Me sure as
This weekend I have been pondering the balance between personal responsibility and ‘the matrix’. It is for us as individuals to keep our emotions in check, manage our thoughts, and stay positive. This helps us create our reality. At the same time, there is stuff happening all the time around us. This could be things that might affect us in different ways, which we need to manage and also includes opportunities being thrown our way. So people describe this as like learning how to ride two horses, one being fate, the other being free will. Then you’ve got people like Richard Branson, who appear to have boundless confidence and seem to see how everything works and ‘play’ ‘the matrix’ to their own advantage.
For me initially it began with realising (mentally) what I had, and what I could do, and then realising (as in making real, putting into practice) that.
I had anticipated that as I took the big steps of leaving work and selling the house I might be ‘rewarded’ with a burst of creative energy and opportunities. So far that has meant that I have experienced a kind of further expansion of my mind. I pictured myself looking back and reviewing this life amongst others and saying, Hey, remember that time when we sold our house and packed in our jobs and went off to India?
But as if that isn’t exciting enough, my mind has begun to come up with even more crazy ideas and possibilities, as if there’s this sense that this is it, this is your last time around, if there’s anything else at all you might want to do, best do it in this lifetime. Watching BoJack, I thought, hey, maybe it would be fun to go to Hollywood, maybe it’s kind of like somewhere to go for creative people who don’t fit in where they come from, like art school. To wander around, immune to the pressures of youth and thinness. How and why would we be there? Write a book, ‘Our Guide to Escaping the Matrix’ (just us, telling our story), find our very own Princess Carolyn (BoJack’s agent) and have our story made into a film starring George Clooney and Kate Winslet. It’s important to write things down, to spell them out, however crazy they may sound.
Anyway, to return to my point, if ‘the matrix’ is just a reflection of us and not a thing of itself, then maybe all you have to really do is the self management bit, not concerning yourself with the matrix at all, and everything will just happen. Is that an invitation to limitless self belief or a cop out excuse to do nothing? (But we’d still need to actually write the book) (and we need money/an income stream- we do need to eat after all- and you have to spend your days doing something)
Back to Richard Branson. Maybe if you have a really strong sense of self you just know what to do. You don’t have to learn how to read the signs or think about timing. You just know, and whenever you decide to do it, that’s the right time.
What I’ve been watching:
Films: The Fifth Element
The costumes are designed by Jean Paul Gaultier. They are all amazing but it got me thinking that if you have hands and fingers and you want to learn you could sew and make costumes. If you are interested in something, if you follow that interest, with dedication and devotion, then with practice you will get good at it.
This is such an interesting portrayal of creativity, particularly group creativity, as it follows a band making an album. In the woods, for about a year, with loads of craziness. It makes you realise how hard it is- by that I mean how much dedication it takes, and how it takes time and practice to become good at playing instruments and writing songs. It takes dedication, time and practice, and of course you need to be interested and want to do it, or why would you be there in the woods for a year otherwise, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It shows you how it is done and what it takes. I found that to be encouraging rather than off putting, although I am glad I am not involved in a group activity like a band, I prefer the solitary creative practice of writing.
Netflix shows: The end of the f***ing world
Two young people. Such good acting and really well done.
What I’ve been listening to:
In a stunning example of awesome timing, my husband bought this CD in a charity shop for 25p, put it on the iPod and gave me the CD to play in the car. I put it on for the first time as I left work for the last time. Tracks 1 and 3 did give me goosebumps.
My name is Rachel.
Welcome to my blog.
This is where I reveal my true thoughts and feelings. This is a kind of coming out, to borrow words from a friend.
I live with my husband.
We have got rid of most of our possessions, sold the house and are getting ready to go travelling in South East Asia.
I will almost definitely write about places I visit and put pictures up.
But I will also just keep on writing, about everything.
I’m more art than science; for me it’s about the experience rather than the thing itself. It’s not about the travelling per se, rather the effect it has on me.
I have given up my job and my previous career. I am relearning that I can now swear, say whatever I want, and be myself at all times. Today was day one. As Buffy says: Gets easier, takes practice.
Thank you very much for reading
Books and stories by me
How to Find Heaven on Earth: love, spirituality and everyday life The story of my ‘spiritual awakening’ available as paperback or ebook on amazon
Call off the Search: how I stopped seeking and found peace My second ‘spiritual journey’ book, published chapter by chapter on this blog beginning on 8th July 2017
So simple, so amazing: a journey into awareness My third book, published chapter by chapter on this blog, beginning on 17th July 2017
Short stories in women’s erotica anthologies available on Amazon
Make it Happy a short book about long term relationships available on Amazon
Self help for the suicidal, a workbook for people struggling with suicidal thoughts available on Amazon
It’s not about what you’ve lost…
I think minimalism is misunderstood, or at least what I mean by minimalism. It is sometimes portrayed as a harsh ascetic, a kind of magazine lifestyle to try on for appearances, rather than part of an internal process of peeling away the layers of the onion to discover who you really are…
I feel anything but harsh about my remaining possessions. I feel really warm towards this chair which at the last minute I have decided to keep. Previously it was stuck in the corner of the dining room, the door used to bash into it. It used to belong to my grandmother, when I was a little girl I used to think that the ‘buttons’ on it did the doorbell. It took me years to realise that couldn’t have been true. Even now I wonder if someone somehow hooked it up to the door bell but no, it was just my imagination.
The little mother of pearl inlaid octagonal table (which belonged to my great grandmother and which I coveted as a child and gave to my son), has pinged back to me, and I am pleased.
Three plastic boxes of what I call ‘family heirlooms:’ cuddly toys that were mine or my son’s, children’s books, folders of his childhood drawings and school books.
One A4 box file of personal items of mine: photos of me with different hair and clothes, photocopied poems and favourite pages of books, a print out of a page on ‘love and spirituality;’ I turned to Google when I couldn’t understand what was happening when I met my husband. The strange pain in my chest, the way the sky split open…
Camping stuff, which can be left in my car. My husband’s bicycle. Bedding. All to be left at my mum’s. (At last, I have a functional amount of decent bedding and towels, rather than two linen chests’ worth of mainly scratchy old towels, saving the nice ones for guests or best or some kind of treat day that never came.)
Snow boots, Wellington boots. A few basic kitchen items. A box of tools.
A small box of joint personal items; a framed picture of the Goddess Lakshmi, a few ornaments and a few books.
A backpack each, from the India drawer; probably can’t take it all, haven’t practiced packing yet.
It’s not Stuff that shows what you’ve done with your life, it’s your Life.
We really are moving. In England the system is that even though the person has offered to buy your house and you accepted their offer, you can’t feel safe until contracts have been exchanged. (The buyer has to put up 10% at this time and would lose the money if they pulled out.) However, this can take weeks, and means a lot of hanging by the phone. Our contracts were meant to exchange at the end of last week, then it was meant to be Monday of this week, which was the week I was leaving work. The thought of having to come back with my tail between my legs was, well…. ‘Exchange’ happened on Tuesday, just in time. It felt something like this:
The other evening I went round my son’s and we were chatting, about Elon Musk, Jim Carey and about how nice Keanu Reeves is, link provided there, just in case I am not the only one who didn’t know.
I have set up an Instagram account for when we are travelling followingthebrownrabbit
Thank you very much for reading
On Saturday morning I was the body for my husband giving a massage lesson (I know, it’s a hard life…) As I listened to him patiently and professionally deliver a one hour comprehensive introduction lesson to a complete beginner, that was pitched just right, that created just the right atmosphere, and that in the time available, did everything it could; I reflected that wow, we know stuff. We know stuff because we have been around for a while, learning stuff. Because we are older.
I have spent such a lot of time thinking about what I don’t know and what I can’t do, that this weekend it was really nice to spend a bit of time thinking about what I do know and what I can do. I used to think I wasn’t very well read because I compared myself with Oxbridge educated Guardian journalists. But the other day I casually mentioned Rebecca (by Daphne Du Maurier, a book and films) in a big work meeting and no one had heard of it. No one. I was surprised; I didn’t think any less of the people, I just thought, okay, my reality is different to what I thought.
At work on Friday, someone was talking about starting yoga, and about how the teacher had talked to them about the chakras. I found myself talking a bit about them, and sending a link to a page so she could learn more. I don’t really do spiritual/chakra stuff anymore, but for a while I was pretty into it. Focusing on the different chakra points, their colours, their corresponding mental, psychological and physical aspects, is a very powerful tool for self healing and development. I used to think: Root Chakra (red) safety, security; Sacral Chakra (orange) drives, creativity; Solar Plexus Chakra (yellow) emotions; Heart Chakra (green) love; Throat Chakra (blue) self expression, communication with myself and others; Third Eye Chakra (indigo) direction and seeing my path; Crown Chakra (violet white) connection with above.
So I thought, be proud of what you know, not sad re getting old.
Of course, there are loads of things I don’t know, loads of things I haven’t learned, loads of things I have refused to learn, e.g. DIY and reverse parking. I feel totally okay about that. The longer you live the more things you find out about or hear about, so the list of things you don’t know how to do keeps on growing, even as you keep learning, because you can’t learn how to do everything you come across. You have to specialise. (Rather than feel bad about the things you don’t know about.) Knowing things, being good at things, takes time, energy and devotion. (I want to learn a bit of Hindi. So far I know about 5 words, and that’s only if I keep looking at them every day.)
I thought about what’s good about getting older, which is actually what’s good about me as I get older. And as I am older, I could just simplify that to say: What’s good about me. (Making this list was nice. I recommend it as an exercise in compassion and a little pick me up!):
What’s good about me
I have no inhibitions about my body
Yesterday I stripped off in front of someone I have only just met and lay on the massage table feeling fine with nothing on except my knickers.
I am sexually liberated
I had kind of a thing recently with a woman, and we can see each other and it is all fine, no issues.
I can say what I want in bed.
(in both senses of the meaning)
Sex just keeps on getting better and better.
That’s what no one tells twenty somethings. If you are in a loving communicating relationship, sex just keeps on getting better and better, in new and surprising ways!
I know: your art is the most important thing
More important than alcohol, socialising, FOMO, peer pressure, or any other ephemeral distractions. Your art is what makes you you. By honouring your art, you honour yourself. By spending time with your art, you spend time with yourself. By getting to know your art you get to know yourself.
I understand: ‘The matrix’ is really just your own thoughts limiting you
Re bands and art, you have to want it, and you have to stick with it, for ever if need be, enjoying the process not just aiming for the rewards of fame etc. If you are in a band you either all have to want it, or you have to be single minded enough to drive it yourself with interchangeable musicians.
It is a myth that it is too hard to make it. Like Charlie Higson said about writing, there’s no magic trick or secret doorway, if you are good you will be picked up. There’s so few people who can stick at anything, look at new year’s resolutions, diets, exercise regimes. All you have to do is stick at it, and want it, want it enough to stick at it (1% inspiration, 99% perspiration), despite all the matrix pressure to ‘be realistic’, etc etc.
In fact the only thing people can stick at is what the matrix wants them to stick at, the everyday drudgery, the oh hi, another day another dollar, oh well, maybe I will win the lottery, soon be the weekend, I have a holiday to to look forward to, or oh look a charity jeans day or a Christmas jumper day, just enough to make it seem not too bad and everyone’s doing it so it must be okay right?
And every now and again they’ll scare you, a round of redundancies, or a crisis that causes stress so you take the whole thing even more seriously, you stay late, you give up the hobby class and exercise routine, or worse you never eat or sleep properly, you’re always at work, always unhealthy… and for what, not for personal freedom that’s for sure.
So the lesson is: Look at what the herd is doing and do the opposite. Look at what the herd believes and believe the opposite. As Jon Rappoport says, in this consensus reality we live in, the limits we see there aren’t real. I can be a writer. I am a writer. Or rather, I am a ……… as yet to be labelled…….. and I document it on my blog. But let’s get away from labels altogether. If we aren’t labelling, if we aren’t preoccupied with what people do for a living (the herd again), then we don’t need to say anything. I can just say, in answer to what do you do, I am a human, I live. (And I document it on my blog)
I have set up an Instagram account for when I am away followingthebrownrabbit
Thank you very much for reading.
This Valentine’s my husband gave me something far more useful than flowers.
I could wallow forever in the dirty water where the fish won’t go. I could never get up again. I could say to myself, how can I live. I could rake over and over the past, looking for a possible way things could have been made different. I could cry forever and it wouldn’t change a thing.
I did everything I was able to do at the time. I remember us both going to the dentist in New Zealand and me buying us electric toothbrushes to use out there as we’d left ours in the UK. He was fifteen. Everything was okay then, teeth wise. But not long after, I stopped being able to make him do anything he didn’t want to do.
Since he’s been an adult, I have watched his teeth deteriorate, and no amount of encouragement from anyone in the family was able to persuade him to go to the dentist. Realising nothing I said made any difference, for the last few years I have stopped saying anything in case it actually makes him even less likely to go, and also because I don’t want to spoil the times we have together. But every now and again I’d think, am I being remiss, am I copping out, am I wasting opportunities… all the time they are getting worse and worse, and I am not saying anything.
But of course he has mirrors, and eyes. And as I write this I’m thinking, Oh my God, did we do this? Did we make him dig his heels in more by trying to encourage him to visit the dentist? But would a person really do that to themselves, not brush their teeth, not go to the dentist, just to be oppositional to their family?
I don’t talk about any of this to anyone but the night before Valentine’s Day my son messaged my husband and said he was finally ready to go through with the required treatment. This will involve sedation, anaesthetic, and because things are so very far gone, implants. So I ended up talking (and crying) about it until way past my bedtime and the conclusion I arrived at was that there is absolutely nothing whatsoever I can do. A person needs to psych themselves up to face dentistry, blood tests or open heart surgery themselves, no one else can do it for them. They need to be brave and they need to be a grown up. My son is 28 years old and anxiety or no anxiety, the only thing I can do is think of him as an adult who is capable of facing this.
It is time for it to cease being my problem.
The next morning I felt a little better, like the day after an argument has blown over, still a little fragile, but recovering. I still have CDs to go through so I put on The Jesus and Mary Chain album Stoned and Dethroned. Track one is above. It felt like the first day of the rest of my life.
Today, in an ironic twist I went to the dentist, which meant I got to sleep in and go into work late. I came out into the warm sunshine and felt… happy. I bought a birthday card and a box of vegan chocolates for my step grandma, and new spare cat name tags as they keep losing theirs. Getting these things off my list and not having them to do on Saturday when we are already busy gave me a sense of elation out of all proportion.
Walking back through the town, thinking, yes, the post office, the chocolate shop, the pet shop, the cute alleyway, yes, they are all nice, just as dressing nicely for work is nice, but, it isn’t everything. It should have been easier to walk away from our last place which was not pretty and was boring, but it’s been being in this lovely place that has inspired and propelled us to give up everything. Is it because we needed to be happy in order to be able to dream, whereas before we were just surviving?
We have both been unwell for what seems like ages, colds etc, plus last-minute wobbles re vaccinations/not, water purification options, malaria, plus a long to do list, a house to clear and work to finish.
But as I said to my husband, I’d feel really good right now if I wasn’t feeling ill. I had my bloods done and my doctor put my thyroxine up, which feels like it did when I first went on it, like the clouds clearing after a storm, everything shiny, wide awake, excited.
I said re our to do list, it seems as though simplifying our life is actually really complicated. That’s because the matrix doesn’t want you to do it, my husband said. The matrix wants everyone hooked into the complexity of everything, that is why it makes unhooking yourself feel so difficult.
See you on the other side.
I have set up an instagram account for when we are travelling followingthebrownrabbit
Thank you for reading.
How to deal with shame
Whatever else you do, however hard you work on moving forward, your subconscious beliefs about shame and guilt can hold you back. Internal as well as external work is needed. That said, releasing shame can just as easily involve practical exercises as well as deep reflections.
I only realised I was working on ‘releasing shame’ when I found myself taking and sharing pictures of my messy kitchen. At the same time I discovered the blog Educated Unemployed Indian. This blogger wrote about their realisation that they needed to put their own advice into practice before blogging about it. In this way, WordPress has once again shown itself to be an interesting source of support to me.
After much supportive discussion over email (with another blogger I met on WordPress), I finally decided to share my blog with all my friends and anyone else who seems interested, with the exception of family members.
I have expressed feelings and emotions within my family, as detailed in my previous post. It might have only merited a sentence of my post but it was a significant event within my life.
I have begun to act differently. I have processed some difficult aspects of my family experience. I have been brave enough to be honest with myself, even though, especially though, that means uncovering and looking at the less likeable aspects of myself. In order to do all this, or rather as part of doing all this, I have overcome blocks. I have overcome some of the effects of shame (reticence, self-doubt, emotions being too overwhelming, emotions being shut off) and that in turn has helped me overcome and release the shame itself.
Here I will document the positive effects, noticeable even after the first day or two.
A release of creative energy: new ideas! With less shame taking up space inside me, I find I can do more.
Increased sense of humour, increased ability both to find things funny and to make things funny. Me and my husband laughing and laughing about my ‘food blog’ pictures. Him saying apropos of nothing, ‘So last night I was doing some numerology’ and us both finding this hysterical for some reason (I think it just illustrated the randomness of our lives together).
Increased motivation, less energy spent on shame or worry about whether or not to clean the car, meant time and energy to spend on sorting out CDs. Do it or don’t do it, but don’t beat yourself up. I can live with a dirty car, so I have decided not to worry about it. Other things, I feel much better for doing such as booking an eye test and asking the doctors for a travel prescription.
More confidence. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the simplest of things. Having miscalculated the maths re the cat food, I realised I would need to deliver some more before my next scheduled visit. I’m such an idiot! Why am I so stupid?! I said. Why so harsh re something so easily fixed? I was reminded of my manager in New Zealand who could cope with any amount of emergency mental health issues, suicidal clients, AWOL clients, arrested clients, but run up a big phone bill and he’d have a meltdown.
I put it off until the last day of my long weekend then forced myself out of my hermit state. I tend to put things off that involve phoning people, driving and parking if I am feeling anxious. I arranged it so I didn’t need to leave the house until 1 o’clock, thereby giving myself time for tea in bed, breakfast and blogging, time for me, before going out to buy and deliver the cat food. I noticed as I drove there, as I parked, and as I stayed and had a cup of tea: This feels easy.
So, family… I have been processing some family/me stuff. My son had some personal/life problems recently and called up my husband who went and supported him. When I got home from work my husband told me all about it and said, you just need to phone him up and tell him you love him and that you are proud of him. So I did (when I am out of my depth and don’t know what to do my husband gives good advice).
Then on Saturday we went to see a show that my son had curated and exhibited in. All the artists have mental health problems. My husband is at ease at these events, talking to the people from Rethink who sponsored the event and knowing just the right thing to say about my son’s work. I think the work is good and I say so. I know he has worked hard and that he’s come a long way and I recognise his achievements.
But I feel like I am expected to say more and that whatever I say isn’t enough. I dislike the feeling of pressure on me, the fact that what I say is so weighted, so that my words seem to sound awkward. I am not good at dealing with this stuff. Why does it matter so much what I think, I’m just a human being, I don’t mean anything. That’s not for you to say, you are his mother. It’s for the child to come to that realisation themselves. In the meantime, just be a parent, act the role, do what’s needed. Sometimes you just have to give people what they need, and he just needs praise off his mum. Why is it so hard to do that? I noticed my mum was much less forthcoming than me; I was chatty, I gave out praise, even though I wasn’t as at ease as my husband. On the way home we talked and talked until I worked out why I feel uncomfortable at these events.
The people from Rethink might judge me as a bad mother because my son has mental health problems. He might even have spoken about the tumultuous teenage years and said critical things about me. But mainly it’s this:
The whole event revolves around having mental health problems. Everyone’s talking about it, it’s right there. And there on the wall is a series of three of my son’s paintings. Yes they are very good. As my husband said you could see them in a gallery and you wouldn’t think they were out of place.
But they are unsettling/distressing. The paragraph of text beside them explains that they are all about living with a mental health problem and what that feels like. That’s fine when it is someone else. But when it is your own child you are looking at something no parent wants to see.
Yes of course the exhibition is a great achievement, as are the paintings, but it means coming face to face with my child’s suffering. I think this is even worse for my mum, because I think in some ways grandparents can get even more upset. I noticed she didn’t even read the text. I read it, to be polite and supportive, but it was sad. And as the artist’s mother, it was really sad.
This post isn’t about self pity, it’s about playing detective. So that’s why it’s hard, because it’s upsetting. I am expected to give praise and be happy about his achievements, which I do and I am, whilst experiencing distress from having to literally look at his mental suffering.
So that all makes sense now.
That’s why it was so nice going round to his place the week before the exhibition. He answered the door in a paint splattered t-shirt and a lungi, and showed me into the sitting room. He and his girlfriend were working on several huge canvasses, sheets spread over the carpet, creating a makeshift studio. It reminded me of the places I lived in during the late 80s. For a moment, everything just looked exactly the way I would have wanted.
I am very pleased and amazed he got into art school, with no prior qualifications, it is a towering achievement. But what I am most pleased about, even though it hasn’t been easy for him or us, is that he has followed his path. Despite pressure from everyone, including me in the past, he has resolutely devoted himself to being an artist.
Thank you for reading.
‘I’m doing something for the first time,’ I said to my husband, ‘Guess what it is.’
‘You’re stewing apples,’ he said.
‘It’s not so much what I am actually doing, it’s about what I am doing.’ I said.
It was Friday morning and I was making something from a recipe that I had just read in a post on the internet. I read it, and I thought, we have apples, we have oats, we have apple juice. I can do it. I can do it right now.
I have never done this before. Funnily enough, a few days ago, I had been thinking that I did want to start doing this. Lisa Anniesette posts some lovely looking recipes, but I have never once tried making them. I don’t know what’s stopping me from actually trying to make Lisa’s or anyone else’s recipes. Am I intimidated because the food looks so lovely, the photographs make everything look so glamorous, so that I somehow think that it isn’t for me? Am I waiting for some mythical time in the future when I become the kind of person who makes things like that? Or am I just too lazy to go and shop specially/shop for new things? This is no one’s issue but my own but I decided that I wanted this to change.
Anyway, on Friday morning after writing the draft of my previous post, I was catching up on Behcets and Borderline posts, having realised that she hadn’t gone quiet, I hadn’t actually been following her, and I came across one with a recipe in. No photo, just a recipe tacked quietly onto the end of a personal blog, with a little note saying, if you do try it, let me know how you get on. Those few little words gave me all the encouragement I needed.
Of course food posts look nice, otherwise we wouldn’t want to make whatever it was. (This isn’t a food post by the way.) But no one ever puts pictures of themselves sobbing on Facebook (not usually anyway) and they don’t tend to post pictures of their houses looking a mess.
This is what my kitchen actually looked like on Friday morning when I came downstairs and started making the apple oaty breakfast:
See, no shame. My friend and I used to joke about sending a realistic round robin letter (you know those Christmas letters people send out to everyone that only have the good things), about our kids truanting from school and getting arrested.
A few weeks ago a friend was telling me about a recently separated man she had just met. He showed her pictures of the inside of his wife’s fridge, to show what a slob she was. I thought, wow, that’s mean, I’d hate it if someone did that to me. It seemed so personal. Isn’t it a kind of slut shaming, but about housekeeping? But then I thought, why should the woman be ashamed if the fridge is dirty? Why her and not the man, and why feel ashamed, I mean, it’s only a dirty fridge, you haven’t hit a dog whilst speeding.
I had a day off on Friday and so did my husband. Breakfast, cold left over Indian takeaway (my favourite) followed by the hot apple oaty breakfast which was very nice, even better cold the next day (today). My husband played my favourite songs on the ipod. Then we wrapped up warm and went to Lowestoft, had a walk on the beautiful beach and then went to the lovely new vegan deli VeGee to eat, drink and warm up. A well dressed, well to do woman customer looked me up and down, looking at my clothes. I really wanted to say to her, it’s okay, none of that stuff matters. I didn’t mind at all. Then home, a bit of yoga, then more quality time with my husband: we watched (the original) Bladerunner: The Director’s Cut* followed by BoJack Horseman. It was one of the nicest days I have ever had.
This is what we listened to in the car, parked up, watching a seagull dancing on the ground and eating worms. (The seagull, not us, we’re vegans)
* They implanted the replicants (conscious, emotion feeling ‘robots’ that the humans had built and enslaved) with a memory stream containing a history, a family, so that they’d be easier to control. Spooky, huh?
Thank you for reading.
I was talking with the lovely J at work about her starting a blog. ‘It’s just the getting started’, she said, ‘When you’re faced with that blank page, how to start it…’
So I thought I’d write something about how I write.
Trust the process
Trust your own process, that is. Like child raising, like life, another person’s advice can only take you so far. You have to find your own way of doing it. The most important thing is getting started. Or rather, the most important thing is to start.
What to write about
Or, overcoming the fear of the blank page. Things I suggested to J: Use photographs. Start with a photograph and write a few lines about it. Take or find a photograph of a piece of furniture that you have restored and write about how you did it, or tell the story behind that piece of furniture. If you see a skirt or an outfit you like, get a picture and write about it. Make a note or take a photograph of any ideas you have or inspirations you see. The more you do this, the more ideas will come.
Find your schedule
Lots of people blog every day, even multiple times a day. I totally understand why that would be an attractive discipline/ strategy to have. But for me personally I’d end up getting obsessed, exhausted and resentful about writing every day whether I felt like it, whether I had time or not. (I realise people probably line up posts and schedule them.) I also get that it means your post is more often in the WordPress Reader so more people are likely to see it, hence more followers.
However, I limit the number of daily bloggers I follow. I just don’t need that much stuff to read, and I like to have a variety. Some people who only post once a week or so, I am excited when a post from them pops up, it never becomes a chore to keep up and it doesn’t clog up my reader with more than I can manage to read.
Niche or not?
Back to J. She wants to write a lifestyle/fashion blog, but more aimed at an older demographic. I relayed some things I had learned from a post I read about whether to be niche or not, and the general feeling was that (again, like child rearing, like life) you might start your blog as one thing but find yourself wanting to write about something else one day, so it might be best not to impose rigid ideas or limits as you then might have a wobble when you feel like you are going off message. The post also said that most readers prefer blogs where the blogger writes about everything and doesn’t just stick to a niche topic.
Be yourself (everyone else is taken)*
The most important message to stick with is to be true to yourself. That’s the coherent thread that hangs all the posts of a person’s blog together, even if each one of their posts is different from the other. Authenticity is all. I love it when I feel that a blogger is really just being themselves. To borrow a point from another blog about other bloggers, I don’t mind if I don’t agree with them or if they talk about things I am not interested in. If they are authentically writing about their experiences, thoughts and ideas, and I like them as a person, then I will keep on reading.
Every post is different
Each of my last three posts was made differently.
For Update, I was aware that I hadn’t posted for two weeks. Anxious thoughts circled in my mind. Should I just write something? Should I make myself a rule re writing more regularly? Does not writing every day mean that I don’t take this blog and my writing seriously? Do I want this blog and writing to become something, or not? What message am I sending to the universe, and myself, about my committment?
I batted back these thoughts. I will not post unless I have something to say, and that something turns into something I am happy with. But one afternoon, my husband was at work. I was restless, ever so slightly unsettled, and ever so slightly bored, well as close to bored as I ever get.
So I got into bed, made myself comfy and cosy, and picked up my tablet. It wasn’t like I had some brilliant idea or point to start with. My head had been spinning about all the things we’d been doing. I could just write kind of an update, I thought. Maybe people want to know the cats are okay (or that I’m okay about the cats, and aren’t still crying about them). My mum had sent me a photograph of one of the cats. I had my new tattoos. And so I started writing. It made itself into something along the way. When I had finished, not only was I pleased with what I had written, I also felt a whole lot better in myself.
For the Matrix post, the starting point was my friend’s email. It was so good, I wanted to put it out there. It explained things so well, but in a different way to how I do. So I pasted that in, added a few notes and saved it. I knew I needed to have my own material in it as well so that it wasn’t just a repost of his words. Over the next few days, thoughts and ideas came and I scribbled them down in different places: in my diary, on a To Do list, on my India packing list, on a paper bag on top of the pile at the bottom of the stairs. I often do this, I can tolerate my notes being scattered across lots of different pieces of paper. Until I can’t. On Thursday I spent the evening with my husband then he went to bed and I thought, I’ll just gather all the pieces of paper and type the scribbles into the draft, just so that everything’s in one place, I can finish it properly tomorrow. But I got into it and even though I hadn’t really felt like it I sat down and finished the post, which had become a long, muddled draft, and needed work, almost four hours worth as it turned out. Proof reading was done between one and two am on Friday morning, so I am sorry if there are mistakes. (I don’t think there are. Two things are mentioned twice, but that was deliberate. It breaks normal rules re writing, but you know what they say about rules, and I really wanted to make sure I made my point.)
Like leaving a trail to follow, like giving yourself hooks, clues and rewards, which I actually don’t do almost as much as I now think it would be a good idea to, the pieces of paper chaos is a method. I get my ideas down, they are not lost, whether I have them on the drive to work and scribble them in my diary in the car park before I rush into work, or in the two minutes waiting for the kettle to boil, or on the drive home, hence scribbles on the paper bag at the bottom of the stairs, captured before I even take my shoes off and go inside the house properly.
For this blog, I just woke up on Friday morning and almost straight away started having ideas. I crept downstairs and got my tablet, put off my husband when he called me, pretending I was still sleepy, which I was, but I didn’t want to lose the ideas which were coming thick and fast. About J, about my writing process, my thoughts and opinions as a reader. Most of this blog was written in one draft in bed during that session, with a couple of additions that I scribbled on a notepad over breakfast. Today was just editing.
Timing and scheduling
I’m more art than science. When I first started blogging in 2014 a friend and fellow blogger asked me what time I posted. ‘It tends to be on a Sunday afternoon’, I said, ‘when my husband is taking the kids back to London and I have the house to myself.’
‘That’s absolutely the worst time’, she said.
‘Well that’s what time I write it’, I said.
‘You can schedule them to post at a better time’, she said. I have done that a couple of times when I first started regularly blogging again in summer 2017, but nowadays, when they are written, they are posted. Yes, I do believe timing is everything and for me, whether it’s sensible or not, when it’s finished that is the time to post it.
The past couple of months I’ve been training myself to write blogs purely on my tablet (Samsung Galaxy), ready for going travelling. However, when I was writing an article, I started using the laptop again, and realised how much easier it was. Then a fellow blogger wrote a post about getting a Chromebook. My husband had already suggested that I get one of those, having kindly spent some time researching the best laptops for travelling bloggers, and now I am fully decided that that is what I will buy to take travelling. I will take my tablet as well as a back up and because it takes good photographs.
Everyone says WordPress and blogging is all about making connections with fellow bloggers and readers. It is, but where to start? When you go to search and it says, ‘Search billions of WordPress posts’, it can be a little daunting. I can’t remember how I discovered all the different people who I follow. The only words I ever remember typing into the search box are ‘veganism’ and ‘menstruation’. As with the rest of the internet, one thing leads to another and eventually you come across people you are interested in. I also only ever follow people I am genuinely interested in reading the posts of, and I only comment or press the like button of a post if I really do. I just feel that the writing and my interactions with fellow readers and bloggers need to be genuine. I kind of feel that if I stick to that I won’t go too far wrong.
Get to know and trust YOUR creative process
My ex boyfriend used to say that even if he knew the song in his head or half composed on his guitar wasn’t that good, he’d still finish it, ‘to keep the channel open’ he said.
I always have plenty to say, or rather, I don’t open a blank page until I do. So there may be a gap of two weeks or more between posts. During a recent two week gap my husband innocently commented that I hadn’t posted for a while, only to be met with me defensively explaining all the other things I had been doing instead. ‘I wasn’t criticising’, he said. It wasn’t his fault, I need to trust my own process so completely that I don’t feel even a flicker of anxiety if I don’t post anything for a couple of weeks.
Likewise, when they come, I need to write them down. Which is why on Thursday night I went to bed at 2am, and why I started writing at 7.45 am Friday morning.
When I get like that, blogging at 2am, up with ideas at 7.45, I need to make the most of it. In the past, I might have worried that I was going manic, not because I might actually go manic in the pure sense, but because I used to worry about everything. What if the ideas don’t stop coming, what if I can’t do anything else? But I know it’s not always going to be like that, which is reassuring because I can’t be writing at 2am and 7:45am every day. (Not right now anyway)
But then when it stops and I go two weeks without having any urges or urgent ideas to write about, I worry that it has gone forever and that I might never write again.
Well I used to anyway. Right now, I trust the process. I’m still conflicted about what it all means, what is the goal, what is the point, but I think it’s best not to dwell on any of those things and just write.
Thank you very much for reading.