Writing from in the dark.

 

I had a realisation a little while ago about where it is that I aim to write from. It came about during a conversation with a friend. We were talking about how everyone has deeply held secrets about all kinds of things, the kind of stuff about yourself or your past that you don’t tend to share with just anybody. What they are varies from person to person and a lot of the times they are just embarrassing rather than criminal in nature. We got onto the topic of sharing those things and the idea that in your life you are probably lucky to have one maybe two people that you know and trust enough to share those kind of things with. Also that, quite often, when you do tell somebody they’re nowhere near as bad as they’ve felt to you once they are spoken out loud.

Which got me thinking about writing, because I realised that a lot of what I write about and the kind of feelings that I try to capture in my stories are those kind of things. The deeply held emotions and thoughts that everybody has and yet not many people feel comfortable talking about on the regular. I feel that my writing is at its best when I tap into a vein of these uncomfortable emotions. The unspoken feelings that everybody has.

Because, empathy for a universal experience is something that connects people to a story. You know when you’re reading a book and you have that feeling of “this book gets me”. Empathy can be a weird thing  and it doesn’t have to be a direct parallel for it to resonate with the reader. Think of emotions as a colour wheel, if you hit a shade that the reader has felt before they will more than likely be able to connect that emotion with something from their own experience. It doesn’t have to be the same or even a similar experience, just one that invokes the emotional colour for them to be able to connect with it on a visceral level and in doing so become more involved with what they are reading.

And that, is what I’m aiming for and where I try to write from. I like to sit down there in the dark with the things that don’t get talked about and give them a voice.

Me and My Monster.

[I originally posted this about a year and a half ago before taking it down for a while for personal reasons. I have decided that i want it to remain here, so i am reposting with some light editing to the original.]

Me and my monster have a complex relationship.

Some days we get along, walk side by side and not bother each other. Sometimes I track it down and dance with it, even make the occasional joke about it. Some days it’s like it isn’t even there and if it wasn’t for my memories I could feel like it didn’t exist. But some days it kicks my feet from underneath me without warning and I have to scream and fight inside to drag myself up off the ground. Sometimes it bides its time and sneaks up on me slowly and it is not until I am nearly suffocating in its grip that I realise what is happening.
I think it must be hard to understand sometimes from the outside even by people who know. Because I have stages where it doesn’t hinder me and I get things done and seem to have my life together for a bit. Then there are other times when I’m not so well and it drags me down. Times when it can be an effort to do even the most basic things to keep life ticking over and I struggle just to get through to the end of the day without curling up into a ball somewhere.

I live with something and sometimes I call it my monster. I could say that I have a mental illness, but that isn’t correct; even though most people seem to think of it that way. I live with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD isn’t an illness; it isn’t something that just occurs randomly. It has a definite cause. It is a psychiatric injury. One that was inflicted upon me by another person during my childhood and kept in darkness until I first told another soul about it at the age of thirty-two.

Unacknowledged, it shaped my life from an unseen vantage point until I peeled back the layers of smothered memories and confronted it. A process that required the help and guidance of others and I doubt that I would have managed it left to my own devices. Even though I have done that, I still live with it and the legacy it wrought across the twenty-five years of my life where its effects shaped the filter through which I saw the world. Learning how to deal with it and not let it control and define me is a constant part of my life.

But I have chosen this path, because for most of my adult life I lived inside a dissociative bubble and felt nothing real at all. No emotions beyond surface reactions, I was numb from the inside out. Now I feel emotion. Some days it is far too much for me to handle as twenty-five years’ worth of repressed feelings leak their way out and threaten to drown me. I struggle with the curse of feeling too much, but it is better than not feeling anything.

Because that is not living at all.

 

Siblinghood of the World Blogger Award – my answers

I was nominated by Madeleine D’este to answer some questions as part of the Siblinghood of the World Blogger awards. Her responses can be seen here on her blog.

I answer 10 questions and then i pass it on by asking 10 other bloggers 10 questions of my own.

When did you feel like a “real” writer?

Towards the beginning of last year. I had a conversation with an old friend who was around when i first started writing the draft for my novel. Which was 15 years ago (there was a period of more than a decade where it got put away and I gave up the idea of being a writer altogether). I was talking to her about the fact that I didn’t really feel comfortable calling myself a writer much and she told me that she’d thought I was a real writer after seeing those early draft chapters and had always been disappointed that I stopped. Funny how having just one person validate what you are doing can sometimes make a difference to you.

How do you overcome resistance?

I join it and we take down the man together!

Mostly I just bounce over to another project or throw some energy into my other creative interests in order to keep the tap running.

What advice would you give yourself as a wannabe writer?

  1. You’re not a wanker for wanting to be or referring to yourself as a Writer.
  2. Just do it, write, stop putting it off and thinking nobody would want to read it.

Do you prefer writing or editing?

Both for different reasons. Writing  is quite a cathartic process for me and it feels amazing once I’ve done it, but other than the occasional ‘that’s a great sentence’ moment writing itself is something that I find difficult and draining. Editing often feels more satisfying while I am doing it as it appeals to my perfectionist traits.

What part of the writing process do you struggle with the most?

The slip ‘twixt brain and page.

Getting something out of my head and written down for the first drafts is what I tend to get stuck on the most and it’s the part that feels like the most work for me. I often sit with a ball of ideas just about to fall out of my head for a while before they actually get onto a page.

Do you Nanowrimo?

Yes. I did it last year and am participating this year (both times as a last minute decision with no pre-planning whatsoever). Nowhere near ‘winning’ it by the 50k benchmark, but this year I wrote double what I wrote last year, so it feels like a win to me.

What authors do you follow on social media?

The majority of people I follow on Twitter these days are writers of some sort. Authors of note that i follow are William Gibson, Cory Doctorow & S.E.Hinton.

What’s more important to you; a good plot or beautiful writing?

After struggling with this internally for a bit, a good plot is probably more important, because a simply written piece with a good story will hold me more than a beautifully written piece that doesn’t go anywhere or say anything.

Do you take yourself on artist’s dates? What do you do?

I saw this question and thought “is that like a Masturdate?” After having looked it up it turns out that, yes, I do go on artist’s dates. I visit bookshops and lose myself, I go on photo taking expeditions and also dabble in visual arts on canvas.

When friends and family ask “can I read your book?” What do you say?

Not something that I have had happen very much so far, but when it has I say. ‘Yes, sure. I’d like to know what you think of it.’ before mentally running into a foxhole.

That’s it from me. I will nominate the following writers (all of whom i know from Twitter) to answer my 10 questions:

Heather Grace Stewart     Hester B Fox   Keira Drake   Shannon Noel Brady

Dave Koster   Annelisa Christensen   Julia Grantham    Kevin Ansbro

Louise Gornall    Michael Huddlestone

Here be your questions!

  1. Do you believe in the “You must write every single day” ethos?
  2. What was the last book you read?
  3. How do you find balancing time to write with the rest of your life?
  4. Are you a Planner or a Pantser?
  5. What are you currently working on?
  6. How do you handle criticism of your work?
  7. When people ask the inevitable “what do you write about?” how do you respond?
  8. Who are the Writers you admire and why?
  9. How much of yourself is in any of your characters?
  10. Where do you write from? What fuels the stories you choose to tell and why?

 

 

 

Confessions of a Writer.

I was tagged in this interview series by the always lovely Annelisa. So here is a blog post in which i answer some questions about writing and me.

When did you first start writing? Was being a writer something you always aspired to be?
I started writing stories when I was in primary school (most of which I never finished) and I wrote a lot of poetry in my teens (most of it terrible), but I didn’t have any particular aspirations to be a writer when I was young. In primary school I wanted to be a jet fighter pilot and by the time I finished high school I was actively pursuing a career as an actor or a rock star. My lack of red carpet appearances and worldwide smash hit singles will probably tell you that neither of those panned out for me.
It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I realised that I wanted to be a writer. I started writing as part of a therapy exercise and it expanded from there and became the start of the novel that I am working on now. My wife at the time was very supportive and sent some inquiries to every lit agent or publishing person she could find and we got some very positive responses.

Life got in the way and I gave it up to get a real job and try being responsible and stuff until about a year ago when I realised that I have always been a writer, whether I thought of myself as one or not and that it was what I wanted to do. At which point I picked it all up again and decided that I was going to make something of this writing thing if I possibly could. At the very least I didn’t want to regret not having given it my utmost.

What genre do you write?

Most of what I write falls under the Literary Fiction tag. Technically also Non-Genre Modern Fiction, but that sounds incredibly beige and boring. I also branch into speculative fiction sometimes.

Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress? When did you start working on this project?

My major WIP is a novel currently titled ‘Coming Clean’. Its central character is a young man who is a heroin addict and general avoider of responsibility that discovers he is going to be a father. It follows his journey through breaking out of the addiction cycle and coming to terms with impending fatherhood. It is the novel that I mentioned in my first answer, so I officially started writing it about 15 years ago now.
What was your first piece that you can remember writing? What was it about?

The first piece that I can remember writing was in 3rd or 4th class and it was a story about my friends and I. We went on a camping trip and ended up foiling an evil genius with an army of robot sharks.

What’s the best part about writing?

Having written.
Being ‘in the zone’ where words just flow out of you and the rest of the world around you ceases to matter.
Less people question my coffee and cigarette intake or weird sleep cycle.

What’s the worst part about writing?

Not being in the above mentioned zone.
Those times when you look at your work and think it’s all crap.
People who think writing is a) easy b) just a little hobby that I have.

What’s the name of your favourite character and why?

I don’t love any of my characters more than the others, I just love them all differently.

How much time a day/week do you get to write? When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)?

Umm…yes. It varies wildly, and I’ve never really kept track of it. I’m a single parent of three children so a lot of my writing time is in blocks of an hour or so that I manage to grab as well as the occasional all night writing binge.
The best time for me to write is late at night when the kids are in bed. Plus I am a night person in general and I find my creative mind is generally more active at those kind of times. 1am to 3am is usually my sweet spot.

Did you go to college for writing?

No. My writing education consists of having always been a reader and reading many, many interviews with writers. Early on I had a mentor of sorts. A family friend that was a scriptwriter and generally Literary minded, he pointed me in the direction of The Paris Review among other things.

What bothers you more: spelling errors, punctuation errors or grammar errors?

It depends on the circumstances.

What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you?

Me personally –

“You should. The world needs writers” which is what my Father said to me when I first told him that I wanted to be a writer.
“Once you think your story is finished. Get someone else to look at it for you” – Kevin Ansbro
I’m also just going to throw some quotes out here that I’ve found helpful:

“Remember that the first draft is just you telling the story to yourself” – Terry Pratchett
“Write hard and clear about what hurts” – Hemingway
“Write drunk, edit sober” – Hemingway
John Steinbeck also wrote a wonderful letter of writing advice to a friend’s niece that I have always found helpful. Here if you’re interested.

What advice would you give to another writer?

Just grit your teeth and write, get it out of your head, judge it later.

What are your favourite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips or encouragement?
Um. Nowhere specific mostly. To be honest I have found most of that kind of advice and support though the writing community on Twitter that I have gotten to know over the last year. I’ve gotten to know some of them quite well and would happily meet many of them for a coffee, drink or debauched weekend of questionable decisions and excessive consumption (remember, bad decisions make good stories).

Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies?

I still play music, I write and record songs from time to time, just for my own amusement these days. I dabble in visual arts, collage and painting. I have the occasional binge on computer games and I run a Tabletop Roleplaying game group that meets online once a week.
I also enjoy long walks on the beach and staring bleakly into the void.

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

Kinnara by Kevin Ansbro (but if he asks tell him I said something else or he’ll get a big head). No, really, it’s a fantastic book.

What is the best movie you’ve seen this year?

Neil Blomkamp’s Chappie. One of the things that I love about it is the characters of Ninja and Yolandi. Because I went from finding them really distasteful characters initially to genuinely caring about their story by the end of the movie, despite them still being basically the same people which is no small feat of storytelling.

What is your favourite book or series of all time?

Sorry, can’t narrow it down to just one. How about my top five?
On the Road – Jack Kerouac
Small Gods – Terry Pratchett
Neuromancer – William Gibson
Candide – Voltaire
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

Who is your favourite author?
Didn’t I basically just answer this with the last question?

What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing?

Basically just to keep going and finish the first draft of this novel I’m working on. I also plan to submit some short fiction that I have written to as many places I can think of in the hope of having some of it published.

Where else can we find you online?

Other than this blog I can be found on Twitter @out_ofthe_fog , come say hi if you haven’t already. I also have a G+ profile that I do nothing with, doesn’t everybody?

To keep the ball rolling i would like to tag the following:

@RomeoRites

@ShunterNi

@mariellahunt

@cathleentowns

@lucyfacewrites

For the benefit of those tagged, the interview questions are below.

When did you first start writing? Was being a writer something you always aspired to be?
What genre do you write?
Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress? When did you start working on this project?
What was your first piece that you can remember writing? What was it about?
What’s the best part about writing?
What’s the worst part about writing?
What’s the name of your favourite character and why?
How much time a day/week do you get to write? When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)?
Did you go to college for writing?
What bothers you more: spelling errors, punctuation errors or grammar errors?
What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you?
What advice would you give to another writer?
What are your favourite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips or encouragement?
Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies?
What’s the best book you’ve read this year?
What is the best movie you’ve seen this year?
What is your favourite book or series of all time?
Who is your favourite author?
What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing?
Where else can we find you online?

So, i watched Sicario

I don’t normally do movie reviews, but thought i might put my two cents out there after seeing Sicario at the movies tonight. Don’t worry, i’ll be brief.

Broad strokes. It was okay, but not great and it’s not a movie i’d go out of my way for. I could see the story it was trying to tell, but in the end it really lacked the emotional punch needed to make an impact (on me at least). The phrase “inch deep ocean” comes to mind. Big concept with no real depth.

The main problem i felt was that the script diluted itself by being unsure about exactly which story it was going to tell. The story of Kate the FBI agent and here experience with the war on drugs and the Mexican Cartels, or an ensemble piece. It dithered between them and so we didn’t get the focus on either that might have led the audience to being involved.

I also felt that Emily Blunt’s character was written as female so that she could be the emotional foil for the rest of the cast. You know, so all the guys could just be hard arses around her and she could do all the emotional stuff. Which i have issues with for a bunch of reasons.

There was also a LOT of tension building without particular purpose scattered throughout, which got kind of annoying.

Without the benefit of a giant screen and really loud stereo effects it would have been a lot less engaging than it was.

Final score for neatness 2 1/2 out of 5.

What did classical literature ever do for you?

This is a follow on from a guest blog post by Mariella Hunt over on www.brettmichaelorr.com about Classical Literature. I had some subsequent conversation with the two of them on on the subject via Twitter and it got me thinking a few things.

Mainly, what is Classical Literature and what does it offer for readers?

For a lot of people the term seems to bring up writers of the western cannon like Bronte, Eyre & Dickens. A lot of those same people encountered those writers in school and found them dry and unrelatable. But for me Classical Literature encompasses so much more than just these 16th-17th century writers. I don’t myself find much interest in reading the above mentioned authors, although it is worth mentioning that most people will be a familiar with ‘A Christmas Tale’.

Which brings me to my wider point, if you look at Classical Literature not just as ‘grown-up’ works written before the 20th century many of our beloved children’s classics fall under this umbrella. The adventure stories of Robert Louis Stevenson were something that i read as a child as well as those of Jonathan Swift. These works were not considered children’s stories when they were published and Swift is a brilliant satirist if you read him again with an adult eye. His style can be found echoing through the works of writers like Terry Pratchett if you look for it. Probably one of the most well known children’s stories is ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Lewis Carroll was definitely not writing with children in mind. He was a mathematics professor and Alice was written as an allegory for his own views on “new” mathematical theories of the time (the string theory of his day) where he imagined the sort of crazy world it would be if it were run by the rules of these new theories. There are many, many other examples like these stories, just think back about the classic stories that you absorbed as a child and see how many of them have origins further back than the last hundred years or so. Just about every story that a Disney animated movie is based on for example.

Probably can’t get past this point without mentioning the Brothers Grimm, who’s works were read at the time of printing as sensational horror stories, which explains the amount of death, gore & awful things happening to people contained in their fairy tales.

Stepping away into more ‘grown-up’ works if you will, there is a wealth of other authors out there that go beyond. One of my personal favorites is Candide by the french satirist Voltaire, but it is far from all that is out there. Here is a list from Goodreads of some pre-1900 Authors that you may find some titles that interest you among.

The thing that i wanted to say the most of all when i started this post is that all of this literature can offer you so much as a reader and i urge anybody who hasn’t consciously picked up an old book to do so, because it is totally worth it. Classical Literature offers many things like a window into the world that existed before our modern one. But, most of all they offer you BLOODY GREAT STORIES! Stories that have stood the test of time and been read and loved over and over again by generations of human beings since they were written.  As a reader, don’t you want great stories?

America, please put down the guns.

America, please put down your guns. It’s making me despair for you. I am moved to write this after seeing my twitter feed light up in the last couple of hours  with news of more deaths of innocent people.

My heart goes out to the victims and their families and everyone in the surrounding web of people whose lives will have some tragedy  in it today.

As an outsider from another country here’s how it looks:
It looks like you have a sick fetish with gun violence that makes me fear for every single American that i know.

I love so many things that have come from you America, but you have a problem.
I dont know of anybody who wouldn’t think that any of it is less than a tragedy, but it is still happening.

Every time you talk about it, after every senseless death the same people seem to jump up and say that guns themselves aren’t the problem. They are right of course, and it goes much deeper than that. Why these things happen is a large and complex issue that you need to deal with.
However, guns are part if the problem and they are the tool that is used to create these tragedies. You have to start removing them, it’s that simple.

An arsonist isn’t dangerous purely because they have matches, but before you start working out why they light fires the first thing you do is to take away the matches.

It’s the same with guns. Its that simple.