Getting on with it

WritingIt hasn’t been the happiest week at Lewis Lodge.  Two days ago we said goodbye to our lovely cat, Mattie.  She was 16 and for the last four months the vet has been trying to stabilize her over-active thyroid.  Despite throwing everything at it, for some reason the meds didn’t work and she continued to deteriorate.  Finally, on Thursday, I realised that she was too weak to do things that she would have done with ease just two weeks ago, so we took the decision that enough was enough.  I never wanted to have to make the decision to end my cat’s life, but she was fading away in front of me and wasn’t receiving any benefit from the treatment.

It’s not just been a tough week, it’s been a tough few months.  My own health took a battering, but I’ve got some treatment for that and now feel more like myself again.  My writing output has slowed to a trickle as I battled a lack of self-confidence and temporarily lost my way.  Not only has my writing been one of the greatest sources of pleasure during 2014, it’s also been my biggest regret.  It saddens me that I did not deliver on what I set out at the start of the year to achieve and I am not going to provide a list of excuses why.

New Year is traditionally a time to set goals and make a commitment to change something about your life that isn’t functioning as well as you want it to.   Because my life is heavily influenced by the academic year, I have usually done this in September rather than January, because I find that when the days are lighter and longer it’s easier to make commitments that involve my health.  But as the last four months have been so busy and disrupted, I have not had the opportunity to set mine for this year.  The turning of the year is an ideal opportunity to do that, but why allow things to slide any more than they have done?  Why not start now?

So I will.  My goal for 2015 is to stop doing the things that distract me from my goals.  I’m not actually talking commitments here.  Nothing I do – work, church, Literary Festival, book group, Bible study group or Writers’ group, is causing me not to achieve.  In fact, things such as Writers’ group actively contribute to those goals, because I am with like-minded people who can support me.  The distraction is the pernicious mindset that infects my head.  Rightly, it reminds me that I am nothing special, I am not the great I AM and I am hardly an undiscovered genius.  But that reality check also morphs into something which subtly undermines my potential.  It  has me fretting about what I CAN’T DO instead of focusing on what I CAN DO.  True, there is a gap between where I am now and what I need to do to be successful.  But, I am never going to close it if I focus on all the invented reasons why I won’t – or even worse, shouldn’t – get there.

The passion to write still burns within me, but it’s been allowed to gutter.  The flame needs oxygen to shine strongly and constantly.  If I allow myself to hear the message ‘you’re not good enough,’ then I will not work at my writing until I am good enough.   So that’s my goal, to stop this mindset from holding me back.  In this I ask for your help.  Please hold me accountable to it.  If you hear me (or see me posting) words that suggests I’m back believing the lie, then I ask you to tell me to stop it.  I need to focus on the truth that hard work + determination = success and there’s no reason why I shouldn’t achieve it.

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Friday on my Mind – Childish Fears

FreedomIn the first in a new series of Friday blogs, I’m writing about what’s piqued my interest over the course of the week.  Today it’s Paddington Bear, whose new film has run into a spot of bother with film censors.  But much scarier stuff has slipped through their nets and into our heads over the years, so I want to know who’s your scariest children’s film character?

That great British icon Paddington Bear’s been in the news this week.  The new film based on the books that that legions of us grew up reading or watching on TV, made headlines because the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) have awarded it a PG rating, to cover sequences of mild threat, sexual innuendo and dangerous behaviour.  It’s only right that parents have full information about content before they let their children watch something, but journalists couldn’t keep themselves away from headlines trumpeting that the film was being rated for sex and violence.  While we may laugh, legions of us will attest that far worse has slipped through the censors over the years and for those of us of a certain age, the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang probably features on the list.

child-catcher

The Child Catcher. Textbook example of why you should never take sweets from strangers.

I wasn’t aware of the film until I was a bit older, but my husband’s childhood was certainly troubled by it.  I was more worried by the character played by Benny Hill, although I can’t really explain why.  A single man making toys for children that don’t exist struck me as decidedly odd.  For me, true scariness came in the form of the witch from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – which I’ve never watched since.  I feigned needing the loo in a cinema when I was seven, just to get out of sitting through it.

Snow_White_the_Witch_and_the_apple

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Never really liked apples since.

For my daughter it’ll probably be the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz, or the giant stone ball from Raiders of the Lost Ark, which we inadvertently traumatized her with on a Disneyland ride on her sixth birthday.  All the children were screaming with delight… apart from ours who was screaming in abject horror. Oops.

RaidersLostArk_030Pyxurz

How to scare your six year old silly: Put her on a Disneyland ride and have a giant stone ball hurl towards her. #ParentingFail

It’s odd what gets picked up on now and what didn’t in years gone by.  Labyrinth (1986) was always a film I enjoyed, but it wasn’t until much later that I realised that a grown man (the Goblin King) is playing out an unhealthy obsession with a young teenage girl.  No, nothing remotely unsettling about that, give it a U certificate!

We’re much more aware of the power of images that we receive in childhood, probably because so many of us have had to seek trauma counselling, since.  We’re much more careful about what we feed our little ones’ brains with than we were in the 1970s, when Gene Wilder made us all question our sanity in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971).  Johnny Depp didn’t do much to reassure.

Johnny Depp CATCF

Johnny Depp in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Lashings of WTF

So, these are my family’s scary childhood villains, who are yours?  What unsettling imagery crept into your brain as a child and refused to leave?  Do you agree that we should be extra careful about what young children see or do you think it’s all gone too far and we’re mollycoddling them?  Hit reply and join in the conversation.

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A change will do you good

DearDiaryLightWhite

It’s always good to take some time out to re-assess things and I’ve done that.  I now recognise that in order for me to flourish, some changes need to happen.

Following my diagnosis of slipping back into depression, it’s been a time of taking a long hard look at my life.  It’s not been an easy process and in some cases has resulted in quite unsettling discoveries about myself.  But I feel confident enough to start to make the changes to reduce the chance of this happening again.

The most important thing is that the stress and anxiety have to go.  Like many people, stress doesn’t just cause me emotional distress, it’s been wreaking havoc on my body.  While there are many other symptoms, for me it’s affecting me in two major ways.

I have never been the world’s best sleeper, but having gone to a lot of effort to cure myself of sleep apnea, I’m not going to let another issue wreck my nights.  I don’t need a lot of sleep, but I do need those 5 or 6 hours to stand any chance of functioning properly.   If I don’t get good quality sleep I very quickly become unable to do anything.

Stress and anxiety screw up my control over food and alcohol and I am unwilling to my hard-earned weight loss be compromised.  I’ve been down that road before and it just leads to a very dark place.

But this isn’t about jacking everything in and hiding away, this is about investing the time to learn the techniques to cope with stress.  I’m only in this position because I finally crawled out of the box that I’d put myself in.  I’ve spent my life hiding at the back and never putting myself ‘out there.’  But now I am ‘out there’ and I enjoy it, so I have to learn to thrive in my new environment.  Old Rachel is gone but New Rachel is having a few teething troubles.

As part of looking at things I’ve taken stock of who I am and where I’m going.  More than anything I want to write, but I feel as if too much time has been squandered.  Having spent a long time looking at the UK publishing industry, I am unwilling to waste any more of it hanging around on the chance that someone will publish my stories. That could be years away and I’m not getting any younger!  Self-publishing is a wholly viable option.  I’m willing to invest in myself and my stories to create a high-quality product that people can buy, enjoy and hopefully want to come back for more.  I want to build relationships with readers, I want to create my own ‘brand’ and I want to do more than be confined to writing in one genre.  I like commenting on the world around me so I’m going to get back to writing great blogs that people want to read.  I’ve spent so long telling myself what I can’t do that now I just want to get on and do what I CAN do.  This isn’t about not wanting to deal with rejection, because that’s going to come whatever I do.  I’m choosing this route because it’s going to bring me the greatest reward – but that reward may not be how the world defines it – by wealth.  The reward will be in achieving what is valuable to me.  I have an imagination, a keyboard and as the Fat Face mission statement says: “Life is out there,” so let’s get on with it.

 

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So, here’s the plan.

WritingI was talking to a friend last night about how I was struggling to settle back into writing.  There are many reasons for it, but perhaps the thing that stops me writing the most – the thing that makes me wonder if it’s all worth it – is that I spent a year of my life working on one thing and apart from 100,000 words in a Word document, I have nothing to show for it.  I don’t have a product that I can point at and say ‘I did that.’  After four years of writing fiction, I still don’t believe I can call myself a writer, because I don’t have a product that people can read (unless you like FanFiction, in which case, knock yourself out, baby).  But spending these last few weeks really having to think deeply about myself and where I’m going, I keep coming back to one thing – I simply want to write stories.  I’m not interested in a publishing deal.  I simply want to write good stories, have people enjoy reading them and come back for more.  I think the stress of having to jump through someone’s idea of what is commercially viable is not something I’m willing to contend with.  Perhaps I’m not emotionally strong enough – I don’t know.  However, I DO KNOW I have the confidence to write a good story, stand by it and allow people to read it.  But I don’t want my life and my creativity to remain on hold for an indeterminate amount of time whilst I try and get an agent or a publishing deal, because I think it would become detrimental to my health and I’m not OK with that.

Writing FanFiction gave me the ability to write and let go – and that’s important to me.  Writing something as good as I can make it, publishing it, enjoy that feeling of having it out there for people to read and then moving on to the next story.  That, for me is that crux of it, that’s where I’m happiest.  Having the creativity and then being able to let it go and be proud of it.  If I were younger and far more saleable as a product, I’d be happy to jump through someone else’s hoops, but the fact is, I’d rather just sell my writing myself.  Create my own ‘brand,’ have my own identity.  I’m Rachel Lewis, this is what I write, buy it, enjoy it and there’ll be more where that came from just as soon as I get the hell off Facebook and write a bit more.  Does that sound OK?  Do I have your permission to just write stuff, get it out there and enjoy myself?

Why am I asking you?  🙂

 

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Can I think about that and get back to you?

winging-itTales from Lewis Lodge is a what just fell out of my head sort of a blog.  I write about whatever piques my interest.  But this week, it’s not been so much about what fell out of my head, so much as what’s going on in my head.   These are uncertain times.

Over the last decade, my life has seen phenomenal change, both physically and emotionally.  I’m not the person I was back in 2004 and to be honest, thank God for that.  She wasn’t in the best place, poor love.  Since then, there’s been an awful lot of ‘lightening up,’ for want of a better way of describing it.  Depression has left a shadow, true, but these days I battle the occasional bad day, not a month or a year.  I still have a fair way to go in being able to formulate an objective opinion about Rachel, although I have thankfully stopped trying to crucify her at every opportunity.  When I finally got to know myself, I turned out not to be so very bad after all.

There are new battles to fight these days and they are just as much based on fear of success as they are on fear of failure.  What will happen if I actually do something right for once?  It’s not a feeling I’m overly familiar with and it’s taking time to adjust.  I am so out of my comfort zone in one or two areas of my life and it scares me so much.  I feel exposed and I’m almost longing for the knock-back, just to experience something familiar.  Failure is a known quantity.  I’m good at failing and I can do it in style.  People tell me to have faith that I will succeed.  Faith is something I should know a lot about – being a Christian, yes?  But no.  It isn’t.  It’s hard to admit this but I’m struggling with that, too.

I know in admitting this, that it has massive implications.  I want to make it clear that it’s absolutely NOT about wholesale rejection.  But there is an increasing dichotomy between what I’m supposed to have signed up to and where my heart and mind actually are.  There have been questions for years; but more recently, I have found it hard to speak one thing and think another and I can no longer act with such lack of integrity.  It’s God I struggle with.  Jesus’ says very little that I disagree with.  I do believe that he demonstrates the best way to live your life and I’m holding fast to that.  However, there is so much of the rest that I am unsure about and I just need some time to think it all through.

As much as I would like to take time out, I am unable to walk away.   I work in a church where I have responsibilities and as far as I can, I’m going to carry on honouring them.  I do honestly LOVE my job.  My ability to make a cup of tea, photocopy a document or book a room is not dependent on what I believe.   Perhaps those who employ me may think differently, in which case, I’ll have to leave.  My love for wanting to serve people remains paramount, but for now, I’ll keep it to the practical rather than trying to move things on to anything theological.

I don’t not believe that there’s something, but I’m not entirely sure of what that something is.   Pray about it!  I would, but I don’t believe God’s a celestial wish-granter and I don’t really know who God is.  Read your Bible, you’ll get to know him through that!  I’ve been reading and studying it for well over a decade and I haven’t been able to find out.  Not to my satisfaction, anyway.  Knowing something to my satisfaction is having a quiet peace inside when an idea has married up with my heart.  For instance: Equality is a truth that runs through me like the lettering in a stick of Blackpool rock.  I cannot abide any sort of division or injustice between men and women; whether it be based on their gender, their race, their social class, their academic achievement, sexual orientation, the colour of their hair – or whatever it is.  Inequality of every kind is abhorrent to me.  We are all born equal.  We all deserve equality of opportunity.  We deserve the right to be educated the same, paid the same and valued the same.  Each of us is an individual who comes equipped with gifts and talents that need to be nurtured and used.  Why should a woman who clearly displays the qualities and talents desirable as a church leader, be denied the opportunity to use them, just because ‘God said that women shouldn’t lead.’  I don’t want to believe in a God who promotes injustice and actually, I don’t think he does.  But that’s another blog post.

But this isn’t just about inequality.  It’s about so many things.  Such as, reading about heaven in the Bible and actually not wanting to go there, because it sounds boring.  There, I’ve said it.  I want a good life here and now and I want the freedom to make my life and the lives of the people I interact with, the best they can be.  I don’t want to not be able to fully support the lives of my gay, lesbian and transgender friends – because my life is all the richer for having them in it.  I want them to have what I have.  To have the opportunity to experience the tedious bits of nearly 20 years of married life (it’s your turn to put the bins out / feed the cat / empty the dishwasher), free from the feeling that I somehow disapprove of them because of what the Bible says.  Free from the idea that Christians think that homosexual couples are of less value in society than heterosexual couples.  They are not.  We’re back to equality.

Ultimately, I just want to love people, to get on with them, to see everyone around me succeed at whatever it is they’re doing and have a happy life myself in the process.  I just need some time to work out what I believe and I hope you will allow me that.  Who knows, perhaps through the searching, I’ll find God.

“If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me.  I will be found by you, says the Lord.”  Jeremiah 29: 13 (NLT)

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Cat Poo Bingo

FreezerWe are probably approaching the end times.  Not biblically – although at times the house does look like Armageddon – but with respect to the oldest occupant of Lewis Lodge.

Mattie, the elder of our two cats, is sixteen years old.  That equates to about 84 in cat years.  Up until a year ago she was skulling around quite happily.  A bit on the thin side, yes, but still active and able to defend her territory from the upstart youngster boy cats next door.   Now she’s been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism.  Her thyroid gland is working overtime.  She’s now scrawny and eating for not just England, but Scotland, Wales and a good chunk of Ireland, too.

Mattie

Mattie Cat and the Evil Death Glare

I’ve always laughed at the meme that does the rounds about how to give your cat a pill, mainly because I’ve never had to do it until recently.  Now it’s my life – twice a day!  It takes two of us and a lot of wrestling her mouth open and scrabbling about on the floor for the pill she’s managed to hold on to and then expel later – with a little ‘phuut’ sound.  We were starting to give her cat treats, but discovered that the accidental rattle of the medication bottle didn’t bring her running, but the other cat – who I now suspect must be part dog.  Treats!  Gimme gimme treats! I’m thinking of changing Kaiser’s name to Pavlov…

It’s been over two months now and to be honest, we’re not seeing any change.  If anything, it’s getting worse despite her thyroid levels going down.  I was hoping for a reduction in how much she eats (she consumes double the recommended amount) and that she would start putting on a bit of weight.  She seems even thinner then she was and she’s developed an annoying habit of defecating anywhere 🙁

It’s now become my first job on getting home from work to hunt out and clean up her latest present, in spite of being left a tray and being perfectly able to get to it.  She’s ticked off one in pretty much every room – even jumped in the bath and done it –  but her favourite is to do it right by the front door…
…after I’ve gone to work
…and before the post lands on top of it.
…Lovely!  🙁

So, I’m faced with a dilemma, because I genuinely do not want to make the decision to end her life, but yet both her and my quality of life have taken a steep nose-dive.  I find the whole question of euthanasia too upsetting to even think about, as it feels like I’m giving up on her.  But I don’t know how much longer I can stand to come home to piles of cat poo.  All it does is make me cry and it can’t be any fun for her, either.

Your advice, if you have it, would be appreciated.

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Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book…

WritingSo, how did I do with removing Facebook and Twitter from my phone?  I lasted about 10 days and then I realised that I was barely speaking to or interacting with anyone because of the busy-ness of my life.  So I put it back on.  I’m more aware of what I’m doing now, though.  I’m not checking it quite so much.

…But I am checking my email – obsessively.  The reason is that I’m anxiously waiting for feedback from a literary agent who called for the entire manuscript of my book.   Obviously, this flies in the face of my head telling me that I am utter crap as a writer and forces me to entertain the notion that I could actually be fairly good at it.   Even if it doesn’t make it through to the next round, no literary agent calls for a full manuscript if it’s utter tripe, so there must be something there.

Me being me, I’m still tinkering with the thing.  I have three tiny edits to do this Thursday on my writing day – things that now I’m plotting book 2 I’d rather were a little bit different.  Nope, I don’t want you to know that just yet…

Plotting book 2 is so exciting!  Plotting book 3 at the same time is quite scary because I have to make sure all the threads are tied up.  I detest loose ones in the stories I read, so if I get one in one I write I’ll be incensed!  I have very much fallen in love with my characters and they inhabit my head like real friends.  This does occasionally cause problems when I talk to them… 😀

As much as constantly beat myself up for being the world’s worst writer, I do have to remind myself that many people say they’re writing a book, but a smaller proportion actually finish and I have repeatedly done that.  Since 2010 – which is when I started writing fiction, I have completed ten stories and two one-shots (FanFiction terminology for stand-alone chapters).  I finish what I start and I don’t ever leave something in a drawer for later.  The story has to come out of my head and find its way onto the screen before another story can take its place.  You may want to hurl abuse at FanFiction, but if it wasn’t for that platform to test my writing against an audience, I doubt I would have ever had the confidence to submit my original work to a literary agent.  OK, I don’t have 1000’s of fans as some FanFiction writers have, but close to 500 positive reviews for my work was directly responsible for me saying to myself that I don’t suck as a writer – so don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.  Even if I do say so myself The Devil’s Kitchen was a good read and 391 other people will agree with me!

Anyway, I can’t second guess the agent, I just have to wait to see what they think.  I’m just so grateful for the opportunity to be considered.  It gives me hope.  It gives me encouragement.  It gives me a cold sweat.

Because, what if they say yes..?
[Head: Stop deluding yourself, they’ll hate it]

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The Twitter Book Shuffle

I'm Fabulous

One of the most fabulous things about the Internet is the way it’s revolutionised who I class as a friend and where those friends are located.  There are people I see in a physical capacity and then I have a large number of other people whom I have never met, but would equally class as friends.  I have come to know them from forums, blogging sites and newsgroups in the (muffles number behind hand) years I have been cluttering up the Internet.   They are a blessing to me, I couldn’t imagine my life without them – nor would I want to, as circumstances dictate that I don’t get out much.

Facebook and Twitter have become my social life. I have contacts with people all around the world and it cheers me to know that should I ever be fortunate enough to visit Australia, there are at least six people that it would be rude to leave the country without seeing.  Having that connection with people all over world is very valuable to me, I get to hear about things from their point of view and I get to hear about things that miss the news websites.  However, more recently the valuable connection has become something that has taken over my life: There’s an app for that.

It’s widely acknowledged that some people are pre-disposed to addiction.  Whether it’s through their physiological or experiential make-up, I haven’t read enough to be sure.  But I do know that there are certain people who find themselves addicted more easily than other people do.  I am one of them.  It’s nothing to do with alcohol – I don’t have a problem with being able to put the cork back in the wine bottle, but it does have to do with the part of me that social media is feeding into.

Anyone who knows me well also knows that I struggle with my self-confidence.  There were a series of triggers for this in my childhood, which I won’t bore you with.  However, those experiences have left me needing reassurance that I’m liked and that I make the grade.  My name is Rachel and I have approval addiction.  By constantly using social media all I am doing is feeding that little voice. Do they like me? Do they find me amusing? Am I worthy of these friends?  Am I accepted? Am I included?  Worse, I try to show off to certain people, because it’s their approval I particularly seek.  This is especially true of people who knew me at the time when I was going through the experiences that have resulted in this mindset.  I’m seeking to repair the damaged relationships by trying to get them to think better about me – even though I have no idea what they really thought of me at the time.  I assume I was disliked, because that’s the ‘evidence’ my head collected.  I’m learning that sometimes the ‘evidence’ is wrong, but constantly feeding the voice in my head doesn’t help me to silence it.  And then there’s something else going on.

“But my kind…we’re very easily distracted.” Edward Cullen, New Moon.

With my entire social life contained in a small gadget that I can hold in my hands, not only am I feeding that pernicious little voice, but I also find myself massively distracted because I always want to see what’s going on and know what other people are doing.  This morning was case in point.  I surfaced from sleep at just after 5.30am and without thinking I reached for my phone which spends its nights on charge by the side of my bed.  It’s always the same,  I shuffle between Twitter and Facebook.  By the time I’ve finished on one something else has appeared on the other so I go and check that out, re-posting or re-tweeting if I think it will be of interest or will serve my need to be liked.  On and on it goes, so that at its worst, I can lose almost the entire first hour of my day.  Then the self-loathing kicks in.  It attacks in two ways.  It berates me for being a worthless, easily distracted piece of humanity because I allow it to steal my time.  More detrimentally, when I am feeling down, it feeds my insecurity that my life isn’t as good as other people’s.  The little voice starts up again. Look at that fabulous overseas holiday he’s on, look at that new car she’s bought – you can’t afford anything like that.  Look how fabulous she looks, how brilliantly her job is going, how slim she is and that great fitness regimen he keeps up – you can’t even commit to walking to work each morning.  She’s got a publishing deal – you’re not good enough for that.  That’s the fourth book she’s read this month – you’re not even through one – slacker! 

I have to ask myself is participating in social media beneficial for me?  With the case above, it’s probably time to close my accounts.  But it’s a hard thing to do, because through other channels I wouldn’t be in contact with the vast majority of these people and even though I sometimes struggle with a few posts – and it is a few posts, by and large I do enjoy it.  I would like to still be on there, but find a way to break the addiction.  The easiest way to do that is the remove the apps from my phone.  If they’re not there I can’t use them.  Then I have to set boundaries for myself.  What is ‘acceptable use?’  Is limiting myself to one or two posts a day the way to go?  Should I reduce the number of people I follow on Twitter or are friends with on Facebook? This is akin to cutting off limbs and would be a hard thing to do.   But, I’m an addict and if I had a problem with alcohol I wouldn’t be spending all my time in the pub.

So, there are things to think about and decisions to be made.  The phrase is ‘making it work for you’ and at the moment it’s not – I am almost a slave to it.  It doesn’t help me deal with my approval issues and I probably end up irritating a lot of people in the process.   For now I’m in the ‘consultation process’ having noticed the issue and preparing to do something about it.  But one thing can be done right now:  Removing the apps for that.

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This Island, Earth

Union Flag

I don’t usually write about politics.  But, then again, one nation in our union doesn’t usually have a vote to decide to leave it.  These are unprecedented times and so I’m writing about politics.  But this is me, so prepare for things to wander a bit off-piste.

I’m not Scottish, but if you go back five generations, one side of my family is.  They came down from the area north of Dumfries to work at the Shap granite quarry in Cumbria. However, that’s irrelevant.  On September 18th, I won’t be voting whether or not to leave the United Kingdom and I’m glad I’m not, because I’m finding myself torn in two.

On one hand, given the choice of being able to extricate myself from the tentacles of Westminster, I’d be putting a big fat cross in the ‘yes’ box.  I find a lot of what goes on in parliament to be irrelevant to my life and I live less than an hour away from it.  Heaven  knows how it’s relevant if you live in Stornoway.    Britain is very much London-centric and as a northerner, it sticks in my gullet.  ‘It’s the capital, stupid,’ people bleat.   Well, yes it is, but there’s life north, west and east of Watford and Westminster routinely forgets it.   Build another airport hub in the south of England?  How about creating one in the north of England?  HS2 as a sop to get us from London to Birmingham very quickly?  Well, at least they’ve figured out that Birmingham exists.  I’m not entirely sold on why the ‘yes’ campaign thinks it can use Sterling – that doesn’t exactly smack of independence, to me.  But, I haven’t read very deeply into it, so I’ll let that one pass.  However, in terms of having control over its affairs and forging an identity for itself away from Westminster, I say all power to the people of Scotland and that Manchester northwards would like to join you.

But then I stand back and look at our land from a distance.  Away from the debates,  the politics, away from the people, the places and the boundaries.  If you get high enough above it a single reality remains.  We are one island and I would like us to stay that way.  Not because of politics, economics or history, but because of geography and cold hard geology.  The sea defines us and our geology underpins us, preceding any boundary you mark out, any city you build, or any culture you seek to create.  Our joint fate was sealed the moment the supercontinent of Laurentia smashed into the supercontinent of Baltica, (about 450 million years ago), creating what is now Britain.  Since then, the land has been sculpted by orogenies, water, ice and humans, but it will remain one island, for now – unless some enterprising chap with a Black and Decker cuts along the dotted line of the Scottish border and tows it off into the north Atlantic.  It’s for that reason alone that I echo David Bowie and say ‘Scotland, stay with us.’  Not that you should take a blind bit of notice of me – or him, for that matter.  I’m sure there are enough characters in the debate without an absurd woman from Lancashire wading into it because she’s getting a bit protective over the Moine Thrust Zone.

The arguments for and against Scottish independence are many and despite my bonkers geological beliefs, I will accept and support the decision of the Scottish people.  If you say ‘no’ then I hope it kick-starts a debate about the way we do government in the UK, because I’m absolutely convinced that this London-centric one isn’t working.  It isn’t for me, at any rate.  If you say ‘yes’ then I will miss you, dreadfully and I hope we can still be good friends.  But regardless of what everyone else is saying, it’s important that on Thursday 18th September you vote whichever way your conscience wants you to, not the way someone is telling to you.  You’re the one who has to live with your choice – not Sean Connery.

However, the sad fact is, that what underpins you also underpins me, so you can never truly be independent of us, whatever you decide.  Mwhahaha!  😉

 

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Previously on Tales from Lewis Lodge

DearDiaryLightWhiteWelcome back to Tales from Lewis Lodge.

Previously, this blog contained nearly eight years of my life and earlier in the summer I chose to archive it and start again.  It was partly motivated by someone starting to rummage around in the nether regions of it and see what they could dig up about me.  Call me human, but I would like the past to stay in the past.  Not because I have anything to hide – well, there were a few locked posts – but because I’m not that woman anymore.   Reading my early posts, I now bear absolutely no resemblance to her and that’s a good thing.  There was a lot of depression – years of it.  There was a lot of anxiety – pages of it.  There was a big, horrible thing that scarred me mentally because I nearly died and nobody gave a toss.  That’s a sobering place to be, I can tell you.  Then, in 2010, there was a pivotal moment where I was lying in a bed at Papworth Hospital crying my eyes out because my life had reached the very bottom.  When you’re at the bottom the only way is up, but I don’t think I could have ever anticipated what happened next.

My spell at Papworth got me treatment for a chronic condition that was blighting my life and as a result a whole new world unlocked in front of me.  Everything that has happened since then has been the result of that painful moment, acknowledging that things could not go on as they were.  I had to change, because to stay the same was more painful than doing what needed to be done to get myself out of the mess I was in.  So, here I am.  Physically and emotionally transformed and living a life that I really could not have believed eight years ago.  Don’t imagine luxury and ease, imagine long hours and no social life, but the satisfaction you get from being creative.

Throughout that time I’ve always written, but since 2010 what I’ve written has changed.  I used to be a dedicated blogger, working for hours crafting a post.  One of the things that changed after Papworth was that I started to challenge my fear of failure.  I wouldn’t do anything because I was too scared that I’d humiliate myself.  But I’ve always longed to write a story.  So, after Papworth, I did.  NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) gave me what I needed.  The impetus to achieve something but not have to experience any public failure in the process.  Win – win!  That month spent hunched over my keyboard thrashing out a 50K novel in 30 days gave me unbelievable joy.  For the first time I experienced what it felt like to tingle with excitement as words flowed out of me in a torrent.  While all around were posts by fellow writers struggling to achieve the target, I sailed through the word count by 15K and finished a few days before the end, amazed by what had poured out.  I’ve since read it back.  It’s drivel, but gloriously raw, passionate drivel that could be shaped into a proper book at some point.  At my first attempt I’d pulled out a narrative arc without even knowing what one was.

But this isn’t to say that I’m the world’s best writer.  Far from it.  I am hamstrung by my own sense of inadequacy and the fear of failure looms large over my life.  Although I’d written a story, I wouldn’t show it to anyone and it took me almost another year before I plucked up the courage to allow someone to read a piece I’d written.

There are many people who heap scorn on FanFiction, but I never will.  For the simple reason that it was the medium which helped me to overcome my fear of failure.  My first attempt was unwieldy, dropping in at an eye-watering 200,000 words, but since then I’ve gone on to write eight more pieces based on Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.  You can read them HERE.  Yes, I am the lowest of the low.  The writing equivalent of a crack whore and damned proud of it!  While my stories haven’t exactly set the FanFiction world alight, what they did was prove to me that I could tell a story and that people enjoyed them.

Nobody makes their name writing FanFiction.  Well, nobody until E L James came along, but FanFiction isn’t for me.  I have no desire to write any more of it, because my own stories are now clamouring to get out of my head.  This week a piece finally escaped.  After ten months of work The Apprentice Queen was printed off for a select few people to read and comment on, prior to me taking my fear in my hands and submitting it to an agent.  How far I’ve come from that cowering woman who posted those first blogs!  Here I am, looking potential failure in the face and beckoning it to me, saying, ‘come on then.’  Yes, I admit there is still fear, but the difference is this:  Even if every agent in the land rejects the book, then I will still have so much more than I started with.  I have not failed! Oh, and this summer I helped put on a Literary Festival in my town…  But that’s another story.

Hence the new blog.  This is a new time in my life.  Not one riddled with fear, but one blazing with fun and opportunity.  Life is out there.  Are you coming with me..?

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