Whistle while you work

I could not write or create without music. Music fuels me and inspires me and can turn a slow and unsatisfying writing session, into one that flows smoothly and without hesitation. A good playlist can make all the difference between getting those recommended 2,000 daily words down, and committing only two lines to the page. It is a complex issue, however, if the playlist is too good, all I want to do is abandon my task and get lost in the music.

I’ve listened to quite a lot of different songs and genres while writing “Dark Winds Over Wellington”, many of them are from movie scores or are instrumental only – less vocals mean I am equally less likely to get distracted – but some have simply been in my head since I started planning a story. Little snippets of a chord, or a fragment of song lyrics that get stuck in my brain. They travel with me as I write, becoming the soundtrack to the stories in their own right.

Just for a bit of fun, and to give myself a palate cleanser while battling with the editing process, I put together a Spotify playlist, a soundtrack to my chilling tales, which also serves as a little peek into what sparks my inspiration. It might not make much sense yet, not until they are linked with the words themselves, but all of them have a reason for inclusion and a connection with the words they compliment.

Photo credit by Mohammad Metri on Unsplash

Declaration

I am a writer.

I am entirely confident in making this declaration because not only do I write absolutely every single day, but also I do not feel like I have any choice in this. I carry my phone, and a notebook and pen with me everywhere, because when inspiration strikes, it quite literally sinks it’s fangs into me, like a thought snake.

I have many, many strands of lines, rhymes, questions and contemplations in my phone, some of them audio recordings as I’ve not even had time to type them before I almost lost them. For I am not only a writer, I am also a home-educating mother, and almost every single time the mother part of me must take precedence, my children’s needs more in demand than my creativity. I do not begrudge this, however, as I also find that my children are frequently the source of my creativity, they inspire me with their own thoughts and ideas and we take time to work together on our own projects.

Almost every time an idea will start with a line that just appears out of nowhere. It grows and swells, and entwines itself all around inside me until I am able to give it my full attention. I often imagine ideas like little butterfly or fairy-like creatures, lifting, soaring and landing upon me, leaving little pieces of inspiration in their wake.

If I were to deny myself the time and energy I put into my writing, I know I would be unhappy, I would not feel fulfilled. I know this because for many years I did not make the time to write, or find the motivation to explore my creative side. I cannot even say I didn’t have the time, of course I did, I simply chose to use it for other, less satisfying activities. I used my mental health as an excuse to avoid writing, I used poor physical health to avoid writing. In fact, I used almost anything I could to avoid writing because I was afraid. Afraid that I would not be any good, or I would be wasting my time.

I realise now that nothing that you enjoy or find fulfilling is ever a waste of your time. Your level of skill or talent is irrelevant. Creating for the sake of creating, for the pure enjoyment of making art and pouring a part of yourself into something you create is liberating and invigorating. It allows you to take time to explore your thoughts and experiences in the way you need to.

As a young child, drawing pictures, you did not worry about if what you created was good, in fact good had no marker. You didn’t care about the opinions of your peers, if you had used colour or shape correctly, if the subject was realistic or accurate. You drew purely for enjoyment.

This feeling, this connection, is what I strive to recover when I write now. I will write even if I am the only person ever to read my words. I will write even if I am told I am “no good” or “average” or even receive no feedback at all. I will write with passion, with enthusiasm and with enjoyment. I will connect my inner child with my adult self and explore what makes me happy, however and wherever that takes me.

I am a writer, and what I do is write.

On Reading Aloud

I have a dream, well, perhaps more of a desire really, to be able to stand up in front of an audience of my peers and read some of my written work aloud.

I used to be quite good at it when I was at school, with my teachers often choosing me to read aloud in class. My hearing disability means I have quite a loud, clear voice. A lot of profoundly deaf people can sound quite nasal or monotone, as they get no feedback from their speech. I am thankful that when I lost my hearing around the age of 8, I had already learned to speak and understood intonation, emotion and emphasis quite well. I also watched people very intently so as to lip read them, so I feel like I have a good understanding of body language and how to mimic it. I even worked as a secondary level English teacher for a few years, and had to not only speak in front of over 30 students, but completely lead the class.

Unfortunately, as I have grown older and the direction of my life has changed, my deafness is also the very thing that gives me the most anxiety, on top of my usual anxiety!

When I am put on the spot in a social situation, I can usually roll with it and respond pretty well. Even if I misheard someone or didn’t hear them at all, there is a period which allows instant feedback. This in turn allows me to assess the context of the interaction, reinsert myself back into the conversation, or at least to apologise for not hearing and ask for questions to be repeated, for example.

Perhaps strangely, I feel like this instant feedback opportunity is lost when I have to prepare to speak aloud. When I have the time to think about what I will be required to do, I fall apart. I do what those in the acting industry calls “croak”, and my voice is literally useless.

My social anxiety has always been an issue for me since my late teens. Thank you, stupid broken brain. Most of the time however, or at least while navigating social interactions, I can find ways to circumvent it’s negative effects and mask how I feel. I can paste on a smile, breathe deeply, relax my body, and remind myself that while I might feel like this is the herald of impending doom and death, it really isn’t. I will survive this.

The expectations of reading aloud to a group of people should theoretically be easier as there is less spontaneous interaction taking place, but in contrast, there are more pairs of eyes on me.

In that moment, if I mess up, more people will see me do it, and that means more anxiety about how I will react. If someone asks a question and I don’t hear or mishear and respond incorrectly, more people than usual will experience that. If I pronounce something incorrectly, it will be noticed. My deafness might make me look stupid, inexperienced or even rude.

While I shouldn’t care about that so deeply, after all it’s not something that I can really change, nor do I do it on purpose, for whatever reason I really do care. I can only assume it relates to the element of not being in full control of a situation or in control of how I present myself.

I am working on things I can do to combat my insecurities and find my confidence. I record myself reading my poems, listen to them and consider how I could improve my performance. I practise deep breathing and lung capacity exercises, and mindfulness techniques before I speak. I try to ensure I am prepared but not so over-prepared that I sound like I am speaking from a script.

I remind myself that I am in control and that I absolutely have the necessary skills required to speak aloud, that my voice is loud, clear, and engaging.

I am hopeful that if I work on these positive routines, eventually I will be able to do what I wish to achieve, and share my written work and creativity in the way I want others to experience it.

Leave a comment:

Have you got any experiences of speaking or reading aloud? What kinds of positive things did you do to make the process easier and to relax yourself?

Boxes

Written in August 2017, only a few days after landing in New Zealand after 30+ years in the U.K.

Because what is moving to the other side of the world without some angsty poetry to document your feelings.

Boxes

Pack up my life into boxes to be shipped across the sea,

My home reduced to a list of items meaningless to all but me.

My heart is heavy with both dreams and sadness, the guilt and joy, they swing and pivot, my head so full yet, oh, so empty.

And I float, above myself, observing all I do, a disconnected soul drifting in the smoke of my desires.

Locked in a place between worlds, before reality can finally be pieced together,

Where a dream becomes solid, a choice becomes real.

Say goodbye to those boxes, sailing onwards across the seas, a few steps behind me,

I’ll not suffer to be reunited with my experiences, all the memories I’ve made, they’re already here with me inside my head, within my heart.

I have no fear that I’ll make new boxes.

Fill them with the ideas of my future, and with the passions of my past.

I’ll unpack them with the others, build a tower of myself

So I can climb, climb, and look out beyond at things as yet beyond my reach, and trust that one day soon all this will be another box of me.