Living

It’s funny how affirming it can be just to get on a bus and go somewhere new, on a week night, before going back to work a slightly different person, even before the weekend. Somehow, that’s a win, and a reminder that I am active, and interesting, and grown-up, and capable. Because before, I was just stagnating. Monday-Friday, doing “nothing that finishes too late”, taking no chances, gaining nothing, avoiding activity out of a needless commitment to routine safety. In getting on this bus, going somewhere I need the driver to tell me I have arrived at because I don’t already recognise it, I am growing. I am adding to my experience, my repertoire. I am changing, I am moving, I am living.

0lkwwewewe

Advertisements

Back in the Habit

‘Back in the Habit’, a new mini-series – watch this space for the next post.

It’s been a while since I was in the habit of producing new writing each week for open mic nights. I’ve been trying to jump-start that (the writing, and soon also the open mics) back into action recently with a good friend, meeting weekly to play tourist in the local cafés and try our hands at various creative writing tasks, to develop our skills and maintain a level of regularity and productivity. (This sounds a bit scientific – in fact, it’s a little bit more of what I love coming back into my life on a regular basis, keeping my happy and sane.) We’re mainly writing flash fiction at the moment, which is reigniting my excitement for new ideas, and I hope it will also lead to me being able to tackle bigger pieces of writing in the future. (I am truly terrible at planning and editing, living more like the latent-learning monkey, awaiting divine inspiration.)

I’ve learned a few things about my writing habits, which is always useful; for creative writing, I usually prefer to be sitting with quiet company who is doing the same thing. I am a bit competitive, and also in the habit of working in the presence of someone else, since a university housemate introduced the (at the time, seemingly insane) idea of working individually but in the same room. Now, it’s a comfort. I like to get out of the house to concentrate and not be able to crawl back into bed, but when I do write at home, I must be sat at my desk in its little alcove in the dining room. The house must be quiet and I prefer to write in the morning, usually starting around 8am. (Often-times I have provided early morning scares for my housemates, who wander into the kitchen, to which my writing hole is sort of attached but not immediately obvious.) My glasses, which I should be wearing at my computer, need to be doing their own thing somewhere else. We have a relaxed relationship.

I’ll be posting some of the bits and pieces that I get done in these sessions here to reconnect with this blog, while I’m redefining what its purpose is for me. Please do let me know your thoughts – it’s very gratifying to have people read your creative stuff and tell you what it brought to them. Of course, hearing what does or doesn’t work is really helpful, but if any of it leads you down trains of thought of your own, I’d love to hear them too. :) Throwing your creativity out into the world is weird, and getting any kind of response is pretty much amazing.

A few of the writing tasks we’ve been trying are as follows:

  • Free writing based on random keywords
  • 330 word stories based on photos we have taken
  • Writing from the perspective of, or about, a member of a specific organisation, e.g. The International Flat Earth Society
  • Revisiting old diary entries and rewriting them from a new perspective, as if it were fiction, instating new characters, and a new voice and tone. I intend to try this out with a few old texts, and perhaps rewrite them a few times, producing various different creative documents of one moment.

And a few I look forward to trying:

  • All the challenges on Chuck Wendig’s blog
  • Rolling dice to assemble a title, and going from there  – actually another one of Chuck’s, that I found on goodreads.com
  • Writing fake historical plaques like one we saw in Edinburgh this August – apparently this is a whole movement!

For the first one I’ll be posting, I owe thanks to this awesome birthday present from a friend. Which, incidentally, I would recommend to the friends of any writer when it comes to present-buying occasions. Good choice, amigo!

What writing exercises does everyone else use? Do you work best in a specific environment? How often do you write?

Slipshod Sugary Female Thinking

(… Thank you, Mary Poppins.)

IMAG1038

This year’s greatest achievement so far…

Happy new year! A pinch and a punch for the first of the month, and no returns. And other traditional nonsense.

Today I am filled with excitement and optimistic energy for the coming year. I feel rested. I have had a rare week off, with absolutely no agenda, so sleeping and enjoying oneself have taken vital priority over the Christmas period. I am sitting here watching A View to a Kill with a good friend and the dog, and probably going to watch The Hobbit for the second time later on. Banana bread has just come out of the oven, (my second batch in two days; I intend to cook more from now on) the house is clean thanks to my brand new Henry, and I have furniture and finishing touches for my bedroom on order. I am wearing Mary Shelley around my neck.

For the first time in about five years, this year I went ‘home’ for Christmas. When I say home, (I have a few hometowns) I mean the Forest of Dean (or rather, Gloucester this time, as little bro’s all grown up now and has a place of his own, where I stay) and then Ivybridge, in Plymouth. I got to see my mum and oldest younger brother, (twenty-three) which was lovely, and then my dad, step-mamma and baby brother, (nine months) which was just as lovely, and different. Christmas was a quiet, subdued affair compared to the drinking, music, large family gatherings and games that I have been used to.

In the place of forced tradition and routine and scheduled fun, we spent our time ambling around at a leisurely (very, including the spa day mamma took me on) pace, doing exactly as we all wished, eating, walking, watching films, and going to look at animals (perhaps a trivial-sounding activity but oh-so-revered in my humble view – visiting Pets At Home is something I like to do regularly, just for a quick fix of furry company.)

I taught baby bro to wave, which he apparently now does at Guinevere on Merlin, (they think she must sound a bit like me) and anyone who waves on TV. He’s a bit of a screen-lover, and grabs at phones whenever they’re in sight. He loves Skype, and phonecalls, and seems to respond to familiar voices now, which is absolutely lovely. He has skipped crawling and gone straight to walking while holding onto nearby thumbs. He loves being outdoors and near water, and squeals every time a dog goes past. A man after my own heart. I had a great time staying with them and can’t wait to go back. Saying goodbye was actually quite hard, simply because I remember how far away I am.

Last night, per tradition of a few years, I spent new year’s eve with a bunch of my closest friends up North, drinking and catching up and dancing like fools to nostalgic tunes from our teenage years. I was then, and am now, filled with warmth and gratitude for what and whom I have around me, because it’s all pretty damn great.

A few things I will take from 2012:

  • Day-jobs are okay as a part-time compliment to your true passion. You can benefit from different kinds of work bringing respite from each other, and challenging and exercising you in different ways.
  • Sometimes, love is not enough.
  • I am capable of change, but I find it quite incomprehensible until it happens.

And I think that’s enough for now. :) I am going into 2013 with an open mind and heart, and a bit of slipshod sugary female thinking. I wish peace, love, health and happiness for you all.

Speech

A speech I wrote a couple of years ago, inspired by this play:

by a good friend and long-time collaborator, Matt Harper, which I eventually produced with my theatre company in January this year.

————————————————————————————————

Woman with clipboard leads audience in, speaks to V.

W            The, prospective students…

V             Yes, thank you. (To students:) Take a seat. (Waits.) So. Welcome to university. And all of that. Some of you will be sitting your finals, some hoping to get certain grades to get in somewhere, etc., you’ll, no doubt, be swatting up on various things, chemistry maybe, law, higher maths, what kind of angles are in a triangle.

And good luck with that. May the powers that be smile upon you. If they do, I’ll see you in September.

Some of you will be writing your personal statements, trying to impress us with your use of grammar, and your witty anecdotes.

Which is fine. That’s great.

But where I’d like to start is this. I want you to come to me in September, and bring the following. Make a note. I want you to bring pictures you can’t stop looking at. Even if its porn. I want songs you can’t help but move to. I want old clothes that make you feel sick with nostalgia, numbers of people who drive you up the wall, whatever makes your Christmas. I want you to come to me and say Vanessa, help me. I want you to cry on my shoulder. I want to play with your hair. I want to know what makes you tick, because I want to do it for you. I want to be your GOD. Because how else are we going to get through this.

——————————————————————————–

You can watch the other character-specific trailers* for Person-in-Law, along with other videos from Six Lips Theatre, here.

*These fantastic trailers, as with most of our best videos, are by Paul Richardson of Parashoots. Check out his work, he is a brilliant film-maker and someone to watch. (And so are his films, obviously.)

In search of my MA

I am at a big fat metaphorical crossroads, to put it lightly. I have pressed pause in order to take stock of where my life is at and where it is headed, and to remember if nothing else but for nostalgia, where I wanted it to be when I was younger. Except, I don’t want to just reminisce. I want to evolve. I want to change my life and live it to the fullest, in a way I feel is more ‘right’ for me. I want to truly hone in on my principles, my priorities, my beliefs, and allocate them the time and devotion that they deserve.

I am considering going back to education because a) my friend is and is quite pushy, b) it would give me time out from the misery of working life taking me away from my creative practise, and c) I feel I am missing direction at the moment, and would like to invest my time in something that will give me a qualification or some other kind of reward at the end. I had an encouraging chat at my university about their Performance MA course, which not only sounded quite positive in terms of what it could offer me (“time out to exist and develop your own individual creative persona”) but also reminded me of other MAs that have sparked my interest; namely, creative writing at Bath Spa. Both of these courses accept applicants on the basis of an impressive portfolio; which I believe I could deliver, more easily in the former case, but probably not both at once if I’m to give it my absolute best effort. And if I’m applying for the latter, (something I hold in high regard due to hearsay of respected opinions in my life, and perhaps, ahem, partly due to the fact that it’s in the South…) I will need to give it more than my best effort if I’m not to die of mortifying embarrassment and regret.

I am taking the time to step back and analyse things, to read up, check myself, and to keep an open mind always. I am saying yes more, even if only to the initial stages of at least finding outmore before I reject possibilities.

I am keen to hear from others who have completed MA courses and have something to say on how they benefited from them, what they learned, what they might recommend. From anyone working in my field I would be most interested to hear what approach, what area of study, what voice and imagery came out of your practise. What kind of initial research questions did you go in with, and how helpful was it over the course of your projects?

Part of me is simply hoping that this will make me more eligible one day for a PhD, whatever that means, so that I can be “Dr.”.

What is most important to me? What am I good at? Do I really want to take what feels like a step backwards and consign myself to the same city and views for the next two years? What will it ultimately do for me? And is that worth my money and time? I have, after all, been warned already that, “It won’t get you a job.” What am I really seeking? In relationships, in work, in my home, my body, my future?

What have you learned from your studies, or your life? What is important to you? What are the wisest, most enriching, rewarding thoughts or lifestyles or habits or beliefs that you have ever come across?

Just a little update…

My second lot of inspired notes, written on the train to Hyper Japan, and the actual script on screen.

… on the writing commission. I have a couple of angles I am very happy with for approaching the journey these characters are embarking on. I sadly have to attribute the intended ending to my housemate-friend-fellow-writer’s imagination and not my own, but it is very fitting and satisfyingly bizarre for me and the script.

I have written five scenes today before 12pm, sent to the director for approval and feel on a roll.

I have made a schedule – I know, Mum – for the rest of the writing process, putting my mind at incredible ease by reassuring me that this is completely possible and within my grasp.

Excited for where this is going.

Sad work times

Last night I recorded my first ever video blog. I tried to upload it, but it had turned into a sixteen-minute rant and wouldn’t FIT ON THE INTERNET. I took the hint and decided to hone it into a concise, articulate and (hopefully) constructive prose version. This face and voice are obviously not destined for international familiarity. So here we go.

I am having sad work times. Really sad. And it’s not just me. Everyone is sad. Last night my friend said the words, “My soul is dying,” without a hint of irony. I work in a busy public sector building where there are a large group of staff constantly flowing around each other, talking, sharing life troubles, socialising; the full-timers pretty much live in each other’s pockets. And at the moment, that is a dangerous thing. Such bad vibes are going round the place, and what with the traits of our daily ebb and flow, they are constantly getting exaggerated, recycled and passed on. Chinese whispers doesn’t cover it. Even a customer came up to the bar last night having heard a rumour that some of our equipment was broken. BAD VIBES.

Anyway… I am getting worried. For most people there, the job is just food and clothes and a roof over our heads. I haven’t actually heard a word from anyone on what they love, or even like about the job, at least for several months. At some post-shift drinks the other night revolution was discussed, and mutiny is present in everyone’s fluttering hearts. We are subdued, anxious, downtrodden and depressed, and nothing seems to be changing for the better yet. People are bullied and bitched about on a daily basis. A recent staff meeting descended into a destructive subtextual outburst of petty grudges and personal tensions, managers and staff included, and as yet no apologies or disclaimers have been issued as reassurance. Those who were involved are just dealing with the fact that their opposition are ignoring them a bit more, and those who weren’t speaking out on either side are just feeding off the passive aggression that’s flying in all directions. I have worked at jobs that feel more like playgrounds/sleepovers than work before, but we are an older group of people here and should be past that. It shocks me that (especially since this has apparently happened before and reached an extent that required external help) this place is running so loosely, hairy balls and warts hanging out. No one seems to care how they come across. The managerial team are failing miserably to keep up staff morale; indeed things that have been said in a ‘private’ meeting (which I’m sure they know always reaches us before their official ‘news’ or memos) indicate that they barely know their staff at all. No one is keeping it together. I feel itchy on my feet, and dread going into work. Having experienced some tension first-hand for the first time recently, I even feel watched and untrusted on shift. It is very uncomfortable.

I don’t know what to do or who to talk to. I am reluctant to do anything because action seems to be met by disdain or some other kind of reaction that makes your work futile. Not least, my attempt to resolve the problem that was the excuse for a catfight at the meeting has been humbled by a new plan that COMPLETELY IGNORES the reasons behind the problem that made it an issue in the first place. The managers are making out they are giving us something special, while taking away the resolution we had found ourselves. Which, I might add, was with their permission and by their suggestion. So it does rather seem like people are throwing their weight around in a vain attempt to reclaim their thrones.

If anyone has any helpful advice on situations like this it would really be appreciated, because things appear to be in a stale state of “check”. I feel like speaking out will be met with aggression and disrespect only. It is hopeless and out of control, and it’s following me home at night.

Oh, and I kind of resent the fact that this job has become such an issue as to drive me to write my first ever blog about it. Work is boring, let me talk about something else.

I have to paint on my smile each day. Picture courtesy of http://dayincatasauqua.blogspot.com, bizarrely enough on another post about sad work times.