Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What's the difference between wanting to help and hating feeling used?

Things are looking positive with the publisher, so while sitting in the car waiting for my children I've decided on some time for reflection. Why have I not worked on my manuscript today? Because I've been busy doing things for other people. It's been 10 days since I made the decision not to take any thing else on. I've only two more things to do on my to do list, two more meetings to attend and then on Thursday I have a free day. I started this blog almost like a cognitive behaviour therapy to help me see my writing dreams as important, and to question why I get distracted by other tasks.

At the last Sunday service there was the call for volunteers. I sat on my hands while both my daughters jumped up and signed their names, I felt a mixture of pride and worry. They like me are always willing to jump up and help. My husband had come to watch the girls and he, as usual did not sign or feel guilty about not volunteering. I decided a couple of weeks ago when the black dog began to gnaw on my leg that I needed to stop and recoup.

The truth is I love helping people but I hate feeling used. But what is the difference? In both cases I'm helping people. But one feels awful and the other feels great. If “tis better to give than receive,” why would you feel used when you do just that?

I think one answer is that you feel used when you give involuntarily and useful when you give voluntarily. But how do you draw the line? It's not easy.

Over the past few weeks I have be sending a prepared reply email that basically says, I'm a bit down, a bit stressed and I can't help for a few weeks until I feel on more even ground. The response has been over a scale of

no response
are you okay is there anything I can do?
yeah I know you are down but you are the only one daft enough to volunteer for this task in the first place and I really need you to do it, you do did commit!
please, please, please, I won't ask again for at least three weeks and there is a packet of donuts in it
well you can't be that bad because I saw you in ASDA and you are writing your blog

If anyone who reads my blog recognises their email reply, it is not intended to insult anybody merely me reflecting on how not to get over whelmed with other people's tasks.

I saw a friend last Friday who told me that in the seven years she has known me she's never known me to ask someone else for help but I jump up the moment someone asks me. She said, 'do you think that because you find it hard to ask for help yourself, that you assume if someone else is asking they must really need it?'

It made me think. There is only one person in the world that I would say I have rarely seen ask or help and that is my younger sister. I think she has only ever asked me for help maybe one or two times in her whole life.

I think another problem for me is the hint game. This is how I frequently become overwhelmed. If someone asks directly, well then I have a chance to say yes or no in an assertive way. Most people involved in school and church activities know this, it is clear 'can anyone help run a stall?' You look in your diary and the answer is a plain yes or no. And then, you usually get a thank you. Yes you are volunteering your time to help children or raise money for a good cause, but a thank you is always nice. This is easier for me, and some of the nicest reply emails have come from church and voluntary groups. The hard one for me is the steady water torture of hints, if you say I can't help they bristle, 'I didn't ask you to' or 'I wouldn't have dreamed of asking' but you know they are. If you offer to help they take it but don't say thank you - why should they? They didn't ask you to help YOU OFFERED.

And then I begin to feel used, angry or upset. The scales of giving and taking lean heavy one way or the other. I complain and moan when in fact I am the one who gets into the trap all by myself. My old GP use to say to me while writing out a prescription that 'if I could say no and honestly not give a s*** what the other person thought he wouldn't need to give me pills.' I wasn't in a place to hear what he was trying to say all those years ago, but now I am beginning to see the sense in his words.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Counting Chickens

A wonderful and positive email came from an educational publisher today. They sent my manuscript out for peer review and teachers love it. In fact I had to get a big bar of chocolate, I can handle criticism but struggle with praise and the feedback from teachers was great. Not only that, they want me to revise my manuscript and start working on my next book. BRILLIANT or is it? No contract yet? No advance?

I'm excited. I haven't sold my novel but its a step in the right direction. I want to jump up and down and start writing Facebook comments about my publisher BUT, I've been here before. The horrible truth is you're not published until you're in print.

Deals fall over for all sorts of reasons, and I have learnt not to count your chickens. Here are some of the reasons I have fallen at the first jump.

There was a 'misunderstanding' when the publisher made me an offer for my book. I didn't get a publishing contract after all.

The publisher went bankrupt before my book is published.

My editor leaves or and her replacement hates my book and decides not to publish it.

The publisher is having a tough time and decides that they would lose money publishing your book, so cans it.

So no waving knickers in the air .... yet.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

How I may cause the end of the world.

This was to be a blog about learning to be selfish, making me time.

Where am I at this moment? Burnout and exhausted. I have all the annoying symptoms of being rock bottom, clumsy, cold sores, tired but not sleeping and of course making bizarre and silly mistakes.

Now here is the weird and wonderful thing about being human. I need to take time to recharge. So I have been reducing them amount of volunteering and general helpfulness. Well that's good I here you say. So why do I have a strange and uncontrollable fear that something terrible will happen when I finish my to do list.

I think I was about twelve when I started making lists, and yes I would even add things for the simple pleasure of crossing them off. Now you may also make lists - but do you put a date next to each item to tell you when the task MUST be completed? No? Then in my mind you are not a proper list maker. I even colour code my lists, red must be completed today, yellow next green last. I am not allowed to do a green task (which is usually something easy or fun) until all the reds and orange tasks are completed.

I’m not sure if list makers are more successful in life, but I believe they have more fun putting sticky notes on everything. But I do know that I now have five things left on my list, I can't remember it ever being in single figures. So why am I not jumping up and down with joy for actually finishing the list? Why is my heart pounding? Why am I gripped with the fear that something terrible will take place when I finally cross off the last item.

On the up side, if the world does end when I cross off my final task at least no one will know about it.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Portsmouth a city that welcomes writers

I was pleased to be invited by fellow hub member Jack Hughes to perform at his Pompey Writers: The Literary Culture & Heritage of Portsmouth event held on the 23rd April at The Square Tower. Especially since I'm a Lancashire lass myself.

All I was asked to do was a ten minute piece on a Pompey writer - easy - I mean there's lots to choose from Susannah Rowson; Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, H.G Wells and Sir Arthur Conan - Doyle. But it was so hard. I fought the desperate desire to jump on to The Hubs Facebook page and demand to know what everyone else was doing. The truth is I still feel like a foreigner. I still need to use my Sat Nav every time I drive into Portsmouth and I have never yet successfully managed to park in the city.

Despite having read lots of classics including most of Dickens work, I have to admit I prefer his work in the film format. So I decided on a tongue in cheek piece about his work and strange choice of character names. I wrote it confident that I would be able to edit and review it before the night but unfortunately life got in the way. I woke up on the 23rd with a thumping headache and a temperature of 39.5C. I longed to cancel but I know from experience, organising events like this are hard enough without people cancelling at the last minute, so kids in tow I managed to arrive late just missing the start of the talented Mr Matt Wingett in full Sherlock Holmes costume. It was fabulous to see some of the 20 x 20 crowd from the ReAuthoring Event. Christine Lawrence read from her book Caught in the Web. It was so different from her pre - ReAuthoring days, she owned the space, used prompts and made me wish I had spent more time on my own performance.

My youngest child was excited to see a book she had her eye on from Waterstones, The Amber Room, by Tom Harris and forced me to buy her a copy on the night because his reading left her gagging for more. She was hoping that Zella Compton would be reading from her book The Ten Rules of Skimming because she had missed her last reading due to a school holiday, but I was spell bound by her new poem written for the night. I always enjoy poetry reading, and the fabulous Maggie Sawkins from Tongues and Grooves did not let us down. There were zealous shouts of 'let's go for a curry,' when she was reading a piece about the many wondrous things you can do in the city. Once again I missed my opportunity to ask the incredibly talented Tom Sykes if he's had a collection published. I love the observations he makes in his writing, his ability to see the entire world in a gob stopper is unique.

I was also able to see some of the faces from The Hubs Facebook page perform in person, Lynne Blackwood and Anna Barzotti added an exotic feeling to the evening. I will certainly keep my eyes open for them reading again, they definitely left me wanting more.

They say you learn something new everyday and despite living down here for a number of years it was the first time I knew that Portsmouth 'apparently' has a bit of a bad reputation. I honestly thought Southerners only complained about the North of England. I'm still confused over what people could think is wrong with the place, it is on the South Coast which seems quite posh to me. It use to be called Spice Island very nice, it's loaded with history and lots of pretty spots. So that part of the evening was lost on me. I also found out that there is some sort of competition between Portsmouth and Southampton, which is probably due to sport - but I'm not sure of all the facts.

My first impression of Portsmouth has been from the people and there is a wonderful exciting writing community in this talented city ready to welcome any new faces with open arms.

The event was covered on South Today and Radio Solent

Friday, April 12, 2013

Writing about our sixth sense

We perceive the gross or seen world through the five physical senses (i.e. smell, taste, sight, touch and sound), our mind (our feelings), and our intellect (decision making capacity). Many people literally get a gut feeling before something bad happens. Our viscera warn us of danger even if our conscious mind doesn't always get the message.

At The Writers @ Lovedean this morning we discussed our experiences. Most of us have felt that extra perception but how would we express those strange feeling on paper? Tough one. One member a self confessed fainter at the sight of blood, couldn't explain how she could sometimes get a hurt relative to help before hitting the ground in a dead faint and at others was out for the count instantly. Why do we sometimes instantly like or dislike a person? How can we know if someone has been into the house when we have been out?

So after a good sharing of some weird moments in our life and trying to look for rational explanations we have decided to focus on trying to write a few paragraphs exploring how we feel or how our characters react to the following;

- meeting someone for the first time and taking an unexplained dislike to them
- the feeling someone is watching you
- when someone stands too close
- when a cat or dog responds to something in the room we can't see
- deja vu
- knowing the house is empty before you knock
- knowing someone has touched your things or have been in your room
- knowing who is on the telephone before answering the phone

Please feel free reader to have a go to.