Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Preparing for NaNoWriMo 2014

National Write A Novel Month is drawing ever closer, and I've got a vague idea of what I want to do and a couple character sketches. I had a great experience in 2012 writing, 2013 didn't happen, I seemed to be too stressed, too busy and generally too tired, other parts of life were vying for my attention so I sadly gave it a miss. In fact, November 2013 felt a bit of a blur. 

But this year is a little different, I'm 25 and ready to go. Mostly. I have a shiny Chromebook to plat with and most importantly it's light, portable and easy to use. The typing on it feels fluid and the 'trackpad' feels ok to use, so overall I feel a but more stable to approach this challenge. The writing juices have been returning, and despite my initial thoughts that writing copy all day would impact on my creative writing ability, I think it's actually a balance of life and stress.

Sure I've got a house to decorate, sure there's suddenly adult things that need doing, like putting the bin out and thinking about future career options, but I've realised that the older you get that the internal spirit of the writer doesn't change that much, it becomes better formed and more thought out. The essentials are still there, you just need to make sure adult life doesn't put it aside. 

I was accepted into the Notting Writer's Studio, something I'm quite excited about, it's just a matter now of making sure I get along to meet ups and make the effort to get back into the writing world. It's been a wonderful experience to get back in touch with everything I love about writing. 

Hindsight can sadly impact on your regret, looking back over the last two years, I should have had the confidence to reach more for the career I should have gone for, not gone for the easy job. Never convince yourself you're in a steady place, look for the next step, the next level up. I don't mean world domination, this links into writing, look to improve your craft, and you will improve yourself and your life. 

As for Nano this year, the usual amount of 1633 words per day feels a bit steep, as I do have to remember I do have other commitments, so I'm aiming for a little less, but the most important thing to be writing everyday, so long it is a few words and I'm enjoying it. 

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Tick Tock Goes the Writing Clock!

The count down has begun!

This week, I turn 25.

People will think that's nothing, and they would give a left leg or other valuable body part to be 25 again, but for me it's not even coming of age, but a declaration I've made it to a quarter of a century on this earth.

I will have been writing for almost the age of a teenager now, possible a pimply, slightly bad mouthed teenager who shows some promise of becoming a productive member of society. For over half of my life span I have consciously identified as a writer, yearned to write, fed my imagination and attempted become a semi decent writer.

My writing muse has finally come of its long holiday, it seems to have taken a new home and a job with regular, less stressful hours and a stable relationship, a big dose of perspective, and suddenly I'm thinking like a writer. I won't be penning a massive novel any time soon, but heck there's been the odd poem scribbled in a lunch break.

I've even been to a couple poetry reading in the last two weeks. I've also joined the Nottingham Writer's Studio (something I've been rather desperate to do but lived too far away to justify it!). Moving to the city of Nottingham seems to have fired something up, I'm not far from cultural happenings and also back around friends and family, which is great.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

A job! A job!

After 3 months of unemployment I've landed a 6 month contract as a website copywriter. It's sort of in the direction I want to go, the first rung of marketing, and at the end of the day I need to doing some drudge work for the experience. 

This is my third week and so far I'm doing ok. 

Sort of. 

It's become clear that the last 6 months, even year, on a quiet, unassuming sort of level have had an effect on me. Working in stressful jobs, then trying to find a better opportunity, only to find that my luck hasn't been very good, has taken a strange effect on my moods.

I had the implant (a form of contraception) put in last year, and only had it removed over 3 weeks ago. It had in the mean time played havoc with my body and my hormones, left me with mood swings, weight gains, sore bits and emotions that couldn't settle. There were times I would feel my heart tight in my chest, I felt like the breath had been taken my lungs with the gentlest of knocks. I dared not let myself think I had anxiety problems. It's silly, I'm stronger than that I told myself. 

The week before I started work, I hoped I would get bits and bobs done, have a relaxing break before rejoining the world of work. 

Except karma decided not to. I spent all of Monday in A&E with a friend, for a problem that did eventually calm down. whilst at hospital I dropped my phone down the toilet, and by Wednesday my car had broken down. Amongst all of this I dealt with quite bad sexism, the stress of trying to get to a hen party I didn't really fancy, nor could financially justify. Come Monday, I probably wasn't in the best of mental states.

The theme over the last week seemed to be me looking after other people, and getting punished for it. I started work on the Monday, a bit tired. I stupidly worked shifts at the family pub because I didn't get any money whilst having to sign on, and it was going to be a long 4 weeks til pay day. 

That first Wednesday was my worst day, by the fact my boss had commented I needed to be more focused. I've had the misfortune and luxury of poor focus over the last few months, it's been too easy to get distracted and do something else. So checking social media and personal email at work is a big no no. 

I have a couple good days I'm focused, but then my days can be tied into what mood my boss is in, if it's a good mood, I can get on with my work, but at times I can feel weepy, tired, shaky, and struggle to focus. 

He's got good and bad things to say, overall I'm doing reasonably well, I can feel that he hoped for better. I hoped for better myself, but I would have been better a few months ago. It's interesting to try and trace the chain of events back, and you'll be quite surprised what's happened and how much has really taken its toll on you. It's good to stop and take focus, I'm pulling back on things, I am very much living a day at a time, and aiming to improve, and achieve consistency. 

On the plus side my spelling seems to be improving!

Friday, 27 June 2014

Now I love typewriters...

I've had my typewriter a little over a year now and it's still perfectly good and behaving, my spelling isn't really improving but no one is going to read the gibberish I write anyway! I was looking through etsy.com today and happened to stumble upon this:

I was quite speechless! What a clever piece of art! I never thought that could be possible, I'm still learning how to get the layout on my typewriter but I often end up with a few words stuck together. I think it's very pretty and if I wasn't so short on cash I'd be keen to purchase a few!

Monday, 12 May 2014

Longbourn Review

I have a general theory that is it in the make-up of most women to be a fan of Jane Austen. Flirting with the redcoats and sipping tea all afternoon isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but most of us love a good love story, and that is exactly what Jane Austen delivers in Pride and Prejudice. I had the pleasure to study this for A-Level and subsequently read a few of the other novels, but I feel Pride and Prejudice was her crowning work.

image sourced from newrepublic.com

It’s amazing that it’s been such a popular novel, one that has gained popularity over the last two hundred years. There are many reasons for this; from its universal themes of irrational love and a good scandal such as an eloping sister. There have been many adaptions over the years, from films, radio plays to novels taking place before and after. I first heard about Longbourn on BBC Radio 4 where the author was talking about her reasons for writing a novel about the servants, the hidden people of Pride and Prejudice. So being a bit sleepless the other night I decided to download it onto my kindle and have a read.
This novel resonated with me, because at this particular place in my life, I feel I am serving in subservient roles, and no matter how much I educate myself, there is the barrier of dependency between living and money. After I fell asleep I had this intense feeling of being trapped in that servant role, and when I woke I was distinctly glad I was living in a society where people weren’t ruled by their social sphere. It isn’t very often that a novel or story makes me feel glad that I live in the current world.
The author isn’t shy of highlighting the daily grind and grievances of servant life, the constant chilblains, the long hours, falling over in pig poo. She writes with a touch of Jane Austen’s style, it a nod to the period and this author has embodied part of Jane Austen’s world, but added themes such as homosexuality, seducing the young and innocent and children born out of wedlock. Sympathy for otherwise unlikable characters is created and likeable characters are given a subtle dressing down. Overall, all of the characters are reminded that they are human and not above bodily functions when we see Colonel Fitzwilliam relieving himself in some bushes. The author could choose to emphasis this, she could attack the beloved Elizabeth Bennet by saying that she does of course fart like the rest of us, but I’m glad she doesn’t.
I do however feel that the characters are sometimes stereotypes and not always their own true person and there is more historical context placed, the character James is used to show what was happening in Europe and place a less favourable light on the glory of the English Militia. This helped to define his character and give us insight that Sarah lacks. One aspect I love however is how Mr Wickham is suggested to like younger woman and girls a little too much, it keeps in with his character so superbly and I was feeling on edge when he had cornered the young Polly. It was even better when James dealt Wickham a much needed blow.
One thing that strikes me in the novel is that the gentry and upper classes are never truly alone, indeed it is the same for the servants, you are constantly surrounded by those you choose to ignore, the servants try to become invisible, but at the end of the day there is still a human being breathing in the room. The main character Sarah managed to have some time alone, and that must be a breath of air to her. This little breaks for freedom are quickly met with some sort of negative outcome, she falls ill on the way back from an errand, after seeing a man flogged, she is cuffed harshly around the ears by a housekeeper in Kent. However in the she does finally make her break into freedom.
There is a sense of filling a certain role, Sarah fills the role of servant because she came from the poorhouse. Once Elizabeth is married to Mr Darcy, she must fulfil the role of mistress of Pemerberly, a role she is not yet accustomed to, especially noted when giving out the staff wages. Sarah goes from a busy, demanding role as skivvy to lady’s maid who is reduced to mending delicate underwear, Elizabeth goes from a lady doing little, to a lady managing a full household. There is a sense of balance and need within the novel, the upper classes rely on the servant for their day to day living, and the servant class must rely on the gentry for their wage and living.
I had always quite liked the character of Elizabeth, she is witty, lovely and does have her own faults, yet in Longbourn the author succeeds inducing this gentle sense of nothingness to their lives. I felt at times that Jane and Elizabeth were merely breathes of air inside a dress that floated about, and gave off the odd opinion. I don’t know whether to applaud or tell the author off for giving this view of the girls; I feel there is an undertone of feminist disapproval. Jane and Elizabeth can’t help their upbringing and station in life because of their gender and class, so of course they may appear slightly empty, but that doesn’t meant their life is without justification and meaning. In the modern age we have the luxury of applying our social ideas and politics to historical literature; we will look for meaning and new insights with each new generation.
Sarah breaks the mould of servant life by perusing the man she loves, risking the best working position of her life for the unknown dangers of the world. Going by scraps of information and a general direction of north, Sarah leaves to find James who has chosen to vanish. The end of the novel is nicely drawn together, Mrs Hill is able to have Mr Bennet to herself again, it is not a sense of love however, almost reversed ownership, his intelligence and eyesight fading, he relies on her for company. The infamous Mr Bennet has come down a few pegs, and Mrs Hill can throw off the label of housekeeper and be his companion in the evenings. I liked the character of Mrs Hill, she is brisk and efficient, but she loves and protects Sarah and Polly, like her own daughters. She however isn’t a jolly, fat housekeeper, I was glad the author avoided that cliché.

Overall, it was a good novel, and I feel the author has managed to give us a glimpse into another world around Pride and Prejudice, it is a modern novel with a touch of the Austen feeling. However in the recent spurge of the modernised Austen franchise (Death Comes to Pemerberly etc) I feel we are soon reaching the limit of what we can adapt and do with Pride and Prejudice. Jo Baker has however managed to get her novel done before the market has become too saturated, and managed to create a piece that is hugely memorable. 

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Jumping ship all the time

This blog post is going to be more reflective about my attitude to life over the last year or so as well as including details about my career changes and aspirations.

I write this from home at the moment, no longer Marketing Co ordinator at a large e-commerce company. The role was stressful and I got into a tailspin which would have been difficult to correct, plus a manager who didn't really manage me quite well. I've learnt a lot about office people, politics and certainly what doesn't make a great manager. Potential and experience sometimes have to go together, certainly for a role that requires some previous experience in making things happen to a deadline.  

When I was promoted I was at first apprehensive, the person who had the role before me left in tears, and relief when she was granted her request for a P45 rather than her resigning. I was determined to do well and better the department, I had ideas and ambitions. My first port of call was to fix issues with the studio, but after it was very apparent that my manager wasn't happy with the work, and continued to make the studio an issue, I got caught up in the small details. When it all finally came to me having to fire a member of my own team (on very poor grounds) I felt like things really couldn't get any worse. As one of the most horrible experiences of my fledging career, I sat saying almost nothing as the guy who was there for 'support' did the firing. 

Finally it came to ahead last week, and I confessed I didn't feel suitable for the role and agreed with my manager that I was unlikely to get out of the mess I was in (the mess he'd put me into.) So we agreed I would work out a week's notice from home. I've been applying for jobs straight away and back on with the freelance writing, so at least I do have some income until I find another job. 

I'm finally feeling clear headed enough to look back over my life and I've seen one thing. I've spent the last two years jumping from one ship to another. I like to move quickly when I've made a decision, but at times it seems I've swapped one bad situation for another. My last job which was hard work and menial left me with low self belief and confidence. When offered the job of copywriter I jumped at the chance. Now things haven't gone as smoothly as I had hoped in this role, I have really gone from one sinking ship onto a burning one. No one can predict what will happen, but I do feel I've learnt a lot from the last two months which I can take into a new job, and know when a promotion isn't for my best interest, but for the company's.

 Hopefully now I'm on safer ground, for about a month or two at least to get back on my feet and into a better company that will see my potential and nurture it, rather than giving me a slightly deflated armband and throwing me in the deep end. 

Thursday, 3 April 2014

National Poem Month

I've decided to take part in NaPoWriMo, I did if two years ago with some semi good results, might start writing a poem in my lunch break at work (yes I got a job!). Today's prompt was to press the button on the Bilbliomancy Oracle and write a poem based on the quote you get.

'You can only disappear once and then they will find you out.
Swift and certain chaos will tell you to try your luck again.'
from “Three Ghazals for Departure” by Leigh Stein

Ghazals on first impression
Are lofty desert tents, until I 
The watered down unpractised poet, 
Realises they are a form of something.
A form better than my attempt to braid my hair 
As the lockes full loose as my layers of 
Petaling hair refuse to be combined into order. 

Chaos could be welcome, if it had an agenda. But like 
My hair that grows too slowly, I treadle my path 
Too slowly, an eastly and easy target for disaster,
Until I shake off the shame and ashes for the next time 
I need to be found.