On this week’s show I was very fortunate to interview author Andy Rumbold about his debut novel ‘The Last Fiesta’ which has been shortlisted for the People’s Book Prize. Andy also shares his thoughts and tips about writing, his writing influences and rituals and much more. There is also my round up of happy and unusual news from around the world and some cracking music to go with it. Simply hit the play button below and please add your thoughts, comments and any happy news that you want to share.
I have been wondering about asking questions about myself and how my life is going and when questioning myself becomes a form of general anxiety and fear. As an example, asking myself (gently) ‘What is happening in my life and where is it going?’ is different to thinking ‘My dreams aren’t coming true and my life isn’t going how I want it.’ It is the quick descent from one to the other that interests me. I do acknowledge that it might just be me that goes from pondering my existence to having angst about my existence, however, I have come to learn that a lot of people have worried about issues that I presumed were my sole domain.
I believe in its best form, asking questions about our existence and experience in, and of, life is an important part of life. I would not go as far as to say the unexamined life is not worth living as it seems a trifle harsh and uncompromising (would someone who is unable to question their existence through a learning disability for instance, be said to have a life not worth living?) but I do think it is of value to us as humans to look at what we were, what we are and what we aspire to become.
The slight problem with this, for me at least, is when the questioning becomes a torrent of self-doubt, recriminations and ultimately a sense of failure before I have even fully lived the life I have presumed I will fail at. This is not the case all the time, and I have become much better at controlling these wayward thoughts that desire me to feel much worse about myself than I should, yet, it is without doubt that I can slide into a fear spiral about my existence and what I am doing.
To give another example, I have been considering my approach to writing and how it differs to how I wrote when I was in my early twenties. If this version of me were a biblical figure, it would definitely be old testament style; fire, brimstone and severe judgements. I don’t recall thinking about what I wanted to say as the younger version of me had the arrogance of youth on its side. I didn’t need to think about what I was writing as it was obvious that something needed to be said about the topic I was writing or I wouldn’t have bothered to write it in the first place. Or so my younger self thought.
Ah, I miss that certainty. I don’t miss the arrogance that came with it, or the simplistic view of issues that I had, as we know that nothing is simple, merely a set of increasingly complex contradictions. There is a lot to be said for not overthinking however. There was no procrastination or doubt, there was simply writing flat out until my hand hurt. Yes, it was long enough ago that pen and paper were still the preferred method for my writing.
With the wisdom (???) of age comes a more considered approach to writing. I do wonder if I should be writing about some subjects as I may not know enough about it, or whether the subject is interesting, or what would make a good story etc etc etc. With that comes a longer period of not writing. Or a longer period of worrying over what I should write. This then leads to me wonder about how as I have gotten older, I have become less certain of things, which I thought would be the other way around.
It seems to come back to the question of questioning. What is the right amount of questions to ask? Writing without questioning can lead to misinformed and inflammatory results, which I am sure some people simply adore to do, but it is not really my cup of tea. Writing with too many questions can prevent the writing from starting at all, which rather defeats the whole idea.
So, perhaps the answer is to use the writing as a way of questioning, or to explore ideas that I do not know the full answers to as I want to find the answers. It has just this second occurred to me that maybe the reasons I write now have changed. As opposed to wanting to fix the world as a younger man and the certainty that I did indeed know how to do that, perhaps I write now to try and make sense of a world that appears to be increasingly more complex the more I think about it.
Writing with no doubts or questions seems dangerous to/for me. Writing with too many questions is plain stifling. I am thinking there is something in the middle where consideration is given, but not to the point of killing the writing to begin with. In the same way, asking questions about my existence is useful if I don’t allow it to get out of control and drown me in doubt and fear. As with many things, finding the right balance is the tricky part.
What next? This is the question I am asking myself at the moment. As I feel this is going to be a post that that is therapeutic for me rather than something I think people will be desperate to read (but hoping a few people do anyway) I figure I might as well be honest.
I thought I would have an agent for my book by now. Call it what you will; overly optimistic, using a positive mental attitude, misguided, arrogant or plain stupid, it all boils down to this feeling of ‘Dammit. Why don’t I have an agent yet?’ Now, I know it takes time and even the best writers get rejected etc etc etc but it feels like when you are single and people say ‘Don’t worry. You will find someone. The right person for you is out there.’ Now this is great advice, but it doesn’t stop the loneliness of being single and the thoughts of ‘Screw that. I want someone now!’
Yet I also know it is out of my hands now. I have made the book as good as I can and the rest lies in the whims of capricious fate/agents. It is much like chucking your baby out into the world alone and saying ‘Good luck buddy.’ You hope it will be fine, but once you have let go, it is out of your hands.
Now I face an almost daily challenge between trying to remain positive and influence the universe with my willpower (much like a modern day Sauron but of a more benevolent nature) and thinking ‘Well, this isn’t working, so I need to try something else or something different.
What is that pull to do something else when your current project doesn’t seem to working? Actually, scratch that, what is that push to do something different? A pull feels like an attraction. A push feels like fear. I feel more pushed than pulled at present.
I think fear is a good word. Terrified is better. What if I can’t make one of my dreams in life come true through my own inability to do so? Wow, I have hit a new level of power in being able to bum myself out. Self-doubt is a real bugger. Self-doubt influenced by others is worse.
So, what to do next? My brain, helpful as ever is currently playing the lyrics to ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ in my head.
(The cursor is blinking at me waiting for a conclusion).
Well tough luck Mr Cursor. If I don’t get a conclusion then you certainly don’t.
(Blink, blink, blink.)
It is hard to trust the universe when it has been unkind to you. It is hard to trust karma when you try to do good things and it doesn’t seem to be reciprocated. It is hard to have faith in the future when you know the future is a place of surprising twists (both good and bad) that you can never see coming.
All that we have left is ourselves. Our belief, our courage, our hope and our strength to carry on when it all seems impossible. Aside from giving up, what else is there?
And that Mr Cursor is all the conclusion you are going to get.
Take care buddies,
Does anyone else find it really hard to write about themselves? I can write about other people and promote the hell out of them, but when it comes to me doing the same thing for myself, I have the same level of aversion that Vampires have to garlic. Still, I know that I am going to have to become better at selling myself (not in a whorish way, but then again, if agents don’t pick up my book soon…) so I am forcing myself to write this rather than running away and hiding. (I can’t tell you my hiding place, it is super special and defeats the point of hiding in the first place).
Now, I know this is not a stellar way to invite a reader to carry on going, but I figure that I have no idea what other people will like or not and I can’t try and please the whole world, so I will just write and if anyone cares to read it then it is an added bonus.
So, now therapy has been completed, I am thinking about what next for little ol’ me now I have more free time. It turns out, I have quite a lot going on. I sometimes get carried away (or enthusiastic as I prefer to think of it) and say yes to a lot of ideas. This is a good thing in that I get to work with cool people on a variety of different things. It is true, my head may have been a little scatty this week, but that really isn’t anything new.
So, these are my current projects. When they all turn into global successes, you can say you knew about them before anyone else and that you are irrefutably cool. Just don’t turn on me when I do make it by saying ‘Man, I knew all this before he got popular. Everyone else is joining the bandwagon). I don’t deserve that. I am good people.
My lovely little book ‘The Time Keepers’ Union’ is about to go off on another journey to agents. I have made it easy for agents this time by sending it a month before Christmas, so they can give me an awesome pressie by signing me up. That really is very kind of me I think.
‘Alien Nation’ – a one man play set in space is almost at completed first draft stage. It is completely different to anything I have written before, so thanks to Stewart Matthews for pushing me in new and exciting directions. Only downside, the films Gravity and Interstellar are killing me with their timings. I try and avoid anything similar to what I am working on for fear of anyone saying I am copying. I read a review of Interstellar where it mentions a certain scene and I literally shouted ‘Godammit.’ on a train as it was too similar to an idea I had and I knew I could no longer use it.
I am in the research phase of my next book idea. I can’t say too much, not because I am trying to build a sense of suspense, but because I do not know what it is going to be yet.
I have started working on a sitcom with someone. I won’t say who it is at the moment because I am trying to build a sense of suspense here. I am loving it so far and really looking forward to getting into it. On a side note, it is the first time in over ten years that I have written with anyone else. So long control freak side of me.
I am also working on a video blogging idea with another someone else. Please see the previous paragraph re: suspense building. I am not certain where it will go, but half the fun of things is finding out.
The songs for ‘The Orphic Blues’ musical are being written to go along with the script I wrote, so I am insanely excited about that and can’t wait to hear the songs. Why the excitement? Well, I have written plays before, but plays with music? That is an extra cherry on top situation.
Lastly, but certainly not leastly, I have an idea for a podcast type thing with my beloved other half. I need to do it soon before she gets her doctorate and becomes above all the silliness. Although, in my head I can hear her shout in her silly voice ‘I will never become above all the silliness.’ I did walk in the other day to find her singing ‘1,2,3,4,5, once I caught a fish alive.’ To her credit, and it is one of the many reasons I love her, she carried on when I walked in and finished the song. Atta girl.
I have one or two other possibilities in the pipeline and I will see how they go. I might tell you in due course. If you are nice that is. I can be easily bribed with cakes.
On that note, I best stop writing about what I write and get on with the actual writing.
Take care buddies,
So, yes, I am sticking with the name for this. I couldn’t come up with anything better. I am off to therapy soon. It is in a different building across the road, and I will miss the nice lady at the church who opens the doors for me. She always had a kind word to say and that made me feel better about the therapy that I was about to go into. I am kinda hoping the new room has a couch. I know I get carried away by the fantasy sometimes, but it is a classic image in my head.
I am feeling a lot better about going than I did last week. I was dreading last week. I thought it was going to be a horrible session and now I look back, I made it so much worse for myself by building up that it was going to be bad, when in reality, I had no way of knowing what the session would actually be like. So, as friendly advice, if you are dreading therapy, try not to let it snowball too much. I know it is hard, but that is what I am trying to do today.
I posted something about depression yesterday from Hyperbole and a Half.
A quick aside. I spent all of yesterday saying it was Hyper Bole (Like the next thing you get to play in after winning the Super Bowl). Gauri mentioned late in the evening that ‘Hun, I think it is Hy-per-bo-le.’ I am a dumbass sometimes.
The post is on my blog, and I suggest you read it. It is a fantastic look at depression. If you do, please head to her blog and say something. It is only fair for me to ask this, as she is the one who created the post and deserves credit. Anyways, one part of her post talks about…
‘I’ve always wanted to not give a fuck. While crying helplessly into my pillow for no good reason, I would often fantasize that maybe someday I could be one of those stoic badasses whose emotions are mostly comprised of rock music and not being afraid of things. And finally – finally – after a lifetime of feelings and anxiety and more feelings, I didn’t have any feelings left. I had spent my last feeling being disappointed that I couldn’t rent Jumanji. I felt invincible. .’ – Allie – Hyperbole and a Half.
This part struck a chord with me. Something happened recently. I won’t go into details, but it was not good. What was good about it was that I suddenly felt like all the anger/hurt/shame/guilt etc I usually felt after bad experiences was just not there. Have you ever told yourself ‘I don’t care about that or them’ and then spend the rest of the day trying to convince yourself that you do not care, but obviously do because it is so damn hard to not actually care? Or then blame yourself for everything that happened whether it was your fault or not?
The thing was, after the last bad thing. I didn’t feel any of those old emotions. It was like walking into a dark room where you think the surprise party is being held and you are expecting certain people to be there, but the room is empty and no-one answers when you shout out ‘Hello. Anyone there?’ Now I think about it, I think I felt a weird sense of ‘Where are those guys? Self-loathing should be kicking in about now. And where is guilt?. Man those guys are late. I best text them and see where they are.’ I think I was kinda pissed off that they didn’t show up. How weird is that? Then again, they had been part of me for so long. Maybe I saw them as a crappy restaurant that I only go to because it is on my route home that I miss when it gets closed down?
The upshot was that I found myself expecting to feel a certain way, and just not feeling it at all. I felt all the anger and hurt had been seared clean out of me by some sort of molten magma. It was the deepest cleanse treatment possible. I didn’t know quite how to feel for a few days after that. I kept expecting some negative emotion to jump out of the shadows and shout ‘Aha! I got you.’ It didn’t. It still hasn’t. Now, this is not to say that I am perfectly happy. Who the hell is? I still have my down days and I am starting to be ok with that. I was starting to feel that I was failing at not being depressed if I was not a perfect little ball of sunshine every single second of the day. Yes, I still have issues with setting myself unrealistic challenges. Luckily, Gauri gave me a good talking to and snapped me out of it. Tough love for sure, but completely what I needed.
My therapy has now become about recognising the good in me, which I am still finding hard to do. Added to this, I am trying to lay the foundations for a new, improved David (David 1.0) on solid stone rather than shifting sands. I guess all that time in the church made me remember some bible quotes from primary school. I am trying to develop a new way of coping with the world and the people in it. A more positive way of being and a stronger way for dealing with my issues. It helps that I really do not care about certain things anymore, rather than trying to convince myself that I don’t care.
So, to tie this up. I need to talk to my therapist about my blogging. This will make sense in a minute, so bare with me. I am writing a play about a man in space called ‘Alien Nation’, so I am studying astronauts. I was watching Chris Hadfield do a TED talk. Oh, one quick thing. He mentions this idea about perceived fear versus actual risk ie; the fear of spiders is greater than the actual risk you face from a spider. I really like this idea. So, I am going to start putting into practise. So, I was basically falling asleep while watching this. I could not keep my eyes open as I have not slept properly for two weeks or so and Gauri said that I should go to bed. I sleepily mumbled ‘No. Must research. Play to write.’
I was in full on stubborn child mode and was sat there with one eye open to conserve energy by not having them both open. It occurred to me that the last time I had felt like this was back when I was super stressed with my care job and doing shift work. But how can this be I asked myself? It is not as if I am busy. I am not earning much money, so what right do I have to call myself busy? I realized this while struggling to stay awake researching one of two plays I am writing, while I was also checking Twitter, LinkedIn and WordPress to keep making making contacts and develop existing contacts, after a day of writing, food testing, cleaning, cooking etc etc etc.
This is not to say that others do not have it worse than me. I say it because I realised that I was working myself into the ground because I felt that I can’t stop until I make it big and…
You know, it is, for me, five minutes later and I do not know how to finish that sentence. I am suddenly unsure of what I actually think or feel. I think I thought that it didn’t matter if I worked myself insane again as long as I was working hard to try and make it happen in the first place. Ah, I don’t know. Then again, that is why I need to talk about it in therapy. If I find and answer, I will post it later.
My apologies for the anti-climatic ending. Dammit, where was my awesome revelation so I could end this on a good note? Therapy ain’t like it is in the movies.
Take care buddies,
I was back doing my food testing this morning. It was in a different room than before. It was huge and held fifty people. The tables were divided by a white screen of wood. Quite why this was, I am not sure. It really did not stop me seeing the person sat next to me. And its not like I was in an exam and someone could copy my answers. Talking of the person sat next to me, I discovered a new game to play. It is called chair roulette.
When I got there, the chairs were half full. I naturally sat at a table with two empty chairs. Even though I am engaged and have no intention of hitting on anyone, I make it a point to never sit next to a girl, because, well, who wants to be that creepy guy? (except for that actual creepy guy). So, I was alone at my table and in one of those moods where I just want to be left alone and do a bit of writing in between tests. So, obviously, someone sat next to me and started to chat away. Now, I am not here to judge, and he was actually a pretty cool guy. He did tell me however, that he leaves messages on the ipads we use for the next person to read. One the messages he left was ‘I am watching you.’
So, I carried on writing and thought about how chair roulette works. I heard one guy behind me chatting away like mad to a young girl who was clearly trying to exit the conversation, but utterly unable to do so. I guess the trick is to either pick an empty table and hope for the best. Or sit next to someone who doesn’t look crazy. Then again, what if the person I sit next to thinks ‘Oh jeez. Chair roulette has screwed me this time with this guy.’
The first test was brussel sprouts. Now, brussel sprouts are not the breakfast of champions and are no way nice to start my eating day with. However, I soldiered bravely on. There was a long break between tests, so I got to thinking about the other people at the testing. A section in my book reminded me of the situation.
‘The train carriage, Emillina noted, was curiously busy for mid-morning on a Monday; it was almost full.
‘They can’t all be off to save their fathers from old age and retrieve a very unusual watch from a nasty old lady.’ she said to herself. ‘Then again, if I am off on an adventure, then there is no reason that they aren’t off on an adventure too.’
Emillina thought that if it were happening to her then it could easily be happening to anyone else and wished them all good luck on their individual adventures, whatever they might be.’
It occurred to me that I knew why I was there, but what about everyone else? What were their stories? I really got hooked on this idea. Why was the girl in front of me fingering a ring so much? Was she regretting the decision to say yes when she was proposed too? Did it have sentimental value? I should add here that my imagination tends to run away with me. It can be great for stories, but it can be a problem in real life. I saw people reading papers or books. I am guessing that the people playing candy crush had given up on life (lol, I know that is going to annoy people, but relax, it is just a joke).
Then, a serious thought came to me. It came from watching one guy eat everything he was given. I mean all of it. You don’t need to finish the samples, but he did. I then thought about the rise in people using food shelters or soup kitchens in the past few years. I wonder if people were there to earn some money, but also to be fed because they couldn’t afford food. This idea bummed me out, because it is most likely an actual thing. Sad times.
Two side things. One, I sat under the air-con so I was low level shivering for the entire session. Which is also probably why I have a cold now. But fear not, no cold will stop me from blogging (but perhaps it should will be the retort from some). Two, we now get metal cutlery instead of plastic. I know; ooh la la right?
Oh yeah, I got asked the most mind bending question. I was asked to describe the texture of cloudy lemonade. How do you describe the texture of a liquid? It was a ‘there is no spoon’ moment and I just did not know how to answer.
Oh, and to end on a good note, there was a problem in the kitchen so they had to cancel some of the tests. I worked till 11.30 and got paid until 12.00. Good times.
Take care buddies,
As the title gently suggests, Thursday is my therapy day. Well, only for today as it is moving to Friday next week, which rather buggers the title up; Ferapy Friday will not have the same ring to it as a post title. And it will be deeply misspelt. But, that is a worry for next week.
A quick shout out for therapy in general. My fiance is a therapist (among many other things) so she and her profession deserves a positive mention I think. Therapy is not something to be scared of. Although saying this, I did put it off for two years when I seriously could have done with it, but everything in its own time. I don’t even go anymore because of depression. After I stopped the anti-depressants, I thought about stopping. I then realised that I was effectively free to be whoever I wanted be now I was medication and depression free (now that is a scary thought) and I thought therapy would help me build my foundations on solid stone rather than sand. There you go, a nice little biblical reference for you.
I should also give a shout out to wordpress. This blog has become very therapeutic for me. If any of you have read/done ‘The Artist’s Way’, the author suggests completing morning pages where you stream of conciousness write for three pages to clear out the old noggin. For the benefit of my beloved readers, I naturally put more thought into this blog than that. Or do I? Thinking about it now, I rarely edit anything I write, except for the odd typo and it all comes to you pretty much fresh out of the can. I leave it to you to decide if that is a good or a bad thing. Cheers wordpress buddies.
So, I had this dream last night. It may have been the cheese I ate before bed, or something else, but it was seriously funky. I am not sure how to describe the dream I had. I guess it is the opposite of an out of body experience, in that I was definitely in my body, but there were to of me in the dream. (Now what was I saying about not needing therapy?) Anyway, I think the other me was a future, older me. He seemed wiser than me, although that is probably not hard. He did sit me down and give me a good talking to. He told me that I was a good writer and that I need to believe in myself (his words, not mine).
Now, this is where it gets tricky for me. It was a dream in which I told myself to believe in my dreams of becoming a writer. But, and this is a big but (and I like big butts and I don’t know why) how do I know when something in a dream is a dream (positive) or fantasy (negative)? I think I will take it to therapy.
Oh jeez, wait. Have I broken client/therapist confidentiality by writing about this? One sec, let me ask Gauri. (Gauri – when you read this later, this is why I am about to ask you a seemingly random question. Don’t worry now though; it will make sense later. Lol, how many times have I said that in our time together?).
Asked and answered. She doesn’t think I am breaking confidentiality, and as she is the professional, I am going to take her word for it.
So, I best wrap this up. I have a train to catch and a session to go to. I might blog about it later on. I am never sure pre-therapy what I am going to feel post- therapy. Then again, I think that is the point. Anyway, I hope you all have a good day.
Take care buddies,