Sunday, 7 October 2018

Inktober Prompt Day 7 - Exhausted

As I'm not artistically gifted with a pencil or brush I have decided to take part in Inktober in my own way, by using the prompts for writing rather than drawing or painting. This is working well so far and I have produced some poems and pieces of Flash Fiction which may turn into something more substantial at a later date. Today, however, I decided to use the prompt for a blog post.


Now we all know about physical exhaustion. When just putting one foot in front of the other is a mammoth undertaking, when staying awake for the news headlines takes every last ounce of effort, when you start to doze off standing at the bus stop. That exhaustion. But I want to talk about another type, the emotional, mental type that has been creeping over not just me lately as I observe what is going on in the world.

I am exhausted hearing testimony from women about how they have been sexually assaulted, trolled on social media, belittled for holding an opinion.
I am exhausted hearing from women who have been mocked for the colour of their skin, their sexuality, their politics, their religion.
I am exhausted hearing about women who have been fat shamed, slut shamed or just plain shamed for being who they are.
I am exhausted by the amount of shit women have to put up with on a daily basis just so they can get on with their lives.
I am exhausted.

When I was much younger I hoped that by the time I reached 60 equality between the sexes would be a given, the norm, just the way it was. I hoped that men and women would be living happy, fulfilled lives no matter how they chose to live them or who they chose to live them with. But it is not so, dear reader. The world is still filled with those who try to keep women down, to shout them down, to put them down. Men, for it is mostly men, who think that women should stay down, way down, knowing our place. Men whose values and ideas who be at home in the Victorian parlour.

This weekend I attended an event at the Birmingham Literary Festival. Caitlin Moran and Sali Hughes were in conversation and it was wonderful to hear two intelligent, spirited women talk about their experiences and their hopes. Caitlin spoke vociferously about how The Patriarchy was keeping women down, trying to silence their voices, to marginalise them in all spheres of society. It made my old heart ache to think that things don't seem to have changed since the 70s when we were urged to burn our bras and strive for equality in all things. Yes, I acknowledge that some things have changed for the better: women are no longer the property of their spouse, women can open a bank account without the permission of their nearest male next of kin, women can get the highest paid jobs although they will still be outnumbered by men. So it's not all gloom and doom. Yet I am still exhausted hearing about all the crap women have to put up with on a daily basis.

Last year I attended an event again at Birmingham Literary Festival but this time the speaker was Jess Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley. Now Jess is no shrinking violet. She calls out the trolls and the haters and gives as good as she gets. Yet hearing about some of the vile things that have been said to her and her fellow women MPs made me very sad. Things so personal, violent and sick that it is hard to imagine them if you are a polite member of society who hardly ever swears. But it happens to them on a daily basis and they have to either leave social media or grow a thick skin very quickly. And I am exhausted one year later to still hear that this is still happening to elected members of parliament, just because they are women. I am sure that male MPs get abuse too but I doubt it is as sexually violent or intimidating as that of female MPs. And in case anyone thinks 'Well, it's just a lot of hot air, words can't hurt them' remember Jo Cox, murdered on the street of her constituency. There is much to be wary of if you are a woman in the public eye with an opinion, a voice or a platform.

I am exhausted when I look at how the most powerful men in the world talk about women. I don't blog about politics as a rule because it's not something I feel comfortable doing. My politics are fluid, I'm not in one camp or the other and I don't always feel fully informed to have a fixed opinion. But I will make the exception here. In America, they have elected a misogynistic man. His views on women are truly offensive and he empowers others who see women as he does. He has recently nominated a man to the Supreme Court who has been accused by three women of assaulting them sexually. This is not the sort of man I would expect to be rewarded for this type of behaviour with a seat on America's highest judicial bench. But when the President is a misogynist, why not? They think alike so they're perfect bedfellows. And just watching the protests, seeing the thousands and thousands of women marching, shouting, begging for him to be excluded from this office is exhausting. I feel real despair at some of the things that I read about, hear about or see on the news. Being a woman in 2018 seems like hard work. Being a strong woman in 2018 seems like an uphill struggle.

So that is why I am exhausted.
I am exhausted by the constant stream of hate and abuse that women are facing every day.
I am exhausted by the struggle that is still being fought in the twenty first century.
I am exhausted by how hard it is to be a woman sometimes.
And I'd like it to stop now please.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Out of Step with Others

There are times when I find myself out of step. Sometimes it's just that I'm not up to date with the latest trends or slang. Sometimes it's because I haven't been watching the latest 'must see' TV show. Sometimes it's because I have chosen to stay on the outside because I don't want the stress of being on the inside!

Lately I have been struggling with reading. No, I haven't forgotten how to do it! I've been trying to plough through a book that I'm just not into because everyone who has read it is raving about it. What am I missing? I don't know but the darn thing isn't resonating with me and I'm avoiding picking it up.

I can hear my sister's voice shouting at me 'Life's too short for bad books' and I do agree with her. It's not like I've never stopped reading a book before the end in the past, as I remind myself every time I see Captain Corelli's Mandolin on a bookshelf.

So with reluctance I have decided to close the book and donate it. I'm just not getting the vibe that everyone else is and I have so many other books to read.

Bye bye unloved book and hello to all the other books on my To Read pile!

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Falling Out Of Love With A Story

Two years ago I won NaNoWriMo and wrote 50,000 words of a story in a month. After much tinkering about I found that there were some problems with it and I re-planned it to make a better story. So far, so normal.

This second version is my WIP and I've fallen out of love with it. I still believe in the characters and the world but something about the story isn't working. Writing it is like pushing a jelly uphill and that's no fun.

Now, usually I'd throw my hands up in horror, delete the darn thing and start something new, all the while berating myself and doubting my skills as a writer.
But I've grown as a writer in recent months and I'm approaching it in a different frame of mind.

This WIP will get written.
This story will get finished.
This writer will finish what she started.

Because this is where the 'work' starts. Pushing through the hard stuff, writing when it doesn't flow.
The craft of writing is out of the window and the graft of putting words on the screen begins. I will get a draft finished and I will edit the hell out of it to make it the best I can. Whether that is something I am totally happy with I don't yet know but I will make it as good as I can.

That's what it means to be a writer.

Monday, 3 September 2018

Why Bullet Journals Aren't For Me.

I'm just going to come out and say it: I can't get on with bullet journaling. I know, I know, the whole world seems to think that their lives have been transformed by using the bullet journal system. The Internet is packed with people extolling the virtues and benefits of using a bullet journal. Check out the thousands of beautiful bullet journals on Pinterest and you'll see what I mean. It seems to transform so many things for people and enable them to organise their lives.

So why don't I get it? The truth is, although I wanted it to work for me and to make me more productive, it just didn't happen. And I think it's because I don't have a mega packed life. I'm blessed that I have a relaxed life where I can do as much or as little as I like each day. I have retired from teaching and I am trying to forge a writing 'career' which I can do at any time, day or night. So a bullet journal didn't help my life at all. Most mornings I struggled to think of any meaningful tasks to put in my journal. I ended up writing 'shopping', 'washing' or 'ironing' every day. And those tasks get done (eventually) whether I journal them or not! Also, they're not significant enough to deserve journaling either.

So, despite trying three times to get into bullet journaling, it's not for me. My lifestyle doesn't need that level of micro managing, there aren't enough tasks to schedule and I only have one or two events a month to worry about so a regular calendar and diary is more than adequate for that.

So I wave goodbye to the whole bullet journal experience, re purpose another notebook and vow never to try arty decorating again (I was rubbish at it anyway!)