Tag Archives: life lessons

Crossing Places

A few days ago, while playing among our books, The Toddler pulled out a slim volume which caught my eye. It was a book – or, more truly, a notebook – which I hadn’t seen in a very long time.

A very long time.

winnie-the-pooh-notebook

Photo credit: SJ O’Hart.

This notebook was a gift from my schoolfriends to me on my 17th birthday. In it, they had each written a little note wishing me a happy birthday and how much they were looking forward to celebrating with me; some wished me a bright future, and others shared funny stories (some of the details of which, sadly, have blurred with time). Many put their first names and their surnames, just in case I lost the notebook and didn’t find it again for so long that I’d have forgotten who they were. One spent four pages insulting me in the most colourfully hilarious language imaginable and didn’t bother signing his name because he knew (rightly) that we’d be friends forever and I’d never get around to forgetting him – and his message still made me laugh out loud.

I read it with a huge grin and, if I’m being honest, a few tears too – and not just because my 17th birthday is so long ago now that you’d need a telescope to see it.

This notebook’s reappearance in my life made me think a lot about intersections and choices, the random algorithms that bring people into your life and take them out of it again. I’m delighted that most of the people who wrote in my book are still my friends; a few I haven’t seen in a couple of years, and one I haven’t seen, sadly, since we left school. But I remembered them all, even without the surnames. Each of them was important to me, and many still are – and there’s not one among them I wouldn’t be glad to see again, right now. They’re all (as far as I know) still alive and well, and though most of them still live in Ireland there are a couple who left – one for America, one for the UK – and very few of them still live at home, where we all grew up. We all entered one another’s lives through the simple coincidence of being born at around the same time and either growing up in, or moving to, the same place in time to attend secondary school together. Besides that, we are as disparate a group of people as you could find.

And yet, we are bound to one another forever.

I was thinking, recently, about the ‘quantum’ versions of myself – by which I mean, fancifully, the versions of me which exist in every other imaginable universe. Would I be doing the same things I’m doing here, in this space? Would I be the same person? Would I live in the same place, with the same people? Who’s to know. Every life has its ‘crossing places’, points at which the choices you make determine the path you take. My life has had several of those, some of which I would dearly love to relive. If it were possible, would I take different paths? Would I make different choices? I have some regrets; people I have lost whom I miss, people I loved who never knew it, things I wish I’d had the bravery to do when I had the chance.

And yet, the choices I made have led me here, to this room, in which I’m typing. My child is a few feet away, playing. John Grant is on my stereo. The proof of my first book is sitting on the table beside me. Things are not perfect: the world is far from good. I, like many, have found the last few days very hard, for many reasons. But as lives go, I can’t complain about mine. It has been circuitous and challenging, and I look back on so much of it with a nostalgia bordering on pain, but – in one manner or another – everything I have ever wanted or worked for has come to pass.

But as my child grows, these are the lessons I will impart:

  1. If you love a person, tell them. Even if they don’t love you, and you know it; even if you fear rejection. Tell them, without expectation, because regret is a far heavier burden than embarrassment, and it grows heavier with time.
  2. If you have an opportunity to travel, take it.
  3. Ditto with studying.
  4. In fact, if you have an opportunity to travel and study, take it. With both hands. And don’t worry about how you’ll work things out – you will.
  5. If offered a job you don’t think you can do, try it anyway.
  6. If you want to go on an adventure, do it.
  7. Always treasure your friends.
  8. And never stop working for what you want, fighting for what you believe in, and doing everything you can to help others, as far as you can.

Every life has its crossing places, but hopefully my child’s will have fewer than mine – and, with any luck, friends and friendship will be a big part of it, as they have been for me.

Thank you to my friends, all of them, past and present and future. I’m lucky to have, and to have had, such love.

 

Aiming High

On this, the Monday of the first week of our new, post-Mandela world, I’m thinking about heroes and good example and living up to the expectations of those who have gone before us.

Image: forbes.com

Image: forbes.com

Clearly, it is a week for discovering new role models, too. This morning I read, with amazement, the Wikipedia article about Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, a distinguished Naval officer and computer programmer who is being commemorated in today’s Google doodle. As I finished educating myself about her life, I mentally added her to my list of ‘heroes’ – for me, people whose lives are singular or inspiring or demonstrative of the idea that doing your best with what you have is the best way to live well – and began to think about ways to fulfil my own potential, and live as fully as I can.

Nelson Mandela has always been a hero to me. Even as a child, I was aware of his struggle – he was still imprisoned then – and I listened to songs like ‘Lion in a Cage’ and ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ with a sense of puzzled wonder. Why couldn’t the people keeping this great man locked up understand that he should be free, I wondered? Why was his stature as a hero so clear to all of us, and so hard for his own government to understand? Then, the day of his release finally came. I watched, with millions of others, the footage of his ‘long walk to freedom’ in 1990 which, coming so close on the heels of the fall of the Berlin Wall, means that my memories of that time are filled with excitement and giddy delight. Even as a child, I understood that these were important days. I knew enough to know that I was privileged to be living through them.

Image: theguardian.com

Image: theguardian.com

But heroes are complicated things. Every human being, no matter how remarkable, is still a human being – there will always be elements of each life which will fall far short of perfect. Nelson Mandela – even he! – did not shy away from armed resistance to the apartheid regime, for instance, even though he made huge efforts to ensure that no lives were lost in the process; he felt this was necessary, and even though the idea of violence makes me uncomfortable, I have no doubt but that he was right. An educated, intelligent, reasonable, gentle and humane man, he relied far more on the power of his mind and the weight of his argument to sway people to his way of thinking than he did on violence, and I respect and admire that. The fact that people all over the world, of all colours and all faiths, are united in mourning his passing shows how successful he was at appealing to our higher nature, our compassion, our humanity – and it is because he strove always for peace and equality between peoples that he is remembered so well. Unfortunately, he admitted himself that his family, particularly his children, were asked to suffer too much in the course of his political life and his decades in prison, and that is an unhappy aspect of his legacy. However, in this – as in all things – I am sure he did the best he could, and that is all we can ask of any human being.

Late on Thursday evening last, my husband and I were watching something on BBC Two when a black ‘ticker-tape’ display flashed up on the bottom of our screen. ‘Breaking News on BBC One,’ it read, and so we flicked over to find out what was happening. There were dreadful storms in the UK last week, and so we feared there had been a disaster, or some sort of dreadful loss of life: instead, we were met with a shocked, slightly flustered newsreader announcing Mandela’s passing. Even though he was at an advanced age, and had been suffering with terrible health for some time, I admit I was stunned to learn he had finally succumbed to his illness. As the various TV channels caught the story and started to pay tribute to the lost hero, my stunned feeling became one of sorrow. We watched a special commemorative broadcast – no doubt, sadly, prepared months in advance, ready and waiting for the moment it would be needed – and as the full story of Mandela’s life and the truth of his long, long struggle was played out, I began to realise that this tall, thin man whose face I was so familiar with from my earliest childhood was finally gone, and how much he had done with the time allocated to him on this earth.

We can’t all play pivotal roles in the overthrow of a hated and oppressive regime, and we can’t all invent a computing language while serving as a Navy officer and gaining a PhD in Mathematics. We can’t all become authorities in the field of humane handling of livestock and the rights of autistic people, as another of my heroes (Dr. Temple Grandin) has done. But each life is important and every person is equal, and none of us can make a return trip. Whatever we can do to make the fullest use of our talents, and whatever we can do to improve the lot of others, and whatever we can do to brighten our own tiny corner of the world while we’re here, we should do it. The best way to honour a fallen hero is to conduct yourself in a way that would make them proud – so, living the lessons of Mandela is a good way to pay our respects to his memory.

Here are a few of those lessons, in the words of the great man himself, to be getting on with (and pay attention – there’ll be a test later):

A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dream of.

Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.

RIP Nelson Rohlilahla Mandela, 1918 - 2013. Image: harlemworldmag.com

RIP Nelson Rohlilahla Mandela, 1918 – 2013.
Image: harlemworldmag.com

Have a happy, peaceful and productive week – and remember that all things are possible to those with determined minds and open hearts.

Today’s Post is Brought to you…

…by Old Age, Increasing Decrepitude and the Depths of Despair.

Why, you may ask, and the answer is simple. Today – lo! – is my birthday.

Image: mashable.com

Image: mashable.com

However, instead of dwelling on the relentless march of time, and the fact that I now have knees that crack in weird ways and hairs in strange places and the tendency to prefer a nice evening in by the fire watching ‘Antiques Roadshow’ to a night down the pub, I am going to list five things about myself that I didn’t know this time last year, and which – on the whole – are positive, self-affirming and causes for hopefulness in the face of my rapidly advancing age.

Ready? Okay. Here we go.

1. I make the best cup of tea out of anyone I know.

This has only come to light in recent months because I now make a lot more tea, from actual scratch, than I used to. In my previous life, I used to stand in line in a cafeteria and press a shiny little button, and my cup would magically overflow with tepid, tasteless brown liquid pretending to be tea (or coffee, and sometimes a barely potable mixture of the two.) Now that I no longer do that, I have learned that I make a darn fine cup of tea, whether it’s with loose leaves or teabags, and that it’s not a skill to make light of. Having the ability to make a good cuppa will take you places, I always say. Having said that, it hasn’t taken me anywhere yet, but I live in hope.

2. I have an almost unlimited ability to amuse myself.

As a child who read from an early age, I have never (to my knowledge) been truly, properly bored. The idea that a person could possibly have nothing to do while there are books to read or stories to write has always been alien to me. However, over the last year I have truly realised that if one is satisfied to live inside one’s own head, one can never properly be unhappy, and that my favourite place to be is – as you might have expected – inside my own head. Over the past year I’ve often been stressed, and I’ve often been frustrated, and at least fourteen times a week I’ve been convinced I’m an idiot who’s taken one step too far into the wide blue yonder, but I have never once been bored.

3. ‘Twenty thousand words’ sounds a lot longer than it really is.

So, this time last year I was deep in the throes of ‘Tider: Mark I’, which is now languishing in a box file, never to see the light of day again. Since then I have written ‘Tider: Mark II’, ‘Eldritch’ and am currently well over halfway finished with ‘Emmeline…’, and I have learned that no words are wasted, all ideas are good for something and that the idea of writing thousands of words is more daunting than actually writing them. Honestly. I would never have believed I’d be well on my way to knocking out three novels in one year unless I’d just put aside the little doubting voice that whispered ‘Poppycock! It can’t be done!’ and decided to go for it anyway.

It can be done. Words add up pretty quickly. Twenty thousand words is not a lot of words – it just sounds like it is.

4. Asking for, and receiving, criticism and feedback is not as bad as I thought.

All the publications I now have to my credit have happened in the last year. My work is now out there in the world, forevermore, eternally.

*Mweee! Mweeemweeemweee!* (translation: I'm Freaking Out!) Image: threadbombing.com

*Mweee! Mweeemweeemweee!* (translation: I’m Freaking Out!)
Image: threadbombing.com

This time last year, the very idea of anyone casting their eyes over my work would’ve brought me out in hives. Now, a year later, I’ve been privileged enough to have received feedback from all over the world, from other writers and from several agents, and I’ve realised that receiving feedback on my work is not the world-ending, mind-bending thing I thought it was. Of course, I’ve had to overcome one of my greatest fears and actually put some of my work out there, on the chopping block (so to speak), in order to reach this happy situation; once upon a time, I would’ve believed submitting my work was beyond my capabilities. It isn’t. I’ve done it, and I fully intend to do it again, quite possibly repeatedly, and I’m going to keep doing it until I get tired of it – which, I suspect, will be ‘never.’

5. It’s possible to be rejected, and not die.

I’ve been rejected a lot over the last year. Take it from me when I tell you that I have entered literally millions* of competitions in which I have not been successful, and I have submitted work for publication which has come back with a polite ‘No thank you, but best of luck with your future career, &c.’, or which has received no reply at all. The important thing is: I have lived to tell the tale. It has taken me a long time to realise that every rejection is a learning experience, and I have learned a lot about my own resilience over the last year.

Being rejected isn’t nice – but it’s not fatal, either.

To be honest, I had hoped I’d be further down the road to success by now, but – realistically – I am happy with my progress. Writing is a game of patience, determination and constant focus, which I now know I can bring to the table. I have also learned, over the past year, that deciding to chase the shiny, ephemeral bubble which is my dream of a writing life was the right thing to do, despite the near-hourly jitter attacks it gives me. The most important thing I’ve learned this year, however, is that I have the best friends and family in the world, who have cheered me on every step of the way, and without whom I could do none of it.

Image: stelzlfamily.com

Image: stelzlfamily.com

So, it’s happy birthday to me. I hope I’ll keep learning, and keep writing, over the year to come – and, with any luck, I’ll have even more to report this time next year.

(But I don’t want to think about this time next year, because by then I’ll be another year older, and that’s too depressing to think about. )

Have a great day, and always remember – as long as you’re learning, you’re living.

Image: cakedvintage.com

Image: cakedvintage.com

*Okay, so not literally millions. I’ve also learned I can be guilty of gross hyperbole, for which I apologise.

Regrets? I Could Do With Fewer…

If I could give my younger self any advice, it would go something like this:

Image: volunteerweekly.org

Image: volunteerweekly.org

“Dear Little SJ,

You know all those stories you want to write, and all those words you want to string together into pretty little necklaces of imagination? Yes? Well, I just want to ask one thing. What are you waiting for? Do you think the words are going to spontaneously arrange themselves onto the page, astounding passersby and setting off fireworks to announce their own fabulousness? No. They need you to bring them to life. So, go and do it.

Also, you know all those hours you spend standing in front of the bathroom mirror hating everything you see? Give that up, for a load of reasons, but mainly these: you are so much lovelier than you think you are, and you will meet a man, eventually, who thinks you’re so beautiful that he’ll tell you every day how much he loves you. Yes – every day.  Can you imagine it?

Learn how to take compliments.

Now, look around at all your friends. Do you see them, standing around the lockers at school, having a laugh? Treasure these people. Twenty years from now, they will still be in your life, and you will love them just as much as you do now, and they will be just as important to you. You will all have things to go through in life for which you’ll need one another’s support. There are things facing you that you won’t have a hope of getting through without these guys on your side. So, look after your friends.

Find a sport, and start doing it. Seriously. I know you think your P.E. teacher is a demon sent from hell to torment you, and you’d much rather be reading a book, but trust me. Your creaking joints and wobbly bits from the future are imploring you to do some exercise now, when you’re still young enough for it to become a habit and make a difference.

You don’t really need me to tell you to take care of your family, and to try to behave like less of a hormonal Hulkette at home – but I’ll do it anyway. ‘Take care of your family. Stop behaving like a hormonal Hulkette. They love you, you love them – end of story.’

Don’t feel weird for liking to read, enjoying the books and music you enjoy, or watching movies that nobody else watches. Later in your life, your tastes in books, movies and most especially music will help you to make friends, convince people you’re cool, and even (almost) allow you to impress a boy. But don’t hold your breath on that one.

Also, you are cool. Trust me.

Oh, and speaking of boys – that guy you like right now? Forget about it. And the one after him, the one after him, the one after him, and the one after him. After that, you’ll start getting it right. More or less. Here’s a shortcut: go for the boys who are kind, considerate, funny and sweet, and who are brave enough to show you that they like you. Don’t go for the hipster types who pepper their conversation with Neil Young lyrics and whose guitar cases have the Woodstock logo painted on in Tipp-Ex. I know why you keep falling into the same trap, but just trust me, and let me save you from years of heartache. All right?

Spend more time with your grandmother. In fact, go and pay her a visit right this minute. When she goes, the pain of it will be so huge that it will leave a crater in your life. Treasure her now, while you can.

Try to take it easy on yourself. Don’t spend years beating yourself up for mistakes you’re going to make; don’t allow yourself to be spoken to in ways you don’t like; don’t allow anyone to make little of you. Don’t allow yourself to feel like you deserve to be treated like this, because it’ll take years to get out of that mindset. Don’t worry when your life falls apart in the last semester of your last year at university – it’ll suck, but you’ll be fine.

Enjoy your PhD studies. Remind yourself every day that you’re doing a PhD, and how absurdly cool that is. Remind yourself how much of an achievement it is. Be proud of it. It will go by so fast that soon, it’ll feel like you didn’t do it at all. And that’ll be a shame.

There are people who’ll come, and people who’ll go, and it will hurt. But your life will carry on and things will work out better than you could have dreamed. Don’t get too attached to things and places; there are people, too, who you’d be better off not getting too emotionally dependent on. You will lose more friends than you will gain over the course of your life, and you will feel like it’s the end of the world every time someone walks out of your circle. It’s not. The ones who are important will always find their way back.

You are a slightly socially awkward person, and you have no balance, and you’re never sure what to say in any given moment. This isn’t going to change. Learn to embrace it. Eventually, people will start thinking it’s endearing instead of ridiculous.

And, overall? You’re okay, little S.J. You’re okay.

With all my love (because, did you realise, it’s not big-headed or weird to show yourself some love once in a while. Did you know that?)

Old S.J.”

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.

 

Happy Flashes

One of the things I love most about life is getting an idea. It can come out of nowhere, hitting me between the eyes like a bolt from the heavens, or (more likely!) it happens like this: something I overhear, or something I see, will strike me as interesting. Maybe I won’t know why at the time, but I always make sure to make a note of it. Later, sometimes, I find that little detail – perhaps a particular combination of words, or a pun, or an interesting nugget of information about a person’s life, will develop and grow into a proper, fully-fleshed idea. Of course, a lot of the time, these little interesting tidbits don’t develop properly in their own right, but it can happen that they get absorbed into other, larger, ideas. It’s great to make an idea out of a patchwork of little fragments of inspiration; sometimes, it can make the idea richer and more real.

Getting ideas is wonderful enough, just by itself. It makes me feel productive and alive, and it makes me feel like I’m on the right track with regard to what I’ve chosen to do with my life. It’s true, of course, that everyone gets ideas – every millisecond of every day, someone is having an idea. Inspiration is percolating through someone’s brain, in some corner of the world, no matter what time of day or night it is. I think the only real difference between writers and non-writers is that writers take note of what their imaginations are saying. Writers are the people who, mid-conversation, will scramble for their notebooks or their mobile phones to make a note of something that’s been said, or something they’ve overheard, or something that’s suddenly struck them, all the while muttering apologies. Writers are terribly rude, it’s true. They probably also have pens and scraps of paper in every pocket, and they nearly always seem to be having conversations with people who aren’t there. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a way to overcome this. If you know or love a writer, you must be a patient soul indeed.

But, even if the ideas I get don’t turn into Ideas, Ideas that are good enough and strong enough to become a Story, I love getting them. Do you want to know the reason why?

young girl in a flower field

It means my brain is working properly. It means my stress levels are being managed more or less correctly. It means my mental health is good. It means I’m balancing my rest time with my active time in the optimum way. Another way I know that things in my life are in the correct balance is if I start noticing and remembering my dreams, or if I feel that I’m dreaming. If I wake up feeling soft around the edges, like my mind is in another place and time, I’m pretty sure I’ve been dreaming, even though I mightn’t remember the details. If I’m under stress, or overworked, or too tired, I won’t dream. Earlier in my life, at a very unhappy time when I felt undervalued, overworked and far too stressed out, I went years without having a dream. I had no ideas, and the little flashes I did manage to get were like straggly wildflowers trying to grow in a desert. They wilted and died, because there was no rich soil to plant them in. My brain was a wasteland, because all the life and goodness in it was being leached away. I was, as you might imagine, a very unhappy person back then. Luckily, though, I managed to get the courage to leave the job I was working in at the time and change my life for the better. Besides one or two small hiccups along the way, ever since that time I’ve seen nothing but an improvement in my dreamscapes and my Ideas. And that’s just the way I like it.

So, I think it’s important to keep an eye on your dreams, and on your ideas, if you’re the kind of person who, like me, finds inspiration in the smallest and most throwaway of things. If you notice your dreams drying up, or if your ideas start to flutter and sputter away without taking root, there may be something out of balance in your life that you need to take care of. And, of course, make sure you always take note of the happy flashes of inspiration that can come at you when you least expect them. You never know how far those flashes will take you.

Have a wonderful and restful weekend!

 

 

 

Image source: http://www.corbisimages.com Corbis-42-23276872.jpg, via Google Images

Just another Frazzled Friday

First things first. I want to apologise to anyone who tried to read my blog on a phone yesterday. I’m reliably informed that the problem I had with the images I tried to insert made the blog impossible to load on anything besides a computer, so I really do want to say ‘sorry’ if I caused anyone any inconvenience. I’m a great big turnip-headed technotwit, and I don’t really understand how this blog works – perhaps it’s writing me, instead of the other way around…

Anyway.

Today, I will be baking again. I’m off to my parents-in-law for the weekend, and you know the golden rule – never go visiting without cake. I have my ingredients all laid out, and my butter is happily softening on the countertop. It makes me wish life was as easy as baking a cake – if you put just the right amount of everything in, and do what you’re supposed to, you know the result you’ll get will be just what you wanted. We all know this isn’t how it goes in life, though – but maybe that’s the way it should be. Mistakes are how we learn – at least, I hope that’s true!

I also need to do a lot of work on the WiP. I’ve been writing away for the last few days, thinking I’ve been making great progress, and I woke up this morning realising that a scene I wrote yesterday makes no sense whatsoever. Talking to my husband this morning, I realised I was listening to him with one half of my brain, and having a conversation with my characters with the other half. That’s difficult, especially when drinking hot tea. So, I want to go back and change that scene today before I go too much further. I know this goes against my ‘finish the thing and then edit it!’ rule, but – c’mon. We all know rules are made to be broken.

I’m thinking about my country today too, with a mix of feelings. Mainly, I’m very proud of my native land, and I love it as much as anyone loves their country, but it’s a source of extraordinary frustration for me, too, at times. We’re facing a referendum tomorrow which I don’t feel will receive the attention it merits from our citizens, and I don’t feel the right information has been given to allow everyone to make a properly informed decision. Because of this, I think the way I’m choosing to vote might be in the minority, and I think that would be a shame. Also, yesterday was the twenty-fifth anniversary of one of the atrocities which took place during the Troubles – the bombing of Enniskillen, in County Fermanagh, in Northern Ireland. I was a child at the time this horrendous event took place, and it made such a deep psychological imprint on me that I wept yesterday looking at news footage of the commemoration ceremony. It made me realise how much our country has been through, and how far we’ve come in a relatively short time. It made me very proud, and determined to do what I can to keep those dark days from ever, ever returning.

So, because I’m a busy bee today, I won’t detain you much longer. I can’t even share any images, in case I break every computer in the world, or something. (I promise I’ll get this problem sorted before next week, and sorry again). I hope you all have wonderful Fridays, and not frazzled ones – I feel like mine is going to be a frazzle-fest, but I am open to being wrong about this – and that weekends of pure unadulterated joy await you all.

Thank you all, as ever, for taking the time to read. Now, go have some fun.