What a performance…

I’ve been meaning to write a blog post for some time about me branching out into performance poetry, but never quite got round to it… largely because I’m losing what little free time I have due to… you know… being out, performing!

I reached a point with blogging my poems where I wanted to test them in front of live audiences. There is a vibrant open mic/performance poetry scene in my home town of Nottingham, and I decided during the Nottingham Poetry Festival back in April that I would use an opportunity at a library reading to take the plunge myself.

I’m not an extrovert.

I’m not a naturally confident performer.

I’m not someone who seeks the limelight, in any shape or form.

But you have to test yourself to know yourself, right… So I tested myself. In my local library, in front of thirty or so mostly elderly people, I read a poem, “Memory”, that I had written especially for performing. It didn’t even rhyme, which is a big thing for me! The reading went well. Really well. The host, Henry Normal, complimented me (I’m a huge Henry Normal fan… this was dream territory for me…) Old ladies came up to me afterwards congratulating me on my poem, saying that they connected with it…

Well, I was hooked!

I pressganged a Babbity friend into attending an open mic with me, for some much-needed moral support… (In fairness, he had suggested, probably a year ago, that we give performing a go… but you know that thing with your kids where you have to plant the seed of an idea, then let them go away and think it’s their own?… yeah, that!)

Next, there was an opportunity to head across to Walsall for the launch of Diverse Verse 2 (reminder – submissions for DV3 are still very much sought ), and for me to meet up in person with a poet blogger – Richard Archer – whose work I’d always enjoyed. For me, it allowed me to build up my confidence on “foreign soil”, where no one could report back to Nottingham how nervous or awful I was! Well, maybe not awful, but definitely nervous. But again, it went well, and everyone was so welcoming and warm it helped set me at ease.

This Walsall reading was a little different. The open mics tend to be a two-poem affair. The Walsall reading gave five minutes per performer… for someone who writes mostly short poems, this gave me some extra opportunity. Five minutes… that’s all...

…any guesses how long I spent preparing for that 5-minute slot?

It was easily an hour… seriously!

I picked a batch of poems I thought would work well together, then practised them in my bedroom, recording myself on my cameraphone, to see how it worked, and to check it went to time.

Yeah, I have problems…

But I was nervous, and needed to go through this to have the confidence that when I got there I knew what I was doing, and could relax a little and maybe even enjoy it.

(I don’t need to do this any more, not to this extent anyway, but I do still like to be prepared…)

I joined an amazing local poetry collective, called DIY Poets. To do them justice, I’d need to write a separate post, but suffice to say it is a group who have been bitten by the same performing bug, and encourage others to join in to share their words. I’m no longer a lone wolf…

There is a monthly open mic night in Nottingham called Cross Words, run by the lovely Leanne Moden (she’s written better poems, but I – predictably – love this one! ). Now, this open mic is truly something special. Moulded around Moden’s personality, this is as warm and kind and talented a crowd as you will ever get. Everyone gets the same opportunity, with a featured headline poet to top the night off, and best of all, it takes place in a freaking cave! An honest to goodness cave, with performers standing beside the well… Well, I’m in love. This is the open mic of choice for me. There are others that I have yet to check out in Nottingham – and I will do in good time – but unless any of those are also set inside a freaking cave, then I know which will remain my favourite!

After attending a couple of these, getting a feel for things, and enjoying some amazing poetry and performances, I realised that I wanted to truly test myself. All of these crowds will give any poet a warm welcome, and a congratulatory round of applause… I could play it safe, and read some emotional, or descriptive, or romantic, poetry, and be guaranteed the same reaction.

Clap clap clap, thanks for coming. This isn’t to diminish anyone who performs, not at all, but the nature and quality of the audience ensures a polite reaction…

But I didn’t want a polite reaction.

I wanted to make them laugh.

to be continued… tune in next time for actual footage of me performing!

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Man In A Cave… a freaking cave!

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NaNo – Hell Yeah!

I mentioned on here last week that I’d committed to the NaNoWriMo challenge. For those who don’t know, this is the National Novel Writing Month, where a bunch of writers needing less caffeine in their lives commit to writing 50,000 words of their novel during the month of November.

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My novel stalled at an early stage. I have written (what I think is) a great prologue, and I have (again, what I think is) an original and funny idea, but actually getting my butt in the chair and getting a draft down… a different matter. So, with reckless disregard for my previous lack of writing of any decent word count, I signed up to knuckle down, shape up, get grafting, and all those other metaphors that should grace a reasonable montage sequence at the end of all this.

My aims are twofold.

First, to develop a style of writing where I can turn off the inner editor. I have no ambitions to actually attain the word count target, but if I can stop editing as I go, allow myself the freedom to write in a more stream-of-consciousness style, and GET SOME WORDS DOWN FIRST! then this will be a huge step forward for me. At present, I am such a perfectionist that only poetry and short forms of fiction are reasonable goals. (Quiet at the back – if you think my writing’s bad now, just imagine how much worse it would be without that commitment!) I need to change my style to allow for this expansion into the longer form. Having just re-read this section a half-dozen times, the scale of this challenge is not to be under-estimated…

Second, to instill more discipline about when I write. I have agreed with my wife a timetable for when I’ll be writing. This will include a few hours BIC time every day (with extra time no doubt for planning and plotting… not that I’m much of a plotter), with an extra top-up session at the weekend. On top of a full time job and family commitments, this is not inconsiderable, and I need to get maximum return from that BIC time. This means, adios internet. Bye bye blogging. Piss off poetry… you get the idea. Focus. I’ll be a lean, mean writing machine. I’m just going to have to miss out on catching up on anyone else’s blog for a month, park my own, and hope that the latest cat videos and memes aren’t as cute as they used to be…

So, that’s me. Will it work? Who knows… but I have to try 🙂

See you in December!

 

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Al! Al! Where are you going? I’ve just uploaded another video onto my youtube stream…

Checking in

Hi everyone!

I’ve not been around on WordPress much lately. My new job is going well, but doesn’t leave much room for blogging. In the evenings, I’ve been working on what I hope will become my first novel, and have been learning a whole new bunch of skills relating to plotting, planning (this is anathema to me!), character arcs, and all that jazz.

It’s a comedy, naturally, in my own particular style, although I should probably clarify that there are no zombies in this one. Well, not yet anyway. Who can tell where the muse/second draft will take you?

It’s at the fairly early stages, and I haven’t really worked out the plot yet (it’s character-driven)… but that’s what I’m spending my evenings on 🙂

I’ll keep posting the occasional thing on here, just to keep my hand in. A bit of nonsense, some haiku, some limericks, some more serious stuff… the usual range of rubbish from me!

Weirdly, yesterday was my best day ever for follows of my blog… and I haven’t posted anything for ages. Wonder what that tells me…

I had thought about writing some “milestone” posts on having reached a certain number of followers, and reaching my second anniversary on WP (on Sep 14th), but I’m not sure those things mean anything to anyone except me.

Besides, it’s not where you’ve been, but where you’re going, right?

Hope you’re all enjoying your onward journeys. Wherever those winds are taking you x

 

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Picture credit: flickr.com/photos/marcovdz/5397827212

Great Britain, RIP

The vote is done
Leave has won
The lies they spun
Now come undone…

This is a rant post. There is no poetry here. Feel free to move along if this is not your thing, but I am angry, and grieving, for the death of Great Britain, and much of what I thought it stood for. I have weighed up whether to post this at all, as calmer heads are calling for people to put aside differences and move forward positively. A reasonable position, perhaps, but one I cannot yet share.

On Thursday, there was a referendum in my country, my beautiful but flawed country, on whether to remain members of the European Union. The choice was unusually clear for a popular vote – In, or Out. To the EU, Yes, or No.

The campaign was long and draining, with a barrage of lies from Leavers being met with hyperbolae from Remainers. Lies won the day.

Honestly, I never thought the Leave vote would win. To wake up to the news on Friday was a genuine shock – my wife’s first words as I picked up my phone from the bedside were simply :”Don’t look. It’s bad.”

Boy, was she right.

To see that gurning shitweasel Nigel Farage arms aloft in victory nearly made me bring up my breakfast. And that was just the start… Stock market slumping… Pound dropping… Prime Minister falling on his sword (yes, Mr Cameron, this one’s on you)… Opposition in disarray… Immigrants suddenly feeling a lot less safe… Scotland talking of a second independence referendum… Spain wanting to fly their flag over Gibraltar… Calls for Northern Ireland to merge with Ireland…

This vote delivered a fatal blow to the body politic of Great Britain. She may survive a while longer on the operating table, but her days are numbered.

Things will settle. They always do, eventually. A new order will emerge. But why bring this on ourselves in the first place? What have we actually gained?

That clarity of choice was deceptive. Voters rarely get offered a chance to vote “No”. Democracy is based on choosing between the available options, however limited and flawed they are. Accountability is provided through general elections, at least in a broad sense. Where is the accountability, if voters make the wrong call?

To vote “No” was to bring down a government elected just over a year ago, replacing them with a right-wing cabal with no manifesto or mandate, and likely led by someone described as “a sentient haystack”, Boris Johnson (suddenly I can see how Trump becomes your President, my American friends) ;

To vote “No” is to make Scottish independence inevitable, thus ending the Union (this time I’ll be cheering the Scots on) ;

To vote “No” is to side with the racists, the xenophobes, the hate-mongers, the little Englanders with their outdated mindset EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT ONE OF THEM;

To vote “No” is to reject internationalism, the ideals of cooperation and mutual benefits from pooling resources; to choose isolation over integration ;

To vote “No” is to kick the wheels out from under the economy for the next few years, at least…

I could go on. I probably will elsewhere. But what’s the point? If you’re with me, you’re with me. If you voted Leave then you may well be looking at me blankly, not understanding my anger, or perhaps even what you’ve voted for. It’s like shouting at the cat after it shits on the carpet.

If you believed the lies from Leave about this freeing ÂŁ350m extra a week for the NHS, you’re an idiot. This unravelled within 90 minutes of the referendum result (Farage claiming this was a “mistake”…) Surely some record.

If you believed leaving the EU would “Take back control”, you’re an idiot. When we have to pay into the EU budget to keep access to their trade markets, without any say over policy, congratulate yourself on that control.

If you believed this would reclaim sovereignty from a corrupt and unelected elite, you’re an idiot. Sovereignty has always been ours. The corruption is, too.

If you agree with Michael Gove that you “are sick of experts”, then you’re an idiot. A dangerous one.

If you didn’t even try to understand the arguments and still voted (either way), you’re an idiot.

For the sake of some semblance of balance, if you signed the petition for a second referendum, then you’re also an idiot. The result of the referendum has no legal status, other than telling Parliament what the people want. I don’t see the point of keep holding the referendum until the result is different. Doesn’t feel very democratic to me, however much I’m out of love with the concept of democracy at the moment.

In short, I think the referendum was the greatest act of constitutional and economic vandalism in history.

So yeah, I’m angry, and powerless, and uncertain about the future. (Ironically these characteristics may well have described many Leave voters, pre-Thursday.)

The task of rebuilding the house begins next, but don’t tell me I don’t have a right to be angry today, as the housefire you started smoulders around us. And if you voted Leave, for whatever reason, idiotic or otherwise, please at least try and understand why people like me are angry, rather than dismissing it as a tantrum.

I’ve said my piece. Soap box away. Normal service to be resumed.

Great Britain, RIP

 

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Picture credit: flickr.com/photos/70023venus2009/27780187162

Taking a break…

I had the pleasure of attending my brother’s wedding at the weekend, and managed to go completely offline for (most of) two days. I returned to a mind-blowing 400 emails, mostly blog notifications. Even if I read and dealt with each one in a minute, that amounts to 10% of ALL my time over the weekend, waking and sleeping!

I need to scale back a bit.

Actually, a lot.

There is so much that I want to do with my writing, but trying to keep up with the endless treadmill on WordPress is exhausting. There are so many talented poets, writers and bloggers that I follow… so much is inspiring, or beautiful, or heart-felt, or just plain old-fashioned funny… but it’s a distraction from my own writing, and what I need to do.

I am off to the Isle of Wight Festival this weekend, and will be completely offline from Thursday to Monday, most likely caked in mud, and merrily light-headed/unconscious (it’s a binary thing – either one or the other) from my stash of Jack Daniels, my festival buddy.

This weekend is a good catalyst for me to take a bit more of a break and re-charge the batteries.

So … drum roll… I’m going to take a full fortnight off from anything WordPress-y. This will be a HUGE challenge for me, but it needs to be done! (Can you help me out by being a bit less interesting and awesome for this fortnight? Please? 🙂 )

While I’m away, I’m going to write my Blogifesto – my promises to you – and I’ll share that with you in a couple of weeks. I’ve got a couple of other things up my sleeve that I hope you’re gonna love too…

Have a great fortnight, whatever you’re going to be doing. I hope you’ll still be here when I come back! 🙂

 

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Getting away from it all…

Picture credit: flickr.com/photos/fumigraphik/15006192406

Writer Q&A

The lovely Marje has tagged me to join in a writer Q&A – https://kyrosmagica.wordpress.com/2016/05/13/the-writer-q-a-tag/ . Thought I’d give it a go!

1. If you met a sexy vampire what would you do? Hook up, get the garlic and crosses out or run a mile?
Reader, I married her.

2. What’s your favourite genre of book and why?
I read a lot of non-fiction at the moment… rather boringly, most are “how to be an awesome writer” type of books, matching my personal writing ambitions… Stephen King’s “On Writing” is a recent favourite.

Other than that, I read lots of poetry books, in different styles. I just finished Carol Ann Duffy’s Love Poems, and Tim Key’s “Incomplete Tim Key” (the “Incomplete” moniker seems to refer to the fact that it’s not funny, despite intentions… and I had been looking forward to it immensely…) I’ve just picked up Ginsberg’s Howl collection too, and keep dipping into anything by Billy Collins or Shel Silverstein for inspiration. I like studying a range of poetry, even the stuff that doesn’t connect with me, to improve my own limited skillset.

I dip into fiction, but it tends to be author-led, rather than genre. I buy almost everything with Neil Gaiman’s name on it, for example.

3. Who is/are your favourite author (s) , poet (s)? What is it about them that inspires you?
Neil Gaiman is a huge inspiration. He gives great interviews too that are always worth checking out. His slogan of “Make Great Art” is one that I’ve taken to heart.

Billy Collins is an inspiration in a more practical sense. Almost every poem of his that I read has a phrase or an idea in it that sparks something in me, and I have to go away and scribble my own poem to capture it. He has a remarkable way of using humour in his poetry, which obviously fits with my own personal style too.

4. If you had to control a classroom of year 6 kids would you bale, or enjoy the challenge? Would you be (a.) too undisciplined to do so, you’d just join in the general mayhem, (b.) enjoy bossing them around, or (c.) pray in a corner for the bell to sound.
I taught for a year after leaving university, from Year 1 up to Year 12’s… I got on fine with the older ones (they were quite close to my age at the time), but I did find the younger ones more of a challenge. I remember one 6 year old boy who seemed to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of dinosaurs, and being amazed by that… and now, in time, my eldest has become that child!

To answer the question, I did try (b), and probably would again, but didn’t always find the right level. I remember one of the games teachers having “a quiet word” with me about inappropriate language that I’d used. (I told one of the boys on the rugby pitch to “stop twatting about!”… not my finest moment)

5. What made you become a writer/blogger? Do your family support you or do they think you’re crazy, bored, attention seeking, or all of these? Tell us a bit about your current WIP and/or books…
I started writing children’s stories after our eldest was born, and started blogging children’s poems on the back of that. It’s all ballooned from there. Now, I am polishing a book of zombie survival haiku for self-publishing, and planning a host of other releases, poems and stories. My wife is amazingly supportive… she’s even taken the kids out today so I can spend time writing!

6. What is the most awful job and/or experience you’ve ever done/had?
I’ve just had to leave my job, but don’t want to share the details of that. Between the ages of 17 and 21, I worked in a bingo hall. (Yes, I was a bingo caller.) The job wasn’t too bad most of the time, but that was before the days of the smoking ban, and every session in that room would leave you coated in other people’s smoke. Yuck. Plus, there would be occasional live entertainment on a Saturday night… some of the locals would overdo it on the cheap booze at the bar. I may not be able to throw a punch worth a damn, but I know I can take one. Happy days!

7. Are you a plotter or a pantser? Does this spill out onto other parts of your life? Are you generally organised/disorganised?
I’m a total pantser. I just made a to-do list to try and catch up on everything that needs doing, and instead of working through it in any sensible order I’ve started this post instead, which logically would be the very last thing on the list! My wife is the total opposite (she’d probably say that she needs to be). I think we smooth the edges off each other 🙂

8. Do you believe in Ghosts? Fate? Love at First Sight? Fairies? Psychic happenings? Numerology, Mermaids, The Loch Ness Monster, Demons…etc…Make your own observations …. and let me know..
Nope. Not a one of them. But I do believe in love. Is that not mystical power enough?

9. What is the worst haircut/clothes/hats you’ve ever had/worn? Photos please, or describe in vivid detail…
I lost most of the hair on top of my head in my early twenties, but as it was thinning at uni I did make the mistake of trying to dye it red, even though it was really short (like Renton in Trainspotting)… it just looked like I’d dipped my scalp in some ink! Mercifully it washed off pretty quickly.

10. Please finish this sentence with more than three extra words: Life is one foot in and one foot out, you ….
In haiku, naturally:

Life is one foot in
And one foot out, you never
Know which one is which

 

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Why you should NOT move your blog to a self-hosted site

There’s a military saying that no plan survives contact with the enemy… My plan had been to roll out a new website as my author platform, incorporating my existing blog with a whole bunch of extra stuff that I’ve got planned for the future. I want to make the leap from being an online poet to a professional writer, and an all-in-one, all-singing, all-dancing website was part of this.

Well, that was the plan.

It didn’t quite work out that way.

I’d done my research beforehand. Numerous “why you should self-host” articles were consumed… Almost all, incidentally, with affiliate links to self-hosting services (I’ve no problem with this, to be clear – but it’s not an impartial sample, and means that people have made choices that are right for them, and have commented accordingly. They may not be right for you.)

Own your own site.
Room to expand.
WordPress could shut you down at any moment, if the urge took them.
It’s the only way you’ll be taken seriously as a business.
It’s the only way you’ll make money.

It’s exactly what I wanted to hear. My impending redundancy from my job has sharpened my mind about what I want to do in the future, about what I need to do, and ultimately how I put food on my family’s table.

I jumped in with both feet.

 

And then the problems began.

You see, what I hadn’t realised was HOW my readers were accessing my site.

The numbers of people following my site has been growing gradually over my 18 months of blogging to date. Between WordPress, Twitter and Facebook, I have over 2500 followers. I know there are other sites around with far larger followings, and many amazing sites with far fewer (which always baffles me). I’m talking numbers not to brag, but for context.

Of this number, I have a small but vocal minority who regularly take the time and trouble to read, like and comment on my stuff. They are generous with their praise… sometimes they are a little batshit crazy too, but I LOVE that!

(If you’re wondering if this last comment applies to you, by the way, the answer is already yes 🙂 )

I love the energy and the banter.

This interaction is becoming ever more important to me, and my only regret is not having the hours in the day to reciprocate fully on their sites. On your site.

Along the way, I guess I changed from being a compulsive (if middling) poet, to a blogger who happens to be a writer/poet too.

I am a blogger.

I am also a writer.

Then the rollout of the new site hit a speedbump… A sizeable proportion of my followers (although not all) were relying heavily on WordPress Reader to access my site.

They would read my posts, hit “like” (hopefully), and be able to comment (even better), all through the Reader. I always reply to every comment (at least a like), and enjoyed the little chats that sparked off these. The little back-and-forths of wordplay, puns, jokes, anecdotes, lives shared, support offered.

Souls touching, though oceans divide us.

I know owners of other sites who bemoan the lack of comments or interaction on their sites. I am blessed to have this, and don’t take it for granted.

Then I learnt that, although posts from the new site appeared in WP Reader, and people could like them, they could not make or view the comments.

Although the new site is WordPress hosted, this does NOT mean that it’s the same as having a WordPress blog. (That had been my understanding… big learning curve this week.)

People could still leave comments by visiting the site directly, but they wouldn’t get notified of my replies unless checking back in manually.

The back-and-forth element was gone, shuffled off, gone to meet its maker.

Some lovely people persevered regardless, manually checking in. I am not sure I would have the time to do that on anyone else’s blog, so would not ask that of anyone either.

There is no workaround for this. No plug-in to fix the problem. (I contacted WordPress directly to check – their ridiculously titled “happiness engineers” are actually very helpful, even to the technically-challenged like myself.)

There are some other factors in there too.

I hadn’t expected to lose the little green follow button in the bottom right corner… Or the blue “following” icon in WordPress (I found a site claiming to have found a way to set one up… Hours later, it simply didn’t work)…

The emphasis with self-hosted sites is on building up the all-important email list, rather than these “softer” forms of following. Don’t get me wrong, I have plans for that email list, but in my head it’s a different beast to the daily output on here. It needs to be something that warrants the extra effort of jumping through the hoops of filling in your name and email, because I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.

Losing those easy ways to connect is a big thing for me, even if it slows down building up an email list to hawk my wares.

(You are going to buy my stuff, right? Bags of it. Wondering what to get your partner for your anniversary? My stuff. That perfect last minute Christmas gift? Yep, more from me. A leaving gift for that guy at work you never really liked? That too. Right?)

This blogger is starting to paddle in the marketer’s sea, but I’m doing it my own way. The way that feels right to me.

One thing that I really hadn’t expected was for there to be fewer WordPress options at start-up, when going self-hosted. For example, I couldn’t replicate my existing blog theme, and there were only a small number of free theme options. This may be a case of the blind man wandering into the new kingdom and not understanding what he sees – there are scores of plug-ins for almost every situation, for one – but first impressions were … guarded. This place just wants my money…

Maybe if my blog had fewer followers or commenters, or I’d done this a year ago, all of this would be less of an issue. No point in regrets or what-ifs – I need to deal with what’s right for me, right now.

So those plans, two sites in one, have had to change.

Two into one don’t go.

Maybe part of the problem is me wanting two fundamentally different things at the same time – the static site plus the dynamic blog; the “hey look at me” with the “hey talk to me“. Software is good , but people are always more complicated.

I need to respect my writer yin and blogger yang.

The two sites will remain as two entities, bridged by a workaround that I’ll blog about separately. (Go to the main site – http://www.alistairlanewrites.com/ – and click on “Al’s Blog” at the top. See what happens. Cool, eh? That took me half a day to work out!)

The writer site will develop slowly as I learn more about how I can use that, and present myself best. I’ll post some longer articles there, less often – maybe a couple of times a month at most. I hope some of the readers of this will take the time to go and check it out…

(Hey, most of you have been dragged that side and back already, like a reluctant child on a family trip to a stately home… Sorry ’bout all that. And in case you’re wondering, I’ve now transferred all of my followers back to this blog – courtesy of WordPress again being helpful.)

This blog has been given a stay of execution, and will live on, changing and growing all the time.

Thank you for being, and continuing to be, a part of this journey with me.

Now, who wants to chat below the line? 🙂

 

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Picture credit: flickr.com/photos/davidkingham/7688812482

Monday Musing… The Worst Day…

Everyone has a bad day from time to time. Maybe not “attacked-by-a-bear-then-left-to-die-in-the-woods” bad, but everyday bad. Even those we see as being particularly blessed will have a shocker now and again. Bill Gates will get his wang caught in his fly. Dave Grohl (“nicest man in rock”) will accidentally drop a “c-bomb” in front of his mum at a family dinner. David Beckham will get completely ignored in public, while his son gets spotted and subjected to trial by selfie. Donald Trump will accidentally put the hamster on his head, while his wig is being cleaned…

Yeah, I’m keeping this build-up light. Last Thursday was a shocker for me. And that saying about things coming in threes? Yep, that too.

Thursday morning, out of the blue, I got told at work I’m going to be made redundant. In the afternoon, a serious health scare for someone very close to me, that will need surgery.

These are both major shocks to the system, but it was the one that happened in between that made me break down and cry like a baby.

I saw my cat die.

While getting changed out of my work clothes, brain whizzing about with what I’m going to do next, how we’re going to pay the mortgage/ feed the kids/ get through this one, I watched my cat die on the bed, right next to me.

With no warning, she lay her head on its side, and just curled up like a leaf closing, pulling in on herself. The air slowly leaving her body. A balloon silently deflating.

I patted her and stroked her, saying her name over and over, but there was no reaction. I patted her a bit more urgently. Nothing.

Her heart wasn’t beating.

Her lungs weren’t working.

Nothing.

I started blubbing like a baby, sobbing her name.

Maybe ten seconds later, she lifted her head up and let out a couple of angry mews (pain?).

I went to stroke her, but she ran off and hid downstairs. She was a bit skittish for the rest of the day, but otherwise acted the same as normal. A bit mental, a bit stand-offish, very demanding about food. You know, like a normal cat.

I know my cat, and I know how she reacts to things. I am absolutely certain that she died. And yet here she is now, nuzzling around my feet, acting within her normal parameters of strangeness.

Maybe her throat closed or something. I don’t know. Do cats suffer from anaphylactic shock?

So with those big three things happening on the same day, the one that made me really cry, and is making me well up recalling it, was my cat dying. For a bit.

Go figure.

 

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My cat. Definitely just napping this time.

Ten Things That Writers Can Learn From “Finding Nemo”

At the weekend, I was watching Finding Nemo (again) with my boys. They love it. I love it. It’s in my top five favourite films of all time, which is really saying something bearing in mind I’ve seen it more often than the rest of the top four put together (and probably the rest of any top ten, if I ever went that far with a list).

(Yes, I know the (frankly disappointing) trailer for Finding Dory is out now. I care not for being topical!)

While watching Nemo, my thoughts drifted again to my own writing journey. This is dominating my thoughts at the moment… maybe yours too. And I realised that there are a bunch of things for writers to take away from the film, even leaving aside the obvious “write something even half as good and you’ll probably go a long way” point. I’m sure these lessons apply for many other paths through life too, but I’m working on Chuck Wendig’s principle that the internet is 55% porn/ 45% writers, and writing for the minority.

So, in time-honoured tradition, here are my top ten Finding Nemo takeaways for writers:

  • 1) The start of the journey will not be auspicious
    There may be a thousand writer-eggs born that start the journey, with protestations of “I’ve always wanted to write a novel“, but then the barracudas of life sweep in and suddenly the field thins down to… just you. Damaged, possibly emotionally and physically, but determined.
  • 2) The path to your ultimate goal is not easy, or linear
    There will be numerous challenges along the way. It does not matter how you reach your goal, only that you do reach your goal. If life offers you a chance to speed along on the writing equivalent of the East Australian Current, then take it. (And if any fellow writers have any insight as to what the EAC is for us, then please let me know in the comments!)
  • 3) Strange bedfellows will help you on your journey
    You will come across many types of people that you would not ordinarily hang around with, let alone rely on. These may turn out to be your greatest allies. “Fish are friends, not food.”
  • 4) Push yourself beyond your limits to achieve
    Even if you prefer the comforts of your writer-cave, rubbing yourself continually against the anemone of reassurance before venturing the smallest distance, that won’t take you very far. Embrace new experiences and challenges… You will have to risk rejection, in fact risk everything, to achieve your goals.
  • 5) Trust in your friends
    You cannot complete the journey alone. You will need the support of partners/ family/ critique partners / beta readers / fellow writers to make it. Take a small handful into your confidence, and trust them completely. If they tell you to move to the back of the whale’s throat, you move to the back of the whale’s throat.
  • 6) Understand the industry / agents / publishers
    Rejection is not personal. You are a fish. Those in the industry are birds. As Nigel the pelican says to Marlin and Dory:
    “Sorry if I took a snap at you at one time. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta eat.”
  • 7) Creating a buzz will help you succeed
    If “the whole ocean’s talking about it“, then it may just help you over the finish line when all hope seems lost. This buzz is created organically, without seeking attention.
  • 8) Plan thoroughly
    If your plan is immaculate, and executed to perfection, it is still no good if it leaves you floating on the sea in a plastic bag, with no obvious means of bursting the bubble to finalise your escape. “Now what?
  • 9) Success may not be what you expect
    Achieving your goals may result in you ending up back where you started, physically, but in an entirely different place, mentally and emotionally.
  • 10) Never give up
    The most important lesson of all comes from Dory. “Just keep swimming.”

 

So, those are my top tips for writers from Finding Nemo. Do you have any to add to this list, or advice gained from other unlikely sources?

 

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Picture credit: flickr.com/photos/roome/313385621