So I’m failing on the writing front – having done surprisingly little fiction writing work since the beginning of the year, in fact – but I am at least succeeding on the “growing chilli plants” front, in that most of the seedlings I planted a few months back have resolutely failed to die, despite their sole source of care being me, a man whose plans today involved leaving early and going for a swim, but in reality involved a mini-pizza for breakfast and a stop at KFC on the way to the pub.
I’ve tried growing plants a number of times over the years, only to see the lot of them drop dead at a moment’s notice due to some combination of overwatering, underwatering, overfertilising, underfertilising, too little sunlight, and too much sunslight. Because plants are finicky little buggers who need to buck their ideas up and stop being entitled snowflakes. These guys seem to be still alive – and it feels suspiciously like someone’s rushed out to the plant-pound and replaced the seedlings with identical ones every time they die so I don’t get upset.
Whether they’ll live long enough to bear fruit, and for that fruit to ripen in my cold, cold rented house is anyone’s guess. But I’m already having to look into greenhouses, and even have elaborate plans to knock together a moving greenhouse so that I can actually use the one patch of sun in my garden from time to time rather than turning it over to some green scroungers on a full-time basis. Who knows, I’ll probably blog about it again.
I see my blogging has been as regular as ever.
Since I see I haven’t updated anything since the beginning of the year, I’ll preface this by pointing out that I haven’t exactly done much of interest since then. More running exams, more writing work that pays the shells off peanuts, and the occasional stint of making cushions and curtains, because life is occasionally bloody strange. See, the most interesting thing that’s happened lately is that my girlfriend has opened a shop in Manchester’s alternative marketplace, Affleck’s. Add that to her pub job, and we’ve not been getting to spend a great deal of time together lately, excluding when I’m hanging around the goth shop looking like the bloke sent down from maintenance to put up some shelves.
Thing is, up until yesterday, my laptop was in a bit of a state, and would overheat and shut itself down with any movement whatsoever, which is not what you’d call ideal for a piece of technology whose main selling point is portability. Regardless, it has meant that for some months now, I’ve not been able to get out of the house and take my work with me in the way that I would like, and have in fact been confined to a cold house so that my laptop doesn’t burn itself out half way through whatever work I was doing. But this week, the trusty thing finally gave up, and I was forced to buy a new one with the money I definitely don’t have. However, since my livelihood is almost solely dependent on being able to type… yeah, that was something of a necessary expenditure.
But it does mean that I can now venture out of the house with my laptop again the way it was meant to be – and as the days start to get warmer again, that means getting to work in pub beergardens again! Huzzah!
A new year, and already I’m ill with whatever it is that seems to be going around lately. It would have to be just when I’m busier than I’ve been in quite some time, wouldn’t it?
One of the things I’ve been loaning my corporeal form to is exam invigilation, which is an unusual job as these things go, whose main required skill is the ability to keep oneself occupied for long periods of time without succumbing to any form of existential anxiety and screaming your soul out as you claw the flesh from your face. Thankfully I’m rather more stable than that.
That aside, the most important skill is the ability to remain silent for three hours at a time. Which, thanks to the aforementioned illness, is proving to be the most difficult part of the job. Generally, I consider myself one of the very best at sitting in a quiet room and keeping myself occupied with a book and phone/tablet for long periods of time – unfortunately at the moment that’s been requiring tag-teaming with someone else while I quietly nip out into the corridor and cough up several of my major organs, and then make my eighth lemsip-or-brew of the day.
Irritatingly, it is this very coughing-myself-into-an-early-grave issue that’s also getting in the way of me actually doing anything with the large amounts of time that I’m spending sat alone. I could easily be planning a project, working on my social media presence or similar – and actually getting paid for it! – but instead I’m forever rushing out into the corridor to attempt to turn myself inside-out instead of doing anything that is in any way useful.
Tellingly, the most significant writing milestone thus far in 2018 has been a rejection email for a short story I submitted over two years ago. I did vaguely wonder if they had simply not bothered to read it – that is a bloody long turnaround, after all! – but in the end it turns out that they just didn’t like it very much. I’m not sure whether that’s reassuring, or just damning.
Still, with the year getting off to this kind of start, it can only get better, right?
I think I’m having something of an existential crisis.
See, I’ve been writing stories for years perfectly happily, but in the last few years, I’ve really started to delve into the theory of it all. There’s a lot of great material on the internet that makes studying this an absolute breeze. Brandon Sanderson, in particular, seems to genuinely enjoy helping new writers and teaching people about the art of writing, and his stuff is great.
The trouble is, the more I learn about how plots and narratives are constructed, the harder I find it to put one together. My mind just keeps telling me that what I’ve got is a string of scenes rather than a plot, no matter how closely they resemble a plot, my brain will simply tell me it’s not complete.
I’m pretty sure this is a paradox borne of some combination of the Dunning-Krueger effect and impostor syndrome, whereby the more I learn, the more I realise I don’t know. Unfortunately, this was largely the case with my Ph.D. studies as well, and the primary reason for my taking an interruption.
Let’s hope the same paralysis doesn’t set in here too, eh?
I’ve lived here since coming to university a decade ago now, and the city never ceases to amaze me. Since Manchester is home to three huge universities, as well as a few smaller academic institutions, there’s a big student vibe to the place. Not only that, but since the student population numbers somewhere around a hundred thousand, the summer months are a completely different world.
I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to live in a place that doesn’t have tides of students flooding the city in September, and leaving parts of it virtually empty in the summer. Of course, this is the best way around it – I’d rather have fewer people competing for space in the beer gardens when it’s gloriously hot, wouldn’t you?
But this isn’t about that Manchester, where beer gardens in converted Victorian warehouses overlook gently flowing canals, built to cater to many more residents than are in the city at the time. No, this is about the other Manchester on the other side of the tide, where thousands of eighteen year olds, freed from the yoke of their parents for the first time, arrive in the city simultaneously and proceed to get spectacularly plastered.
I can’t begrudge them for that – I did much the same myself – and it does eventually calm down. But for the first few weeks of new student arrivals? The student-heavy areas of the city are a sea of vomit and broken glass, and the bus routes are jam packed full of hammered idiots who haven’t the faintest idea how either buses or money work.
But you know what? I wouldn’t trade this for any other city. They turn up, they go nuts, and eventually they become a proper part of this living, breathing organism of a city.
So I’ve had this site for a few years now, and yet it feels like I’ve been neglecting the actual “blog” portion of it.
That’s largely because blogging isn’t actually as fun or interesting to write as fiction, and so I tend to skip over it. For someone like me, for whom a “schedule” is something that the rest of the world obeys and I tend to just drift straight past, the idea of knocking out a few paragraphs of something every week sounds perfectly sensible and easy in principle, but in practice it’s something that I’ll just plain forget to do.
But I’m making the effort. With liberal use of various reminders, alarms and scheduling tools, I’m actually going to make this blog a regular weekly blog. Who knows, I might even get around to writing some more Stories Behind Stories content as well.
The big issue that arises then is, well, what the hell do I blog about? Who cares about what I’m doing with my time? (Hint: it’s not much) Who cares what some unpublished writer on the internet reckons about writing?
Still, even if it’s a case of slamming my head on the keyboard a few times until some vague, half-formed stream of consciousness dribble falls out of it and forms some vaguely word-looking shapes on a screen near you, it’s more than I was doing previously.
I can’t promise you it’ll be good – but I can promise you it’ll be here.