Having an illness like M.E. creates many unexpected twists* and forces change. Losing social life, the security of regular work, the simple convenience of popping to the supermarket to get a few bits for tea creates a sense of disorientation and a whisper of fear.
These are things I’ve spent the last seven years adjusting to and things that are now “normal”, and perhaps not unexpected.
What I didn’t expect was that having an illness like M.E. would create opportunities. I certainly didn’t expect those opportunities to be quite so close to being what I’ve always dreamt of.
Columnist for Spelt Magazine
Opportunity number one is being part of Spelt Magazine.This morning I had my first meeting with editor Wendy Pratt and I’m just fizzing with excitement.
Spelt sets out to do something different – it seeks to capture the brilliance of the natural world, but also the reality of living in a rural environment. From our chat this morning it’s clear this is going to be a magazine that amplifies the voice of those who don’t feel part of the edgy urban scene, but certainly don’t identify with the cosy lifestyle version of the countryside presented by other magazines. It’s something that excites me, something that I think is valuable, and somewhere that I think I fit – which is a wonderful thing to be able to say.
I’m not going to say too much about the column, other than I’m hoping to create something uplifting that brings a smile on gloomy days and gives a window into tiny joys.
Bursary from Raven Studios
My second opportunity comes in the form of a bursary courtesy of Raven Studios in Shrewsbury. Raven Studios is an incredible organisation that offers creative space and support to all manner of artists. My bursary is essentially buying me time to write – as you know M.E. means my physical and mental resources are limited and often writing to pay the bills takes precedent over creative work. My goal is to give around the 5 hours a week to developing poetry for a pamphlet that explores mental and physical health – it’s still in an embryonic stage, but I’m excited to have a new project to work on, and to have support from such a vibrant group of artists.
Learning how to be a better poet
You may remember I had to curtail my formal study with OCA – for many reasons it just wasn’t working, plus the fees proved to be overwhelming. What I have discovered is the wealth of courses available to help me develop as a writer. These range from simple prompt-a-day courses (I say simple – they’ve been the single best thing I’ve done), to more involved courses like those run by the York Centre for Life Long Learning or Poetry School. Thanks to a gift from Santa, I’ve been able to enrol on three courses this year, one looking at women writers, exploring body and illness and one looking at how to put together a themed collection. The last two are particularly exciting given my new project with Raven Studios.
So, here ends the post. It’s a grim month after a grim year, and the day to day is hard. I miss all the things! Despite the many lacks, I’m so excited about what the next few months will bring. More than anything I realise how much I’ve learnt since my diagnosis in 2013.
As ever, thanks for reading
*my less than accurate tying created the phrase “M.E. creates many unexpected twits.” I’m not entirely sure that was a typo.