All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…


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One Day in Glasgow

Glasgow

For Samantha,
the world is a lesser place without you.
xox

Introduction

Ever since writing the post One Night in Adelaide I’ve wanted to write its sequel: One Day in Glasgow, yet every time I sit down to chronicle the events of (what is possibly) the best day of my life, words fail me. It’s not that I don’t know what to write, I do, it’s just that I cannot assemble the words to form coherent, emotional sentences. And this post is an emotional one, at least for me, as it deals with the last time I ever saw my friend Samantha face-to-face.

Samantha was an incredible woman; intelligent, charming and ravishingly beautiful. She had a mature, almost philosophical outlook on this crazy thing called life, yet despite this maturity there was a delicious immature streak running throughout her soul; equally at ease playing with crayons as she was debating the age-old question of why we’re here.

It was almost impossible to meet Samantha without falling in love with her on some level. She never judged, never held grudges and had an almost super-human ability to draw the best out of people.

But none of this means she was perfect, far from it. Samantha worked too hard; filling almost every moment of her life with a project, scheme or double-shift at work, all of which leaving little time for play or relaxing. And when she did relax, she ventured far too easily into the world of illegal narcotics, with ecstasy and speed being her drugs of choice; a choice that would ultimately spell her untimely end.

But this post is not about her death, nor my reaction to it, that will follow in good time. This post is about my memories of her. It is about the day Samantha took time off from her life to hang out with a slightly overweight, mentally ill man who, according to her journal, made her feel happiness like no-one she’d ever met.

Because it has taken so much to get this post out of my system, I’ve decided on three things:

1) That instead of retelling the events of the day in intimate detail, I will instead focus on extrapolating the principal memories of that day; for in these memories lives the essence of who Samantha was; and it is she that I want you all to meet.

2) I have decided to write each memory in the style that Samantha preferred (and encouraged me) to write in, namely, freewriting. Rather than focus endlessly on each sentence, each punctuation mark and the meaning behind chosen words, I have just allowed each memory to flow from my mind before moving onto the next. Hopefully, by doing this, I will be creating a post that Samantha would be proud of.

3) With Samantha’s preferences still firmly in mind, I have also chosen to tell the tale of our twenty-four hours in Glasgow in a non-linear format. Each of the illustrations below depict one of the memories of my time in that great city. They have not been arranged in any particular order and you are encouraged to dip in and out of the memories in any way you see fit. For as Samantha used to say, rarely in life do things return to us in the exact order that they happened.

Hopefully by choosing to write this post to the above specifications, I will be creating a post that Samantha would not only have enjoyed reading, but one she would be proud to be the inspiration behind.

   
Please note, the items marked with a padlock are password protected.
Should you wish to read these memories, please contact me via email.


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Creative Therapy: The Hero Dies in this One

stairway

Every Monday afternoon for the last eleven weeks I’ve been co-facilitating a group at GT House, the organisation I’ve been a participant of since late last year. The group – Creative Therapy – was created to give participants the opportunity to explore and share their life’s journey in a safe, supportive and (hopefully) fun environment via a number of creative activities, writing prompts and lively discussions.

In today’s group we undertook a writing prompt that is inspired by Acceptance and Commitment Therapy; we imagined ourselves listening to a friend/relative deliver our eulogy (or eightieth birthday address, depending on how morbid we felt) and then shared with the group what we would like that person to say about us.

This was my eulogy (which was freewritten between 2:25pm and 2:55pm):

Many people seem to say that ‘all men are simple’, but in my experience, Andrew was anything but. Throughout the time he and I were friends, I saw him face many challenges and road-blocks, yet in spite of a few stumbles along the way, he dealt with each and every one of them with genuine courage and aplomb. He as a man who – despite all the odds – refused to bow down and give up; a quality that I have long admired.

Andrew summed it up best in his book ‘The (Occasionally) Manic Adventures of a Lonely Heart’ when he wrote:

No matter how I’ve approached my life, no-one has been able to better phrase my
philosophy than my dear friend Samantha. Little did she know when she typed those
words, that she’d be giving someone their mantra for life: “It you always worry about
what other people think, you will always be their prisoner,”

For as long as I’ve known him, he has lived true to these words. From the dark days of suicide and depression, from the even darker days of homelessness and hopelessness, Andrew fought against his oppressors to be his own, self-made man. He wouldn’t let anyone hold him back, label him or define him. His actions, not his words, revealed to the world who he was, and that man was an inspiration not just to me, but to many others.

In his passing, Andrew leaves behind a wife and four beautiful children, all of whom he loved beyond measure. He leaves behind a body or writing that has thrilled and inspired millions of readers. He leaves behind a hole in this world that may never be filled.

His passion for life, for humanity, for giving those society deemed as ‘voiceless’ a chance to hold their held up and have their say is a testament to us all.

He is a man who I miss, for I don’t think there will ever again be anyone quite like Andrew.

The exercise is designed for us to look at our values, hopes and aspirations. It is about taking a moment away from negative self talk and being kind to past, present and future selves.

During the discussion after the activity, it was comprehensively concluded that being kind to ourselves felt “wrong”, “un-natural” and “very strange”. There was also much apprehension (from myself included) about not talking ourselves up, with our minds editing our writing so we didn’t come across as too “arrogant” or “full of ourselves”.

The line I picked from my eulogy as an example of this was ‘He leaves behind a hole in this world that may never be filled‘; for however much I’d like to think my passing would leave a hole in someone’s world, to say it out loud to a group did make me feel like I was thinking too highly of myself.

But this is the whole point of the exercise; there is nothing wrong with thinking so highly of ourselves.

In fact, many of us would benefit from doing it much more often than we do.

Myself included.


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Creative Therapy: Freewriting

A Race with Mermaids and Tritons (Collier Smithers)

Every Monday afternoon for the last seven weeks I’ve been co-facilitating a group at GT House, the organisation I’ve been a participant of since late last year. The group – Creative Therapy – was created to give participants the opportunity to explore and share their life’s journey in a safe, supportive and (hopefully) fun environment via a number of creative activities, writing prompts and lively discussions.

Over the last six weeks we have looked at (amongst other things) the passion that books can bring to our lives, the benefits of writing a letter to younger/older selves and retuning our mind to look at the positive rather than negative aspects of our lives.

Today, we took a look at freewriting; a writing technique that can be beneficial in unblocking writer’s block and freeing our minds during journalling.

What is freewriting

Freewriting involves sitting down and writing for a predetermined period of time. During this time – usually five to twenty minutes, depending on the individual – you write whatever comes to mind without thinking of spelling, grammar, topic or structure. If you cannot think of anything to write, you write that you cannot think of anything to write – and keep writing about this until another topic springs to mind.

Rarely will freewriting produce useable material, but in analysing the end product of freewriting, it will often shine light on topics you would like to write about as you are writing without the usual self-criticism or apathy.

One major example of when I freewrite is in my journal writing. Rarely will I sit down and write about what I did during the day or how I felt at a certain time, I sit down and write freely for half an hour and just see what springs to mind.

An example of freewriting…

This is the unedited result of the freewriting exercise we undertook in today’s group, partly inspired by the painting A Race with Mermaids and Tritons by Collier Smithers. For the record, we freewrote for approximately twenty minutes.

Whenever mermaids arise as a topic, a work of art or characters within a motion picture, Meadhbh goes into total overdrive. For some inexplicable reason she adores these nymphets of the sea second only to dragons in the mythological ouvre. If there was such a thing as mermaids riding dragons, or mermaid-dragons or dragon-mermaids, she would probably achieve some heavenly level of bliss. At this second, with a painting of a mermaid a mere few inches from her, she is squeeing and squirling like a kid over hundred&thousand covered ice-cream. I am not. I am trying to concentrate on this exercise throught the rabble and din she is making. And not very easily considering I had intended writing fiction but instead find myself writing about her – again – although it could be worse, I could be writing about me. And what would I say then? Not much. So. Alrighty. Well. Let’s try tell a wee story.

Once upon a time there was a mermaid whose name was Kira. Kira lived in the North Sea – not so far off the coast of Scotland – and had spent most of her life completely pissed off about the shoddy and entirely stereotyped portrayal of her kind. Hans Christian Bloody Anderson! Bollocks. The Little Effing Mermaid; horse shit. She wasn’t some doe-eyed, naive little moron who swanned around with fishes and forever dreamt of being human. Who the crap would want to be human? Meandering around dry land without even a squid for company? Bor-ring! She relished being under the sea. She loved her scaly posterior. She adored the fact she couldn’t sing cheesy love ballads. Damn human stereotyping. Kira was a lean, mean fighting machine. Hell, she once took on a fucking Killer What and came out on top.

And yes. No freaking idea where that story is going. A Hit-Mermaid? How exactly is that gonna work? God knows. But hey, it’s the most creative I’ve been for several millenia. Damn homelessness. Damn abuse. Sucking me dry. Or is that just an excuse? Mere procrastination because I can’t be arsed finding the focus I once had? Probably. When I look at the image I see a love story about a couple with two sides of the painting. I see a historical piece about its creation. I see a piece of erotica about sex-craved mer-folk. I see an urban fantasy about the individuals depicted. Yet despite seeing all this, I can’t even begin to write the tales. Yup. It’s either procrastination or trauma-induced blockage or just that I don’t have the skill. Bollocks. I have the skill. I just don’t…again…procrastination.

Meadhbh hates me for that. She misses the creative side of me. Misses the explosion of joy when I get an idea. I dunno. Running out of steam now. Metaphor for my life. Perhaps I just need to write a story about mer-dragons and keep everybody happy. Hmmm?

…and what it tells me!

After reading the piece back, I decided to analyse what it actually revealed and whether there were any themes or ideas I could expand upon in more detail in the future:

1) It reveals that I am physically tired and that I am having issues with procrastination and finding the focus.

2) It contains several possible ideas for fictional stories (including the slightly random Hit-Mermaid idea!)

3) It also reveals information about my primary voice, Meadhbh and her various likes and dislikes; as well as something that Meadhbh doesn’t like about me.

4) It also tells me that I am still adversely affected by both homelessness and the abuse I experienced, as well as proving my negative self-view is firmly embedded in my thought processes.

Thus, the stand-out themes for me to write on would be homelessness, abuse and self-criticism (which I have been writing on for some time), my procrastinating nature/lack of energy (something I have not touched on in any great detail) and dragons who are also mermaids; which, I have to admit, sound kinda cool! :p

So why not give freewriting a try yourself and see what happens? You may be surprised at what you come up with.


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Alastair’s Photo Fiction: I wonder what I should be like then?

Many years and lifetimes ago I was a prolific and once-published writer of fiction. Today, I am but a man who struggles to remember what it was like to write and create, let alone allow himself the pleasure of doing so.

Recently, the quite magnificent Alastair of Alastair’s Blog began a new blogging project in which every week he publishes one of his own photographs as a prompt for short fiction. In the hope it will cause my dormant writing desires to resurface, I have decided to play along.

I wonder what I should be like then?
~ by Addy ~

Any glass of mysterious translucent liquid that came with its own neatly hand-written card instructing ‘drink me’ should be approached with caution. Or at least that’s what Alice had taught him when he was younger.

When he had decided on this course of action, he had not expected to remember the smell of his mother’s eucalypt hand lotion as they turned the pages of his favourite book.

When he’d exchanged his hard-earned money, he’d not expected to remember the passionate night of life making that followed his girlfriend putting on an Alice costume.

When he’d signed the contract admonishing the company of any possible side-effects, he had not expected to remember his daughter’s giggles as he shared with her his Wonderland for the first, and only, time.

As his trembling fingers curled around the glass every mistake, regret, cock-up and calamity flashed before his eyes. Drink me…the card accompanying the glass said…and you will forget everything.

As the glass touched his lips, all he could see were her wide green eyes, glistening from hours of laughter and smiles. A tear trickled down his cheek.

“But if I forget you,” he whispered, “I wonder what I should be like then?”

[Word Count: 200]


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NaNoWriMo isn’t as easy as I’d ThItWouBe

Three days into NaNoWriMo and I’ve written a grand total of 2,387 words. This means I’m averaging 795 words per day. So if I remain at this rate I’ll be 26,130 words short of my 50,000 target come 30 November.

Methinks, I’m gonna have to up my game!

In all honesty, the problem arose when I realised the storyline I’d planned to write was failing spectacularly. So during a difficult conversation I realised that if I stood any chance of completing this challenge I’d have to start from scratch.

The only thing to do was rip up all the plot notes I had and start afresh; new subplots were devised, a couple of new characters were thrown into the mix and a crazy idea (which I still haven’t decided if I’m going to use) came to me somewhere between the supermarket and home.

For a couple of days I mulled over these revised ideas until I finally convinced myself I could (possibly, maybe…have some faith in yourself man!) make it work – even though fiction writing has become completely foreign to me given it’s been years – not months – since I wrote anything in this field.

But hey, it’s NaNoWriMo! As long as I get a draft written by 30 November, I’ll have as long as I want to edit it into something readable :p

So if you fancy reading some dodgy fiction, the prologue has been posted to Little Bit of Red. Chapter One will follow once I’ve given it a quick edit. After that, things will hopefully become a little easier :)

Mature Content Warning: Contains violence and bad language


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Thirteen inspirational quotes about writing

All over the world people will spend today screaming into pillows, downing shots of whisky, consuming vast quantaties of chocolate and misplacing apostrophes left, right and centre. For today marks the beginning of NaNoWriMo 2012, when everyone and their dog attempts to write a novel in just one month.

So for those struggling to get going (myself included!) here are thirteen inspirational quotes about writing from people who know far about the profession than you or I.

“You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it”
~ Neil Gaiman ~

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”
~ Anaïs Nin ~

“Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”
~ Kurt Vonnegut ~

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
~ Anton Chekhov ~

“Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.”
~ Neil Gaiman ~

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”
~ William Wordsworth ~

“To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the music words make.”
~ Truman Capote ~

“Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very;” otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.”
~ C.S. Lewis ~

“Read, read, read. Read everything-trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the most. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.”
~ William Faulkner ~

“There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they’ll take you.”
~ Beatrix Potter ~

To write something, you have to risk making a fool of yourself.
~Anne Rice ~

“But this I know; the writer who possesses the creative gift owns something of which he is not always master–something that at times strangely wills and works for itself. He may lay down rules and devise principles, and to rules and principles it will perhaps for years lie in subjection; and then, haply without any warning of revolt, there comes a time when it will no longer consent.”
~ Charlotte Brontë ~

“The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible”
~ Vladimir Nabokov ~

You can follow my NaNoWriMo adventure by reading Little Bit of Red. Even though I’ve yet to write a single word (yay, procrastination!) I am determined to get the first part up by midnight tonight!


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The Ballad of the One Who Got Away (or how I hope to tackle my fear of writing with an insane flash fiction experiment!)

Watership Down: the only film that has ever scared me!

Spiders, Puppies, G&T…oh my!

Courtesy of my anxiety I have many fears and phobias, including:

– Spiders
– Heights
– Dogs (including puppies)
– Women
– Men
– Humanity in general
Watership Down
– Gin and Tonic

and

– People reading my writing

Every time I go to publish a blog I’m overwhelmed with a terrifying fear of people reading what I’ve written. In those moments between hovering the mouse over the ‘publish’ button and clicking the button my mind races with the tens of millions of possible reactions the post could receive; will I be humiliating myself, will people laugh, will they think I’m insane, will they hate me with an intense and fiery passion, will they want to tie me to a chair and force me to watch Watership Down with a small puppy on my lap as punishment for inflicting such dross on them?

And then I click the button and sit in fear.

Sometimes nothing happens.

Sometimes people accidentally click the ‘like’ button.

Sometimes people seem to mistake my blog for someone else’s and leave praise worthy comments.

Always that endless, all-consuming fear that I’m no good, that I should have stopped writing in primary school because my abuser told me I was a pathetic, worthless writer who had nothing interesting or unique to say. Which I know is absolute horse shit! But the trauma is deep and it’s this trauma that dictates my fears and holds me back!

I KNOW I’m a good writer because I’ve been published and a publisher would have to be stoned to publish someone who can’t write!

I KNOW I’m a good writer because…well, look at this blog. It’s pretty awesome :)

Yet the fear persists…

…especially when it comes to my fictional writing!

It was this fear that drove me to use a pseudonym when I was published in 2009. If it succeeded, I could bask in the glory without anyone making me the center of attention. If it failed, I could scurry back into my shell safe in the knowledge that no-one would know the words were mine!

It is this fear that has been blocking my creative writing for so many years; locking me into the endless cycle of frustration over not being able to do something that has brought me pleasure for more years than I care to remember. So, when it came to organizing the posts for this week, I knew I had to tackle one of the biggest barriers on my road to recovery; my fear of my writing.

And the only way to tackle such an obstacle is to challenge it head on!

In the early hours of last Thursday I happened upon just the way to do this: a flash fiction novel!

Challenge Accepted!

When I began writing this blog again in May 2012 I started a 365 Day Blog Challenge. This challenge failed less than two months later but I have never forgotten the list of ‘goals’ I had to write for the year ahead. Nestled amidst break the isolation I’ve found myself in and watch ‘The Avengers’ and ‘The Hobbit’ in the cinema was an item so epic in its ambition I think I slipped it in there as a means of self-sabotage; a sure-fire way to guarantee my failure:

Given it had taken me nearly ten years to write a readable final draft of The Ghosts That Haunt Me, it seems inconceivable that I would knock off a novel in a mere 365 days – especially given my mental instability and lack of professional support to achieve such a desired state.

Yet, what better way to send the ghosts of the past to the naughty corner than proving to myself I can do what I set out to do?

Cue me deciding to write a flash fiction version of this novel whilst lost in some insomniacal state!

And yet, when I think about it, it’s a win-win situation; even if it failed spectacularly I would still be writing fiction again, plus, even if people hate it, how many flash fiction novels have they ever written?

So, I accepted my challenge in a heartbeat.

The Rules

For those of you who don’t know what Flash Fiction is, the idea behind this writing style is to sit down for an allotted period of time, write a story on the fly, edit it, then post it for the whole world to see.

In adapting this concept to novel form, I will sit down for an allotted period of time, write part of the story on the fly, edit it, then post it for the whole world to see. Repeat each week until the novel is finished.

All of which makes the rules quite simple:

1. There is to be no brainstorming, notepad keeping or planning outside of my own head.
2. Each week I will write for three hours (either in one block or across several days).
3. The only overflow of this time allowed will be if I get caught up in a sequence, which I will continue to write until a suitable moment to end the session presents itself.
4. After writing I will edit that section (no revising the plot of previously posted segments) for grammar, spelling, content etc.
5. I will then post the update for people to read, should they so desire.

Will it work?

Who the hell knows?

Am I scared?

Hell yes!

I haven’t really written fiction for years, so to say I’m rusty would be an understatement. Factor in my intense fear of sharing my work even years after refinement and my decision to do this novel ‘on the fly’…yep, I’m positively terrified.

But if I am to stand any chance of demolishing these roadblocks to secure a better future for myself, I must face my fears any way I can.

For what’s the point of living if we don’t stand up to what scares us?

Should you wish to read along…

New installments of this flash fiction novel will be published every Friday, 8pm AEST (Starting 26 October 2012)

Click the image above to read The Ballad of the One Who Got Away (A Flash Fiction urban fantasy novel)