Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Week 10

After failing to write last week, I was tempted to cheat and write a combined week 10 and 11 blog as one.  However I realised that cheating or taking short cuts doesn't actually get me anywhere.  If I really want to do this then doing it properly is the only way.  It's been interesting to note that I'm still finding it difficult to increase my writing time and that it's very much a last minute, deadline driven approach that I'm taking.  Obviously, I can change this.  Obviously, I can choose to write more, even everyday if I choose to.  However, that isn't happening and this week/fortnight has been a clear example of that.  I have allowed myself to be too busy, too distracted by everything and anything else.  I know that this is based on fear.  Fear of failing, of my writing not being good enough.  No matter how I tell myself that it's the writing that's important and not the end result, I know that isn't true.  I really want to like what I write and for it to be liked.  I suppose that's because my writing feels like it comes from within me and is therefore part of me.  Mirroring how I feel about myself.  The journey of recovery talks about acceptance.  Acceptance of powerlessness and acceptance of self, are, for me, the fundamentals of a solid sobriety.  I cannot change or effect anything around me and I have to truly accept myself for who I am, if I am to find peace and serenity.  My writing takes me there and yet, scares me too, for it is putting myself down on paper and allowing others in.  Week 10 is about having a plot, a storyline where things happen.  While I do have an outline plot, I know that some of the detailed parts of it will be hard to write because they will come from a dark place within me and they won't be likeable.  Most of the parts that I have awareness of are the nice bits, the happy times in a life.  Yet for the story to work, there will have to be an honesty of what my character can be so that she can have something to transform from.  It's that which scares me because I know that will be from within me too, not necessarily what I have done but what I could do, and to be honest about that I will have to let go of being liked.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Week 9

Failed miserably at week one of allocating distinct time but the good news is that I managed to find some before the end of the week.  While talking to a friend about stuff, it occurred to me that the content of this blog thus far has been focused mainly on negative states.  Not always a good thing but maybe useful in terms of learning to connect to my emotions (currently mostly negative) as I get used to writing about what is going on both internally and externally.  Looking at what I need to support my writing last week was intriguing in terms of also thinking about what I need for living.  A window seat and a pair of headphones to write, a view and music to live, something to look at and something to listen to.  Intriguing too, as my listening skills are actually really shocking.  My lovely hubby, J, has suffered a lot from this and will probably be surprised to know that not only am I aware of this but am actually working really hard at getting better at it.  Music is a key part of my life and is also a key part of my novel.  I’m not sure how it’s going to work but I really want to use music to trigger memories, both good and bad, for my leading lady as well as provide support for progressing.  I found a lot of strength in my early recovery from music and it can really pick me up when I’m down.  I should also add that it can be like magic when I can dance to it too, space allowing.

Exercise – write about being trapped, thinking about how it feels, fictionalise if wanted…

As I looked at the wine bottle I could swear that I saw something move.  Half full of red wine, the bottle had called to me across the kitchen, tempting me to take a sniff, to just have a little sip.  No-one was here to notice, no-one to chastise me, to tell me to stop, to ask what I was doing, what harm could there be in a sip?  If I’m honest, it had been tempting and I found myself moving towards it, my body taking me forward.  But now, just there in the bottom of it, something moved.  It wasn’t an animal or an insect but definitely some kind of creature.  As I peered more closely at it, I began to see a leg and then an arm.  Two tiny feet passed against the glass, almost human but not quite.  The creature’s skin was grey, a dirty grey, and it was worn and wrinkled.  It was moving slowly in the wine, part swimming, part floating, part drowning.   As I watched it, I became aware of how I was feeling.  My skin was prickling, hot on the inside and cold on the outside.  The wine, no longer alluring but reeking of vinegar, was so overpowering that my stomach began to churn, my head to pound.  A face appeared and looked directly at me, its eyes wide and bright, an enticing smile willing me to enter.  Momentarily I moved and then stopped as I saw a glimpse of a gloat.  As I stayed rooted to the spot, its eyes darkened, the brows furrowed, nostrils flared and the smile narrowed to a glare.  The creature let out an almighty howl that I felt roll against my skin but could not hear. It pushed its face against the green glass, snorting through its nostrils, wailing silently, the wine drowning out any trace of a sound before disappearing into the darkness.  The prickles subsided, the sickness settled and my head calmed.  I turned towards the door and turned out the light.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Week 8

What a coincidence that having written about time last week, this week's chapter is about allocating time to writing.  A coincidence? Or maybe I read ahead and have forgotten.  Either way, this week is about working out exactly what (and where, and how) my core writing time is.  And surrounding it with barbed wire.  This is actually much needed and obviously very appropriate for many of us.  Monday started out very well, I could find an hour to hide away, drink coffee and do what was needed.  Which is just what it was, do as was 'needed'.  I don't think that approach will get me very far, certainly hasn't worked successfully in the rest of my life.  Just enough to get by; without breaking a sweat; getting the pass mark; the bare minimum.  Probably all apply just as equally and while I'm doing ok, I think this book deserves better.  Therapy done half-heartedly will not get me better.  However, it is also the hardest thing to do properly.  It will not come without effort and it will not come without pain.  I don't like either.  What I do well at, is avoidance and distraction, in buckets.  So finding my writing time is highly needed, together with the barbed wire.  The weekend would seem the obvious place to start but I have always been uncomfortable eating into 'family time'.  Evenings after work are difficult too as once back in the house I find it difficult to get out again, especially in addition to existing commitments.  But, as I wrote that sentence I had a lightbulb moment.  I could write at work at the beginning of my day.  That would also help out with an additional issue - I need to be able to stay honest at work.  What do I mean by this?  For me and my recovery, I need to accept who I am and that 'am' needs to be the same everywhere.  I have to be comfortable to be my true self and to leave the masks behind.  At the moment, I can only do this when I feel safe, really safe.  But I need to work with my HP to feel safe and to let go of my angst especially at work.  It is amazing how hard it is to leave the masks on the floor, not to take the handles that are presented to me at the drop of a hat, to be myself.  A working wardrobe can start the masking process, full make-up, the drive to work, the steps to the office door, it all adds up and I need to lose this.  Some mornings are ok, I remember to pray for help, I remember to stay in touch and it works.  Other days start off all wrong and it can be a long time before I remember what I need to do.  If, at the start of my working day, I gave myself thirty minutes of writing, that would be a way of reminding myself that no matter what had happened up to this point, it was time to connect.  This could actually work.  A cup of coffee (decaf of course, a topic for another day), a pair of headphones and a window seat would be great.  Whether those three can succeed in the office remains to be seen.  It's definitely worth a try though.
The great news is that I get to start tomorrow on work day 1.  This post will now become the end of my week rather than the beginning.  I wonder what the effect may be........

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Week 7

You know how some days don't always have 24 hours in them?  I think yesterday was one of those.  Or maybe I'd just been a tad overenthusiastic with the hours I had.  I'd gone to Bath for the day with some friends to go to a lunchtime meeting and see the Christmas markets.  The meeting was important to me because Bath has been an incredibly significant place in my life and I wanted it to be included in my recovery journey.  Seems I was right too, as no sooner did we enter the room but I was asked to be the share.  No sitting quietly in the corner for me, I had to put my story out there for the rest of the room and really allow myself to connect thoroughly.  It has taken me a while to come back from it but am here now and ready to post!

One of the unforeseen benefits of writing this blog is the need to take myself off every Monday (whoops) and have some 'me-time'.  In the past I have found this extremely difficult to do and not really understood why.  I still don't really know why but am beginning to see many possible reasons for it.  Perhaps by taking this blog on, some of those possibles will become the answers.  These days I really enjoy it and appreciate it, maybe the problem now is that I enjoy it too much.  Swinging from one extreme to the other has always been one of my 'talents', fortunately I have been learning about the beauty of balance and am working hard on finding some.

Exercise 4
Write about about being lost, in the broadest sense of the word.......

For many years I felt I'd been born into a world that was not mine.  Where the language being spoken was not my native tongue.  That the person looking at me from the mirror did not match the way I saw myself.  People around me behaved as if they fitted, as if they knew what was going on whilst I was left pretending that I did.  Only when I couldn't face it anymore, when I had no more ideas, did I finally come to a stop.  And only then, when I had no choice, did I begin to really look at who and what I was.
I don't think it ever occurred to me that I could be lost, that a path did exist for me but that I just wasn't on it.  Maybe it didn't occur to me because deep inside I knew I wasn't the only one that was lost.  That the people around me also had no idea what was going on.  That I thought they were ok with it because no-one suggested otherwise.  Whilst for me, it was definitely all wrong.  How wrong it was is difficult to say now, because hindsight changes everything.  I can no longer look at my past without assessing it against what I know now.  And now that I have found the path, it would be easy to forget the isolation and fear that came with being lost.  Fortunately I have a lot of work to do that will help me stay on my path, work that will aid me in ensuring that each of my steps lands firmly on the pavement.  Today, I am now comfortable on my journey, I have remembered to pack what I need for it and to trust that I will be safe.  I can go forward knowing that with the help of my Higher Power I can face the challenges sent my way and that I don't ever have to be lost again.  The world has become a wonderful place to be.  Yes there are those days and times when I don't tread firmly on the path, when I find myself in the mud, trudging.  But, as many of my friends know, trudging can be a good thing.  I will get to take it slowly, see the sights and not be in so much of a hurry.  Finding my way, one day at a time.

Thank you for reading, love to all of you, xxx

Monday, 25 November 2013

Week 6

'Writing is an active occupation, not a passive one....waiting for inspiration is like waiting for friends.  If you sit around the house and don't go out and meet them, they will never come. You have to make things happen.'

I'd completely forgotten to write today.  Life happening everywhere around me, birthdays, Christmas, children, the dog and now a hamster!  Chapter for week 6 suggests using ourselves as a starting point for writing and how our stories can be applied in many ways.  Feels reassuring to know that writing this blog is helping my progress especially when it doesn't look that way to the outsider.  I know that my novel in waiting will walk a fine autobiographical line and am really intrigued as to just how deep it will go.  It definitely feels that the writing of it will be the best therapy I can get and actually the therapy I need with no walking away saying that I'm fine now, thank you!  

I've spent many years looking at myself in the mirror, wanting to know what was going on inside and wondering why it wasn't working for me.  Many hours spent trawling the self-help shelves in any shop with a book section, searching for the book with my name on it and all the answers.  Sessions with psychiatrists, counsellors, friends. Training courses in neuro-linguistic programming, cognitive behaviour therapy, to name a few.  All in vain.  It feels that here, with this story, I will begin to understand; understand and accept.  Accept myself for who I am, what I am and why I am here.  That I will be able to become a human being and not a human doing. And that gradually, I will be able to look at myself in the mirror and just smile back, knowing that I am ok and that I don't need to know the answers.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Week 5

Not so good this week.  Yesterday was the anniversary of my becoming a mother.  More commonly  known as D's birthday.  I have no idea what is going on but it knocks me for six every time.  This year was better but today was too much for me and I have spent most of it hitting my head, literally and otherwise.  I am much relieved that it is an exercise week and that I don't have to share anymore of it.

Exercise 3
Think about a time in your life when you had an accident, a physical accident, and write a simple and straightforward account of it.

I cut my toe, my big toe, on a light bulb.  No, I wasn't walking across the ceiling, just tidying my room.  Tidying is possibly an understatement.  I was moving everything in my room, everything that I could physically move.  Which included my desk and my lamp, hence the bulb.  Walking across my room, with stuff scattered everywhere, I cut my big toe on a light bulb.  And boy, did it bleed.  I think it was the blood that caused me to scream, closely followed by my dad leaping up the stairs to my aid.  It became clear, quite quickly, that this was not going to be a sticking plaster moment and off to A&E we went.   I don't remember being in A&E that first time.  But I do remember going back when it became apparent that there was still a piece of glass left in.  One X-ray later and back into minor surgery we went, me and my toe.  The second set of stitches felt pain free in comparison to the previous ones and much to my relief it healed very quickly.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Week 4

It turns out that exercises are only set on alternate weeks, I guess this means there may be more of my ramblings than I had expected.  This has made me feel rather uncomfortable even though each week I have written more than the exercise itself.  I had assumed (great word) that every chapter would include an exercise for the week and I would be able to focus purely on that but it seems not.  What I have also been doing, alongside my assuming, is only reading the book on Mondays which are blog days. This is working at the moment but may need changing, only 'may' so I will think about it.  With no exercise to do I am left to write about where I am now, which is not so good at this point in time.
This afternoon, I thought I'd killed the dog.  Not killed her myself but that she'd been killed whilst under my care.  'The' dog makes it sound like a very disconnected relationship which isn't what it's like at all.  E is 11 months old and has been with us since the middle of February.  She had the challenge of coming into a household that had been dog-less for just over a year.  A difficult one given that her predecessor P was the most perfect dog and had left a hole that none of us thought could ever be filled.  While she hasn't replaced P, it became very clear, very quickly, that we had really needed her and that our family unit had been missing a limb.  Now, with our 5th leg, we are on an even keel (very mixed metaphors there but hey ho!), dealing with the storms that blow our way and moving forward again.  So, when I lost her this afternoon, it wasn't good.  Then, having driven around the block looking for her and seeing two men leaning over something next to their car at the side of the road, it did all crash down around me.  In the minute it took me to get them, I heard the screams of my children, saw her still and lifeless body and felt my heart cave in.   To find them leaning over a remote control car sent relief rushing through my entire body.  I'm not sure how it must be to have someone drive up to you to tell you how she thought you'd killed her dog, so I won't make any assumptions, but suffice to say they weren't there for long.  Having then spotted said dog, I eventually managed to tempt her back into the command of the fold and return safely home.   She didn't die.  There were no screams, no body, and life this evening is back on its even keel.  I went on an emotional roller-coaster for a couple of minutes this afternoon.  It had quite an impact on my day and I'd like to get off now please.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Week 3

Feeling very emotional today.

My daughter, S, has gone on a school trip for a week leaving me with a huge hole in my heart and a sinking feeling in my stomach.  Feelings and emotions, in particular my reaction to them, have become fundamental to my well being.  This may make perfect sense to many of you, in fact may not even need stating, however for me, it's a very different case.  I spent many years (more than 40) in complete ignorance of my lack of emotional understanding and only during my last few years in recovery has it become clear to me the importance of my emotional health.  From years of aimless desert wandering, I now find myself on a beach.  No longer does the sun bear down on me, wearing me out with its endless glare, my feet burning on the hot sand.   Nowhere to find shade or respite from the desperate thirst that will not leave me.  Today I can curl my toes into the sand, let the waves gently lap over me as I lie calmly on the shore.   The sun is my friend, it warms me and welcomes me to the day.  There maybe clouds but they provide moments of shelter and coolness.  It has taken a lot of work to get to this place and it will take more to stay here.  Now that I have rested, onto the job in hand.

Exercise 2

I want to write a novel because.....
.......carrying it about in my head is beginning to hurt.  It started as a small seed, a description of a moment in time, just one evening of a woman's life.  Over the past few years, it has slowly taken root, and as those roots have delved deeper into my head, so has the story gone further and deeper into my soul.  It has grown into a story of her past, from the fairy-tale romance to the developing of the darker days that led her to the present.  Then, much as a tree begins to bud, so does the story too, leading her from despair to hope, slowly and patiently with love and kindness.

Thank you for reading.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Week 2

This may only be my third entry but I'm already becoming aware of how I could easily write the same beginning for each one.  For some people that may be a bad thing whilst for others it may be good.  For me, it makes it feel like the writing of a weekly report for work and I want this to be something different.  It also forces me to think more about what I'm doing.  Writing this blog was to exercise my brain, to get used to thinking differently and developing my writing style.  And I mean 'my' writing style, for once in my life to develop a confidence that the way I do something is ok. To be more than ok would be amazing but I will be very happy with ok.

No written exercise this week, just 'read', as if your life depended on it.  So I have read, although it hasn't been easy.  I've been off work for several months with anxiety and stress and have found it extremely difficult to focus on anything during that time.  I have flitted between several books and found it too much but I have been reading novels that were bought for my children.  My favourite has been Department 19 by Will Hill which has, infuriatingly, turned out to be part of a series.  I have no qualms with books being part of a series if this is clear from the outset so that I know they are all written when I start reading them, but in this case, I am quite cross.  I read the first in good faith and that was fairly standalone but the sequel made it very clear that there were more.  Finishing the third book knowing that the story may not get to the very end for another couple of years has made me very cross.  This is good in one way, it's helping me think about what I do and don't want to write.  Definitely standalone stories, for a start.  Looking at some of the stand-out books during my reading life has also helped.  I am a huge fan of Thomas Hardy, loving the deep sadness in his books, almost relishing that there wouldn't be a happy ending.  I did nearly think there would be in 'A Pair of Blue Eyes' but was brought back to my senses.  Other greats for me are Armistead Maupin, Toni Morrison, Isabel Allende, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and John Irving (in no particular order), all of whom have many of their books on my shelves.  I like the idea of picking them back up to see what I liked about them and to critique rather than just read.  This will probably mean reading them much more slowly than the first time so that I can take that element in.  Of more recent times, the author who got me back into reading was Audrey Niffeneger with 'The Time Traveller's Wife', the first book for many years that had me slowing down as I neared the end of it.  Desperate to complete the story at the same time as not wanting it to be over.  I was bitterly disappointed by her second novel yet inspired that someone who wrote so brilliantly could also write not so brilliantly.  Today I am reading 'The Happiness Trap' by Russ Harris, looking at a mindfulness-based programme for overcoming stress, anxiety and depression.  Profoundly grateful to find an approach that accepts my way of thinking rather than trying to change it.  In my search for my truth and an understanding of myself this is vital and I am enjoying the journey.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Week 1

During discussions I realised that I hadn't been clear about my objective for this blog.  It would be great, in fact momentous, that a completed novel would be the outcome of this effort but, for me, I have to let go of that and see the completion of the 52 weeks of exercises as the objective.  This blog is about creating the habit and developing a commitment to writing, learning along the way and keeping hope that a novel (maybe even a decent one) will, one day, sprout from my brain and fingers.  It's been lovely to receive so much support from my friends and I am really looking forward to sharing the journey and getting your feedback.  So, onward.....

Exercise 1

Write one sentence, beginning with the words, 'The day after my eighth birthday, my father told me......'

'.....not to worry and that everything would be alright.  He was wrong, of course, everything had not been alright and never would be.  Mother had left.  She had left both of us, him and me.  She had upped sticks from our lives and decided to have hers somewhere else.  Why she would do that, no one knew.  Not father, not his mother, neither of her parents, nor Lucy, her best friend, nor anyone else for that matter, nobody.  And it had been far from alright.'

Just in case anyone wants to suggest that I can't count, the exercise did continue that more than one sentence could be written if the need arose and, as can be seen, it did.
I can't tell you how relieved I am that I have completed exercise 1 within schedule, we have lift off!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Week 0

I want to write a novel.

Not in a wistful, maybe one day, kind of way, but because there is a story rolling around my head that needs to be told.  The basis of the first chapter was born in about 2005 as a short story, then in 2009 I realised there was more to it and the unravelling began, mostly in my head with some note-making at times.  I was so excited and whilst I had no experience of writing, it really felt that writing this story would be good for me.

Yet, here I am, four years later, no progress made (on paper) and life doing what it does so well.  I have thought about it a lot but been unable to get myself into the habit of writing on a regular basis.  I even enrolled for an Open University course on writing fiction, only managing to complete the marked work (none of the exercises or group discussions) and doing quite well in it which surprised me, it pleased me too but not enough to get me going.

A couple of weeks ago I decided that I should give myself some space and accept that it would take about a year to write a draft and just start.  It was true, I should just start but I was still dilly-dallying like a pro.  Then came the gift of coincidence.  In the window of my local Oxfam bookshop stood a copy of 'A Novel In A Year' by Louise Doughty.  How could I resist?  52 chapters, a week at a time, this was definitely a sign.  All I needed now was a way of sticking to the weekly exercises and hence the blog.  Whether anyone chooses to read it cannot limit my effort and therefore, I commit to a weekly update on progress against the exercises.

I will take a deep breath and begin......