We’ve all heard the expression ‘Big Fish In A Small Pond’.
I hadn’t realised how badly my life was conforming to this in terms of writing and my local community of writers.
You see … I wasn’t even a big fish. Or a minnow. I wasn’t even in the pond. I was in a puddle, and it was constantly in danger of drying up.
When you get yourself stuck in a pond, one of two things happen. Either you dominate, or you become dominated and it feels like everywhere you go, you keep running into the same one or two fish who feel bigger and fatter every time you smash into them.
They get bigger and bigger. And so do their teeth. And you feel smaller and smaller and smaller…
You begin to feel like there’s no way past them, and so you have to escape. You jump out. And when you leave the pond, you sometimes end up downsizing to a puddle and it feels very lonely in there.
When you trap yourself in a puddle and refuse to get back in your local pond, everything you value dries up. The urge to write, to create, your inspiration, your creativity in general. You have no faith in yourself after a while.
And when you do start looking around for fresh waters, the other fish nearby keep saying ‘Well, there’s a pond over there with a couple of bigger fish in it, why don’t you go and ask them?’ And you don’t like to admit that you left that pond before you got gobbled up.
That’s where I was. Out of my local circle, trying to escape the local carp, not willing to get gobbled up for lunch and desperately seeking fresh water where no claims were staked.
Turns out all I had to do was get myself onto social media and engage my brain and all of a sudden it has started raining.
I have written more in the last six months than the last six years. I get new ideas every day. I write new things, new forms, new styles and ideas. I am willing to go back to things I abandoned because the carp were always swimming around them.
I’ve started entertaining the idea of writing sci fi and fantasy again, because it doesn’t have to be seasoned to a limited taste any more. I hadn’t realised how narrow my writing horizons had become by letting other people define them. I hadn’t realised how stilted I had become in the grasp of other people’s silence. I also hadn’t realised how lonely I was in my puddle, because I was so glad to be away from the carp and feeling like I was finally safe. Safety was creative death. I’m done with that.
It’s beautiful out here. I’m swimming with sleek eels and beautiful jellyfish and graceful dolphins and occasionally some great big whales float by and give me a wink and that just makes me want to squee with delight.
Write outside your puddle, people. There’s a massive audience and potential interest out there who do not stop at your doorstep or immediate community. Write outside your puddle, add a few drops to the ocean and don’t worry about the Carp. They’ll never leave the pond, and they’ll starve soon enough. They’ll outgrow it and realise it’s just a bigger puddle.
At 16 I left compulsory education. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I signed up for an extra two years of learning to give myself a shot at figuring it out.
At 18 I was accepted to University. My family was in chaos, I was deep into first love. I thought we were going to be together forever. Forever turned out to be two years. I moved 100 miles away from home and felt like I’d moved to another world. I had no idea how big the world would be or how small it could feel.
At 19 I moved into my first flat. I felt grown up living on frozen fish and chips and tinned beans. I had no phone, no internet, no gas, I was exempt from half my bills due to student status and had convinced myself I was an adult. I was wrong.
At 21 I graduated and moved in with my boyfriend. I had no job and still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I signed up for an MA programme to stay a student for longer. I spent the whole year worried that someone would find out that I wasn’t up to standard and kick me out.
At 22 I was on benefits, searching for a job with no experience that anyone valued, despite having two degrees and several years of job references. I felt caught up in a catch 22 and began to see my youth as a disadvantage.
At 23 I started training as a teacher. If I curse one decision, it’s making the decision to learn how to teach when I was barely old enough to know anything myself. My boyfriend and I were scraping by on nothing and I was feeling more lost than ever. How could I be a grown up role model when I felt like I was faking being a grown up all the time?
At 24 I split up with my boyfriend. I had thought we would be together forever. Forever turned out to be a little over four years at that age.
At 25 I qualified and already knew I didn’t want to be a class based teacher. I fell to bits and lost my health, my career prospects, my job, my financial stability and the vast majority of my friends.
I almost lost the love of my life in convincing myself that the love wasn’t real. I’m glad that I came to my senses and allowed him to rescue me and realised how precious that love really was before I did something excruciatingly stupid to myself. ‘Coming to’ felt like being born again. I started all over again with a clean slate. I spent a few years floating around and finding my feet. I stopped feeling like I was old.
At 28 I decided what I wanted to do with my life. At 29 I adapted the idea. At 31 I adapted it again. And realised that I will be adapting what I want to do with my life for the rest of my life, with every new role, idea, learner, article, poem, pitch and story.
At 32, I’m still looking at training and development courses to update my skills, because I accept that I will never be perfect and will never stop learning. I’m in therapy and realising I should have been there at 18. I’m married to the love of my life because I now have a clue what forever might really mean.
Having been through those recent years, I feel like my life didn’t actually start until I was 28 years old.
It appalls me to read that Peaches Geldof has died at the age of 25. Because I know that for everything she’d done, at 25 you’ve barely started living. For all I had done by that age in terms of achievement, I certainly hadn’t. I also know how lost and confused you can feel at that age when you feel like you should be someone or something that you haven’t turned into. I can only hope that she wasn’t feeling lost or alone when she died, because if those were the impulses behind her death, then that would be a tragic waste of a life which held much beauty and promise, as well as love.
Rest in peace, Peaches. I hope that you and your Mum are together again now.
Taking a break from the interwebz tomorrow as it is Hubby’s birthday.
Be good y’all!
Oh, and if anyone sends me a lolz-April-Fool publication email, I reserve the right to wish for a pox on your house. Just sayin’.
I was cruising through the net, following the cold trail of one of the periodic “Is or is not Fanfic the Ultimate Literary Evil?” arguments that crop up regularly, and I’m now bursting to make a point that I never see made by fic defenders.
When anyone tells me that fanfic isn’t important, I ask them what they think the main writers on comic books are doing right now. The people writing Superman, Batman, etc now, here, in this day and age, didn’t invent those characters. They taken them, adapted them, they’re telling the stories they always wanted to tell. They’re writing accepted and canon inducted fan fiction.
The writers who are making films about those characters are no different.The script writers, the directors, the actors - they’re all producing fan fiction. Stories about characters who were created by someone else, who have an established canon, who are already adored.
Then consider the writers who are publishing novels and short stories about the Star Wars EU. And the Star Trek EU. And…
Well, you get the point.
Writing stories set in a Universe you did not create, using characters you did not create, is goddamn difficult, because you have an obligation beyond your own wishes. If you want do it well, to the point where people recognise the original character within the actions you have given to them and the feelings you have clothed them in, then you are a writer with true skill.
"i dismiss you, not the bell"
this is the most fucked up thing the teacher can say. be late for class and he will make you a hell but when bell ring he thinks he can take you your time for break and he has full right to it. NO. BULL SHIT.
i remember myself keeping and showing to some techers the paragraph of school rules saying that teacher has no rights to take students their break time. AMEN
Really? Because every school I ever taught in told me I was absolutely entitled to keep my students after class if they had wasted my time by being late or misbehaving to the extent where they had not completed the work I had set for them. It was enshrined in every behavior policy I ever saw. All I had to do was tell them this was my intent as a first warning if they were late or they mucked around during class.
"Work hard and finish - the rest of your time is yours as it should be. Waste my time and I will take as much of yours as is necessary to make up what you didn’t bother to do."
This wasn’t connected to ability. Any student could tell me if they were struggling and the expectations would be changed. But if the only reason they didn’t finish their work was because they were too busy being dicks? That was another matter.
Bells were a guideline in my schools. Not an absolute.
Perhaps things are different in the UK.
"What’s your secret?" people ask. "How do you manage to do so much?"
I work full time, travelling all over the north of England and down to the Midlands on a regular basis. I plan, I teach, I mark, I invigilate, I research, I give feedback, I do admin and I help with the induction for new staff. I also manage my own diary across almost ten different locations and liaise with hundreds of staff members.
I design resources, and the department admin system. I’ve also read and made notes on two Education Research text books this year. I read the OFSTED reports, go to training days and keep on top of Education Policy news.
I teach privately outside of work which involves advertising, setting work, marking work, attending sessions, feeding back to parents, keeping up with exam requirements for maths and English and often working in the evenings and at weekends.
I have two cats who only I can take to the vet because my husband’s car can’t carry animals (company policy), so I manage their insurance, their boosters, their checkups, etc.
I attend my own doctor’s appointments and therapy appointments squeezed in around work on a regular basis.
I swim twice a weekend. Sometimes three times.
I also work out twice a weekend when I am in good physical condition (ie not dying of period cramps like I am this week).
I run Champagne Style On A Shandy Budget, which involves planning, writing, proofing, linking and posting an average of 4-5 articles a week. I also manage and edit and review guest posts.
I’m taking part in National Poetry Writing Month which will involve posting a poem every day on ‘extramusings’
I’ve just submitted my second poetry collection for consideration for publication, after writing, reviewing, editing and finalising a fifty page manuscript.
I write #vss on twitter as often as I have good ideas, which at the moment is about 4-5 times a week.
I’m working on my first ‘self help guide’ style book on how to be an office temp, which involves making notes, writing, reviewing, looking at policies and work place laws and regulations. I think it will be finished by Christmas in its first draft form.
I’m also getting into writing web articles. I’ve had my first accepted and there are two more immensely exciting applications in the works.
Aside from that, I have this blog. I check in with Twitter, Tumblr, Wordpress and Facebook. I manage pages, sites and feeds on all of those. I read. I watch sci fi, fantasy, modern drama shows. I stitch (sometimes). I read (sometimes) - both novels and poetry. I see my friends. I help them out with moving, life coaching, their own creative projects - any way I can.
"How do I do it?" people ask. "What’s your secret?"
My secret is my husband.
He helps with the housework.
He never begrudges me the time or energy I need to write.
He cooks dinner for me, and helps with the clearing up.
He is the most gentle, understanding and undemanding company I could wish for.
How do I do it? It’s more like how *can* I do it. I *CAN* do it because I know that I am not alone in any of my endeavors and he has my back. All the time. He will support me and encourage me in anything I want to take on. He never says ‘I think you’re doing too much’, but he will say ‘I think you should give one of the projects a break’ if he thinks it is affecting my health.
The secret to being a superwoman is the same as it used to be for being a superman. Having a partner - a genuine partner, not a sidekick - who will stand behind you, support you, encourage you and love you and not begrudge the effort and enthusiasm you put into your life as if it is a slight towards them.
How do I do it? That’s how.
My cats love being snuggled up in their blankies.
Warsan Shire, For Women Who Are Difficult To Love (via le-vide)