There’s a reason I’ve lost faith on what I’ve written in the past: I set out to achieve something and either I worry it’s too basic and it needs more stuff – more twists, more bad guys, more dynamics, etc etc or that characters need to be more real. Sometimes I get hung up on the old mantra of a single idea not begin a story (which is true) and so try to cram a load more in and overbake everything.
Being ruthless is a great thing so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone who isn’t already fictional, and if it doesnt work, you can put what you cut out back in or revert to an earlier draft (version control as the tech world calls it).
I felt like too much was happening in my story – especially given that I wanted to create a series, and although I wanted to throw the kitchen sink at establiahing my world and ideas; nothing felt flesh out enough and it began to feel like both myself and my characters were making zero decisions.
Some things, I realised, could be cut out entirely or explored in later entries. Suddenly, after a few more of these cuts I felt like the novel could breathe and had refreshed purpose. I could more easily define whaf it was about. In short, I felt at ease, and knew then that I was onto something.
Long have I toiled over my ideas and stories. Long have I made mistakes, procrastinated and ultimately, gone back to plan some more. As mentioned, last year was for the most part a writing gap year. I am writing again though, and I’m hoping to have “Jack Knife” in some sort of publishable state this year. Finally getting beyond the infamous one third hump!
After a busy few weeks (including a big question mark over wether we should move area, and how the workshops I helped facilitate for clients were going at work, etc, etc) I forgot all about the writers group kick-off meet I’d organised until on the day; which is not like me at all.
As it happened -and despite zero expectations- the venue worked out and the people worked out (as in they came – there was no exercise involved!). I’d picked the place I assumed would be quietest on a Monday night on Keynsham highstreet. OK, so there were only 4 of us, but nobody dropped out, and an extra person turned up. Plus, they all seemed nice and friendly, reciprocal, and two were already published! Chats and drinks ensued, despite no format imposed by moi. We set up a rough structure for upcoming meetups, had a few laughs and went on our merry ways.
I’ve tried Meetup dot com to organise the group before, but their business model seems to be an automated tool inviting a bunch of people to your new group (regardless of any real vested interest or commitment on their part) so you think you’re making it a success from day one. Very few of these “interested” parties communicate or turn up (I myself am a member of many groups I’ll probably never interact with). Once Meetup has invited folk its algorithms deem appropriate, they join (this can be as simple as clicking a link in an email). Meetup then warns you that you need to pay more when you inevitably max out your members on their lowest tariff. It’s already expensive, soooo no. Just no. I went for a Facebook group and page, which requires a bit more legwork and marketing, but they chucked me a free £5 budget (with the caveat that I could only trigger a “boosted post” about my writing group if I forked out £5 of my own cash to make it up to a tenner). I haven’t distributed any flyers/cards on the high street yet, but did ask for the updated group to go in the local paper, which is free to do and hopefully we’ll gain some more traction from it.
Which goes to show that literally anyone can pull off setting up a group with a small amount of effort, especially in this technical age. OK, so it may all go belly-up from hereon in unless I pull up my socks and regulate it, but there you go. My choice, really. I’m sure you can do the same! If it does continue positively then I’ll post updates and tips on writers groups as my experience grows.
For me and many others, things are not OK. Sometimes they are, but we don’t fit in and rarely feel quite right (whatever that is).
I get bouts of death anxiety. I always have. It got almost unbearable the year my childhood died, circa 2016 and early 2017. Death had taken my cool aunt and cleared out a chunk of my (and my peers’) childhood icons. In life I’ve felt underprepared for most things; anxiety and social isolation are like comfortable slippers. The kind that slowly cut into your ankles and shut down your vital systems one by one. So I was pretty fucked off to hear another one of ours, the tortured soul Mr Flint (apparently – I had no knowledge of his depression until this point) had taken his life.
It’s important to get things out in the open. Society does so much damage. We don’t talk about death (in the West), we ostracize and outcast people. Often by saying nothing or labelling the depressing shit as depressing shit we don’t/shouldn’t talk about. We only speak about pointless shit instead. We put up those fucking “Just be OK”/”Everything is la-dee-da all of the time” throwaway Social media posts that might as well have been assembled by the cat unicorn thing from the Lego Movie. We are ultimately discouraged from giving a balanced view of our world. I’m not saying we should mope all the time -and I for one do much too much of that already- but let’s put our thinking caps on and act appropriately.
Fuck you, death. And fuck our inability to cope with it. And you, depression. And the showing emotion thing we all know is frowned upon, especially if you’re a man. As a clever race, we’re still so backwards.
And another thing. I did not know Keith Flint personally, but he stirred me and a whole crowd up into rapturous togetherness in a way I have only felt a handful of times in my life. I felt a horrible knot in my stomach as my girlfriend had idolised him more than I*, and as she doesn’t subject herself to the news and was working from home, I knew I’d have to be the one to break the bad news. Plenty of people found The Prodigy and Keith vital before we had, but that didn’t stop his death being a nasty, gut-smacking blow. It’s OK to be sad about someone you’ve never met checking out, despite what society would sometimes have you believe. If you got something from that person – hope, inspiration, anything, then that counts. Here’s hoping that as decent human beings we can learn to admit. To cry and be lonely and fucking depressed without labels and stigmas. No, I mean it. Without labels and stigmas. That we can be accepted without being in such a shitty place we don’t want or know how to go on. That nobody will listen or care. That we may have the chance to turn things around when we’re standing on the precipice.
Anyway, here’s an awesome cruelty-free male grooming products company called Kings, whose founder mentors and champions men’s mental health and what I’ve been rabbiting on about. And here’s the man doing his thing. May you continue to shine brightly and inspire, wherever you may be:
“Normal” business will resume next blog.
*Keith singled her out in a gig, mouthed something she’s pretty sure was “I like you!”, kissed her on the lips and proceeded to lick her hand. Pretty rock n roll, really! She also spent most of sixth form drawing and painting him and plotting a stake-out outside his mansion.