Tag Archives: frustration

Frustrated Friday

It’s Friday. This is, undeniably, a Good Thing, and I am looking forward to the weekend partly because it’s the weekend, of course, but also partly because I’m meeting an old friend tomorrow, and that will be lovely.

However, it’s also a Major Pain. This is because I’m also dealing with the fact that a competition I wanted to take part in, the closing date for which is next week, will probably have to remain unentered. This, my friends, is not only because I completely messed up the dates – this happens to me on a worryingly frequent basis – but also because a story idea I’ve been working on for a while is just not happening. It may happen in two weeks’, or three months’, or fourteen years’ time, but as of right now, it’s at a standstill.

This is frustrating.

This is what my head feels like. Image: en.wikipedia.org

This is what my head feels like.
Image: en.wikipedia.org

There’s so much about the story that I like. I really love the protagonist – everything from her name to her demeanour to her appearance pleases me. I have already imagined the final scene, and the ‘voice’ of the characters, completely different from anything I’ve written before, is an interesting journey for me. It’s so annoying, though, to have the beginning and the end of a strong story mapped out, and no clear way of getting from A to B. I know all the story needs is time, really, but time is what I do not have. I hate the idea of leaving a competition unentered just because I couldn’t get my act together, but there it is. It looks like that’s exactly what will have to happen.

I’ve made a point of entering competitions over the last few months – there is certainly no shortage of them. So far, I’ve had no success whatsoever, but then, success isn’t really the point. The point is to impose discipline upon myself, to have a deadline and to meet it, to fulfil the ‘brief’, so to speak, and to rise to a challenge. Simply meeting the deadline, for me, is a success in itself. So, you might understand now why I’m so irritated with myself. Not only have I missed a competition, in all likelihood, but I’ve also let myself down. It’s true that it’s not easy to keep track of everything, and I’ve had a lot of things to think about lately, but that’s no excuse really. The fact is, not only is the story not ‘right’, but I also thought I had an extra week in which to get this work done. I don’t. For some reason, I always manage to fudge dates when it comes to the end of one calendar month and the beginning of another. Somehow, in my mind, several extra days just creep in out of nowhere. This often causes me problems. You’d think, at this stage in my life, I’d have come up with a way to deal with this absent-minded dizziness.


I suppose, at the end of the day, it’s only a competition – and probably one in which my entry would’ve sunk without trace, too – and I should just give myself a break. It is important to take part in competitions and become part of a writing community when you’re starting off your journey as a writer, of course, but it’s also true to say that missing one out of the multitude isn’t the end of the world. It feels that way, but it really isn’t. I suppose the little voice at the back of my head will always be there: ‘You could’ve won this one. This could’ve been the one! You’re an eejit to have missed it.’ Those little voices in your head have an annoying tendency to be right, sometimes. That must be what makes them so annoying.

In any case, I still have today, and Sunday, before I need to really give up hope. Perhaps it will all work out: I’ll embark upon a writing marathon and the whole thing will just slot together like Lego and I’ll get it submitted with hours, instead of seconds, to spare. Yeah, maybe – and maybe I’ll also become the first Irishwoman to walk on the surface of Mars, or to cross the Atlantic using a jet-pack. You know, I have a feeling I’ll still be sitting over the same stubborn 800 words in a week’s time, wondering why they just won’t cooperate, and driving myself further round the twist.

Perhaps I should just throw in the towel, and take up knitting instead. What do you reckon?

Image: rcvs.org.uk

Image: rcvs.org.uk

Have a wonderful Friday, and a happy (and hopefully unfrustrated) weekend!

Tough Going

Do you ever feel like your brain could do with some oil? Or maybe WD40, perhaps. Something, at least, to help it to move freely, like the supple youth it once was. I’d love to be able to give my brain a soothing bath, from which it would emerge relaxed and refreshed, possibly swathed in a fluffy robe, ready to attack the world once more.

Yesterday was one of those days where I felt that for every inch forward I managed to crawl, I was being forced to take ten steps back. I spent most of my day undoing and rewriting bits of the chapter I’m currently working on, and reading what I’ve done on ‘Omphalos’ so far with a critical eye, seeing where I could improve it. And, like everything, the more I prodded and poked at it the more stodgy and ridiculous it seemed to become, until I threw in my lot and left it alone. I haven’t been brave enough yet today to even open my file to have a look.

Image: blogs.lawyers.com

Image: blogs.lawyers.com

It got me thinking about the way I write, and made me remember something I learned years ago. When I was younger, at school, I liked art. I still do like to draw, but I never find the time to get to it any more. One of the things I remember most clearly about my art lessons was that my teacher once told me I had a very ‘definite line’, by which he meant I looked carefully at what I was going to draw and let it sink in to my mind before I put my pencil near the paper. Then, I just put my line down with confidence and a heavy hand, reasonably sure that I wouldn’t need to erase it or change it very much. I had never noticed this before he said it (I just drew the way I’d always drawn), but he was right. I wasn’t the kind of person who drew lightly on the page so that corrections or adjustments would be easily made; my lines were heavy, sure and hard to remove.

This isn’t to say I was some sort of artistic savant who never put a nib wrong – of course I did, often. But my style never changed. I always drew the same way, with that strong, heavy hand. I think I like to write the same way – or, at least, that seems to be how my ‘creative’ brain works, and so I feel the impulse to write the same way as I draw. It not so easy when you’re writing, though, of course – getting your ‘line’ right on the first attempt is much harder when you’re talking about a storyline instead of a pencil line. Perhaps that’s why I feel it so strongly, like a failure in my heart, when I have to unpick something completely and redo it from the ground up. I feel like it should work, so when it doesn’t, it makes me wonder if everything – my idea, my method, my style, my work – is flawed and wrong.

Another piece of advice my old art teacher gave me was this: ‘It’s easier to darken your darks than lighten your lights.’ By this, of course, he meant it’s easier to add to a piece than it is to take bits away. Particularly when you’re talking about pencil marks or charcoal shading. If you go too heavy with your charcoal on a picture, it’s virtually impossible to lighten it. It’s easier to go over the entire picture and make the whole thing darker so that your overworked bit looks lighter by comparison, or just chuck the lot and start again. I wish I hadn’t forgotten this good advice as I set out on this writing lark – I think the work I’ve done so far would’ve benefited immensely from remembering those wise words. Start off sketchy and light, hinting at the outline of a piece, until you’re happy with the structure and the overall picture. Then go back over it and add detail – a wisp of shade here, a suggestion of texture there, a glint of light dancing over the eyes perhaps. Then, step back and reassess. If the piece needs more, add it a little bit at a time. But always be aware that sometimes the piece will need a light touch, and adding too much (whether it’s words or pigment) will destroy it.

Image: paradigmthrift.blogspot.com

Image: paradigmthrift.blogspot.com

But this is all very easy to say, isn’t it? If you have a style – a natural style – it’s difficult to overcome it and write (or draw) a different way, even if you know on an intellectual level that it’ll make things easier or more manageable. If you write (or draw, or whatever) in a way that comes effortlessly, maybe it’s impossible to teach yourself to do it differently.

And maybe the lesson I should take from all this is just to take it easy, and work with my natural style instead of against it. But I think I’ll bear my art teacher’s words in mind, regardless – the advice about lightening your lights and darkening your darks is a good rule for life, as well as art! Live lightly, except with those who matter; focus your effort and your ink on people and things which are important to you.

Happy Friday, and have a wonderful weekend, everyone.


The Apolitical Political Blog

On this day, when America votes on its new president, I don’t feel there’s any other topic I can really write about than politics. I never wanted to make this blog a platform for any particular political opinion, so we won’t get into details. Just in case you were afraid I was going to go off on a rant – I won’t. Mainly because my ignorance of politics is dwarfed only by my ignorance of mathematics, and I don’t want to make a fool of myself.

What’s always fascinated me about the US and its electoral system is how incredibly, mind-meltingly complicated it all seems. At least, to this ignoramus Outlander, that’s how it appears. I can’t say I truly understand how some states become solid Democrat states, and some solid Republican, and how others (Florida, Ohio, Virginia this time round – as far as I remember) are ‘swing’ states, which can go either way and may be enough to win the election for one side or another. I’m sure the system is well worked out, and people are happy with it, and it all makes perfect sense if you understand it, but it seems odd to me that one state, and how it chooses to vote, would be enough to decide an entire election – especially in a country the size of the US.

Coming from a tiny island in the icy Atlantic where elections are largely a source of entertainment (though not on purpose), it also amuses me that a country like the US has states which traditionally vote one way or the other – states which a Republican candidate, for instance, can be largely expected to lose, no matter what they do, and the same for the Democrat candidate. This is so exactly like the Irish tradition of families all voting for the same party, down through the generations, because ‘it’s what we’ve always done’ (regardless of how poor a party they might be, or how much damage they’re doing to the country), that it makes me shake my head in wonder at how nobody has yet come up with a better way to do it.

I wonder about being a lone Republican in a solid Democrat-voting state, for example, and whether I’d even have the incentive to vote. If I knew my vote was going to make no difference, what would entice me to cast it? Sometimes, when voting in my own elections, I am left in the awful situation of not knowing who to vote for, because usually you have to favour the lesser of four or five evils – there’s not one party in Ireland who would match my political viewpoint, and even those that come close always fall short on several important points. It’s difficult to make a choice, sometimes, and it’s no wonder that voter apathy can be quite high in my country – it feels like no matter who you vote for, nothing ever changes.

But then, at least we’re given the chance to have a voice. There are countries, of course, where no choice is given to citizens over any aspect of their political system or their public representatives. I’d much rather live in any democratic country, despite the flaws in the system, than in a nation in which I would have no say over anything. Having said that, Ireland is going to the polls this weekend, too, and we’re being asked to vote on an amendment to our Constitution which would affect children at risk in our society. You’d think it would be an open-and-shut case, and that – for once – everyone would be on the same page; stronger safeguards for children at risk? Let’s vote in favour! But, of course, it’s never that easy. Things like the plotline of a TV soap opera are, apparently, going to affect the outcome of this vote, and there’s been a certain amount of uninformed opinions which have gained a huge following, and which might skew public opinion in a particular direction. Our government is united in their opinion as to which way they’d like the vote to go, and there’s nothing more likely to make the country vote the other way than the feeling of ‘getting one over on the Man’ by not doing what they’re expected to. I’m not even sure if the amendment being voted on would come into their decision-making, which means that an important amendment might not be given the weight it deserves by the voters, and this annoys me.

Anyway. I’m not going to go into my own views, because I’m trying not to annoy anyone – nothing is more divisive than politics, after all. The last thing I want to do is cause offence to anyone. I know what way I hope the US election will go, and I also know what way I hope our Constitutional Amendment vote will go. However, I fear that neither vote will go the way I hope!

Vote Early, Vote Often. Happy Election Day!