When You’re Climbing Mountains

We all dream of having wings and perhaps the ability to fly,
but when a man’s wings take him to the top of the world
he has no further to go and begins to look down.
He looks down on less trivial things and they begin to appeal
more so than his abilities to build new worlds
as he feels he loses interest in conquering new challenges.

Perhaps this can relate to more than just myself. I frustrate myself as a writer, I’ll be honest with you. Without sounding full of myself I know I have undoubted talent and an ability to find inspiration in hard to reach places and make something special out of ordinary fragments of kindling. What frustrates me is maybe a ridiculous idea of desire to achieve. My competitiveness and desire, whilst good for a writer to have, often leave me losing faith with myself temporarily and wanting constant success. Success is something I’ve attained, and whilst I tell myself it has dwindled deliberately as I take my time with projects and leave myself without stress, it can’t be denied I have achieved little in the last year.

So, as a man stands at the top of his conquered mountain he has options: Climb back down and start to climb another or sit on his pedestal and milk it for all it’s worth. I regularly find myself somewhere in between these two options and that in its essence is what is frustrating. I’m hoping readers can relate to this as I have reached this conclusion myself after a year or so going between the two ‘options’. Ideas come to me regularly and often I have faith in them, but shelf them. Sometimes this is to return to the ‘massive project’ when I have the discipline, time and fully-formulated plans and admitting this makes me embarrassed as I know I have all of these (perhaps the latter less so, but this develops as you work, right?). Perhaps the truth is that I simply don’t push myself to give these ideas a good go. Lets face it- if I have an idea that could change the face of literature for ever I wouldn’t just let it sit in the back of my mind for a couple of years would I?

It’s now almost 5 years since I got an idea for a novel, one I went with strongly and created fragments of for a successful University portfolio only to ‘shelf’ as I developed my talents for poetry and short fiction. Once Tears From Abaddon was released I had my study walls covered in post-its as fragments, ideas and notes for the novel- keenly anticipating its completion and the next success in my life. A few months down the line and I hadn’t bothered making a go of it but not to worry my idea developed into something spectacular and I spent days planning something I knew could be special. That was last New Year. Don’t get me wrong, over the last year I’ve continued to develop the idea further (I now feel it really really really has legs!!) and discuss it with intention to carry it out, but the point remains I haven’t. And that won’t do.

Blueprints is coming along nicely because I did the right thing in allowing myself pressure-less time to carry out the project but failed to realise I need to be putting stuff (mainly myself) out there all of the time. I plan to change that in 2015 and not be content letting my reputation go before me. It’s time for the prince to become king or stop bothering.

If you’ve made it this far congratulations!! Sorry to have taken so much of your time but I hope you can take away a message. We as writers, or in fact we as human beings in any career, must keep finding challenges to conquer. It’s about what you did lately whilst you’re alive and I want everyone to keep pushing themselves to be the best, otherwise someone will take your place. Get out there today and find a new chapter to write, a new beginning to commence and a new mountain to climb.

The Small Stuff

So I’ve been lying awake in bed for hours now, as usual. There are several reasons for this. Number one being that there’s a massive storm going on outside and my room is an attic room meaning I’m lying about a foot from the roof and it’s loud, as are the bed springs which creak each time I breathe. Secondly, this is a rare occasion where I’m sleeping apart from my girlfriend which is always an unusual feeling. Thirdly I’ve been ill all week so my stomach’s got me on edge. But the most important reason and the most irritatingly familiar one is that I can’t turn my mind off.

I suppose what I’m trying to do is define myself. What makes me who I am? What motivates and inspires me? I’m not necessarily thinking ‘writing’ here- but life in general and I guess they’re linked. What’s great is when I think about it my life is pretty good at the moment, especially in comparison to how it was when say, I left school several years ago, or University a couple later. I’ve gone from being (largely) overweight to being in pretty good shape, I’ve got a promising writing career ahead of me, including two books and a couple of awards behind me and my personal life is fantastic. Despite being unwell over the last month or two I’ve managed to quit smoking too, a little bonus. I guess you’d say that these are the ‘big’ things in my life and they’re going well, but I’ve been over-thinking the little things. It’s the little things that give you inspiration to write, make you smile at random points during the day. It’s the little things that happen that make us laugh- a joke being shared, that book you’re enjoying reading that you can’t wait to tell someone about, that television show that you dash home for. We forget that while these ‘little’ things give us things to talk about, it’s the ‘big’ things that keep us alive.

I know I’d never have been able to write a lot of the things I have done over the years if not for those. I mean, fuck, if my life hadn’t sucked when I was penning the pieces for These Waters, God knows what would have happened. I wouldn’t have had that book published, I know that much!! Sure, I write about the little things too. Last week I wrote a poem about a painting I found interesting for example. I’ve made a poem out of a yellow flower. I’ve used the story of Lucifer and Salome. But without being shit on in life and writing Cigarettes In The Snow, quite honestly, poetry would never have happened for me. At this point I was at University studying creative writing in general and until about 8 months earlier had never written a poem or considered liking one in my life. I was 19 at this point and I’m 21 now!! I’d not long started dicking about writing poems along with short fiction for my first blog when it clicked with that piece.

I just don’t think life can move forward with just the little things. You know that saying ‘don’t sweat the small stuff?’- I’d never had a second thought about it until tonight. During my overly long, and possibly to you- boring, thought process I got thinking about ‘small victories’- you know the sort, the little bonuses you get during the day that make it a good one or perhaps the moment in which you feel smug having shown yourself to be better than someone else in whatever way.

Having been thinking back to when I was fat (by the way I really was huge as a teenager) I recalled the many occasions over the last few years where I’d ran into someone who I maybe hadn’t seen since leaving school, people who didn’t give my existence a second thought. So often they’ve came up to me, shook my hand, gave me a hug, whatever, and told me how great I looked (i.e. you used to be fat, Jord, remember? You’re actually quite good looking under all that flab, though, aren’t you?). For a moment, that’s a good feeling. There I am being awed by someone who I (more often than not) have a reason to hold a grudge against, but then when you think about it it’s not a little victory. If this person’s opinion mattered to me at all then they’d have been made aware over the last few years that I was looking good now. The people who need to know this do already.

What is important is enjoying the big things in life. I can write all day about my personal life for example, but whilst some scenery I pass may be pretty enough for a poem or a joke I see on twitter may be worth a retweet, the moment passes straight away and it’s never as special second time around. However life is there for, well, a lifetime. It can inspire every day and it does should you let it. I never thought I’d be giving this type of advice, and trust me; if you know me personally you wouldn’t either.

Sorry to go on and on for something I could have said in a few lines, but I needed to bore myself to sleep.

Dreams are possibilities.

Today’s Inspiration

I’m currently attempting to write the forward and blurb type things for TFA. I really don’t understand, still, how in our field the writing is the easy part. The hardest part is undoubtedly the promoting side: writing bios etc, where I find trying to balance shameful self-promotion and not sounding like a self-loving tool is near enough impossible. All you ever want to say is ‘I’ve written this, if you like it then fantastic, if not- no worries’- but you can’t do that. It’s all one big drama, every time you’re asked to do it.

Nevertheless, I plod along towards acknowledgements, this part is a little easier. Naturally, cover designers, reviewers, critiques, friends, family etc have all played their respective parts. You could also probably thank your inspirations, the greats you look up to who make you want to reach their levels of success. At the end of the day, you wouldn’t be where you are if not for them. In my case I’d like to meet Wilde, Poe, Stoker et al and shake their hands. I’d also kind of like to meet Shakespeare, because although I’m no fan and his works have been the causes of misery throughout my academic life, I’d be comfortable should my poetry become so well known that kids study them as his in years to come. There’s that wonderful irony stuff again.

Anyway, when I was thinking about this I realised that I had heard from an idol of mine way back when my journey as a writer began. Back in the Winter of 2011, I had my first ever short story published and in the same week got an unexpected reply from my (still) favourite author, Christopher Ransom. I could even call him ‘Chris’. I saved his email as it meant a lot to me. He talked about his journey to becoming a published writer, inspirations, motivations and so much stuff yet I was overwhelmed enough just to have the reply to begin with. And now, as I finish the poetry chapter of my life (for now at least) and try my hand at his field of horror fiction I have revisited that message and realise how subconsciously I have stuck to his advice whilst writing TFA. He ended by wishing me luck with my writing and the best for the holidays. I thought I’d share a couple of extracts from what he said to me as an inspirational post.

‘My own tenure as an aspiring writer was not so long ago and, in fact, feels as though it is still ongoing.  I suppose the reason is that we never stop aspiring, not if we care about our jobs and our readers and hope to bring something new to the table each time out’.

‘I spent 15 years writing fiction before I published The Birthing House, a manuscript that received over 60 rejections from various agents before my agent sold it to St. Martin’s Press.  Persistence and patience are everything in this game, but if you nourish your talent and refuse to give up, you will find success’.

I’ll just add to that and sum it up.
‘Dreams are possibilities’.