left something off it. Yesterday I didn’t manage to stop wondering about the things I had to do at all, and barely managed to cease business even for Parks & Rec (suddenly I have decided that show is wonderful: I tried to watch it last year, but it didn’t work…is it possible that its peculiar positioning on BBC4 has made it better?).

This inability to just stop does not a better person make. At half four this morning I found myself in a panic that I’d done a thing wrong, and tried to fix it for ages before forcing myself to acknowledge that my eyes were crossed and I was trying to work on a screen I couldn’t even see.

Sometimes, it’s time to not be busy.

But that time is not right now.

I’ve got at least three things left to do on that list, like I said. And I really ought to work out. And maybe even find a minute to look at Dean Winchester’s face. Tch. See you later!