I did it. I went to the workshop, I participated, wrote two poems and …read them out. I’ve not been in this sort of environment since becoming ill, and I felt incredibly awkward, shy and slightly foolish (what the hell am I doing here?). Three things happened. Firstly, the fellow running the workshop Steve Pottinger had the kind of relaxed manner that instantly made me feel at ease, he asked questions and listened to my answers, which is always a winner with shy folk like me. Secondly, EMDR therapy has vastly reduced the symptoms of anxiety. I felt nervous, but the breathlessness, twitchiness and feeling of blind panic were nowhere to be seen, considering these used to happen just going to the co-op, I was amazed and delighted. Finally, my sheer joy at being out, being focused on a subject that fascinates and moves me and being encouraged to write about it was irresistible.
It wasn’t plain sailing – I mumbled my way through reading my work, struggled to contribute sensibly and by the end brain fog had pretty much taken over so I ended up going full-on Moose Allan by the time I said goodbye. I lost the evening, and I suspect I’ll struggle with stamina this week, but I am so glad I’ve done this. I feel more positive about my work, and more joy in it than I felt for the whole of last year. If you’re interested to see what came out of the workshop, I’ve put my drafts on my work in progress page and I’d love it if you’d have a read.
But what about the tigers? Aha – the prompt for Mslexia’s themed writing is wildlife. Oddly, this has spawned two pieces of work about being in tiger disguise. One of these is a sestina, a delightfully complicated way of constructing a poem, which I thoroughly enjoyed creating. More revision and work is needed for both before (if) I submit, but again, the overwhelming feeling is that I am enjoying writing. The need for validation is still huge (and always will be I suspect) but that magic feeling of almost tasting the words as I write them is back.
The knife angel is in Southwater until the end of March, and there are poetry workshops for young people running this week at Southwater. It’s brilliant to have this on my doorstep, and I hope there will be more to come.
What does M.E. feel like? Like a holiday. No, seriously it does. Like a holiday where you’ve gone down with the food poisoning the guide book warned you about, and you’re bravely/bitterly waving everyone off to climb up a hill or eat some delicious food.
I’m clinging on. Physically I wake up feeling a little worse each morning. My arms, legs, feet all have a dull ache and weirdly limited range of movement. I sat at my desk this morning, full of grand plans to apply for some more freelance work, and
get another batch of submissions in. I managed one before my brain slowed and fogged. Without work there’s no spare money to study, or enter competitions, or go to readings or buy the magazines I want to be part of.
You get it, I know. You’ve been following this blog, and you’ve read it all before. It’s groundhog day. Dull, tedious and repetitive. I’m striking things out of my diary, missing birthdays, wondering if I’ve been overambitious in my plans for the year, wondering if I’ll be well enough to get the seeds sown or the garden tidied, or sort out my desk. My world is a small white room and it’s getting smaller.
I’m at the start of my third year of writing “seriously” and my seventh year of having M.E.. I feel less than terrific about both of these things. If I compare to this time last year, when I was merrily writing travel pages, and confidently submitting here, there and everywhere, things feel considerably less buoyant. I feel considerably less buoyant. Sinkable, in fact.
I’m trying to muster positivity, but the bare fact is M.E. is limiting my life. It feels kind of good to say that out loud.And kind of awful. I try to downplay the impact and try to “be positive” but my reality is that I have about four useful hours each day. I frequently go over those, sometimes deliberately, sometimes through guilt, and very occasionally because I’m having too much fun to stop. Then my body makes me. No option. I’m on day five of my post Christmas crash. This year’s festive period was particularly tricky, and I’m not surprised I’m so ill. I’m just sick of being sick. There’s so much I want to do, and so much that needs to be done to try to make things better, lying at home feels both privileged and pathetic.
How to regain hope then? I’m struggling to find the answer. I’ve a nagging feeling that I need to calm down, stop pushing and start enjoying the minutes of wellness that I have. Ha. It’s impossible. I love the ups and downs and adrenaline. Recognising what is important is the hardest thing. Perfection is subjective, and my lens changes every five minutes. Mostly I need to rest, but while body has a way of just “stopping” my mind won’t quit, and I can’t even divert myself by reading or watching a good film. Or a terrible film. Even Gone with the Wind has failed to distract.
I usually end these moany posts with a flash of perkiness, but in all honesty I haven’t got one. I am writing again. I just need to regrow my skin.
Thanks for reading, and any hints and tips are gratefully received x
Lots and lots of submissions sent today, it’s a funny mix of happy excitement (they might accept) and nervous negativity (they might not) but the good far outweighs the bad. Having work accepted for publication validates it somehow; it moves beyond just being liked by kind friends, and into something that is valued by people who want to sell their magazine or increase traffic to their blog. Having said that, the loveliest feedback is when someone takes time to get in touch to say how a poem moved them. Writing needs to be read, and knowing someone has felt some kind of resonance is the most precious thing.
Health has been frustratingly up and down…four days laid up last week but, thrill of thrills, I managed two outings with dear old friends last week, which lifted me and left me feeling warm and loved. Marvellous stuff. Exciting things are happening work-wise too, and I’m hoping to bring more news soon.
I’ve a couple more pieces to polish before sending off, then I’m going to knuckle back down to doing some actual writing. I have a fancy to write some short fiction again, so I’m at the germinating ideas stage which is always exciting.
My brain is more than quite contrary. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been drawing back from writing, feeling unsure where to go next. I almost need an anchor, and I certainly crave the balm of encouragement. I’m not fabulous at asking for these, so I tend to withdraw instead. It’s also the time of seed-sowing and plant tending, which is always my favourite distraction. I love the perpetual hope of a garden. As a consequence, I’ve felt that little actual writing has been happening other than hurried pieces for my final poetry school assignments. Thinking back though, I realise my brain has been sorting and storing and assimilating ideas . I realise I’ve been jotting down phrases that strike me as interesting or odd and I realise that I never really stop writing. Drawing back a little gives me time to breathe and reconfigure. I’m not alone in having my sharpest ideas at that magical point between sleeping and waking, and the simple act of changing focus gives my mind chance to wander and to wonder.
I’ve had one of my favourite poems published too, it’s a favourite because it began at one of those curious moments of absolute clarity and peace. More often than not I am tied up with anxiety, so these moments are rare and precious. I wanted to capture the calm power that I feel and absorb from the sea, so I focused on creating that rhythm. This poem has been slow to perfect ; it’s over a year old and has had many tweaks and twists, This final version is one that I’m happy with, and one that had its final polish has part of Wendy Pratt’s excellent How to Write a Poem workshop that I took at the start of the year. The workshop was entirely online, but Wendy helped create a fab collaborative feel, and it was great to have feedback and interaction from other poets. You can read View from Cook’s beach on Saltwaterzine, and it’d be ace if you’d like it and give a spot of feedback.
I need to begin my next round of submissions and polish up a couple of competition entries, but I think I’m going to spend as much time as I can with my seedlings too. It’s all about balance.
Thank you to everyone who likes, shares and comments on my work and my posts. It’s so valuable both personally (you’ve no idea how much it boosts my confidence) and in terms of getting my work read. Writing is a solitary occupation, throw in the complications of M.E. and it becomes even more so. A bit of interaction is great, and it’s so good to see when someone has enjoyed what I’ve written. Thank you!
I’m on a longlist….for the uninitiated, that means a competition judge (in this case it was the Fish Publishing Short Story prize) had read my submission, and put in their “read again” pile. It’s not as cool as being able to say “I won” or “I’m on the shortlist” but it is still a cool thing. For me it is further confirmation that I can do this, and encouragement to keep going. As well as my publication earlier this month, I’ve two more forthcoming publications, which makes me happy. I still have the words of a friend
I’m not writing a great deal of new work at the moment. It’s not writers block or anything dramatic like that, quite simply I’m really, really tired. I’m learning that I have a great rush where all I think about is writing, reading, and listening, then suddenly it stops and I need to do other things, like gardening or just sitting with the cat before I can go into another phase of writing. I think every one has their own way of doing things, and old adages like “write every day” can’t be followed religiously.
One thing I am doing, as part of my Crafting musical poetry course is trying to push myself to be more open in my work. Each piece I’ve submitted has had good feedback, along with a wish that I’d said a little more, gone a little deeper. I try to kid myself it’s because I want to “show not tell” but the reality is I’m a little scared. The other reality is that it’s only by being bold in my expression that my work will have the impact and resonance I want it to. I’ve been reading In search of equilibrium by Teresa Lola and the raw elegance with which she expresses herself is captivating. I need to learn to silence the voices of those unhelpful folk who think discussing any kind of weakness is a search for attention. Ultimately, for me at least, it’s a search for understanding and resolution.
I’m always amazed by the support I get from my friends, even just in my lovely local people make the effort to say they’ve read my blog and they’ve liked my work. It’s cool. I kind of imagine that all of these words float out into to the world and are mostly ignored by everyone but my mom. It’s great to get feedback. It’s a bit scary too, and I find myself wondering whether I should be less candid on here, perhaps adopt a more professional tone but that wouldn’t be me – I’ve never been great at being fake, so I think for now I’ll carry on with the diary style and carry on being a tiny bit too honest.
As ever, read, like, share and do comment…I love getting your feedback online too.