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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