Becky says things about … writer’s block

My dearest, loyal listeners. I have abandoned you. I have shunned, rejected, deserted you.

You see, listeners, the unthinkable has happened: I can’t think of anything to say.

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Yes, I have been struck by the writer’s worst nightmare: the dreaded Writer’s Block.

Initially my desertion of this blog was due to my focussing on writing my novel, which was going spiffingly: I’ve bumped the bastard thing up by 40,000 words since January. But then the writing slowed to the pace of a drunk arthritic slug, and then the ideas shrivelled away like a drunk arthritic slug that’s fallen into a puddle of salt.

So instead I thought I’d focus on my blog.

But then I realised I had no ideas for that, either.

The chamber of ideas was sadly lacking.

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There is no writer on earth who hasn’t succumbed to writer’s block. It is, to employ a phrase commonly used to describe the experience, a right old bollocks. It makes you feel incapacitated, because you can’t do what you know you’re supposed to be doing. Imagine if footballers suddenly couldn’t remember how to football, or singers stepped on stage and didn’t know why they were there?

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You feel like you have to start all over again. You have to rediscover your skills, which have crumbled to a pile of rubble, and lug out the most tremendous energy to retrain yourself to do what you hope you can still do. Writing suddenly becomes the most hopeless pursuit in the world. The pressure to get back into it grows to an impossible weight. Picture this: Christopher Wren starts building St Paul’s Cathedral. Everything’s going swimmingly, he’s at the top of his game, it’s a feat of architectural magnificence rarely seen… and then he gets builder’s block. He can’t go on. He runs out of ideas, his motivation dies a terrible, humiliating death, and he really doesn’t know what to do.

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Is writer’s block borne from external distractions? Does it have anything to do with the fact I subscribed to Netflix a few months ago? Maybe. Instead of writing I have binge-watched the entire three seasons of House of Cards, without once, I might add, having a clue what was going on.

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Instead of writing I’ve gone to the pub. Instead of writing I’ve painted my nails. Instead of writing I’ve searched for unobtainable properties on Rightmove.com, I’ve fiddled with my phone, with my laptop, I’ve googled ‘eye make-up tips for blue eyes’ and ‘documentaries about natural disasters’, I’ve trawled through Buzzfeed’s backlist of articles about cats. I’ve done literally anything to avoid thinking about the fact that I can’t think of anything.

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And as if the actual experience of writer’s block wasn’t irritating enough, the remedy is even worse: writers say that the only way to get over writer’s block is to write.

That’s like telling someone with no legs that the only way to get some legs is to walk to the leg shop.

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But I do feel a little better for just writing this blog, despite the fact that even these few words have been a struggle. Getting these words out has been like dredging a pond full of scummy water (which is a phrase I use in my novel. See, I’m recycling my own words because I can’t think of any new ones. I’ve stooped lower than whale shit (which is also a phrase I use in my novel. I’m doomed)).

So, hopefully, if I keep dredging the pond, I’ll get to the nice, verdant, mossy bottom, and that mossy bottom will, hopefully, produce ideas and words which will flourish into a veritable oasis of creativity and joy and if I haven’t drowned in the puddle of my own analogies by that time, I will, hopefully, be able to do some ruddy writing.

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Becky says things about … hobbies

As, splendid Listener, I have just turned 30, WHICH WE SHALL QUICKLY GLOSS OVER WITH THE SPEED AND STEALTH OF A RABBIT TRAINED IN NINJA SKILLS, I feel I should mark the beginning of a decade by taking up a new hobby.

I’ve never been very good at hobbies. I have always admired and/or detested those folk who answer a ‘What are you doing this weekend?’ question with ‘Oh, I’m going rally car racing then I’m foraging for fossilised mountain goat horns. It’s my hobby, you know.’ That sounds so impressive.

Back in the day when you had to put your hobbies on your CV (or resume for my American buddies), I had to reel off sad banalities like ‘going to the cinema’ or ‘reading’ or ‘socialising’; I was never able to write ‘alpine belly sliding’ or ‘taxidermy’, which was a shame.

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I tried photography for a bit in my teens, which was pleasant, but once I’d filled an entire photo album with slightly blurred pictures of sunsets and close-ups of flowers, there wasn’t much else to do apart from occasionally look at them and wish I knew what an aperture was.

I once played badminton two Tuesdays in a row, so that was nearly a hobby.

As a very small child, I collected stamps with one of those magazine subscription offers that try to get kids interested in wholesome pastimes instead of plummeting into a life of drug abuse and prostitution. I got a stamp book, some tweezers and a magnifying glass (which I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with, as I could see the stamps perfectly well using my normal eyes), and I quite enjoyed myself; but then I saw my friend’s rock and precious stone collection from National Geographic magazine, and my stamps became a vicious symbol of my inability to judge the excitement levels of a hobby.

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Then I thought I’d take up ice skating. My aunt took me on my first trip to an ice rink, and I, filled with confidence at the simplicity of figure skating because I had watched Torvil and Dean in the 1994 Winter Olympics, decided I would take it up as a hobby and become brilliant and move to Switzerland and compete in skating tournaments. Then I put on a pair of ice skates, spent 15 minutes clutching for dear life onto the side of the rink, and quietly crossed off this diabolical recreation and cursed my physical ineptitude.

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I am currently sitting in front of a list of hobbies on Wikipedia, so let’s see if I can draw some inspiration for my new hobby.

Electronics. Well, I turned on the bathroom light earlier, then about four minutes later I turned it off again, and I’m currently using electrical gadgetry to use my laptop and cook my cod fillet – hell, I’m already doing electronics as a hobby and I didn’t even realise it!

Jigsaw puzzles. Now, I love a jigsaw. My Funnybones puzzle gave me many hours of pleasure as a child. But surely you can’t do a jigsaw puzzle every night. I’m certain that after a while it would affect your day-to-day life.

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World-building. According to Wikipedia, world-building is ‘the process of constructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a whole fictional universe’. If that is the case, then I spent most of my childhood engaged in this hobby every time I opened my BIG RED BOX OF LEGO DREAMS.

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Hula-hooping. I cause enough damage to objects and people around me when I’m standing still, let alone when I’ve got a giant wheel of death spinning round my torso at 3,000 miles an hour.

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Wood-carving. I do not have the urge to see a particular object represented in wood. More to the point, I can’t peel a carrot without slicing off five layers of skin, so hacking away at a block of oak means certain amputation.

Soap-making. I buy soap in the shops. They sell it in shops.

Archery. Listen, unless you are Robin Hood, or at least live in Nottingham and regularly get into scrapes with the local Sheriff, you shouldn’t be anywhere near a bow and arrow.

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LARPing (live action role playing). I think I’m already doing this hobby: I quite often pretend I’m being chased so that I’ll walk faster and thus get home quicker. Also, when I’m listening to music, I almost always pretend I’m in a film (the genre of which depends on the type of music, it goes without saying). So, one hobby I can tick off the list!

Rock-balancing. Rock balancing. It’s an actual thing. And I’ve just spent nine minutes looking at pictures of it on Google images. It’s like an extreme yet almost meditative outdoor Jenga. I like the sound of it. I’m going to take it up right now. In the absence of any rocks in my bedroom, I’m going to balance my favourite mug on top of a lipstick on top of a glass of Merlot on top of a picture of my grandmother.

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It’s a stupid hobby and I don’t want to do it anymore.

Well, maybe I won’t take up a new hobby. Oh no wait… people watching! That’s a hobby? You mean all the hours I’ve spent staring at strangers and silently making up personalities and histories for them and eavesdropping on their private conversations, is actually a hobby??? Hurrah! I’ll just keep doing that, then. I wonder if I’ve still got that magnifying glass from my stamp collecting days…

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Becky says things about … THE BOOK IS HERE!

Darlings, it’s here!

This Ridiculous Life, the book I have penned and self-published myself, which is a fabulously spruced-up and revamped collection of some of the things I’ve said on this blog – as well as some lovely NEW things – is back from the printers!! Look:

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Click on ‘Buy This Ridiculous Life’ right up at the top of this page, and buy This Ridiculous Life.

Look, Stickman’s been standing out in the cold for ages – at least make his endeavours worthwhile.

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Thank you, dear Listeners. Thank you.

Becky says things about … publishing a book

Oh, sweet, patient Listeners. I have not entered the hallowed sphere of blogging for over two months.

But I have an excellent excuse.

No, I have not been trapped in my wardrobe after burrowing too far into it in an attempt to locate Narnia – I have been SELF-PUBLISHING A BOOK.

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Yes, dearest Listeners, I have been working on adapting some of the things I’ve said on this blog into a book, along with quite a lot of lovely new things to say especially for said book. It’s a book about the silliness of human existence: everything from monstrous things about working in an office, commuting, failed exercise attempts, bad habits, hangovers, to being a rubbish woman, the dentist and getting old.

The book is at the printers as we speak. I have just had to re-do my front cover, having realised – o, the horror – that

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Once the cover has been cleansed of this heinous rogue typeface, it shall be printed. I should have it early next week.

Here is a sneak preview of the front cover:

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Look! Lots of little stickmen on the front of a book!

Soooo…. this totally means that you can BUY this book JUST IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS!! How utterly brilliant is that?

You will be able to buy the book on here (once I work out how to set up a payment thing whatsit), and what a brilliant Christmas present! Buy it and shove it in someone’s Christmas stocking – OR treat yourself to the best toilet book you’ll ever buy.

I wrote this book because of you lot – you kept telling me I should turn my blog into a book, and now I’ve only gone and done it… so basically, it’s all your fault. Hurrah!

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Oh for God’s sake.

Yes, okay – sigh – Listeners, this book also features the star of the show, Stickman, using his best acting skills to get himself into all sorts of situations and illustrate my points far better than I could ever do using words alone. He has been an integral part of this project, and if he hadn’t been heavily involved I would be a miserable, wretched failure. He is literally the most prolific stick ever to be involved in a literary work of art, and I urge you to purchase this book for his stunning performance alone.

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Well I’ve done all right so far, Sticky.

So that’s it folks, watch this space… save a bit of cash for that last Christmas present (or the first Christmas present if, like me, you thought it was still April and literally cannot believe that OH MY GOD IT’S DECEMBER AND MY LIFE IS TRICKLING AWAY BEFORE MY VERY EYES) – and buy a silly little book full of words about our silly little life.

 

 

Becky says things about … things YOU want me to say

RIGHT.

Darling listeners, it’s happened.

After over two years of saying things about things and other things, the unthinkable has occurred.

I HAVE RUN OUT OF THINGS TO SAY.

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Yes, I admit it. Right now, there is more action in a home for elderly tortoises than there is in my brain.

SO.

I have decided, rather than say half-hearted things to you about my elbows or how I feel about Tuesdays, to ask YOU what I should say.

I’ve toyed with this idea for a few months, but feared it was rather self-indulgent – after all, it rather assumes that you CARE what I say – but to hell with it, I think it sounds like fun, and I like a challenge.*

(*I actually don’t, I hate a challenge. Failure is so, so real.)

So, my most cherished, adored, heavenly listeners, I would like you to tell me

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– yes, all right, tell me and Stickman, what you would like me to say things about. Or, if you are a grammar fiend, about what you would like me to say. The choice is yours. The result should hopefully be the same.

COME ON, TELL ME! ANYTHING!! Knock me out with your suggestions! Let me put Stickman in awkward and embarrassing positions!

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Shut up Stickman, you’d be nothing without me. Literally nothing. You exist because I own a mouse and a steady hand.

Every week for an indeterminate number of weeks I shall endeavour to use one of your suggestions and say things about what you want me to say, with, obviously, a lovely link to your excellent blog.

HOW BRILLIANT DOES THAT SOUND??? I don’t know why I didn’t do this before!*

(*I know exactly why I didn’t do this before: because there is a very real chance that a) I won’t be able to say ANYTHING about ANY of your suggestions, and b) no one will make a single ruddy suggestion in the first place, but I shall neatly side-step these problems by just remaining very, very silent for 6 months and then bounce back as if nothing has happened and we shall never speak of it again.)

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Let’s DO this thing.

TELL ME.

WHAT SHALL I SAY THINGS ABOUT???

 

Becky says things about … a letter to my creative self (aka ‘Bertha’)

Dearest and most glorious Listeners: I have said things on the wonderful River Ram Press blog this week.

If you’d just like to follow Stickman’s directions and click on the link below, the most marvellous things will happen.*

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YES, HERE

*You will be directed to River Ram Press where I have said things. If this isn’t marvellous, I don’t know what is.

Becky says things about … being a writer, dammit

Before I say anything new, most beautiful listeners, I want to say a heartfelt thank you for your wonderful comments following my post on the rubbishness of eating disorders. I have been overwhelmed, delighted, moved to tears, and inspired by the things you’ve said, and Stickman will now demonstrate my thanks through the medium of an interpretive dance.

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Rather avant garde, Stickman, but I’m sure they got the message.

Anyway, moving on.

I have decided, most darling Listener, to get off my arse. Figuratively, metaphorically, emotionally, mentally, creatively. Particularly the last one.

You see, I have been languishing on my arse for many, many years.

I want to be a writer.

I have wanted to be a writer since my mum stapled printer paper together, drew ruler lines on it, and encouraged me to write stories. My first book, written at the age of six, was the hit bestseller The Girl Who Would Not Go To Bed. This thrilling tale of a child’s rebellion against the rules enforced on her by society, received glowing reviews from my parents, and several of my teddy bears.

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I haven’t been totally pathetic in my endeavours to become a published writer. I am a published writer: I have a very tiny book of short stories published. I have two degrees in creative writing. I have a hard drive which is almost obese with stories, scripts, random splurges of writing and strange thoughts. But the thing that slouches like an overweight, slightly perspiring figure, waiting for someone to haul it out of its armchair and make it do some much-needed exercise, is my novel.

I came up with the idea for this novel seven years ago. I have been sporadically writing it for three, and it is progressing slower than an arthritic snail carrying heavy shopping. Why? Because I am a serial procrastinator, a daydreamer, a believer that my book will appear on bookshelves by merely thinking about it. And if all my thoughts became reality, heaven knows what else might occur.

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If you ever write anything, you will understand. Whether you take it seriously or not, whether you do it for a living or just want to paddle in the creative pond for shits and giggles (an excellent metaphor, and one for which I can almost definitely thank my two degrees), you will know that writing is superb. It’s fun, it’s rewarding, it’s absorbing, it’s almost magical: fully-formed human characters can somehow crawl out of your head onto the page and do stuff you didn’t even think you knew about; worlds can appear, events can occur that make you laugh, cry, or phone a psychologist.

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But if you know any of the above, you will also know that writing is a royal pain in the arse.

I mean, it really is a nightmare. Of all the hobbies and professions known to Mankind, nothing has generated a more dedicated breed of procrastinators, time-wasters and excuse-makers than writing. Writers will do anything to get out of the one thing they should be doing.

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Why is this? Is it because they’re scared of hard work? Is it because they are terrified of the blank page? Is it because a writer can plough away for hours, days, weeks, on a piece of writing, to emerge sweaty, exhausted, potentially bloodied, and realise with the crushing certainty akin to imminent death by falling anvil that every single word is a seeping, pus-filled, hopeless, repugnant pile of shit?

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For me, the answer to all of the above is YES, YES, AND THRICE YES.

All those things are genuine, tragic fears. That terrible, niggling worry that you are wasting your time, that you would be more productive trying to breed a haddock with a gorilla.

And it is those fears that have kept me rooted firmly on my arse for so many years. I have made a total of about £100 from my writing in my whole 28 and a half years (that half-year really sticks the knife in, doesn’t it?). Now that might be £100 more than some other people, but the point is I want to make a living from writing. I want to get on a train and see someone absorbed in my book. I want to hear people discussing it in cafes. I want bookshop employees to roll their eyes and moan ‘I’m so f***ing bored with this book’ when they open yet another box of my bestselling novel to stack onto the shelves.

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And none of that is ever going to happen if I continue to sit here and just think about it. If I continue to wander around listening to tracks on my iPod thinking ‘Wow, that would be an excellent track to play over the trailer of my bestselling novel-turned-blockbuster-movie’, if I continue to spend all my time daydreaming about glowing reviews in The Times and seeing my name on shortlists for coveted accolades, if I continue to basically do nothing, then my eventual result can best be illustrated by asking my friend, Mr Jack Shit, to simply stand here and look at you.

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Not a lot happened there, did it?

I will now ask my friend Stickman (who will quickly and imperceptibly change out of his Mr Jack Shit costume and back into his regular clothes) to illustrate what I should be doing:

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A veritable flurry of activity. Thank you Stickman.

So I’m going to do it. I’m going to get off my arse and write my bloody novel and become the writer I bloody well should be.

And you know what? You dudes have a lot to do with this sudden burst of let’s-get-the-heck-on-with-my-writing-life. You tell me I am good at writing, that I should keep doing it. Well, I’ve listened. And I’m unfathomably glad that I have, and I’m unfathomably grateful to you all for your encouragement and your lovely words. You faceless people around the globe, who could be serial killers or politicians for all I know, have helped me get off my arse. And for that I am eternally grateful.

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Looks like you’re wearing some kind of erotic burlesque corset there Stickman, but hopefully the sentiment will prevail.

So, writers of the world, WRITE!! If you have no problem with procrastinating, and are one of those terribly infuriating inspiring writers who rise at 5am, write for 4 hours, and then go to your day job a healthy, happy and productive writer – WELL DONE! Keep it up! If you are one of those procrastinators who would rather dissect the bowel of your own grandmother than sit down and open Microsoft Word – here is a little flash of inspiration that sparked inside my brain a few months ago (probably while I was dissecting my grandmother’s bowel), and which I now have cellotaped to my bedroom wall:

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