Wednesday, 29 January 2014

I don’t like new things and I don’t like change - I’m far too compulsive for that. I like order, cleanliness and a plan. By the time a well-intentioned friend has yelled the word, “Surprise!” (my family know how hazardous that could potentially be) I will be off and running and possibly won’t be seen for a few hours, or at least until I know it’s safe.

When I first began writing almost eight years ago, it was as an antidote for immigration-induced-loneliness. I had done the full gambit of plugging the gap; wandering the shops buying rubbish to avoid the empty house; dropping in on new acquaintances whilst feeling unwanted and in the way, driving around ‘exploring’ and wasting petrol, you name it and I will have done it. For anyone out there going through it, I completely sympathise. There aren’t enough terrible words in the dictionary to cover loneliness and isolation like that. The conclusion I came to, is that I was a hostage of my own making.

My writing initially began as a healing exercise, writing down at least one nice thing each day, however small. It was August, which in New Zealand is winter and I had been working at my part time job. The job was physically exhausting, the staffroom was a terrifying, unsociable place and I finished each day drained. I rushed to school to collect my four children and sat in the car for half an hour waiting for them as there wasn’t enough time to go home. My kids were struggling to settle and I sat poised for the onslaught of tears, complaints and general hunger. It felt like being caught in a rip tide, not mattering how hard I swam, I could never get out. This day in August, two little boys were rolling around on the grass wrestling near where my car was parked. They were bare foot and giggling and the winter sun was shining on their faces. They were a picture of happiness. I wrote it down. I’m not sure that at the time I was aware of the significance of that moment, but something clicked in heaven somewhere and my journey began. A few days later and my ‘Hana’ series was born, set in an all boys’ church school in our town, which was actually in the process of being closed down.

I went from finding excuses not to go home, to rushing there as fast as I could. I wanted to write. Home became a solace instead of a prison. Whilst I was working in my day job, I was running plot and character issues through my head, planning and scheming for my ‘imaginary’ friends. In my novels I use the word ‘cathartic’ a lot, because I honestly know what that feels like. For me, writing was ‘it’ and any sense of displacement was quickly superseded by the need to write and write and write, to pour out my misery on my laptop.

To return to my obsessive/compulsive personality, I have found that writing has pushed me beyond my limits in ways I never dreamed. I was the original IT moron. The term ‘PEBKAC’ was coined specifically for me. For those unversed in the abusive phrases of our friendly technology experts, it means, ‘Problem Exists Between Keyboard and Chair’ and it took me a fair while to work that out!

Since becoming a bonafide writer, as in - someone who earns money for their craft - I have been forced to market my books, which means launching myself face first into social media, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, blogging, author pages and goodness knows what else. I have done author interviews feeling wholly unworthy and boring, blogged not nearly often enough, tweeted, posted and generally prattled. It’s a whole new world for me, but one that I find I am beginning to enjoy.

The purpose of this blog is to encourage those going through hard times, who may have written poetry or stories as a child to pick it up again in a time of need. Write down your troubles and concerns, place them in speech marks and cast them on a fictional character. More importantly - reach other people. There is nothing quite as satisfying as someone telling you with tears in their eyes, “I know how that feels.”

But just to reassure you, my novels aren’t depressing or ‘all about me’ at all. They are often humorous recounts of the bizarre, people in an array of different circumstances and situations who always manage to somehow pick their way out. Above all, I hope that I offer hope, in all its various forms and leave a lasting legacy of ‘can do’ instead of ‘can’t’.

It’s pointless trying to swim against a rip tide, especially one borne on the crest of misery and despair. We just aren’t strong enough. What we’re told to do, is to pick a different direction, sideways on and swim that way instead. I guess that’s what writing has done for me. I couldn’t fight my circumstances and kicking against them was futile. So I found my way out sideways, through my writing. I’m not alone. There are a few of us sitting it out on this glorious beach waiting for the others to join us. Don’t be proud. Be creative.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

A simple visit to the movies. Whatever!

I am coming to the conclusion that everything is an opportunity to write. I am going to write a murder, in a cinema and the victims are going to be over seventy, killed with a block of Toblerone.

I went to the movies (pictures if you're English) with my husband and due to the fact that I reliably fall asleep in almost everything due to the darkness and often general boredom, we picked an afternoon showing of Jack Ryan. Sadly it was pensioner hour and the old dear to the left of me spent half an hour with wobbling fingers trying to open a very rustly mint to the point where I wanted to help. Like - really help! The couple behind didn't actually stop talking the whole way through which, being a little deaf was somewhat distracting for those of us who have perfect hearing. Why? Because they shouted to each other, a fairly continuous stream of  'What's he doin' now?' follow by inappropriately timed cackles of laughter (as if someone being blown up is funny.)

Kenneth Branagh not only starred in the movie, he also directed it. We know that because the whole way through, Mr and Mrs Hardofhearing behind us shared a loud discourse of, 'What's that guys name?' Alas if only they had waited until the final credits, they would have had that little mystery cleared up, because it came up first on the list but no, they were off and running, zimmer frames wafting in the air as they made a dash to be first in the toilets. The whole point of that exercise was so that they could occupy them until those of us with a distance to travel had either wet ourselves, or gone home cross legged.

I did consider crawling out of my seat and fetching an attendant at one point. But I actually didn't think they would believe me and come to my aid. I also debated whether or not to ask the offenders to be quiet (politely) but cringingly contemplated the shouted, 'What? What you sayin' dear?' which might ensue and so it hardly seemed worth it.

I have a personal abhorrence of badly behaved children. Mine weren't allowed to be naughty and so I don't think that other people's should be allowed to either. But as I looked around me this afternoon I wondered if the world hadn't gone a little upside down in its perspective. If we effectively lead by example, then judging by the little band of rabble raisers this afternoon, there is a whole troubled generation about to unleash itself on us!

The next time an elderly person says to me, 'You couldn't get away with that in my day,' I sweetly and nod. Because after all, it's someone's granny isn't it. But I will avoid matinees and continue to fall asleep in expensive premieres and snore and dribble through 3D sittings. Until I am old that is. And then I'm gonna get me some fun!