5 Ways This Crazy World Helps My Writing

I could also have titled this post; ‘5 Ways Writing Helps Me Deal With This Crazy World’, because it works both ways. Writing helps me cope with this world and everything going on in it, and the world helps my writing by providing so much inspiration and material! Win win, if you want to put a positive spin on it. I could also have called this post; ‘How The Hell Do Non-Writers Even Survive?’, because seriously, I have no idea. If I didn’t have writing, I don’t know how would I cope. Anyway, here goes. The world is a messed up place but I don’t let any of it go to waste;

  1. Anxiety– I use the mess in my stomach and pretend I’m one of my characters. I play out the scene. I feel the churn and the dread weighing me down. That tightness in my chest. Like it’s hard to breathe. Like you don’t want to think about anything for too long or you might start crying and never stop. I take all that and put it into my characters. I become them. I play act. I change my worries and fears to theirs. I make use of it.
  2. I explore darkness – through my characters. Their stories are nearly all ones I have stood on the edge of. I’ve stood there and peered into the darkness. I’ve wondered about it and thought about it and been tempted by so many things inside the dark. But I have my characters and I explore it through them. I don’t have to go into the darkness, because I do it through them instead.
  3. I leave behind a legacy – For someone who is not religious, I’m not particularly scared of dying, but I do think about death a lot. Because the world is so messed up, and humans so delightfully flawed, I sometimes like to think of my books as my legacy. I’m leaving my thoughts, feelings, dreams, fears and hopes inside my books and these will live on after I do. My response to this world and this life is my writing. All my books, all my stories, my characters are all little bits of me, all part of me and who I am and when I die, my ancestors will be able to know me better than anyone, by reading it all.
  4. I weave the craziness into my stories – I make sense of the world and politics and social issues by writing about them. Anything that angers, upsets or confuses me is woven into my stories. My books all deal with social issues and I love delving into gritty subjects in this way. It gives me a chance to sort through my own thoughts and beliefs, and this dying world gives me a lot of material.
  5. People watching for material -It’s weird being a writer because on the one side you are naturally introverted and shy, but on the other, you are constantly baring your fragile soul to the world. You often distrust people and try to avoid them, yet they are endlessly fascinating to you and provide juicy material for characters and stories. It’s great though because you can go out into the world, soak up all the messy people then come home and expel it all through words.

So, there you have it. I don’t like this world or the people in it a lot of the time. I’m terrified of where we are all heading. But at least I’m getting the constant urge to write! What do you think, folks? Please feel free to comment and/or share. Does writing help you deal with the state of the world right now, or the worries in your own life? Or is the world happily providing you with enough material for a lifetime?

 

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Reasons To Be Cheerful

It’s a tense time right now in the UK. The nation has felt divided since Brexit and the looming snap election has opened that wound and stabbed it with a dirty stick. My personal Facebook page is an endless landslide of anger, fear and finger pointing. And yes, I’m finger pointing too. I’m as angry as the next person and truly believe our country needs to vote in favour of hope and change. But this is not a political post. Nor a negative one. I need a break from all of that and decided to write a post about the things that make me cheerful. And not just cheerful, but bloody glad to be alive…

Walking barefoot

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We all did this when we were little kids. We didn’t think twice about it. We had to be reminded and nagged to put our shoes on before we went outside. Now people think you’re weird if they see you walking around without shoes on. But being barefoot makes me feel happy. It makes me feel calm, safe and grounded to feel the warm earth or the wet grass under my toes. It makes me feel somehow looser, sillier, younger and freer. Try it some time. I do it whenever I can. I truly believe in some powerful way it helps you to feel reconnected to the earth and to nature. And we could all do with a bit of that.

Cake

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Tea and cake. Coffee and cake. Wine and cake. Take your pick but make sure there is definitely cake. A nice big flat slab of it. Any cake will do. Me, I’m not fussy. (Unless it’s banana, ugh) Apple cake, carrot cake, coffee cake, fruit cake. Every now and then only a big fat squashy chocolate cake will do. The kind you get all over your face while eating. I think cake is another thing that makes me feel like a little kid. The whole act of making one, from cracking the eggs against the side of the bowl, to shaking the flour through the sieve, to sitting on the doorstep to lick the bowl out afterward. Happy times. I find making a cake cheers me up. I find eating cake has the same effect. Win, win.

Watching Children Play

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I mean the kind that doesn’t involve adults. Just little kids playing like no one is watching. Just totally lost in their own little worlds. Whether it’s building Lego, or pushing cars about, or making little figures move around. I find it spellbinding. I sometimes catch my little one holding two cars or two dinosaurs and making them talk to each other. ‘Hello’ says one, ‘hello’ says the other. There might be a bit more chat before it descends into a language only he can understand. It’s magical to me that he’s totally happy to be alone, to be playing with something he chose, to be directing that play the way his developing mind sees fit, and that it is all totally real to him. Warms me up no end.

Greenery

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This is one of my photos from the lane I walk down every day. At this time of year from one end to the other, it’s like a tunnel of green. There are Oaks on both sides, gigantic majestic relics of yesteryear, spreading their arms across to the other side, shading the way. Splashes of colour from rhododendron, dandelions, daisies, dead nettles and pink clover. Bees humming through the wild flowers. Pigeons cooing on the telephone wires. Crows flapping past in two’s and threes. And when I turn my head, wherever I look I see a wall of green. So much green. It’s the same in my garden, due to the trees we have and the trees around the area. They are all so huge that my windows are filled with green. It makes me feel like I can breathe easier, just knowing they are there.

Singing Loudly To Music

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I do this whenever I can and I have the worst voice ever. In the car, once the kids have been deposited and there is no risk of me embarrassing or deafening them, I turn it up loud and sing along. When I’m cooking the dinner, I put on an old CD, turn it up and dance around the kitchen while singing at the top of my voice. The best thing about music is the way it installs memories in your brain that will then later be exploded every time you hear that song. Tastes, smells, sounds, emotions, all will come rushing back in a an overload of nostalgia. Plus, singing and dancing cheer me up. As long as no one is watching or listening!

Night Skies

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I’m lucky that I live in a beautiful place with a beautiful garden, but wherever you are in the world, you can go outside at night and look at the sky. This always cheers me up and calms me down. Like walking barefoot in the day, sitting up to watch the sunset or lying on the ground under the stars, is the best way to feel reconnected to the earth. It just makes me feel steady and still. Sometimes I feel like the day belongs to the people, and the night belongs to the animals. It feels a bit like trespassing to sit and enjoy it with them.

Dreams

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When I was a little kid I dreamed about being a writer. I also dreamed about being a mother and working with animals. All of these dreams have come true. But you never drop dreaming, or at least you shouldn’t. I dream of writing more books and of writing the one that sees me find true success. I also dream of owning a vintage VW Campervan. A real old style hippy bus. I’d like to live in it eventually and leave the house to the kids if they need it. But before that, I want to go travelling. I want to jump in the van every single weekend with the husband the kids and the dogs and go somewhere we have never been before. I want to work our way all around the UK and then move on to Europe. I want it to have crochet blankets and wind chimes and lots of cushions! We’ve been saving up for nearly three years now. It’s a family thing. we’ll get there one day!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my personal reasons to be cheerful list. There are so many more things I could have added it to it, like reading and writing, gardening and going to see live music. How about you? What cheers you up when the world feels like a scary place? What’s on your reasons to be cheerful list? Please feel free to comment and share!

Silence Is Dangerous

Warning; Political post. If that’s not your thing, you better scarper now. If you’ve had enough of politics, you’ve been given fair warning to scuttle off and ignore this. I’m not often political on here. I try very hard to keep politics from my Facebook author page too. On my personal page, not so much. But my other social media profiles, Twitter, Instagram etc, it is politics free. But sometimes I can’t stay silent. Sometimes it’s dangerous to do so. And if you think politics have nothing to do with my books, you’d be wrong too. All of my books revolve around social issues, one way or another. To give you an example, the book that I am currently submitting, The Tree Of Rebels, is set in a future based on my fears for where we are heading as a society, and the next book after that, Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature is a story about a mother and son in a low socio-economic position, and how they struggle to survive fear and despair. The book I have just started the third draft of, A Song For Bill Robinson, is also mildly political in nature, as one of the main storylines is the threatened closure of the community centre due to local Government spending cuts. For me, as a human and as a writer, these issues are real and they are happening. But I digress…

I get it if you’re fed up with politics. I really do. I’m fed up too. Believe me. I wish I could do what so many others seem to be able to master. I wish I could plug my ears, close my eyes, bury my head and build a little happy bubble around me. Really, please believe me, I am as sick of politics as the next person. It’s literally doing my head in. First, we had the General Election in 2015 here in the UK. In a shocking twist, the Tories beat Labour. Then we had Brexit. More drama, more division, more hatred, and another shocking twist. Then there was the US Election. And Trump. Don’t even…. ugh. So I do understand. It’s been horrendous. (Unless you’re happily sat on the extreme right and aren’t scared by the threat of World War Three or climate and planetary destruction that is, in which case it’s not been horrendous for you at all.)

But for those of us who are scared, disappointed, angry, confused, it has been a horrible few years. We are all sick of it and we all want to turn off the TV, avoid social media, tell people not to talk politics, and declare areas as politics free.

But it’s not quite that easy, though oh how I wish it was.

You see, politics is very, very interested in you.

Politics affects everything, from the roads you drive on, to the very air you breathe. And I feel like this; if you are lucky enough right now to not be affected by Tory policies, if you are fortunate enough that you do not need to rely on the NHS, on state education, on fair rents, on mental health or social care, then lucky you. That’s brilliant. You won’t be affected by the vicious cuts in place or those to come. It would be nice if you could spare a thought for those that are, such as the millions of children who will be suffering increased class sizes or shorter school days, once the next round of cuts to education sets in. But if you can’t even do that, then please think about the air you breathe and the planet you live on. Think about the future of this planet under the rule of a Government who have increased taxes on solar and wind power, and are in favour of fracking despite the local communities saying no. This is not our planet. It belongs to those we leave it to. Our children and their children.

And if we stay silent, because the truth scares us, or because it upsets us or keeps us awake at night, then surely we are playing into their hands and giving them the subservient and docile electorate they want. If we do not speak up for those who are suffering, what does that say about us? Who will speak up for us when we are suffering?

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I wish I could ignore politics. It invades my life and gives me sleepless nights where my brain aches and my guts churn. It makes me angry and desperate on a daily basis. It makes me cry when I am alone walking the dogs. It makes me worry about the future of my children, their education, their future jobs and homes. Their planet. It affects me on a daily basis because I am reliant on the NHS, on the state education which is being destroyed as we speak. It affects my 9-year-old son in ways that distress us all. It makes me look at my 2-year-old and feel intense guilt for even choosing to bring him into this world.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is, a politics-free world would be nice and avoiding politics would be refreshing, but I feel like this is dangerous. Silence is dangerous. Silence allows these terrible things to continue. Believe me, they will take your silence as silent agreement. We have to speak up and speak out. Even if it hurts us to do so, even if it angers us to argue and debate with people, even if we are left with disappointment and despair. We are not sheep or cattle. We are thinking, feeling, creative beings and despite what they want you to believe, it is not natural to human nature or behaviour to leave people behind, to allow cruelty, to turn our backs. Society works when we all look after each other. We would not have got this far as a species if individualism and selfishness had always been the order of the day.

I know this post will alienate some followers. I fully expect to be unfollowed by some, ignored by others. That’s fine. That’s a risk I’m happy to take. It’s got to the stage now that it’s dangerous to shut up and keep quiet. Too much is at stake now. It’s not even funny anymore. Personally, when it all hits the fan, I want to know I can look my children in the eye and say I tried. I fucking tried.

The society the Tories are building right now horrifies and offends me. And I won’t shut up about it. I will argue and debate with anyone who is up for it. And I will continue to weave the ordinary stories of ordinary people into my books so that they may have a voice there too.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you how to vote. But I am going to warn you that silence is dangerous and turning your back on what’s going on in this world right now is very, very wrong.

 

Guest Post by Author Joel R Dennstedt

This month’s guest post comes from my good friend and indie author Joel R. Dennstedt. When I asked Joel if he would like to write a guest post for my blog, I told him it could be anything from fiction, to an opinion piece, as long as it was somewhat along the lines of my glorious outsiders theme. If you don’t already know what a glorious outsider is, think about the kind of person who doesn’t fit in and never tried to. Someone who turns their back on the mainstream in order to think for themselves. Someone who speaks their mind and stands up for what they believe in, even if this makes them unpopular or ignored. Joel wrote me this fantastic and emotive piece, and with the US election about to take place, this seemed the perfect time to post it. Note, these are Joel’s opinions from his own experiences in life. I admire him greatly as an author and as a person. Thank you, Joel.

As I write this from my hostel in Rancagua, Chile, the United States is but a fading memory.

I grew up in the States. I was born there. I was an American.

Although my passport says differently, I am no longer a U.S. Citizen.

I claim the world as my place to be; I claim to be a man-at-large within the world.

I have no home.

Everything I own I carry with me in a backpack and a duffel.

How did this situation come to be? Why did it come to be? Why am I to die while traveling across this vast and awesome globe called Earth? Why am I – at sixty-seven – finally a contented man?

In the fall of 2011, my older brother came to me and said, “I am leaving the United States to live in Merida, Mexico.” He was recently retired and not-so-coincidentally divorced. He is a traveler at heart, with the soul of a 19th Century explorer. He was off to see the world. “After Merida,” he said, “I am going everywhere.”

Take me with you,” I said.

We both worked for a bank. The worst of banks. The one perhaps most responsible for the huge financial meltdown of 2008. The one resulting from the most egregious and criminal corruption I had witnessed in a lifetime.

In the spring of 2012, we left.

More than 4 years later here we sit in Chile, waiting to make our next move – a foray into Argentina. He has made himself into a superb photographer; I have made myself into a writer. We have no intention of returning to the States to live. Ever. That is not a country to make me proud. That is not a country where I can afford to live. That is not a country for an old writer. If you read the news, you know that ignorance and corporate power now rule a country once proud to be most free and democratic. You know that an entire generation is mind-locked to its phones. You know that a national philosophy rests on pre-emptive war-making and virulent anti-immigration. Self-indulgence, self-assertion, and selfies rule the day. My oldest friends have become monsters. Not one person in a thousand could tell you where Merida, Mexico is located; I did not know, until we left to go there. Americans – as they arrogantly call themselves – do not know much about other cultures. They do not know the histories of the world, much less their own. They do not believe they come from genocidal forebears. They live in a fantasy of someone else’s making, which very few resist. Simply, I cannot be with them anymore.

That does not make me a better man than they.

That does, however, make of me a most contented one.

When I was a young child, almost in prophetic foresight of the man I would become, I refused to say the obligatory pledge of allegiance to our flag. I like to believe I felt the country had to earn my allegiance, not demand it. And if I ever had it, I left it far behind. The country has certainly not earned such blind allegiance, if ever it had the right to claim it. And those who now claim to be patriots disguise their lack of insight and discrimination (not the kind they act out) with shallow phrases, mindless affirmations, and aggression as a virtue in itself.

That is not a country meant for me.

And so, tetherless in a world defined by rampant nationalistic pride, where every unit of humanity defines itself by origin and would hope to rid the world of every other, I move about with conscious non-allegiance to anyone but myself – a severely selfish act of vanity and pride; no better than the rest.

Except … the country I am looking for is nowhere special.

A world as witnessed by early humans – the indigenous people.

And maybe by long-term travelers.

And especially by those who read a lot.

Author-Journalist-World Traveler

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Thank you Joel! Don’t forget, The Glorious Outsiders is open to submissions for guest posts! I am looking for anything to do with writing or reading, or opinion/blog style pieces as well as stories/poems etc on the theme of being an outsider!