Let’s Cut the Crap

 

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Source: Death to the Stock Photo

Pardon for the cursing, it’s been a really long week (and we’re barely halfway through it already).

I think there is something that we, as a blogging community, could have safely left behind in 2015 – lists. In particular, motivational lists. Yes, I know, they give structure to your writing and make it easier for the reader to skim through it if they’re in a hurry. Let me ask you something: do you want your blog to be something people skim over?

That’s not to say I’m not guilty of doing exactly that, and more times than I care to count, but something occurred to me recently (today, as a matter of fact, while reading a motivational list article) – those things are fucking annoying. How many times can you read tips like “stay organized” and “create flowcharts” and “declutter your drawers for a safer frame of mind” before you want to throw up?

It’s the law of supply and demand. Or maybe the law of being unable to say anything new. Even this article is probably a rip-off  from a number of other articles online, but I won’t bother to google them or link them up here because these are my feelings, damn it, I don’t need other people to validate them.

Here’s the problem with lists, or any kind of motivational writing (which, again, I am guilty of) – it sets you up as Someone With Answers (TM) and doesn’t leave much space for you to be imperfect on your blog. High expectations online? There’s no way that could end up backfiring on you. It’s not like depression doesn’t love to latch up to every moment of self-confidence and self-aggrandizing and then use it to beat you into the ground. The more public the better. “Haha,” that old b*tch says, “you think you can tell people on the Internet how to live their lives? Come, read this now. How does it make you feel?”

I think what broke the camel’s back for me today wasn’t general depression suckiness. It was the realization that no matter how easy lists make it look, having your life together is not a simple process. No matter how hard you try to build a support network and make friends and be specific about demands on their time when your mood is in the shits, there is no perfect solution and life isn’t a program that you have to debug.

It’s not a great realization to have. So of course, what better way to fix that than write a blogpost, getting mad at other people?

 

Bet@ Re@ding: @ Primer

 

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Source: Death to the Stock Photo

Beta reading. You can’t go without it.

Actually, you can, but you probably shouldn’t. See, despite my talking about how writers need to be self-sufficient and self-reliant, beta readers can do a lot for us before we get to agent query. And if you want to be a beta, congratulations – you can help your writer friends a lot.

Okay, credentials time: I am not a pro. I’ve been a beta for friends and I’ve had them return the favour. I’ve beta-ed for strangers as well. I don’t have the secrets to the universe, but I’ve given criticism enough times at uni or online to know what might be a good idea and what wouldn’t. If you’re interested, keep on reading. There’s a section for betas and authors.

 

FIRSTLY, FOR BOTH

When I say beta-reading, I mean a general overview of a project where the beta tells the author what they think. It’s not copy-editing. It’s not line-reading (unless you want it to be.) And it isn’t paid – if you’re looking for a beta reader, I’m assuming you’re looking to exchange favour with somebody. Professional editing is available online and comes with its own set of rules. Beta-reading, as I know it, is not.

Okay? Okay.

 

FOR BETAS

So, an author friend or acquaintance has approached you, asking if you want to look at their newest project. Great! Super! What are you supposed to do?

Like I said, the idea is to read through the project and give the author some tips on how to improve it. Now, how you deliver your critique depends a lot on the person and your relationship to them, but a general rule of thumb is: Be constructive. Read the project like you would any other book in this genre, then think about what works and what doesn’t, and how to let your friend know.

I personally adhere to the following guidelines: 3 specific things I really liked, and why, followed by 3 specific things I thought didn’t quite work, and why. Three is a nice number – very magical, but more importantly, very doable. Most likely your author friend will skip over the praise and head straight for the critique, so it’s better to give them only three points to think about as they improve.

Note the first: Just because your friend will skip over the praise the first time around doesn’t mean they won’t come back to it later. Don’t skimp on that.

Note the second: If you found less than 3 things to improve on, great! If there are more than 3 (like, a lot more) focus on the really, really major ones. You may think you’re not being efficient, but in my experience when I tackle big problems with the book, the small ones get fixed as I go along. A beta reader is a new set of eyes, and their perspective helps us see where the work was previously blindsiding us.

Other tips:

DO tell your friend you got the manuscript as soon as you do. Nothing worse than thinking you accidentally sent it to someone else. (Like your boss. Or an author you admire.)

DO read it and get back to them as fast as you can. If you can’t, tell them you’re busy and give them a concrete timeframe. (“By the end of next week” works. “Soon” does not.)  If things change and you can’t beta anymore, that’s cool – just let them know. Don’t hold onto the manuscript hoping to finish it at some point and getting guilty when you can’t – really, we don’t want that.

DO use “I” centered language when you finally submit your report. “I think,” and “I like”, and “It seems to me,” and “I had trouble with,” and “I was confused about,” go a long way in getting your point across.

DO encourage them to keep on writing. Even if this particular project doesn’t work, the next just might. A friendly hit on the shoulder can make all the difference.

 

FOR AUTHORS

Okay, you find a beta reader for your work. Great! The manuscript is ready, you literally cannot look at it anymore and you need a second set of eyes. Good. Great. You can just kick back and– nah, sorry, mate. There’s still work to do.

Firstly, here’s a quick checklist to make sure your book is ready for betaing:

  • It is NOT a first draft and/or has gone through at least one revision (that includes if you hand-write and then type up your notes, or you read everything you wrote the previous day before you lay down fresh words.)
  • You’ve actually read it through at least once.
  • You know the story and your characters by heart. (As in, if I kicked you awake in the middle of the night, you’d still be able to list out everything you know about them.)
  • You can open your manuscript at any point and say what is going on.
  • You look at a page and you know how the sentence is going to go before you finished reading it.
  • There are some very obvious typos (he, instead of the; your instead of you’re) etc.
  • You really, really need help

Seems pretty straightforward, no? And yet, I’ve been guilty of all of these things. I’ve sent first drafts of my NaNo novels to my betas, and then not known what they mean when they gave me their critiques. I’d get critique on things I already knew were a problem that needed fixing. I’d go on ego trips where I’d discard the entire critique because clearly, the other person did not understand. (Sorry, guys.)

If you know there is something you can fix, don’t send it to your beta. I guarantee, even if the other person doesn’t pick up on it, it’ll nag at you until you fixed it; and if they do pick up on it, it’ll be a waste of time for them – they could have helped you in other ways.

Note: Don’t worry about the typos at this point. You will probably do at least one re-write after your beta gives you their notes, and their job is not to line-edit. If you want to do that, there are programs online who can help. (I use Grammarly.)

Other dos and don’ts:

DO communicate: If you have a timeframe in mind, tell your beta. Also, if you want them to answer specific questions/focus on any specific aspects of the story, ask them before they start reading. That’ll give them an idea what you want and make it easier for them.

DO be patient. Life happens. The sad truth is that your betas are more likely to need time to get back to you. Be honest with them if you can’t wait anymore, but be understanding too.

DO be careful when working with strangers. Do you have anybody who can vouch for them? I’m not saying everyone is out there to get you, but it’s a good idea to think about these things if you haven’t been on a community before.

DON’T be a dick. Seriously. Your friends are doing you a favour. Don’t treat them like they are your  employees, or worst, worshippers at your private writer’s temple. Seriously.

DO return the favour. If not to them, then to others. You learn to take criticism a lot better after you’ve given it a few times.

DO keep any follow-up questions to a minimum. Some people have really good memory. Most have things interfering with it. If you really need them to follow-up on anything they’ve written, let them know, and be specific. Use citations, if you must. And if they didn’t mention something in the original critique, and you didn’t ask them to beforehand, just assume it’s okay.

 

Did I miss anything? What are your tips for successful collaborations?

 

Happy writing

Etsy love: Writers Edition

Occasionally, I’d forget I’m not a beauty blogger anymore. Oftentimes, it coincides with late-night browsing trips and PMS, and other feelings-induced madness. It’s a thing: even if there is a snowball’s chance in Hell that you could buy everything that catches your eye, but it’s just so fun, browsing. Masochistic, in a way.

So, instead of linking you to every big shop on the highstreet, here are a few stores on Etsy for you to drool over. (And yes, I know – the irony of doing this in January doesn’t escape me.)

Bureau/Writing Desk

Midsummer’s Night Journal

Sylvia Plath journal

Journal Set (or anything, really, from that store)

Amy Brown art 

Renee Nault art

GlamLondon Pumpkin Print Scarf

FullSpectrumApparel T-shirt

Rosie’s Pendants Women Who Write Are Dangerous (so true)

Writing is Hell wrap bracelet (again, SO true)

Note: All photography credit from the etsy stores.

Affliction

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Source: My old drawing journal. Now given away.

It happened on the train.

Well, strictly speaking, it was happening long before I got on the train, but the symptoms manifested themselves somewhere near Northampton, and then just kept getting worse. By the time we pulled up on Euston station, I couldn’t walk by myself.

Make no mistake, it absolutely sucks whenever it happens. But my worst nightmare is to be caught outside, and begging strangers for help.

*

I was on my way to a job interview. It was the reason I got on the train, and it was the only thing on my mind the entire morning, and the weekend before. My hair was recently dyed – an attempt to make it a tiny bit more normal, after a bleaching-gone-wrong. Who knows what might have happened, if only one thing had changed? Maybe I would have caught the symptoms earlier. Maybe I would have had my usual medication on me, sooner. Maybe I wouldn’t have triggered the episode by stressing out, or by spending too much time with my hair wet. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

But there’s no way of telling. Not really, not until it’s too late.

It starts off as a bit of discomfort, a cramp in my leg or my stomach – nothing unusual if you train a lot, and/or are in possession of an ovulating uterus.  But then the pain got worse. And worse. And worse. To the point where I could feel

To the point where I could feel the pulse in my femoral vein without even concentrating.

To the point where every third second was a sharp jolt.

To the point where I could barely sit, let alone walk comfortably.

By the time I figured out what was going on, the train was almost halfway through to its final destination, and the thought of getting off was unbearable – not least because turning back would mean a change of platforms, which would mean stairs.

I don’t do well with stairs. I don’t do well with walking. In fact, at its worst, the most I can do is huddle under my coat and howl for it to stop.

And now, I would be doing it in front of a train full of people. Delightful.

*

“Go to the university hospital,” my dad ordered me on the phone. “It’s right around the corner from the station. I’m coming behind you.”

I said I would, rubbing my leg in an attempt to alleviate the ache. No joy. Strangely enough, I didn’t start to really panic until we entered the London area. It was as though I journeyed through a vacuum, where all my feelings only reached a certain point.

Then we were a stone’s throw from the train station, and suddenly the pain was worse, and I had to beg the manager to help me disembark.

Here’s what didn’t happen: People did not stare. They did not point. For the most part, I was too freaked out by the idea of having to hop on one leg to the hospital, but I daresay they didn’t treat me like a walking circus show, for which I am very grateful.

Here’s what did happen: They called the station ahead to let them know what was going on. The train manager helped me off. A very nice lady sat with me, risking being late for work, as we waited for a wheelchair. I thanked her again and again.

Then they took me to a taxi stand where a cab driver took my money, to drive me 100 meters, and drop me off at the wrong ER. I ended up hobbling anyway, my wallet a few pounds lighter, but at least it was a straight track. The receptionist didn’t bat an eyelash at me, despite the fact that I was gasping for air and barely holding it together. I somehow managed to fill out the forms necessary before collapsing on a chair, hunched over my backpack, and praying for someone to put me out of my misery.

Or for my name to get called, whichever comes first.

*

What is it, though? I wish I knew. I’d been having these episodes ever since the year I started Uni, horrible cramps that turned into full-blown fevers, complete with raving, convulsing, light sensitivity and extreme profanities. Basically, if I didn’t catch it on time, I turned into a vampire zombie for a while.

My doctors aren’t sure what it is. Maybe it has something to do with the other problems I have. Maybe it’s stress-induced. Hell if they know.

I know even less.

What I do know is that these miserable times hit without warning, and they hit me hard. That time in London, I was afraid of so many things – afraid of the pain, afraid of what I’d do when the crisis really struck, but mostly, I was afraid of what I’d tell the nurse, how I would explain myself.  Somehow, I’ve arrived at the stage where I not only have to be able to account for my symptoms to medical professionals, I have to be super-nice about it too, possibly even deploy my sense of humour. Sometimes I can do that – that  time I split my eyebrow during training, for instance, I was in my element – but all bets are off when I can’t even put weight on my leg without wanting to howl in pain.

What’s wrong with you? I’d think, whenever my tales of woe were met with cold professionalism. Why can’t you be more sympathetic?

There’s no way to answer that. Doctors and nurses aren’t there to coddle – they’re there to make you better, or barring that, to make you as comfortable as possible. But they’re not your mother, your boyfriend, or your childhood teddy bear. They have to make sure you’re not abusing the system.

Obviously, as I’m writing this, my name did get called out, and I did see a nurse who gave me some painkillers to start, and another wheelchair, and put me in a nice place in the corridor to wait before someone at the ICU saw me. My dad arrived while I waited, and the drugs began to work before I devolved completely.

*

It would have been the thing to end this story with me, having my interview over the phone, high on ibuprofen and adrenalin, and maybe even getting the job. But that did not happen. First of all, I was still in pain, and even as the panic went down, I was still hyper-aware of every twinge and every ache in my body. Secondly, this was the ER – and the only appropriate conversations to be had in the waiting room are performed at whisper-level.

The strongest memory of that day, in fact, isn’t of fear. It’s of shame.

Going through an ER takes time, but the ICU is even longer. By the time we got to see the consultant, my pain was all but gone, and there was precious little in terms of advice that I could get, other than ‘Just keep doing what you’re doing, and have your anti-inflammatories on hand.’ My Dad had travelled to London on his day off to support me. Aside from my freakout on the station, I’d basically ridden out the thing in wheelchairs.

But would I have done so well if I didn’t get help? If I had walked, or if I had just decided to sit down and wait until the next train home? What would have happened if I waited for too long, and was too far gone before anyone noticed I needed help? Who knows? I don’t.

I still felt ashamed, and embarrassed. That the outcome hadn’t been more dramatic, perhaps.

Joys of being a 20-something.

In the end, my father and I walked out under the grey sky, my stomach grumbling, and me, marvelling at how good walking felt again. I didn’t get the job, although they did very kindly offer to reschedule my interview. I ended up doing something completely different. One might say, it was for the best.

It wasn’t even the worst episode I’d ever had. Not by a long shot.

But it left an impact.

*

I woke up today, in pain. Not in a great deal of pain, but enough for me to seriously worry. I spent the entire Friday resting, crying, cursing myself. Being angry that my body has, once again, sabotaged an opportunity for me. My chance at going to a writer’s retreat was ruined.

I couldn’t even write, my brain was so full of cotton wool.

Then, eventually, I stopped trying.

And I told myself I’d try again in the morning.

*

The cotton wool cleared early.

Resenting Weekends

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Source: Death to the Stock Photo

It was a sad day when I discovered I no longer look forward to weekends. Or, rather, that I don’t make an emotional distinction between workday and weekend.

It’s a downside of working from home. Or rather, it’s a downside of life. Maybe it’s a downside of being Type A perfectionist. Or maybe a downside of being me. Or a downside of spending a good part of your life traveling. Either day, I am now stuck with 7 solid working days, during which I rarely sit down and work consistently in any organized fashion.

The biggest downside isn’t the exhaustion – with all this lack of structure, I get some chill time in – or the feeling of being a slob, even when you get stuff done; but really, it’s the feeling of never having time to slow down and look back.

Right now I’m working on a number of projects, reading several books in bits and bobs, here and  there, (because concentration has gone out the window), and keep adding items to a huge backlog of things I want to peruse or listen to. Even that book on tidying didn’t keep me afloat for long. I’m slogging through a number of Works in Progress without any sense of where I am, what I’m doing, and how I’m doing it.

Small wonder I feel like a slob.

There’s a good reason we have weekends (other than waffle breakfasts and leisurely perusals of the newspaper, obviously) – it’s a chance to slow down, catch up, figure out where we are right now, in this point of time, and what we’re about to do. And I’m not the only one who sees the value in this – a lot of writers do. Julia Cameron insists on the importance of morning pages and artist dates. Dani Shapiro advocates for grounding activities that give you a chance for dream time. Stephen King has an ideas folder that he uses to sift out the ideas that stay from the ones that only come in passing. It’s too easy to get lost, otherwise.

This weekend, I’m off to Devon. It feels strange. Unnatural. A break. An actual break. I didn’t even break during the Christmas break, and that was a break proper. I didn’t break for New Years Day, and everyone knows it’s the one day it’s totally acceptable to sleep in. What is this even?

I know, brain. I know.

I look forward to it.

Stop Enabling Stalkers

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If only we could all just run off to the woods. Our own, private, isolated woods. (Source: deathtothestockphoto.com)

 

The other day, I got a blast from the past, when the news that yet another author had catfished and stalked bloggers in order to get more exposure for her book – going as far as to fake being an employee of a major publishing house. (Read more on Tez’s excellent blog.)

Here’s the thing: it’s been a very long time since I blogged about books, or even wrote a review. I’m not embarrassed by any of the stuff I put on Goodreads a few years ago, but I’m not exactly proud of them either. I feel as though I could have said some things a lot better, been a lot more thorough in my research, maybe used fewer curse words (although, really, curse words are like 50% of my vocabulary). I moved away from book blogging, partly because I got too busy, partly because I was depressed, and partly because I just didn’t care for all the new releases.

But this shit – authors stalking bloggers, authors making bloggers feel unsafe, this was one of the things that gave me the final push out the door. What really clinched it for me, though, was seeing history repeat itself, again and again, despite the outcry from bloggers about this making them feel unsafe and unhappy.

As far as I’m concerned, this behaviour should have been left behind in 2011. Better yet, it should have never happened.

I get it – authors have it hard. They now have to write books AND market them. There’s a lot of responsibility thrown on their shoulders by a greedy system, and having exposure is important. Guess what – that exposure isn’t more valuable than the safety of readers.

I don’t care if I ruin my chances of ever working with an agent or a publishing house – I need to say this: Stalking is wrong, and anyone who condones it is as guilty as the stalker, because they enable them to harrass and silence without consequence.

Sure, we all shuddered reading Kathleen Hale’s description of how she tracked down a blogger and drove miles to leave a book at her doorstep. Sure, we all rolled our eyes when John Green threw a hissy fit because someone on the Internet had an opinion. Yes, a lot of these badly behaving authors should know better than to behave unprofessionally.

But there’s another culprit, and that’s the people who let them off the hook. Publishers and agents who continue to support them. Fans who are all too happy to dog-pile on the nay-sayers. Colleagues who defend them and use their own fans to attack.

Jesus, it’s like middle school again. Some poor kid doesn’t fit in and tries to carve out a space for themselves, only to have the populars shun him or bully him, while teachers and parents turn a blind eye. Do we really have to keep bringing this stuff in adulthood?

People behave as if it’s the bloggers’ own fault for putting their thoughts out in public, (even if authors are more than happy to take avantage of the free exposure). But we can’t have our cake and eat it. We can’t have bloggers doing free work AND police their behaviour to suit our needs.

It’s time to act like adults, people. That means exercising patience and impulse control. Do you know what that means? That means being fair, calling out bad behaviour, and refusing to engage with negativity.

And yeah, I get it – if you’re a fan, it’s hard when someone you like, even admire, does something bad. I’ve been there a few times and it’s not pleasant. You don’t want to cut ties. You want them to redeem themselves.

But they won’t, if you don’t show them that what you did was wrong.

On Impossible Things

 

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Source: Death to the Stock Photo

How often have you heard people say to you: Don’t take on too much. Have SMART goals. Be realistic.

Most of my life, I’ve ben realistic. I’ve been so realistic, I sometimes depress myself. It’s not really psychological self-harm: it’s digging yourself deep so that you can say, with absolute certainty, that your feet are on the ground.

I wonder, how deep is deep enough? Should I go as far as my knees? As my waist? As my neck? Why don’t I just lie down and let myself be buried for good measure?

If that sounds needlessly harsh and cruel, good. It’s meant to be.

I think there is a problem in the cultural discourse around busyness and risk-taking. We tell ourselves to be SMART (specific, measurable, accountable, realistic, timely) about the things we take on, but at the same time, our culture glorifies busyness – to the point where people who take a risk and only do one thing are treated as lazy slobs.

Writers are the easiest example. Anyone who has done their research on publishing knows the very dismal statistics of employment. There is no such thing as a constant stream of income. You’re taxed as a self-employed individual. In the States, you have to pay a fortune for health insurance (and if the UK government has their way, you on this side of the pond will too, and very soon). Whether you succeed or fail depends on dumb luck as much as it does on the hours you spend on social media marketing. And if that isn’t bad enough, your cousin Gladys keeps asking you when you’ll get a real job.

Unless an author strikes out and their book sales hit the stratosphere, they will probably need some other source of income. (And if they hit the stratosphere, they have a whole different set of problems.) Writing seems less like a genuine vocation, and more like an expensive hobby.

And yes. It sucks. It sucks so hard.

Imagine being a young, budding writer. You’ve been doing your thing, on your own, or anonymously, for a while, and you want to learn about publishing. You read the statistics. You soak up the misery. You look at the NYT bestseller list and you think: “There’s no way I’d be this lucky.” Your parents tell you that people who rely on luck are fools and slobs. Society tells you that you are a spoiled brat by virtue of being born after 1989.

I don’t have to imagine. I am that writer. I’m lucky that my job is something I genuinely love, and makes me as excited to get out of bed in the morning as the thought of writing. But for three and a half years, I went through a sort of hell where I asked myself, on a daily basis, what the **** am I doing with my life? Why do I keep doing this to myself? I hated everything and it felt like everything hated me. I spent my time studying, because that’s what good girls do, and skipped valuable socialization time because I wanted to write. I don’t want to imagine what my coursemates thought of me. I only had a few good friends, by virtue of us living together (small blessing, all things considered). I exercised excessively. I stressed out. I went on diets that gave me more troubles than they were worth.

But the absolute worst thing that came out of all that “playing safe” thing was this disgusting sense of self-righteousness, a sanctimoniousness that I swear other people could smell off me at 1000 paces. I thought I had it all figured out. I looked down on other people with similar dreams. I resented those that pursued their dreams full time.

This isn’t a cautionary tale. This is a call to action.

No more jealousy. I’ll pursue my dreams at my own pace and in my own good time, and keep my eyes on my ballpark.

No more wishy-washiness. I’ll be as ruthless with my writing as I am with my work.

No more delay. I have to act now.

This January is a bit of a NaNo. I want to finish a novel, or barring that, a first/second draft. Alongside my other projects, and querying agents. Because I want to.

And if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But damn, it’s a challenge I wanna take.

 

Scraped Palms

Source: deathtothestockphoto.com

Source: deathtothestockphoto.com

About two months ago, I was riding my bike along the canal next to our house. It was rainy and muddy. A couple was coming the other way, carrying large shopping bags. Each of us moved to opposite sides of the sidewalk, ready to pass each other, as you do, and as I have done dozens of times before. But I must have ridden too close to the edge, or maybe the mud really was slippery – either way, I fell into the canal, and if the couple hadn’t caught me, both me and my bike would have gone for a swim with the rats.

It’s lucky that the most I got out of the thing was a scraped palm and a fright.

I’m looking at my hand now – there aren’t any visible scars, but if I run my fingertips over it, I can feel where the scrapes were, and I can still remember, sort of, what it felt like when they first happened. There was numbness, and then I couldn’t close my hand into a fist, rest it against any surface, or even turn my wrist around much.

That day, I came home, took a shower, sat down at the computer and finished editing my weekend project. A week later I started querying.

That fall was probably the most dramatic way serendipity has made itself known to me, ever. I’m not going to recommend it as a way of curing writer’s block – it’s painful, unsanitary, unnatural. One might say – just like writing! – but no. No. Writing is the opposite. Writing helps make sense of the world. Sure, there’s a lot of getting your hands dirty, but that is where the similarities end.

This post has been in draft mode for weeks. It is now 2016, the first round of queries is almost over, I’ve not had a single favourable response, and I’ve managed yet another big revision of my project. None of this had anything to do with the calendars changing or Santa’s presents. And try as I might, I cannot find the reason within myself, either.

My conscious self, at least.

I look now at my little “writers” shelf. Julia Cameron, Dani Shapiro, Ursula le Guin, Natalie Goldberg, Angela Carter. Each in their own way mentions the seasons, the ebb and flow of life, the ebb and flow of creativity. Dry seasons and rainy seasons. Finding ways to persevere, finding a toehold so that you don’t get carried away. I was raised to automatically dislike anything remotely New Agey, but if lived experience is anything to go by, there is a truth to the seasons theory. We get to work when we’re ready. The point is to be where we need to be ready to work.

Most days I work from home. I’m often within reach of a phone or a notebook or a laptop. The day of the fall, my mind was wandering, and I kept muttering snippets of dialogue under my breath. But I didn’t sit down to write. I had been feeling dried up and demotivated, from digging that proverbial well, and I thought it would be more of the same. I wasn’t paying the attention I needed to be paying when I mounted my bike and headed off.

The universe decided to give me a lesson and really scrape my palms.

I guess it’s a good thing it doesn’t have to make its point so obvious every time.