These days, I’m less convinced about the existence of an afterlife than I used to be. What I have come to understand, however, is that eventually––some five billion years from now––our sun will destroy Earth.
Cheery stuff, which has got me wondering… what’s the point, if there even is one at all?
If you don’t believe in eternal life, but do know that not just your current life, but some day all life as we know it, will end then I think you could be forgiven for concluding that––ultimately––so much just… doesn’t matter.
And in a similar vein, albeit on a more personal, and incredibly smaller and less important scale: if no one is really buying your life’s work now, and your words don’t stand much chance of continuing to reach people after you’re dead, is there really any point in wasting your time?
As I said, I’ve been thinking about this. And good news, I’m not just writing this post to depress you, because I actually have a conclusion. It’s perhaps not a conclusion that will suit everyone, but I personally find it comforting.
But let’s back up a second while I tell you about this show Angel––I promise it’s on topic, just bear with me here. Continue reading →
I do not want to get into how 2022 went for me. It might be tied with 2010 for my Worst Year Ever TM, and the less said about that, the better. I will bust out a few stats, however, because you know I love stats. So…
I feel in a bit of a weird headspace right now. Life has been… interesting, as always. Many exciting projects. Many things falling apart. Much stress and exhaustion––you know, the usual.
I used to use this blog to get into the nitty-gritty of all of that. The exact specifics of what I was working on, the struggles I encountered along the way, and how I was feeling about all of it.
I miss that, and would like to get back to blogging a bit more. But, at the same time, I’m hesitant to address the harder stuff I’ve encountered this year as a bunch of it still feels too raw. I feel like I need the distance of time before I can talk about it, so I don’t feel quite so vulnerable. But also, I’m very aware that the things I want, and probably need, to talk about don’t just affect me, and that makes me nervous.
Earlier this year I wrote a blog post that was about my own personal growth and journey, that just mentioned someone else in passing, and that person––whom I love deeply––was hurt by my mention. And although it was a complete misunderstanding, my intentions don’t matter much. If they’re hurt then they’re hurt, and I’m sorry.
I’ve been fairly gun-shy on getting too personal ever since, and now I feel a little in limbo. Not sure what to do.
I know most things never go completely to plan, what with life getting in the way at every turn, but my gosh has the first half of 2022 been the opposite of what I hoped for. Thinking on it as a whole, I’m left feeling disappointed for opportunities I reached for and didn’t get, and frustrated for projects I didn’t complete. Looking part that into the details, however, I can see there were good points, too.
In the first half of this year I:
Wrote 65,000 words––considerably less than I usually pen in six months, but still sixty-five thousand words!
Attempted Veganuary for the first time (and did better than I expected)
Got the third Belfast Writers’ Group Anthology out into the world (FINALLY!)
Published the first Perilla Magilla book for CL Scott
Became a moderator of Elysian Fields, an online fan fiction archive of almost 25,000 members
I also lost pretty much the entirety of my June to COVID––but I was fully vaccinated and I’m still here to tell my story, so I have that to be thankful for.
My Goodreads Goal is on track (11 books read off my total of 20 for the year), and I have been working on my art, as planned.
I’ve had art mentoring sessions via Zoom that were really helpful, completed a bunch of Skillshare classes that were also really good, and attended some in-person art classes that were… let’s just say not up to the standard of the Zoom and Skillshare lessons.
So a mixed bag! Maybe not even too bad, considering. You might be wondering why I’m feeling so down about the year so far, all considered, and to answer that, I point you at the three things still currently in the pipeline for 2022:
Life Lessons: Book Two in my YA Trilogy
Girl Imperilled: My Short Story Collection
An Art Zine
I had planned to have all three of these published by now, and if things had worked out, I’d currently be writing book three of my trilogy, but that’s been pushed to next year.
Which is frustrating, as I’ve said, but I’m also trying to be gentler with myself this year. One of my goals was to actually chill more, and I think I’m maybe a little better on that front. Either way, we’re now in July, having crossed over into the second half of the year, and I’m considering it a fresh start.
Recently, I became a moderator of Elysian Fields, a fan fiction archive that focuses on the relationship between Buffy and Spike (aka Spuffy) and has around 25,000 members at the time of writing this. Not long after that, the mod team were asked if we wanted to be interviewed as part of an article for Polygon. A few of us said yes and that article is now live, which can be read here.
I hadn’t wanted to do the interview via Zoom but instead wrote to the author of the article, Katie. Below is what I said in full.
I’ve been very public about writing and enjoying fan fiction, to help counteract the taboo some people feel about it. As with many other taboos, I never really ‘got’ why people felt shame about it. But that’s perhaps off-topic.
What draws me to fanfic, in general, is satisfaction. Either I’ve seen a really great movie or read a great book and want more, or I’ve been left frustrated by something and feel the need to fix it somehow. I’m a massive control freak, so fixing things that others wouldn’t consider broken is kind of my jam haha. Outside of fan fiction, I write novels and poetry and short stories set in my own worlds, so words are very much how I relate to everything.
In 2019/2020 I did an English Literature course that required me to read A Streetcar Named Desire, and the ending left me so upset I went home and wrote an epilogue that offered a grain of hope for at least a couple of the characters. I’ve done that in a few different fandoms, but for the most part, my heart is with Buffy. As to why, I’ll need to give a little background.
I was fourteen when the show ended in 2003––such a pivotal and transformative time in a lot of people’s lives. I was navigating what it meant to be a teenager in the modern age while living with parents who considered so much of society evil, from the music on the radio to the shows on TV. That included Buffy––and even tamer things, like Sabrina the Teenage Witch and the first Harry Potter films. I wasn’t allowed to watch any of it. But, given the effects of a, frankly, negligent and emotionally abusive upbringing, I did not have a whole lot of other options for what to do with myself. I didn’t really have friends. I didn’t go out. I was terribly depressed, sometimes even suicidal.
My brother would sometimes watch Buffy (the rules never seemed to apply to him), and so sometimes I was able to catch it, too. And it grabbed me. I became obsessed. Here was a show that dealt with real-life traumas (death and heartbreak and betrayal), albeit via the medium of puns and a fresh twist on vampire lore.
The character of Spike drew me in most of all. The complexity of his character––how he could be furious and honest and seductive all at the same time. And he cried! It was revolutionary to me to see a man, no less one seen as ‘cool’, to show his feelings. Being able to feel things alongside him and the other characters helped me process things in my own life. It was a lifeline, getting me through some of the hardest years I’ve had so far.
And I don’t think I’m alone in that. I think that’s why people stuck with the show, and why it’s still finding fans even now. I don’t have the hard statistics for how the number of fics and members of the community have changed over time, but I feel confident in saying we’ve stayed strong, and our archive in particular is still growing.
With regards to Seeing Red, I have a lot of feelings, and some of them contradictory. On the one hand, I think the topic was an important one to tackle and, as I was saying about taboos, earlier, not left in a place of silent shame. However, I find ‘the bathroom scene’ incredibly hard to watch, and I don’t think the show handled it well at all. We never got to see Buffy and Spike properly address it on screen, and that’s a huge disservice to both the characters and the fans. I feel like the showrunners actively hurt a lot of people with where they look the arc of Spuffy’s sexual relationship, not because it got dark, but because they left it mostly unresolved in that dark place.
I don’t mind reading or writing difficult topics. A lot of the time that’s exactly what needs to be done, and leaning into the raw, difficult aspects of a situation makes the writing stronger. But you can’t half-ass it. The resolution doesn’t need to be all sunshine and rainbows, but it does need to feel resolved. To go through this huge thing as a character and an audience and then almost never talk about it again is bad writing at the very least.
And that’s where the fans have stepped in and written their own endings. Their own resolutions. The beauty of fan fiction is that it gives those most invested in the narrative the power to control it. I’ve read dozens of stories that either change things before Seeing Red, so the bathroom scene never happens, or ones that go through the motions of having the characters fully deal with the aftermath. I’ve written both myself, and I’m not done exploring the topic. It’s that important. It means that much to me. The show saved my life, and it almost feels like, in some small way, I can return the favor.
It is my firm belief that fan fiction is not plagiarism or in a moral grey area, because it only ever adds to the source material. Say you write fanfic in some circles and you’ll be laughed at, but those same circles will fall over themselves for the latest ‘retelling’ of a classic work. The double standard would be laughable if it wasn’t so infuriating.
I think a big part of it is actually that fan fiction is popular with women, and looked down upon (either consciously or subconsciously) for that reason. I could rant about it all day, but I’ll spare you.
Let me know if you want anything clarified or expanded upon.
Given the extreme amount of societal pressure on women to look good, in a world where the definition of ‘good’ is ever-changing, and often contradictory––where beauty standards demand you look attractive, but not too attractive, lest you bring any negative attention you might receive down on your own head (because you had to be “asking for it, looking like that!”)… Given all that? It’s fair to say even looking at yourself in the mirror each morning can be a minefield.
What, then, is one to do when you’ve chosen to follow a career path in which an online presence is expected? One where you’re expected to be on at least three different social media platforms, to post semi-regularly on each, and create some kind of consistent ‘brand’ across them?
Specifically, what do you do when you hate how you look, you hate people looking at you, and find yourself in need of professional headshots?
I have two partially written blog posts saved to my drafts folder titled ‘How I Stay Organised’ and ‘How I Stay Motivated.’ They’ve been there since at least December, which maybe seems ironic on the surface––someone professing to be organised and motivated leaving something unfinished for three months, but I don’t actually think those things are incompatible at all.
It’s actually because I’ve been organised and motivated, albeit in different areas, that those posts so far haven’t been finished. Because the truth is that even the most organised and motivated person in the world (which I am most certainly not) can’t do all of the things––the things they want to do, the things they need to do, plus all the things everyone else wants and needs from them. It’s too much. Compromises must be made. Sacrifices simply have to happen.
And so, this blog has fallen a little by the wayside as other things have popped up and taken priority.
I really enjoy blogging when I’m in the flow of it, and it’s definitely something I’m going to come back to––both in general, and those posts in particular. When that will be, though, I’m not sure right now. But thank you, if you’re still reading this; following along and keeping up with me. I appreciate it, and I hope you’re well.
I’ve long considered myself an ‘ideas person.’ I make lists and hatch plans at least every other day, but it’s not always big things. Sometimes it’s small. A lot of the time it’s maybe silly stuff. I once made a list of super long walks to go on, for example. Like Bangor to Belfast, and Belfast to Lisburn, and who even knows where from there? The world? Maybe.
Or, uh… maybe not.
I’m coming to terms with the fact that a lot of my ideas won’t pan out. Even the ones I embark on rarely go to plan, but that can be okay. Crazy misadventures are how memories are made. But also… being real? There’s honestly a lot to be said for staying wrapped in a blanket and drinking a cuppa tea. I know, I know. I sound so old and boring, but fuck it, let’s go for full honesty: life is hard, often exhausting, and so very expensive. You have to find joy in the little things. I know I’m not alone in learning that during our collective two years spent inside.
You know who didn’t really learn that, and I love her for it? My cousin.
In a lot of ways, my cousin is like me but turned up to eleven. She has more wacky ideas, more adventures, and by extension, more mishaps. Sometimes she invites me on her wild road trips and unplanned hikes. (Get in loser, we’re getting LOST!) Sometimes it’s not remotely practical to say yes to driving all the way to Galway at a moment’s notice, but sometimes… sometimes I do say yes.
“Let’s go to Dundrum,” she said to me recently. And I went, thinking all the while, “What the fuck is in Dundrum?”
Turns out, sand dunes. Lots and lots of sand dunes, in which we’d get lost and I’d get injured and, at several points, legitimately fear for my life as my dyspraxic ass tried to scale almost vertical slope after almost vertical slope as the ground shifted under my feet. It probably would have made an excellent, if ridiculous, YouTube video, if capturing the event wasn’t an extra level of stress on top of experiencing it first-hand––which it so would have been.
I love watching such videos. Sometimes I daydream about making them. Yes, they’d look great… assuming I did them right. But doing them right is actual legit hard work, and here we are back at my point about things being exhausting.
I’m not fifteen anymore. I’m not even twenty-five anymore. I can quite happily sit at home and listen to my cousin tell me of her latest near-death experience, or live vicariously through other people’s stunning videography.
So many things I’ve romanticised over the years: people and places and objects and experiences. But how much of it actually matters? That maybe sounds depressing, or defeatist. I’m not saying I’ve stopped wanting to do things. Not at all. But some things? Yes. I actually think that letting go of some dreams is freeing me up for other, better things.
Coming to peace with something isn’t about resignation, it’s about actual peace. Contentment.
Maybe at almost thirty-three, I’m finally learning to chill out.
I guess at this point in the post I should say what I’m actually saying and stop talking around the issue.
I have let go of a dream. Not given up, as such, just realised that I was holding tight to this idea that I’d go back to college. To university. That I’d complete a bachelors degree, and a masters degree, and that I’d finally feel validated in my skills and education and life choices. Lord knows I’ve spoken of this deep desire to return to formal education several times on this blog over several years, but every time I read through syllabuses or yet another online prospectus I’m left with this sense of frustration. Restlessness. Dissatisfaction. This is almost what I want, I would think, but not quite. Over time, that ‘not quite’ mutated into ‘I don’t want this at all.’ Until I’ve finally landed in this place of knowing that I was in love with the idea of studying. Of sitting in visually impressive, grand old buildings, and graduating without a sense of impostor syndrome. Of feeling like I’d finally “fixed” the three years of my life that I so royally fucked up a decade ago.
And people have pointed out to me for almost as long that life doesn’t quite work like that. And I knew that, intellectually, but it didn’t make the feeling go away. Maybe it just had to happen naturally. Gradually. Whatever it was, I’m there now––the other side of the ridge, wondering why the hell I spent so long fantasising about something that was, at the end of the day, exactly that. A fantasy. Life isn’t a movie. Going back to uni wouldn’t be funny montages of goofing around the library at 3am, and drinking so much coffee my eyes pop out of my head, and coming out of all of it with straight A’s, or whatever. I don’t even like coffee.
And when it comes down to it, I don’t really want any of that stuff. Not the reality of it.
My current reality is that I have a husband, and a housemate, and a tiny dog, a job I love, a lot of dear friends, and many opportunities still ahead of me.
So, I’m leaving the sense of regret behind. It was kinda cramping my style, anyway.
I don’t really need to acknowledge that 2021 has been ‘a year’ do I? 2022, by extension… I dare not even get started on my hopes and fears for the world.
What I will say is that on a more personal––and indeed, professional––level, some big things happened for me over the past twelve months. I’m gonna write a round-up post for that in the new year, but for now I want to outline goals for 2022 that (I hope) will build on what I achieved this year.
I’m gonna set my Goodreads goal to 20 books again this year, as a minimum.
There are several projects I want to work on, as always, but I’m not actually gonna list them here. Sometimes it feels like committing myself to specific works in progress is the kiss of death with regards to motivation for them. It’s like my brain, or the muse, suddenly rebels and wants to work on anything but my stated priority, the moment that priority is made known. The main thing is that words happen.
Similarly to the above, I have a bunch of different things in the pipeline. I’ll announce them individually as they come.
• MAKE ART
A new goal for this year, but one I’m passionate about. I have a lot of smaller, sub-goals that feed into this, not least of which:
I started sketching classes in 2021, and I’m all signed up to continue with them from January to March 2022. I’m also booked onto an art workshop in May, and have some illustration mentoring set up, in addition to a free trial of Skillshare I’m currently in the middle of.
Plenty to be getting on with.
Because all of the above will take a lot of time and effort, I plan to scale back client work in 2022. We’ll see how that goes!
I know blog posts have been infrequent here, of late, but I’ll never abandon this space entirely. Stay tuned for updates.
To say life has felt manic recently would be a gross understatement, and I haven’t really been documenting any of it here, so let’s catch up.
What am I doing? Such an excellent question. One I’ve actually been asking myself.
I’ve been editing books (for myself and others), formatting books, building websites, filling in applications and reports, juggling some tricky personal life things, dabbling in a lot of art, and writing very little.
Things have been scattered. I’ve been scattered. Sometimes it’s felt like my brain is going to explode.
Last week I released two books (poetry pamphlets Linchpins and Flinch) and a lot of last-minute technical issues meant that I was running around putting out fires when I should have been celebrating. As it stands, I’ve barely mentioned the books since they went live. I need to get on that, obviously, but I also want to make sure that I step back and do really take that time to celebrate.
I’ve been doing so much, and so much of what I do is incredibly enjoyable and rewarding for me, but sometimes I get so caught up in the action, I forget about the reward entirely.
It’s the 4th of October and I find myself not even able to think about NaNoWriMo this year. There’s just so much I have to do between now and then.
On top of that, I think the turn of the seasons is playing with me, and my thoughts have gotten all existential. I’ve been asking myself if I need to rebrand to include art somewhere in my tagline/bio. Then I’ve been going beyond that and asking myself just who in the hell I am anyway.
If you’ve followed this blog for any real length of time, you’ll know I’ve gone through similar phases before. And I trust from those past experiences that things will calm down again and I’ll regain focus and it’ll all be okay. At least until I end up in this place again––which I can laugh at, writing that sentence. I know I don’t have to take everything so seriously.
There’s a quote playing in my head that I can’t quite place this moment. Something along the lines of, ‘Jeeze, relax. Take a siesta or something.’
Not terribly bad advice, that.