Tag Archives: tiredness

Stuff I’ve Been Reading

Life, my friends, is getting in the way again. I’m busy, distracted, not altogether in the peak of health, and struggling with tiredness like nothing I’ve ever struggled with before.

I’m fine, of course. All will be well. But my own work has ground to a crushing halt (which I deeply regret), and I don’t have any pithy advice to dispense, and I am all out of clever ways around writers’ block (unlike these guys), and I certainly don’t feel like much of an authority on anything these days, besides self-pity.

So.

This is a post about some stuff I’ve read lately which I’ve found particularly inspirational, interesting and/or useful. Not all of it is about writing – some of it is just about life. But it’s all good. Put the kettle on, relax, and share a cuppa with me, won’t you? Good-oh.

Aaah. Lip-smacking good! Photo Credit: markhassize11feet via Compfight cc

Aaah. Lip-smacking good!
Photo Credit: markhassize11feet via Compfight cc

On Being a Fat Bride

Some of you who’ve been around these parts for a while may know about my struggles with body image, weight and self-esteem. It’s something I take a huge interest in, this cultural obsession with thinness, and particularly the ‘health trolling’ which can surround commentary about women (in particular) and their bodies in the media. People feel it’s their right to treat those with weight issues like they were less than human, sometimes, and worthy of nothing but disrespect and ridicule. I hate that more than I hate almost anything else in the world. I am a person who struggles. I am a person who has struggled all her life. Most importantly, I am a person, and I deserve to be treated as such – not simply as a person who is fat. Sadly, this is so often not the case.

Several years ago, I got married. I felt great on the day, but I had trouble finding a suitable dress in the weeks and months leading up to the event itself. I had to think about things like covering myself up, pulling myself in, camouflaging things I hated about my appearance, and making sure the gown I chose was ‘flattering’. So, when I read this article by journalist Lindy West, about her own wedding day and how she was a happy, joyous, celebratory – and unapologetically, unashamedly fat – bride, it made me well up. Like Lindy, I loved my wedding day. Unlike her, I didn’t have the same sense of freedom around my appearance. I regret that I didn’t allow myself the space to enjoy my body, and that this is something I generally have trouble with. The article inspired me. I loved it. Have a read. But if you come across any comments, either relating to this version of the article or any of the numerous versions of it which were reprinted in other media outlets, do yourself a favour and skip those. Trust me.

On the label ‘MG’ and what it signifies

I love Philip Reeve. He’s a creative powerhouse and a central figure in the world of children’s books, both as a writer and an illustrator. He wrote a blog post in recent days about the label ‘Middle Grade’, or ‘MG’, and why it gets attached with such alacrity to children’s books outside of the United States, where the term ‘middle grade’ is meaningless. This is something which has bothered me, too, for a long time, but I could never articulate it quite the way Reeve has done. Perhaps his take on the issue is rather contentious, and somewhat divisive, but I largely agree with him. And, for once, the comments are ace and well worth reading (probably because most of them are written by children’s book professionals!)

On Illustrating, Illustrators, and the Hard Work of Being Creative

Sarah McIntyre (who has, incidentally, regularly worked with Philip Reeve) is another children’s book professional whom I admire hugely. She is an illustrator and a creator of picture books, and for a long time now she has been building a campaign online under the tagline #PicturesMeanBusiness, which aims to ensure illustrators start to get the recognition they deserve. I will hold my hands up and say that before I came across this campaign, I was a typical ‘text-fixated’ type; illustrations (whether they were on the cover or dotted inside the book) were, for me, an added bonus, but not something I thought about too deeply. That has all changed now. Before, I used to make sport of finding the illustrator’s name (usually in tiny type somewhere on the back of the book, or in the copyright/publication metadata at the front, and sometimes not included at all); now, I’m not happy unless illustrators get full credit, whether it’s online or in clear font, somewhere visible on the book jacket. I hope more people will get on board with this, and that we’ll see a change beginning in the world of publishing. For more, see Sarah McIntyre’s recent blog post on the process of producing illustrations, and how it’s a lot harder than it looks.

On Being a Weirdo (and Why it Rocks)

I’ve never read Laura Dockrill’s books, despite the fact that she seems like a fascinating person with a unique voice. This article, which she wrote for the Guardian during the week, might make me take the plunge into her wacky imaginary world, for once and for all. In it, she talks about the importance of being yourself, no matter how weird you might be – in fact, the weirder the better, it seems. This is one of the reasons I love books for young readers; they have such power to shape thinking, to alter the course of a life for the better, to influence and affect and make a difference. Not only do children’s books possess some of the most imaginative world-building, language use and characterisation in literature, but they make the children who read them feel part of something bigger, comfort them in times of challenge, make them see they’re not alone, and (hopefully) help them to be happier in their own shoes. And what could be better than that?

Nothing. That’s what.

And finally there’s this great list of reads from some of the contributors to the site (gasp!) Middle Grade Strikes Back, which details what people are bringing off on holiday with them to keep them company by the pool. I’ve read several, but most are new to me. Maybe they’ll inspire you, too.

Au revoir for now, poupettes. Stay well. I hope I’ll be back soon – and that there’ll actually be some writing news to tell you!

…and Breathe

Things have been busy in Clockwatching… Towers for the past while. My social media presence has more than doubled, my brain has had to adapt to being a business-type thing as well as an arty-farty creator of stories, and I have had lots of calls on my time. I am starting to find it hard to get out of bed in the morning, which happens to everyone from time to time but not, usually, to me.

I don’t like it.

Grumpy cookie is grumpy - just like me! Image: cutengrumpy.blogspot.com

Grumpy cookie is grumpy – just like me!
Image: cutengrumpy.blogspot.com

I am tired, and I need a little break.

My husband has some annual leave coming up, and I’m planning to take those days off too – so, no blogging and probably very little Twittering, Tumblring and all the other stuff I find myself doing these days. It’s odd that even saying this makes me feel like a freaky cop-out – who takes a holiday anymore? – but I’m biting the bullet anyway. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed these past few weeks and I want to make sure I bounce back with a pep in my step, ready to write to the best of my ability (as well as do all the other stuff I need to do, of course.)

Because I’m a tricksy beast, though, I’m not sure whether I’ll take a full week off, or whether I’ll be able to resist popping back in from time to time and having a peek around. Chances are I’ll end up wigging out after a day or two and I’ll find myself running back here, to the safety of my blog’s wordy bosom.

We’ll see, I guess.

Over the weekend, I will be attending the Children’s Books Ireland annual conference in Dublin, which I’m really looking forward to. It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet other people who are interested in all aspects of children’s publishing and in writing for young people – and, also, a chance to spend time in the gorgeous Lighthouse Cinema, which is always a treat. I’m fully expecting to be flaked out on Monday, though, so I think I can safely say that there won’t be a blog offering here that day.

Image: webpagecollection.com

Image: webpagecollection.com

After that, we’ll take it as it comes.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Friday and a fantastic weekend – and I promise I’ll see y’all real soon.

Clang, Clang, Clang…

…Bring out yer dead!

Image: fishandbicycles.com

Image: fishandbicycles.com

I’m never going to take being able to swallow without pain for granted again. This morning the glands in my neck are so swollen that I look like I’ve had my head inflated with a foot-pump, and every movement from the shoulders up has to be conducted with extreme care. I’ve had more paracetamol in the last three days than ever in my life before, and I’ve spent most of the past 48 hours feeling dizzy, and I hate every irritating second of it.

Also, I am the worst patient in the world. Fact.

This is a pretty accurate representation of me right now... Image: krank.ie

This is a pretty accurate representation of me right now…
Image: krank.ie

Plus, my house looks like it’s been ripped out of the ground, shaken around a bit and replaced upside-down, and there’s three days of dishes to be done, and a pile of laundry as tall as myself…

Sigh.

But it will all get done, eventually. I have to keep reminding myself that you don’t have to do all the things, all the time, but somehow I find myself trying, anyway. Since I got sick I have proofread two chapters of a thesis (which was very interesting, and satisfied my inner pedant so much), and written nearly 3,000 words of a new novel idea – and all this on top of trying to keep this blog going as best I can.

Yes. Yes, I am insane.

I probably shouldn’t have started working on a new book idea, really –  I still have work that needs to be completed on ‘Eldritch’. In fact, who am I kidding; I have loads of work still to do on that story. But, for whatever reason, an idea I’d had years ago, which I’d shelved, popped back into my fevered head the other day, and – strangely – a character came with it, and a backstory, and a suitably intriguing supernatural/creep-tinged motivation for the baddie, and a complicated relationship between my character and her mother, and I just had to try to pin it down on paper.

Now, I haven’t re-read my work yet. It may be that I’ve written 3,000 words of garbled nonsense, which will leave nobody in any doubt that they burst forth from the brain of a person with an elevated temperature. At least I was ‘with-it’ enough to make notes on my new plot and story arc, and with any luck they’ll be workable. It’s exciting – I haven’t worked on something new for a while, now.

But, as many before me (whose shoes I am not fit to untie, or whatever that saying is) have said, the first rule of creating art is: Finish It.

Run, Bilbo! Run! Image: lvl1.org

Run, Bilbo! Run!
Image: lvl1.org

So, perhaps what I should do is make some notes on the new project and leave it be for a while, until I’ve had a chance to redraft ‘Eldritch.’ Then, when that’s done, it’ll be time for the new, shiny project again. And the one after it, which is already taking shape in my brain. And after that – who knows?

Right now, though, I think it’s time for dishes and laundry. Oh, what a glamorous life we writers lead, eh? Yeah.

So, send me all your good-health vibes. Force my throat to shrink by sheer power of will. Meditate upon my plight and pray for my shakes to dissipate.

And, if you fancy dropping over and giving me a hand with the housework, that’d be awesome.

Yuck. Image: commons.wikimedia.org

Yuck.
Image: commons.wikimedia.org

Some Friday Flash

It’s Friday.

Thank goodness. I feel like this:

Image: bighugeminds.com

Image: bighugeminds.com

Perhaps it’s a consequence of it being the first full week back into the ‘norm’; the routine of early (pitch-dark) mornings, running around like a fly with an azure behind all day, and falling into a grateful stupor at night – well, once I’m finished reading ‘just another chapter!’ of course.

Or maybe I’m just getting old. That could be it, too.

Whatever the reason, I’m glad to see Friday’s smiling face. I’m also glad to have completed another ‘Flash! Friday’ challenge – I’ve posted my story below, just in case you’d like to throw your eye over it. It’s not the best piece of flash fiction in the world, nor the most original, but I don’t know. There’s something about it that I like. I have a soft spot for time travel stories at the best of times, and I could think of worse places to be stuck than early twentieth-century America, so in a way I’m a little jealous of my characters.

And, when you think about it, isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?

So – here’s how it works. Every week, the lovely people at Flash! Friday select a prompt image, and also a prompt word, or words. This week the prompt words were ‘Time Travel’, and the image was this:

Image: commons.wikimedia.org

Image: commons.wikimedia.org

And here’s my wee story:

End of the Road

‘Wait. I don’t …’ The handheld panel illuminated Palmer’s frowning face. ‘Just a second.’

‘Haven’t got a second,’ I said, assessing our new surroundings. Vehicle, of sorts; windows grubby, warped. Unfiltered sunshine. Early twentieth? Maybe? How could we be so far off, again? As Palmer scanned her screen, I glanced behind. Wow. A tunnel carved through a giant tree spanned the road – it must have been our vector. Huh. Organic, again… The jalopy groaned and shuddered, knocking me out of my thoughts. I turned back around, trying to focus.

‘C’mon, Palmer,’ I muttered. ‘Quickly, before we’re seen.’

‘Yeah, yeah. Hang on.’ Palmer swiped the screen, decisively. She pressed ‘Engage.’

Nothing.

‘What’s wrong?’ I side-mouthed, trying to stay calm.

‘No way,’ she breathed. ‘Of course. Organic vectors. Missing targets by centuries…’

‘What?’

‘It’s the Network. The Timeshift itself.’ She swallowed, hard. ‘It’s collapsing.’

What?’ The car swerved.

‘How’s your twentieth-century patois?’ she grinned, sadly. ‘We’re going to be here a while.’

**

And, with that, I wish you a happy Friday and a peaceful, restful weekend. Read lots, write lots, and laugh as often as you can.

 

Teeny-Tiny Tuesday

Hello, all.

I’ve not been feeling well for the past couple of days. Yesterday, I struggled with a headache that strangled my brain to the point of affecting my vision, and today I feel rather like a person who has been shoved into a barrel and rolled, willy-nilly, down a rocky mountain path. I managed to get a good night’s sleep last night, which has – to be fair – worked wonders, but I’m still not feeling my best self, shall we say.

I think the recent hot weather has been playing havoc with my person – and before anyone accuses me of complaining about the good weather, I’m not, okay, it’s been great – but, as always happens, by the time I’m used to the heat, no doubt it’ll be gone again and I’ll have to re-acclimatise to our normal weather conditions. I’m always one step behind, weather-wise! While it really has been wonderful to see blue sky and to be able to go outside without a rainjacket in the middle of the summer, some of us (i.e. me) are built like Yetis and can only function properly at low temperatures. Heat is not my friend.

This is my baby picture. No, seriously! Image: scaryforkids.com

This is my baby picture. No, seriously!
Image: scaryforkids.com

Also, I’ve been doing my usual ‘mad panic pressure have-to-do-everything-all-at-once’ nonsense again, and I really feel like I’ve blown a gasket in my brain. Yesterday was a total disaster, writing-wise. My blog post took twice as long as normal to prepare, and as well as that I couldn’t concentrate for longer than five or ten minutes at a time; trying to get any meaningful work done was a frustrating torment. However, instead of leaving the writing behind and going off to do something else, like a sensible person, I tried to truck on through. I never learn, do I? I do have competition deadlines coming up, and I want to put my best work forward for them, so I am going to have to try to remember that sometimes the best thing you can do for your writing is not to write. Work you produce under pressure, or when you’re not feeling well, is never going to make the grade – all it will do is make you feel worse, set you back even further and give you a lot of sub-standard words and sentences to unpick when you’re back on your feet again.

So, I’m going to take it a little easier today. I’m going to write, of course, but I’m going to remember that it’s supposed to be enjoyable and fulfilling, not something which makes me cry over my keyboard. If I can only do it in ten-minute bursts, that’s fine; if I need to have a lie-down (which I never do in the middle of the day, on principle), then I’m going to allow myself to do that. I have to realise that if I don’t look after myself, nobody else is going to. Not to mention that I’m going to need my brain, my body and my mental health to see me through the rest of my (hopefully long and happy) writing career, and that means taking care of what I’ve got, however humble it might be.

But then I keep saying this, and I never actually do it. Today, I promise, I will take my own good advice. And I don’t have any fingers or toes crossed!

This picture made me laugh, so I'm passing it on to you. Happy Tuesday! Image: futurity.com

This picture made me laugh, so I’m passing it on to you. Happy Tuesday!
Image: futurity.com

Have a good day. Hopefully I’ll be back on form by tomorrow, and raring to go for the Wednesday Write-In, as normal. See you then!

Heavy Soul

It’s Monday.

Outside, it looks like this:

Image: myprettypinkpearl.blogspot.com

Image: myprettypinkpearl.blogspot.com

And I’m feeling a bit blech.

You know the feeling – sort of like everything is too much, that your limbs have suddenly decided to tie themselves to the earth, and your brain has become a rock, clashing about inside your skull? That. I’m just not feeling capable today.

I didn’t want to write about this topic, you know. I’ve been sitting here for an hour trying to dredge my brain for anything else – anything a bit more positive – to write about, but eventually I had to conclude that there wasn’t anything else in my head.

Well, that’s not strictly true. I have lots of stuff in my head. A bit of worry; a sprinkling of stress; quite a lot of happiness (it’s just having a quiet day today); a little bit of excitement about an upcoming book festival at the end of June; nervousness that I don’t have any upcoming publications at the moment; curiosity about whether the pieces of flash fiction I wrote at the end of last week are any good and/or suitable for submission to a prestigious competition; resignation that whether they’re any good or not they’ll have to be submitted to said competition because I don’t have anything else I can submit; fear of opening my notebook to see my list of upcoming competition and submission deadlines; and the vertiginous sense of dread caused by the fact that I don’t really have anything to say.

I’ve just read Amanda Palmer’s most recent blog, where – funnily enough – she describes feeling somewhat similar to how I’m feeling now. She takes an extremely sensible approach to dealing with this sort of thing: describe what’s up, and then describe what’s down, and see which one outweighs the other.

Clever lady, Ms. Palmer.

So, here we go.

The Up and Down Game:

Down: My life feels a bit uninspired at the moment;

Up: I’m alive, and healthy, and well.

Down: I haven’t written anything I’m really proud of for a few days;

Up: I’m alive, and healthy, and well.

Down: I don’t think I’m going to make all my (self-imposed) deadlines;

Up: I’m alive, and healthy, and well.

Down: I’m a little bit scared;

Up: I’m alive, and healthy, and well – and not only that, but loved.

There. I feel better already.

Image: conroedentist.blogspot.com

Image: conroedentist.blogspot.com

Gritty-Eyed Lunatic

Your correspondent is a tired creature this cold and frosty morning.

This woman is not me, but I look somewhat similar at the moment.Image: makeup.lovetoknow.com

This woman is not me, but I look somewhat similar at the moment.
Image: makeup.lovetoknow.com

This is despite the fact that fatigue drove both me and my husband to bed at a fairly early hour last night, and both of us (unusually) slept right through, dead to the world, until the alarm rang at 6:15 a.m. I suspect it may have something to do with the fact that we’re having the coldest Easter weather since 1960-something; just living, without actually even exerting yourself, is costing more energy than normal.

Maybe.

Or perhaps it has to do with the fact that I made two submissions yesterday, three if you count the ‘Wednesday Write-In’. One, to be entirely fair, was extremely short – a piece of ultra-flash fiction – but as anyone who’s tried to write a story like that will probably attest, it can be harder work than writing a full-length story. I loved doing the work, and when I was stuck into the middle of it I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else, but – sometimes – when it comes to the day after, and you feel like you’ve been hauling rocks, and your eyes feel like you’ve tipped sand into them, and your brain is weeping, you wonder why you allowed yourself to get into such a state.

I’ve been here before. I know that allowing yourself to get over-tired impacts negatively on the following day’s work. I know. But I still do it. When the siren-call hits my ears, and the words start singing to me, there’s just nothing I can do. One of my stories yesterday is about a man who has an unbearable compulsion, and who can’t control his reactions to a particular stimulus; I wonder, now, if I wrote it because that’s how I feel when it comes to writing. Sadly, the story doesn’t end too well for the character. I hope I don’t meet a similar fate, but whatever may be facing me, I have a feeling I’ll walk willingly into it.

There are at least two more submissions I want to make before the end of March, and I’m hopeful I’ll be able to come up with something suitable for the particular magazines I have in mind. That’s the beauty (as well as the terrifying thrill) of submitting your work to magazines, or indeed anywhere – not only are you taking a chance on whether the editors will like your work or not, but you’re also trying to hit the mark when it comes to the artistic vision of the magazine in question. Occasionally, it can be a bit out of your comfort zone, and you find yourself thinking in different terms to normal. This isn’t a bad thing from a creative point of view, but from a stress point of view it can sometimes be tough. However, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Stretching your mind creatively is a wonderful thing; getting yourself to write in genres and styles to which you’re not always accustomed is a wonderful thing. Even if the submissions don’t meet with approval, I’ll have ventured into newness, created a story out of it, and lived to tell the tale. And how could that possibly be bad?

I have a busy day ahead, not only with writing, but with other life-stuff, so I shan’t detain you much longer. I hope I manage to stay upright when I venture outside and don’t end up skidding all over the place – but it would be nice (if a little weird) to get caught out in a snowstorm again, as happened to me the other day. Here’s hoping everything I need to do today gets done, and that I break ground on these new submissions – and that I build in a little bit of ‘down-time’ for my poor old brain.

Hope your Thursday’s going well, and that you’re happily fulfilling your brain’s creative needs. Just remember to tell it to shut up once in a while.

Image: indie-visible.com

Image: indie-visible.com