What I’ve Been Excited About Recently

I hope these demonstrate an engagement with something rather than me scuttling around not thinking about The Serious Things in life. I enjoy these things. I’ll get to weightier issues in due course but right now I wanna talk about some good shit.

TV: Community is that one show that pretty much defined my sense of humour and I didn’t even realise it! But it reminded me of when I was in uni and I would binge it between (or sometimes instead of) assignments. This is the perfect show that I can fit an episode of into a lunch break. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but for me, right now especially, it’s been pretty good.

Unfortunately, with the start of the fourth season, my excitement for it has waned significantly. By no means the absolute worst watching but it definitely is a slip in quality. Which, you know, makes sense. I have friends I trust and know my writing quite well but that’s not the same as being able to write like me. Especially for comedies, the joke architecture is so tied to the original showrunner (their idea, their baby and whatnot) that a change in hands is always fraught. So the season that Dan Harmon wasn’t working on it was perhaps doomed to have difficulties. Not because they’re bad writers, they’re just not the creator.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is, well, just that. Bizarre. Absolutely pioneering manga with some the weirdest, most creative fights, and is arguably the most memeable anime I’ve ever watched. It’s a bunch of crazy fun that paradoxically doesn’t take itself too seriously but can shift gears and be utterly devastating, often in the same minute. It’s been made more fun by my friends who are fanatic about it. So they get excited for me and I get excited because of their excitement. I am currently on Part 4 after being traumatised by Part 3.

Tower of God: It’s an interesting one. I ended up really enjoying it towards the end as it invested in the characters and their stories and dynamics. It’s a cool show! Nice anime but clearly one that hasn’t shown all its cards yet. People who’ve read the original web comic swear by it so we shall see if there’s a second series.

Ghost in the Shell SAC: 2045 is a return from one of my favourite series, and most certainly my top all-time anime, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. It courted a lot of initial controversy for its move to the third dimension. I’m not personally against 3-D animation but have seen few examples of it being done well. This unfortunately is not one of those examples. It’s by no means terrible but it is a downgrade from the previous SAC series, which considering that last one is a 15 year-old-show that has great animation even now, is disappointing.

Writing-wise, the return of Kamiyama from the previous series was welcome and is the reason why I got excited, but it took a while for it get started. The first half was slow and fine, with a stronger back half, ending just as it got interesting …

I want the second season but it might be a while yet. Sort of felt like half a story rather than having a complete story per season. -sighs- Oh well.

Altered Carbon: I quite enjoyed the first season and Joel Kinnamon’s mumbling performance way back when it first aired so was excited for a second season. In saying that, now that it’s dropped, I’ve have taken my sweet time getting to it. A lot of my favourite shows are either delayed or finished and I very much have the time and am in the mood for a serialised sci-fi show, preferably in the cyberpunk/post-cyberpunk tradition so this is ticking all my boxes. I like how the core premise allows for a different actor to play the main character! “Sleeves” or bodies are interchangeable. The thing that matters is your “stack”, alien tech that your mind or consciousness gets uploaded to and can be put into a different body at will.

There are a lot things about the premise that I’m not sure the show has the bandwidth for but would be intrigued if it wove into its narrative such as: what does race and gender mean? There seems to be a mind-body disconnect that is part of the core tapestry of themes and people in general feel like their sense of self is uniform, as well as their gender despite body-hopping. If it never explores them, it doesn’t matter, but I like speculating. It’s good watching! Not mind-blowing, but stylish, entertaining.

Music: Haruka Nakamura’s, beautiful, meditative piano record Still Life was the perfect accompaniment to me when I was working between phone calls. It reminds me of the quiet spaces, the tousled greenery in urbane environments, moments between words. It’s pure intention, creating a tapestry with not a single word, sort of like a modern Debussy.

I was touching up my YA novel and having this play in the background while Microsoft Edge’s surprisingly sophisticated site-reading software read it out to me aloud while I checked grammar and syntax and overall readability. It was nice to have the contrast of this warm, emotionally rich music with the more detached monotonous robotic voice.

Books: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. I just finished and enjoyed it. It has a great sense of interiority, spending a good amount of time with each character. As I’m going through, I’m evaluating my understanding of YA, and why this hasn’t been categorised as such. Part of it for me is the structure (shifting 3rd person as opposed to tighter 1st, which is usually standard) but I don’t know. Good reading though!

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James: this is the opposite of safe as it’s pretty brutal, dark, and complicated. The structure and the story are meant to make you question, doubt, and mislead you. It’s hard to describe without some serious exegesis. You can get a lot out of the first part and it’s only about 1/6 of the book.

Citizen by Claudia Rankine: Not much to say about this book beyond it looks very piercingly at race in modernity, from the “smallest” microaggresions to police brutality. Being lyric poetry, it centres the subjective, the “I”, and that adds to its accessibility. Its later sections struggle with making its abstractions clear, despite its deceptively simple language, but it is a poignant, powerful work that I’m enjoying revisiting.

Here’s a section that really connects with me every time:

To live through the days sometimes you moan like deer. Sometimes you sigh. The world says stop that. Another sigh. Another stop that. Moaning elicits laughter, sighing upsets. Perhaps each sigh is drawn into existence to pull in, pull under, who knows; truth be told, you could no more control those sighs than that which brings the sighs about.

How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin. I’ve just started this short story collection. It was a birthday gift from my friend off the back of our shared loved of Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy. I’m basically nowhere in it but I’ve not read many short stories so am excited to sink my teeth into.

Writing: Been planning my comeback here for some time. I just didn’t feel like my reviews were doing anything useful or interesting to me. My boredom and apathy towards making regular meaningful content meant that I chose to disengage from it completely. While I started off using reviews to sort my thoughts, I felt restrained by them and my boredom towards them intensified.

I think I’ll still do reviews in some capacity but I might do fewer and focus on books that really leave an impression on me, hopefully doing essays or some core ideas, or at least some expanded analysis. I have a few ideas on what other things I want on the blog, which includes regular poetry like finishing my damn poetry project. My novels have taken a hit during the ‘rona. It’s been a weird difficult year but I’ll write about this stuff in another blog.

What have you been excited about?

Inarticulate

For the words that get away

Dizzying, you taunt me,

refracting, distorting

insect, omnipresent

burrowing deep inside

buzzing in my mind,

whispering cruel sweet nothings

muting the singer’s

joyous trill,

deaden guitars.

A phrase, that succluent fruit

sweet and ripe

you asked me to pluck, feel its

juices in my mouth

to give me truths above

all truths.

Tempter, misery, snake charmer.

You whose presence knows me best,

giggling as we reach our stop;

I alight and carry you, cupping your spine,

your weight straining my arms

and I understand your essence.

We approach the room, our study

I turn, close the door behind me

and I return to you.

Night dancer, white tulip, poltergeist.

Me the shadowboxer, left in the fullness of your leaving

Fishermen at Night by J.M.W. Turner
Fishermen at Night by J.M.W. Turner

Cut

You can’t cut everything with your scissors
you can’t cut down everything to size

the lampshade of the morning
the pale yawns and pregnant silences
and the yowl of car engines
or the crying future
or homelessness
certainly not the days
overflowing with cloud and rainy intent
and how much of them you spend sighing
sipping tea
brewing your emotions
showering too late
or, worse, oversleeping

You can’t cut down injustice with these scissors
you can barely cut your hair
but you can at least you can feel like
you’re not lost to an overgrown field of despair

2019

2019 felt swollen. I spent endless amount of hours dedicated to goal-setting as a furious attempt to get over the many feelings of inadequacy that had built up during my early post-uni years. I was unemployed, not confident and tired, so tired. The year was one of polarities and of rapid progress.

The one thing I was adamant to obtain was a job. More than anything! I set myself up a lot of creative goals but the job felt like the most difficult thing to obtain. A lot of that frustration was  due to it being out of my control. I could apply a lot of effort but have little, if any, returns. The only thing I could control was my own attitude and the things I dedicated my mind and heart to, all of which were flagging through the continued silence. But a good friend of mine offered an olive branch and recommended me to apply for the job that she was doing. I managed to secure it as part-time position. I’d done it! I’d achieved my long-awaiting goal. For the foreseeable future, I could have stability, routine, and some more reliable income.

And then in September I went full-time. I had really done it then.  I finally moved away from my unemployment and had integrated into the working world, crossed the river of insecurity to certainty. I had become in the very traditional sense, an Adult. I pay taxes! I don’t save enough! I don’t get enough sleep and have little time to pursue creativity and do things like blog or write.

My writing has suffered from my new effective reality but I am immensely grateful.

Too Much in November

In November, I did my usual stint of NaNoWriMo. This was the first time that I’ve done it while having full-time work so I put a lot of stock into completing it. As I’ve said many times, it’s unlikely that I will earn enough from writing for me to do it full-time, at least in the short term. Therefore I’ll need to have employment alongside my literary ambitions. That’s something I understood in principle. Now that I had full-time work, I needed to apply it. 50,000 words in a month is pretty gruelling on its own, but add that to the pressures of work and finances, trying to have an active social life, on top of going to regular poetry events during weekday evenings, as well as getting enough sleep every night … Long story short, I overtaxed myself.

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It’s in this overtaxing that I realised that I needed to scale back commitments. I want to see my friends! I want to go to poetry events! I want to write! But I can’t do all three. It’s tough balancing the different strands of your life but I eventually got into the rhythm of saying no to more things, no matter how attractive they were. This was probably one of my worst-performing NaNos in terms of my daily efforts; I didn’t hit my daily word count targets until the final day because I was doing things other than writing, and even then it was because of my manic writing sprint on the final weekend. No wonder I was insomniac in November! It’s not a sustainable—not a healthy—way to write.

But I have to write. I often use the excuse of having other commitments to either write less or not at all. I have subsumed a lot of my identity into my ability to write, because being a writer is important to how I relate to the world.

If I am to write, then I must write. And sometimes, to ensure this, I have to make sacrifices. Sacrifices I wasn’t initially prepared to make, such as saying no to things. Making those sacrifices wasn’t easy but in understanding that, I think I improved as a writer. I have to keep remembering that I have to show up to the page if I am to be a writer. It’s my intention to bring this into 2020. Write more frequently, not more intensely.

Diagnostic on current projects

Rather than blasting through some stuff and finishing projects, I didn’t finish anything last year! (Gasp.) No big projects, at least. This is an obvious setback as I intend to pursue  a breadth of projects, new and old. This year, I’m looking to finish things.

2019 was a day of swelling, then decompressing. 2020 I intend to bring those lessons into the fore, ties loose ends and streamline a little more.

2020 is about bringing the disparate threads of my mind to the fore. I want to essentially be a bit more courageous and put my stuff out there. Yes, this year I want to see if I have anything remotely ready to send off to seek agent representation. A big goal, but one I’ve had since 2010. Back then, I though that 10 years was an adequate amount of time to get my mind and writing into some sort of order. 10 years is kind of nothing, to be honest! I was an over-ambitious teenager when I made this goal, full of big ideas and a prideful heart. While it’s a goal of mine to seek representation, I have to be realistic if nothing I have is ready to submit. Just doing a cursory look at the state of my most ready projects, the amount of work that would involve for my main two: the redrafting, editing, etc., would mean that these would need to be ready in about six months …

I might amend this goal as having something I feel is ready to submit by year’s end which seems more realistic given my situation. So have something ready to submit as opposed to actively submitting. I do think I’m close but if not, it will take as long as it takes. There have been some competitions I’ve applied to. But more. I am keeping my eye out to do more.

Speaking of managing expectations, I’m not really sharing hard and fast goals for my year ahead. I want to shoot high but not be unreasonable. It’s clear to me that goal-setting has come from a place of inadequacy as opposed to a place of confidence. Slowing doing and being more thorough is an ambition of mine. That stretches across all my different areas of interest: personal, financial, etc.

This isn’t to say that I don’t have things I want to focus on. I do! But they’re more suggestions of the things I want to pay attention to. A new decade, a different way of thinking. I’m not under illusions of a serious transformation, just finding ways to become more myself. I think in time, we all learn this. That to improve is to not to transmute, but deepen your connection with your core. That involves change but not total abandonment of oneself.

So for the year ahead, I want depth and I want consistency. What lessons from the previous year are you looking to take into this year?

 

 

September Reviews

Dragging myself out of a long rut of working too much and not sleeping enough. The Singing Lights is alive. There’s more to come. But for now …

 

The unintended theme of this month is personhood, it seems: structurally, personally, philosophically …

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

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The first 100 pages of this volume redeems the sluggish pace of the previous entry, and the series ends on a high note. It’s genuinely impressive that Jemisin wove such complicated threads and tied them together to a satisfactory conclusion. Not many authors can do that with such skill.

One of the things that I didn’t mention before that made me I think unconsciously resist elements of the series—especially the first book—was the general pessimism of the book. But I’m kind of glad I withheld that judgement because it wasn’t the book so much as Essun’s arc from someone who has been a victim of trauma and only seen themselves as a victim to someone who cared about something, who wanted to do something that benefits others besides her own.

The hope that exists not as a blind faith in goodness or brilliance—oppression persists always, but wears many faces—but in a willingness to devote oneself into helping to build the future we want. It is in our own hands. It is a slog. Not everyone’s going to listen. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try. Fight we must, but we can’t give up.

I have to say, though, that there are elements of the prose that I don’t think are for me. That’s fine, but it did limit some connection that was frustrating, to say the least. I keep dancing around the idea of subtlety*, especially as it runs the risk of obscurity. This series toes the line for me: wherein I feel it feels like the subtlety obscures that it could bear revealing more. Not completely, of course, but there are some things that a character realises as self-evident but doesn’t expand upon, leaving you a little in the lurch. Or when a character does explain, they do it in the most roundabout and esoteric fashion. I assert Jemisin’s right to her writing style. I’m just saying it didn’t fully gel with me: disappearing, hiding, almost. This is largely a quibble, but a big enough one to detach me from it, to be honest.

I don’t want that to overshadow this book’s and the series’ strengths. It is genuinely brilliant. The worldbuilding and character complexity are done to such a sophistication that makes me as an aspiring writer want to pack it all up. Its scope is paradoxically global and hyper-specific, distilling the anger of blackness so aptly, something that’s fairly lacking in fiction, particularly SFF. To have someone actually spell out why black people (as one of many examples of oppressed people) have so much anger feels like Jemisin is reaching a hand out and resting it on my shoulders. It’s comforting, in a way, like I don’t feel alone. If there’s one thing that Jemisin should take a bow for, it’s that. The least she did was take her triple Hugo. Well-deserved. I can’t wait to read more of your work.

 

Self by Barry Dainton

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When you think ‘What am I?’, what’s actually doing the thinking? Is it a soul, or some other kind of mental entity separate from your body, or are ‘you’ just a collection of nerve-endings and narratives? 

This book explores the core issues surrounding the metaphysics of selfhood, across Descartes famous “cogito ergo sum” to future-casting of where our consciousness could go in the future (see: fusing with machines?).

Told in some of the most lucid prose, Dainton distils the core arguments so deftly that I was left a little gobsmacked at his skill. As well he should! This is part of a series of philosophy books, aimed at more lay-philosophers (or people who didn’t study philosophy) to get them interested in philosophical thought. As a result of my background, I found nothing new here, but it’s a brilliant refresher of the arguments, for example, Hume’s sceptisim of a unified self and the relevant criticisms. But I’m going to put aside the “no newness” point and say that this achieves its aims of explaining the core philosophical arguments in an accessible way. For that reason, I recommend this for anyone curious but a little daunted by philosophy as a tradition.

Pluto: [Story and art by Naoki Urasawa (co-authored with Takahashi Nagasaki)]

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An interesting, somewhat touching, a bit too sprawling revamp of Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy.

This follows a detective named Gesicht as he investigates robot and human deaths. While the premise and worldbuilding are solid, the pace of this volume is hampered by some sprawl in the middle towards the end. There are a string of chapters that were genuinely touching but added little overall. I might revise my opinion on this as I progress with this short manga series but it added too much bloat to a fairly tight story. I appreciate the willingness to lean into the personhood of its characters—human and robot alike—but it could have stood to have been more focused.

The art is also subtly distinctive. Not as flashy with its details as Death Note‘s Takeshi Obata, characters and environments are distinctive, with some of the best panel-work I’ve seen in manga: designs are both simple but expressive, with panels being filled without being overcrowded. It’s a hard balance to strike but Urasawa understand how to present a story as well as tell it. I would put this fairly high on the list of recommended manga any sceptics of genre.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

 

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A frayed masterpiece.

This story’s focus is manifold: masculinity, queerness, trauma. It has contained in its under 300 pages the length of a life.

Haunting, affecting, flawed.

The fragmented narrative is purposeful, Vuong says, because “to be broken is not wrong”. It represents the trauma the women fleeing Vietnam experience, how their difficulties fractured them, shaped them. About how a life is not experienced linearly. This allows for some arresting pieces of writing meshed with some of the mundane. This reflects how trauma is not a single event. It’s a shadow that follows you wherever you go, whatever you’re doing. It can do horrible things to you, to the people you love.

Trauma is also broadened to the sense of the trauma of image. For me, this was especially strong for the bits about masculinity and the gay relationship that blossoms in the book. The tenderness between them is beautiful but asks a lot of things that men are not allowed to feel: that tenderness is fine, that it can be good to allow that into your life. This tension is complicated with tenderness between men. It’s easier to be tender when you’re with women who are the people who are “acceptably tender” (and there is a lot of baggage in that stereotype); men are not supposed to be tender, and certainly not with each other. There’s a lot of complexity here and it’s so wonderfully heartbreaking and brilliant.

The one major flaw with the book is that it lapses into overwriting sometimes. His poetic roots are well-established and make for some crisp and deeply resonant prose. But the prose can resonate too much. Sometimes an eye is an eye. It’s like cake. Perfect after a meal but if that’s all you get, it’s too much. It doesn’t collapse the book’s structure or anything. It’s well worth your time. I feel enriched for having read this book.

*O’Gieblyn’s long essay is well worth a read and Page’s breakdown and distinction between subtlety versus obscurity is well-made, told with his usual precision.

A Slow Drowning In Saltdean

DSC03306 (2).JPGIt’s morning again
and I’m grateful for the sunrise.
Dawn is a kindness
for which I don’t spend enough of life
appreciating.

(The night’s promise of loss ebbs, for now)

I was asleep in the devil’s throat,
adrift in an icy current I couldn’t see.
I fought for my simple
irreducible truth.

The shower plunges my frail foolish skin
deep into the sea
the legs of his corpse curled in on himself,
slain.

(He was unwell
but we miss him)

Renewed, I wander the garden,
over grass and rotted leaves
the ouroboros slithers around, unseen
and in that moment I am nature
with all its wisdom.

I am the whispering waves.

I am lavender and cosmos,

roses in the veranda,

and unripened apples.

And I wonder how we manage to sleep at all
with the haunted screams of buses so close by.

I am the world itself now
but at last nothing at all.

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August Reviews

The Long Way to A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

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I have been waiting to read this book for a long time. That’s the problem with a huge TBR, lol. All joking aside, reading this book was like a warm hug in the cold depths of space.

Rosemary Harper wants to escape her past which is why she joins the tunnelling ship The Wayfarer. Her desire for a quieter time and some peace are of course disrupted and she ends up involved in a series of adventures and discoveries, some closer to home than she’d think …

This book is a treat. Comparisons to the show Firefly are generally well-made but it demonstrates that this book and the show are two tokens of the same type: the found family kind of story. This is a book about finding your place among people who might not bear much resemble much to you genetically—many of the cast are aliens after all—but the bonds you forge can go beyond such things, even the limits of language. That’s one of my favourite thing about this: the worldbuilding is interesting and immersive and feels realistic. Verisimilitude is not high on my list of qualities for sci-fi—I’m very fine with suspending disbelief—but the notion of language being representative of a culture’s values and the difficulty of expression and translation push all the right buttons for me.

This is a plot-light book and that both helps and hurts it. It helps because it zeroes in on the characters but the plot that is there feels almost tacked on so it ultimately drags it down. It’s not a huge problem, but it is there.

The characters, though—across different alien species—are not ordinary people doing extraordinary things but ordinary people doing very ordinary things. That in turn makes it profound and quietly subversive. That they do not need to be in the midst of a grand, galaxy-ending adventure but they are embroiled in their own interpersonal conflicts. That not honouring your friend’s needs might be the biggest conflict of you the reader’s life. The book is relatable and personal like that. This is part of the profundity of the book: these are ultimately normal people and they matter. You matter.

What Chambers has done in creating such a rich pocket of a clearly very large world is astonishing and she should take a bow. I am very much excited in reading her other works and am sad it’s taken me so long to get to them.

 

Ariel by Sylvia Plath

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Ariel, Ariel.We revile and revere you. We puff our chests in false understanding to make ourselves large. Perhaps you who were largest of all, cast too great a shadow—even over yourself—so we don’t know what else to do in order to be seen.

Ariel, Ariel, young people—many of them young women—gather to drink honey from your altar. We mock their foolishness, their naïveté, their insolence at not reading “better” less “whiny” poets. See, dark emotions must be explained away, soothed; you cannot live through them, find strength and meaning through their exploration. Depression is a contrivance, a mocking snort on the wind. Those that have it should just “get over it”.

Ariel, Ariel. The world turns but you still linger. What secrets of the self do you have still? Who can you guide and teach? Will you take my hand through the briar patch, to the yew tree?

Sylvia Plath is following you. You don’t know it yet but she’s there just a few paces behind you, in the smile of your beloved, under the yew tree.

Sylvia Plath knows you well. It might take you a while—months, years, even—but you’ll realise she knows you best. She has laid out light and darkness on the page for you to consume in the same breath. She knows love and death. Her legacy was inevitable and we miss her.

I’m not going to tell you to read Ariel. If you want to, go for it; if not, don’t. If you are, I do recommend reading The Colossus first because Ariel really overshadows it critically and that is a damn shame.

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

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The word that comes to mind when thinking back to this book is stillness. I know I’m probably being snotty now. It’s not clever, so I’ll just say what I mean: this book has a problem of being too stationary. Essun, our main protagonist, spends a good portion of this book in one place. That can be potentially interesting but this in fact exaggerates one of the series problems: its stinginess with information of interest. Essun spends the book trying to coax information necessary for the plot, about where she needs to go until quite late in the game. This makes for frustrating reading. It feels like Jemisin doesn’t trust the reader enough with the information so there are moments of characters building up to clarity and then pivoting at the last moment.

These complaints, however, distract from the overwhelming strengths of The Broken Earth trilogy; namely, the excellent worldbuilding, the morally complex characters (and world). Nassun becomes a perspective character in this book and hers is a consistent highlight. The parallels of the treatment of orogenes and racism in our world is still poignant and well-drawn but we now see it through the eyes of a 9-year-old girl, which adds to the tension and fear we have in every scene with her father. In her arc we get an expansion of the magic system which is deepening in some interesting and frightening ways.

The third perspective I will refrain from stating for spoilery purposes but this character’s moral journey is uncomfortable and fascinating, which really reveals the dexterity of Jemisin to hold space for characters that go beyond the simple good/bad dichotomies that exist in SFF writing.

It’s a good follow-up, but continuing after The Fifth Season is an unenviable task, even for the same author. Excited to see how it all ends because there’s a lot of ground to cover.

A Week In Unemployment

I like to think that I did this recording for some grander sociopolitical reason—that I’d dispel the myths of the “lazy unemployed”—but I don’t actually think it’s anything as lofty. Mostly I just felt a need to record my actions on these busy days via Twitter for, er, accountability reasons, maybe learn something new about myself. The year has been sprinting by with little time for reflection and I have mixed feelings with where I am relative to where I wanted to be.

Let’s set the scene. It’s the start of July. The week ahead had me delivering a 10 minute speech for the company UpRising, who ran an employability course that I liked. As an alumnus, I was asked to do a speech talking about my experience. It was a bit short notice but in the interest of being a bit more daring, I accepted and got to work as soon as possible. This is on top of a convergence of July deadlines for job applications with deadlines that week, not to mention three poems to deliver, two of which I was planning to perform that week. Poor planning was definitely a factor for this build up as well as my fairly strict “no weekends” when it comes to looking for work (I feel like in the future if I’ve got a lot to do I should break my rules. But hey, I need the rest too!) but mostly it was just a busy week.

Monday 1st: Future-casting

(I don’t have a record of what I did this day so I’m reconstructing this based upon what I ended up doing on Tuesday.)

The realisation that the speech needs doing for Wednesday dawns on me and I double my workload. Realise that speeches require a lot of work—even 10 minute ones—and that I should agree to delivering them at least two weeks before delivery. I was only asked the week before, still, but it’s a good precedent to have minimum two weeks. I don’t see speeches being in my future a great deal.

Draft two applications that have a Thursday deadline. More than once do I think if I failed in realising how soon the deadlines were relative to me seeing the opportunities and my failure to realise that July does indeed follow June means that I’m destined to be forever unemployed. Dismiss feelings of doubt because there’s work to be done.

Usually I do Camp NaNoWriMo and at this point I was still weighing whether I wanted to do it given most of my first week would be dedicated to all these tasks ahead of me.

Tuesday 2nd: Coffee and a Fuck-Tonne of Tasks

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I started the day with coffee (yikes). Considering I have eczema which flares up when I drink it and I have a natural aversion to it due to jitters, you know I was lowkey stressed about the week ahead. Once again the notion of my future possibly being on the line for a.) not delivering the applications in time and b.) being worried that said timely applications were of any serviceable quality. But I was optimistic that I’d get it done.

Most of this day was spent on writing the speech and making sure it worked on the breath. I worry about how I come across a lot of so I was super doubting my speech-writing skills but at this point I’m finding a cohesive through-line. When it’s done to a standard that I’m sick enough of it to not delete it and beg-off, I send it as proof of completion and move to other tasks.

By the speech’s completion, I have polished one application and feel comfortable to send it off. Even with a laptop crash thrown into the mix, I’m still feeling good because I got up early and I’m making progress by mid-afternoon.

After a lunch break, I complete a serviceable draft of another job application. Feeling the passion come through and try to give a few sentences in the cover letter some flare. (Narrator: it doesn’t work.)

Finish Chapter 19 of my book (this didn’t require much work, in fact it involved me cutting words).

Three different poems to complete are outstanding: one for Thursday, two for Friday. One was for a poetry event I was attending and wanted to read for. One of the Friday ones was also a poetry event. But chief among these three poems was getting my friend’s poem done. It was their birthday on the 5th and they were tagging along to Friday’s poetry event so I was doubly stressed to get the poems done and ready.

Wednesday 3rd: Speech Day

Internet scare: I think the ‘net’s gone down so have a bit of a panic. Deadlines for two applications are tomorrow, so I draft a plan to copy the files to put onto a USB and send off in the library, which is not such a bad thing but it is a case of making time and doing stuff at the library. Basically I spend time getting to and from the library which would ordinarily be prime drafting time. Speech day is today so prepare earlier but focus is on poems to be done.

Wrote on my agenda to have at least 10 mins done on my book.

Delivered speech and networked.

Decided that I was sick of thinking about my book standing at 80% and unfinished because I lost steam so I sign up for Camp NaNoWriMo.

Thursday 4th: The Execution of All Things

Wake up early for no reason; my body is disturbed. See Mom before she leaves for work, she fixed the internet problem, buying me several quality hours I can work on applications and get them polished. Finishing touches on poems, one of which my friend’s poem.

Polished off those two applications and sent them off. I feel confident about my chances of both (SPOILER: neither panned out, but I appreciated the speed of response for rejection for one of them—like a few days, which is fucken rare, esp. for publishing. Rejection still stings but I think I’m past it hurting because I am in a different state.)

Wrote 10 mins of my book. Felt like an hour. Slow progress is better than nothing.

Poetry event that evening and I had to replace a broken bowl and get my friend’s card to write the poem in. Purchase both. Browse in Waterstones and gaze at books. Convince myself not to spend money. Show up at poetry event way too early, decide to go back to Waterstones and by Ocean Vuong’s book, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. On the way out, I bump into the friend I bought the card for by chance. Hang out with her before going to poetry event.

Performed poem (yes that’s my face and voice, don’t laugh lol). Probably my best performance, and my best-received poem. I dunno how I feel about it because I’m busy thinking of what to do next. Also idly think I need to think about ways of being more present as I talk to my poetry friends.

Friday 5th: Endgame

Poems completed, card written, applications sent. Another poetry event to go to this time taking my friend whose birthday it was. I slip her the card when we are seated for her to read. I perform. This is a poem I like and will post in time. Once it’s done, I feel a subtle sense of relief.

This was an unusually busy and productive week but I wanted to give a glimpse into what my life was like. That was pretty hectic and my life in general has slowed down considerably.

What I mainly learnt was from my friend’s observation: that I actually quite enjoy busyness. Within reason, it allows a degree of focus that I find energising. Another thing was that, even though none of these jobs panned out, the fact that I showed up and worked on them with all my abilities and passion was important for me. It’s hard considering there’s no immediate reward for those efforts—like a job—but still, I like to think that attitude carried me to getting my current part-time job. It’s so hard to keep it up, especially when you’ve been trying so hard. But still. I arrived. In a different place to where I thought I would, but I arrived.