One Year Of Dear Octopus Writing

The year is 2015. The idea of “the blog” was suggested to me by a boyfriend I had at the time. He was an accordionist without an accordion, a film-maker without a camera. To him, my life was a piece of piss pretty much.

Life wasn’t that easy. It never is. At the time I had two Advanced Highers (which are just below university level work), one Higher Art, an estranged father, a non-existent writing portfolio, and a bad bout of writer’s block. What was the point of starting a blog when I didn’t have the fiction to put up? Or the time to create new content?

I attempted a blog post; a silly little ‘Facts About Me’ entry which I knew deep in my heart would never lead to anything. I felt self-centred for wanting to talk about myself. The internet is enough of a cesspit of teen angst without me putting in my two cents.

The boyfriend came and went, the exams were passed and a small portfolio was coming together. I applied to universities in England and was accepted (it was applying for Manchester Metropolitan that taught me how to write flash fictions), but I needed time to grow and in some vain attempt to find a career path. I slogged through a college course in social care, filled out form after form, somewhat mastered the interview for the times I had one and came to a lot of dead ends. Although I find time for writing short stories and poems, I could never have found time to write regular content required for a blog.

Then, on a family holiday in Naples, everything changed.

The year is 2016. I opted out of trekking through Pompeii with my family in high noon in favour of slobbing around and eating brioches.

The day before, I went to Herculaneum with them. Although I appreciated the ancient Roman history, I was overwhelmed by the deathly atmosphere- after all; visitors are greeted by the sight of actual human remains- and exhausted by the heat.

It is my holiday, after all, and I didn’t feel it was the right time for me to really enjoy Pompeii. My time at college bore the fruits of a HNC. Now it was time to show my modest portfolio. I couldn’t call myself a writer until I’ve at least tried that, right? So I set myself up a WordPress as well as an accompanying Facebook page. I wrote a very, very short introduction and uploaded three samples:

I had other pieces in the woodwork including a few flash fictions. I joined every writer’s group on Facebook just about. Over time, I polished them and submitted them to every online journal I could see. I received a few rejections, but they were vastly overshadowed by the kind places that published my work. I started contributing to Seakay’s Guide To Storytelling, where I would be tested to my limits in ways I will expand on another time.

After the stress I had with that, I decided to take a month out to write the first draft of a novel The Dormant Queen. This is the first novel I have actually completed, but it is only first draft and is in the process of being edited. By this time, I had decided that collaboration wasn’t what I needed to do at that time and focused more on my little page.

I participated in the 52 Week Flash Fiction Challenge between September 2016 and January 2017. If it wasn’t for that Facebook group, I wouldn’t have been able to post a flash fiction weekly or even bi-monthly! It was something that helped me an awful lot, and really does deserve a small post of its own.

I read out my poetry and flash fictions at various open mike nights, including at a family fun day in Largs and a slot at Fresh Ayr’s first three-day festival at Ayr Town Hall. I went to these things whenever I could, but I found it difficult to sustain as my work schedule turned from a 2 or 3 day week into a 6 or 7 day week. I was so tired every day that I found it difficult to write anything.

Between January and February was near enough hellish. My work-life balance was virtually non-existant. I naively assumed that on top of working 6 (sometimes 7) days a week, I could maintain every other aspect of my writing. That obviously failed spectacularly. This was the main reason the website was basically dead between February and April. I had stopped doing the 52 week flash fiction challenge because I couldn’t find time to even write flash fictions, which had previously provided all of the weekly posts. I felt terrible, but trying to schedule quality material every week was near impossible on top of my working life. It was like falling down a really high sand dune- I couldn’t find my feet to get back to the top again.

So now, I’m somewhat getting on the bandwagon. It’ll be more realistic to aim for a monthly scheduele rather than a weekly. I’m doing little blog posts, which at the start I wouldn’t make much of an attempt doing. I’m slowly but surely putting illustrations into my previous stories and poems, as well as little blog posts and flash fictions here and there.

In 2015, I was in my sixth year and hated it. I slogged through my Advanced Higher English to improve my writing without much idea of where I would be heading as a writer. Now, in 2017, I’m a bit less stressed in a sense. Though my work schedule was packed between January and April, it’s not quite as bad now. I do have a bad habit of taking on too much for my own good. Oh and I have a better boyfriend too, who supports me in so many ways, including proofreading my content for the site.

Dear Octopus Writing has given me more of a direction. I feel like a little bit more legitimate because I’m putting my work out there. I’m trying new styles of writing and learning a lot about promoting myself online. It has its ups and downs, but it’s an extension of me so it is my pride and joy. I put a lot of work into what I do, and I hope that it shows. Setting it up was the best decision I’ve ever made, and I hope you find time to check out some of my stories and poems.

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A shameless duckface I pulled in 2015

Featured Image: A family photo in Naples, touring a local Colosseum.

With thanks to all the places who liked my work enough to publish it! The McStorytellers, Paragraph Planet, MinusPaper, Oletangy Review, Jotters United, Pulp Metal Magazine, Inventives Magazine, Polaris, Seakay’s Guide To Storytelling and Gaelstrom Magazine.

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11 Life Lessons From My Thirteen Year Old Self

“Fuck up at school, and you fuck up at life- it’s fucked”- Jonas Takalua

I was a big fan of comedies as a thirteen year old. I wrote bizarre and eclectic sketches and feature film scripts, aspiring to see them on TV or on the cinema screen. Of course, now looking back, they are so stupid and need so much work I don’t know where to start.

Despite this and how lame I was back then, I did have some form of wisdom worth sharing. It came to me today while I was de-cluttering- clearing out crap in preparation for moving to Glasgow. (I’m going to Glasgow University and turning 20 in September, which I still can’t quite get over!) I ploughed through scraps of writing, old greetings cards, cuddly toys and more useless tat to find a list titled “Life Lessons Learned Either From Myself Or Others”. It had the little quote at the top (from Australian comedy ‘Summer Heights High’), and 31 points. I’m obviously not going to include absolutely all of them for brevity, but here are some of the best ones. (In no particular order)

  1.  “Start winding down and getting ready for bed earlier”

This is a lesson I’m still trying to apply to my everyday life. It’s true though- especially when I could barely get up in the morning for school the next day.

2. “The Spice Girls lied- friendship does end.”

As a young girl and teenager, you’re bombarded of images of everlasting girly friendship from films, TV shows, magazines, adverts you name it. So it only took me the whole of primary school and some of secondary school to learn that friendship does end. People fall out. People grow out of each other. People grow apart. People abandon. It’s never usually personal, except for when it is. It’s a rare time you keep friends you made in school, or anywhere as a young teenager, for the long term.

3. “Don’t try and be a smart alec and make a joke in another language. Especially in a languages class.”

The class will never get the joke, no matter how witty you think you are.

4. “Just because everyone else is doing something, doesn’t make it right.”

I saw most of that lesson from my peers drinking at bus stops and things. I hated not being included in things. Part of me wished that I could be included. But really, deep down I knew I wasn’t missing out on much. Especially when they were talking about when they were sick, as if it was all part of the fun. (Yes I have been drunk before and I know from experience that when you feel queasy that is the time to stop!)
5. “Not all adults have grown up completely yet.”

As a nineteen year old, who has been a school assistant and a support worker, I amend this slightly- no adults have grown up even slightly. It’s a conspiracy and a lie to keep children in line. Nobody knows what they’re doing. Literally nobody. Everyone is making it all up as they go along.

6. “Don’t chase. Boys smell desperation.”

This was a hard lesson to learn. I’d spent the first two years of secondary school jumping from crush to crush, without a clue about how to deal with the feelings I had. I made a real fool of myself for it, and became an easy target.

7. “In the long run, your social status matters much less than your grades. Your grades decide your future but how popular you are in high school doesn’t.”

I’ve only kept a handful of the friends I made in school, and even then I made those when I was fifteen. Although your grades do affect your future, you’re not damned forever for not having perfect grades.

8. “Men and women in magazines aren’t really your role models”

Whereas most people have somewhat distinction between fantasy and reality, not everyone does. It’s so easy to be captivated by these models and writers and hold the unrealistic pictures they paint as the reality you want. It honestly can’t be achieved.

In reality, you couldn’t really sustain a kale and juice diet or screw a porn star. You can fantasise, but you know it won’t happen. Yet the eating disorders, self-esteem issues, addictions and outright bizarre behaviour these things can cause is insane.

9.“Don’t quit a show because none of your friends are performing with you, or you haven’t got a good part.”

This applies to anything else as well as drama, from sports clubs to science groups. When I was younger, I used to spend my summer doing shows with a drama group in Paisley.

In the show before this one, I made lots of friends and had a really great time. In the next one, it didn’t have the exact same people, but there was one boy who went to the same one as me. He was one of the people I was pretty good friends with. Or so I thought.

When we were on our break together with his friends, he snapped at me “Why are you following me around like a puppy?” I was so ashamed, hurt and taken aback that I couldn’t bear to go back. I do regret that, because the guy was quite clearly behaving like an arse and it could have been a really good show. I could have had a lot of fun as part of the chorus.

10. “Don’t take on other people’s problems more than they are.”

I did this quite a lot, especially during S4 and S5. People used to befriend me because I would sit for hours and counsel them through their problems. But quite a few of these people were just looking for a safe space to have a bitch or didn’t have the stones to sort themselves out. It left me exhausted, and I got really emotionally invested when I probably shouldn’t have. By all means, help people. Help your friends because most people will appreciate you being there. But when people relinquish responsibility for their own wellbeing and expect you to provide their happiness is when you detach. They need to help themselves, you know.

11.“Enjoy your teenage years but keep in mind that what you do now can affect you for the rest of your life.”

When I was that age, I fell for the “if you fail your exams, you fail at life” dogma. So to me it was as grave as it might sound to you. But I know as an adult, if you don’t do well at school, it’s not the end of your life. Far from it!

How you are as a teenager will affect how you’ll be for the rest of your life. But that doesn’t mean you’re done for. You’ll make mistakes, but you’ll grow from them.

So have fun with your friends, go to all the after-school clubs, kiss every frog, pop all your zits- make the most of every minute, because you won’t get it again!

 

my halloween costumeDSCF9725me in the pace foyer