Oops I Did it Again

Oh dear, I’ve gone and done it again and I need to stop. I’ve gone and got sucked in to interactions on Facebook and now I’ve had to come off again. I’m not apologising for the views I hold but it’s not good to get sucked into unhelpful ‘dialogues’. Facebook can be – often is – a series of little whirlwinds and if you’re not extraordinarily careful you can get instantly hoovered up into exchanges which are potentially very destructive. Someone expresses a view which doesn’t accord 100% with what others believe and soon everyone’s weighing in with ‘So you believe that…?’ or ‘are you aware that…?’ or ‘how do you not realise that…?’ and before you know it this turns into ‘are you so stupid that…?’ or worse. Opponents are regularly described as ‘scum’ or ‘vermin’. I’m sure this has a knock-on effect in real life: yesterday two canvassers were attacked (they were Labour but it doesn’t matter who they were, it’s unacceptable) and it’s reported that yesterday a police officer ‘aggressively’ demanded a driver remove part of an anti-Brexit sticker on their car – on the M25 of all places!

You can attempt a reasoned response but nine times out of ten that just annoys people more. They want a reaction, they want fireworks, the big bang and they keep on prodding and poking until they get one. The only sensible thing is to withdraw, which I did until I found I was withdrawing from so many discussions that the only sensible thing was to leave Facebook altogether. Which I did.

But now I’m back. In October I joined the Nano group for support and encouragement – which it delivered – telling myself I wouldn’t look at anything else. O woeful error! for this is like giving up smoking and telling yourself ‘I’ll just have one…’ and before I knew it I was back taking part in those destructive interactions.

So for my part in that I apologise. But now no more. I’ll go no more a Facebooking, for Facebook’s been my ru-i-in…

Kirk out

O English! How Complex Thou Art!

I’m back on Facebook for the duration of Nanowrimo and I’ve been invited to join The Apostrophe Protection Society. I’m pleased people care about this abused and endangered little creature who is so prostituted that she’s paraded everywhere there’s an ‘s’ in sight or wherever two vowels together might indicate a need: the latest example being ‘agre’ed’. Horrors! This poor little mite is now so exhausted that I think she ought to be laid to rest for a few millennia.

In other news I’ve written 9,500 words so far in Nano, so I’m bang on target. To simplify matters I’m going for 3000 words a day which makes me slightly ahead and gives a bit of wiggle room if I have an off-day or a crisis. And it’s easier to add up. I’m going for 11,000 today, 14,000 tomorrow – and by the end of the week I should be on 21,000. But we’ll see. It’s kinda fun being on the Nano Facebook group, swapping ideas and so on, but I do find some folk very fixated on The Stuff. There’s a whole industry around Nano; not only the writing programmes and ‘aids’ but certificates (one person was grumbling that they couldn’t download their 1600-word certificate) t-shirts, mugs, motivational calendars, apps and god-knows-what else. Actually I was quite tempted by this mug but slapped my wrist before I could send off for it as I have to save all my money for our new dishwasher.

For this is now live! Which is to say that, following the plumber’s visit this morning and the announcement that they won’t have to drill through the wall to install a waste pipe, Project Dishwasher is Go! It will make a great difference to our daily lives and I was relieved to read in the Ethical Consumer (and other places) that for a family of four it’s usually better environmentally than washing up by hand – at least if you get one with a good energy rating. Which we will.

Watch this space.

Kirk out

Enabler or Gatekeeper? Choosing a Good Writing Course

Sometimes it seems that people who run writing courses are more like bouncers than ushers, taking your money and keeping you out of the club whilst claiming to ‘show you the way in’*. Some courses seem to promise much but leave you with little more than an overwhelming impression of how hard it all is.

(*this reminds me of an idea I once had. I used to suffer a lot from spam emails so I devised a special place in hell for spammers where every day someone comes along claiming to show them the way out of hell. They are compelled to believe these people but every one of them is a scammer.)

I don’t entirely blame them; it’s hard to make money from writing alone and you gotta do something. On the other hand if all you’re doing is taking people’s money and telling them how impossible it is to get where you are, that’s called ‘pulling the ladder up behind you’ and you’re doing them a disservice.

I do run the odd poetry workshop in which I try to help people release their creativity; however I don’t offer workshops oriented at success. This is for two reasons – 1, not having been ‘successful’ to any great degree myself, why would anyone take me seriously? and 2, it’s not what I’m good at (see point 1). What I’d like to do is offer more workshops on releasing and exploring creativity. But do people want that? I have a horrible suspicion that I’d give them my best stuff and then a voice would pipe up saying plaintively ‘this is all very well, but can you tell us how to get published?’ Such is the society we live in.

So here’s my advice when choosing writing courses:

1.Look for as many free courses as you can find. Free doesn’t necessarily mean worthless and you may pick up some valuable stuff as well as making contacts.

2. If you’re being asked to shell out money, check out the profile of the person organising it. If they’re offering a route to success but haven’t achieved much themselves, does that add up?

3. Does the course seem to offer a lot? Might it be offering too much? Check out user reviews from previous courses.

4. Is this what you really need right now? Call me arrogant but in terms of finding my voice I’ve always thought I was my own best teacher. There’s no substitute for reading as widely as possible and just writing as much as you can. No amount of courses can compensate for the lack of a writing habit. Equally, if you’re not at the publishing stage yet you don’t need a course on how to get an agent.

If you’re unsure what’s out there I recommend signing up to writers’ groups and websites. The Insecure Writers Support Group has a presence on Facebook and Writers Write gives daily writing prompts as well as running courses. You can also subscribe to the email lists of publishers and magazines without having to buy anything (I subscribe to the newsletters of Room magazine, the Royal Society of Literature – which produces the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook – and other local literary fora.) These will tell you of upcoming competitions and submission opportunities. And if you’re a woman there’s no better magazine to subscribe to than Mslexia: as well as offering opportunities within the magazine there are comprehensive listings in the back. I’m also subscribed to Granta magazine, if it ever arrives…but that’s more for reading than submitting to.

It’s amazing what you can get for free, but whatever course you go on there’s no substitute for a good writing habit.

Now, apropos of which, here’s my upcoming course on ‘Developing a Good Writing Habit.’

LOL. Though actually I could totally do that…

Kirk out

When Will I Be Back on Facebook?

I’ve been off the endless blue pages for three weeks now, and I can honestly say I’m not missing it.  On the contrary, nowadays there is so little of what I like ie sharing with genuine friends, swapping ideas, gathering information – and so much of what I thoroughly dislike, that I’m feeling more than ever happy to be free of it.  This morning I happened to look over OH’s shoulder at his Facebook profile and saw a big post saying:

Make Penelope the biggest C*** of 2018

What?  What the actual?  This is like playground graffitti but so much worse.  I feel awful when I see something like that, and I don’t want to be feeling awful first thing in the morning – or indeed at any time of day.  There’s very little you can do about those posts: reporting you to Facebook doesn’t seem to achieve anything (they’re far more concerned about removing pictures of breastfeeding and selling your data) and attempting to remonstrate with the person who posted it will only garner you a whole heap of abuse.  No thank you.  There’s nothing Facebook has to offer which could possibly compensate me for all the crap on there.

So now that I’ve conquered my social media addiction, what next?  I managed to buy a book fairly cheaply today without going on Amazon, which was great.  I’m making efforts to shop more ethically (not that I do shop, much) so I checked out other retailers – Goodreads gives you a list – and found Alibris:

https://www.alibris.co.uk

which has a list of independent stockists.  I managed to order a second-hand hardback copy reportedly in good condition for £3.50 including shipping.

Not bad eh?

And our Xmas tree is up too…

Could I BE more virtuous?

 

IMG_0789[1]

Kirk out

Face Trumps Book

I have spent the last couple of weeks not being on Facebook.  At first it was hard getting out of the habit of checking my updates every half-hour, but after a couple of days it stopped figuring in my consciousness: my mind was clearer and more importantly my emotions were calmer.  No more anger, no more upset, no more reading posts and not knowing whether to laugh or scream, no more having to ignore insults when I express the mildest disagreement, no more gloomy world-view, no more angry echo-chamber.  I shan’t yet delete my account but I will keep it in a coma until I decide what to do with it.

Along with this disengagement from Facebook I have stopped watching or listening to any news.  I do think it’s important to keep up with what’s happening, but whether hourly bulletins and a constant drip-drip of articles on social media actually help you to do this is debatable.  Instead I look at online news sites and a couple of times a week we get a newspaper: it may be a generational thing but I find I don’t concentrate at all well reading from a screen.  All of this means I can engage with the news when I’m ready rather than having it come at me willy-nilly; it means I can follow up whichever stories I want and leave the rest.  It also frees me from the obligation to check out stories on Facebook to see whether they’re fake or not – or, most irritatingly, whether they are outdated.

I am calmer and happier now; the world seems less threatening, and those things I thought I’d miss out on – like contact with friends and keeping up with events – well, they haven’t materialised.  I keep in touch via messenger, text and email and, the most old-fashioned way of all, by face-to-face communication.  You can’t beat it…

Kirk out

Time Spent Poorly?

Lately I’ve been back and forth with Facebook a lot.  On the one hand it’s my major way of keeping up with things; socialising with friends, finding out what’s going on and checking out news stories.  On the other hand it doesn’t take long for me to become either angry or depressed or both, and that’s not good.  As soon as I notice that reaction I close the tab, only to go back on there an hour or two later for the human interaction I barely otherwise get, due to writing being such a solitary occupation.  It’s very difficult when the reaction to your work from the wider word is silence (though I did have a rather nice rejection today, of which more anon) so I crave comments from other writers and thoughts like my daughter’s this morning (‘I’m still reading your novella and it’s really good.’)  I can’t get enough of that stuff.

So today I thought I’d try an experiment.  I’ll set a timer on my phone and see how long it takes me to get unacceptably depressed or angry.  But as many people have spotted, observing a phenomenon changes that phenomenon: the very act of timing it meant that I was more detached from what I was reading and able to observe both it and myself from a distance, as it were.  The result was that I lasted five minutes.  If that doesn’t sound very long, my usual time limit is (I would guess) less than two.  Unless I’m chatting on messenger it’s not long before several horrible news stories hit me and I can’t take any more.

Maybe I should set a stopwatch every time?

The rejection email I had this morning was not too bad: it said they’d passed my story ‘Heart 2 Heart’ onto the editors (ie effectively shortlisting it) but that it didn’t fit with the rest of the issue.  Since they have different editors each time I am by no means downhearted – appropriately enough, given the title (if you’re interested the story is about a woman who has a heart transplant which ends up changing her personality in drastic ways.)

I may be a little downheaded though…

Two more stories going off to The Fiction Desk today.

Kirk out

PS  Good luck to everyone doing NaNo