Friday, 22 May 2015

Loneliness and the long distance writer.....

Image result for writing outdoors

Writing is a solitary pursuit, that’s a given. There’s usually no one around when you face that blank piece of paper or blank screen. I’m a writer that requires silence – pin drop if possible. Some writers have acquired the zen like habit of being able to write around a chaotic family life, a commitment filled professional life and a host of other obligations.

Writing is not for wimps. It’s one of the toughest disciplines in the art of soul expression. Writers, especially the prolific kind, bare their souls and wrestle with their inner demons to birth their literary offspring.

True writers, in my humble opinion, are born not created. It’s a gift that’s placed into their hearts long before the gestation period on the earthly plain. The flair for prose and poetry is an ethereal quality that challenges even those who are born with it. Writers can’t quite believe or accept their skill-set to place words that engage, alarm, mystify and de-mystify, cajole, frighten, relax, hearten weep and question. Words are ultimately powerful, they can build bridges and start wars.

A writer has a responsibility just as a sprinter has when he faces the open road. Everything hinges on mind and body coming together to deliver a high quality race and finish. They know that everything rests on their daily exertions to fill the pages and maintain endurance.

Non-writers, who believe that they entered this world without a gift are in awe of the published writer. They erroneously believe that plots/characters pour forth from the writer’s mind like the foamy waters of the Niagara. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Loneliness, frustration and plagued with constant doubts is the writer’s brief. Writers become anti-social as they lock themselves away behind closed doors and write/tap away into the small hours. They don’t answer their telephone and barely keep up with current affairs. If they did, it would severely detract from focusing their energy on their work-in-progress.

A work in progress demands attention to detail. Little things to writers mean a lot – a sneer, scowl, glance, glare, stare, laugh and grin. A writer feels every word and enters into this world he/she creates and then makes friends with their characters – not just the protagonist but the villain too. A story line is scattered with the dark and light scenes – the endless struggle between good and evil is played out until the climax is reached.

Good writers are usually insecure. Confidence comes with practice and even publication but it’s a difficult path that writers tread. Each page challenges the grey matter to spew a lava of unfettered thoughts to obliterate the whiteness on page and screen. To write and have someone read your efforts is like standing in a room of strangers – naked. To hear your words critiqued is like having a knife twisted into your heart. To hear them appreciated is – after the initial shock – like drinking in the nectar of the gods.

A writer, however, is rarely satisfied. A writer is only as good as his/her last book. A sequel beckons as soon as the manuscript is submitted and prepped by agents and publishers. Readers are voracious and want more and the voice in the writer’s heart and head are demanding.

A writer’s work is never done; it’s a life long pursuit. After months of writing and revising - tired but triumphant - a writer emerges from his cabin to appreciate the world anew. Word –worn but inspired to live on to write for another day. Everything is remarkable to a writer – a brushed blue sky, a lovelorn nightingale, torrents of rain, gnarled hands, a gurgling stream. Senses are constantly on alert to the ordinary and extra-ordinary quality of the world.

The only failure in writing is to stop. A good writer knows that this is an endless race. Loneliness is a necessity. It’s a friend that sits with you when inspiration and dedication join forces to hone a masterpiece.





Friday, 15 May 2015

My atomic family and other animals


Image result for family of rabbits

In the brave new (developing) world, we  experience the  post natal effects of delivering nuclear babies who are now on the verge of adulthood (also known as teenagers in the 21st century). The  progeny of the nuclear and non-nuclear families are beasts that are hard to tame. They are certainly not the shy wallflowers or awkward, gangly youths of yester year. No, these are confident, polished homo sapiens for whom age is just a number.

Currently, I share my “cage” with two cubs – aged 17 & 19. My eldest man-cub has reached the ripe old age of 26 so we are starting to have some adult conversations if not for the fact that he’s content with non-communication.   I recall the three bundles of joy that I carried home tenderly from the hospital. At that time, I was enamoured with their apple cheeked, dewy eyed stares as they surveyed their new world. At one time, during a severe bout of colic, I had the fanciful notion that my elder cub did not want to be in this amniotic-less dense world…….and sometimes I wonder about it still.

Nevertheless, I gave my best to motherhood and was depleted and deprived in the process. Of course, this is the maternal brief that women sign up for when they embark upon this sacrificial  journey. A mother gives and a child takes. A mother goes without so that children may go with……. all the trappings of a “happy childhood”. In today’s world, I’m reliably informed that the list goes beyond food, clothes and mere shelter. The in-your-face teen requires  fast food laced with oil, sugar and salt, clothes with designer labels and a home that’s modern - complete with a hot tub, private gym, roof garden, home cinema, dance studio,  sound proofed music room, a den to “chillax” in, garden with a barbeque,  swimming pool for regular pool parties and a host of Apple/Nintendo products.

Despite the enticing list above, the modern teenager is stressed and usually busy doing nothing.  It (and I make no distinction between male or female cubs) has decided that hormones are weapons of mass destruction and may be launched at regular intervals at their care givers – parents, teachers, siblings and whoever else is in the firing line. Whatever is zinging through their endocrine system makes them speak/cry in a high pitched tone (aka whining and whinging), dress as if they’ve just got out of bed (they have!) and generally act so nonchalant that a rocket is required to be placed up their derrieres to get them moving. Perhaps NASA can work on a space program that would send teens to the galaxy since they’ve had a ton of experience of being in space (lazing around in their beds/on the sofa)…….to the point of becoming a waste of space.

The cute, swaddled bundles have evolved into elongated avatars that lurch from room to room searching for food/xbox/nintendo like heat seeking missiles. They grunt unintelligible syllables that is “street talk” that desecrates the Queen’s English. Profanities are fashionable so vocal pollution is the new age vernacular.   “Whatever” is their mission statement and that’s the most civil word in their limited vocabulary. Teens also sprout bulbous pieces of plastic that they wear on their heads like a tribal headress. Headphones are big, small, tiny and essential. They have two purposes : one is for the humble pleasure of music listening, the other is to drown out the voices of their parents.

Their ears are attached to headphones and their eyes are fixed on a screen. The computer is king and you can hear banshee like screaming if the broadband signal drops out. Survival for a teen today doesn’t depend on food, water or loving parents. This new breed need “FiFA, Football Manager, Call of Duty, Grand Auto Theft, Instagram, Twitter, What’s App, Tumblr, Snapchat, Candy Crush,    ” – the virtual world is their whole world. Facebook is like visiting grandma’s home – its cosy filled with goodies (for the eye) that will tantalise the senses.

Vloggers are their messiahs. Teens (and others) “like” and “follow their “role models” (of which parents are no more). Parents, in the electronic age, are less important than “keeping up with the Kardashians!”

Teenagers are the new demi gods and goddesses;  a conglomerate with unlimited liability. A demi-god can force you to vacate your own home just so that he (and you) can get a bit of peace. A demi-god is the ultimate ruler of his world and has dominion over his bedroom (which you shall not enter though you own the house!) A demi-god has control of finances – his and his parents’. A demi-god has his own life…..far removed from what we know as a life. Being unwashed, unkempt, foul-mouthed, lazy, devouring every kind of junk food and using 10% of their grey matter is not my idea of acquiring a healthy spirit.

Family is an ever decreasing circle. At some point we’ll part ways and there’ll be silent spaces everywhere.  My teens have given me an idea that replacing a crowded nest with an empty one is an attractive prospect. They’ve forced me to re-evaluate and speculate……

Q: What would a life of my own look and feel like?

A: Pretty darn wonderful (at this point in time)!

Family will come and go but animals remain. In our case, it’s a little, white rabbit that will retain our eternal affection. What we can’t always share with each other, the deepest and finer feelings of love are showered on the bunny….and he knows the best and worst of us. Once the teens have morphed into proper adults,  finished university and are climbing the corporate ladder, Diety-dom will be a distant memory. A salaried position will make them snap out of their divinity double quick.

My family is dysfunctional, difficult, frustrating but growing.  Personal growth spurts are inevitably challenging in teens and the wider family. My own “growth” into super-woman has been no doubt testing to them  so pain – as a giver and receiver -  is the ageless familial exchange.  
I reproduce therefore I suffer and celebrate in equal measure.

Perhaps I’m too close to the mountain (of their talents) to appreciate the view. In the near future, the vista will change and when I stand back I’ll be able to understand the light / dark shades of character, wit and unique personalities. Until then….I’ll live  this upside down, tumultuous life, gather my frayed nerves and keep calm!