ambitions, mental health

An Autumn Self-Audit

Concrete Road Between Trees by Craig Adderley

 

It’s crunchy season!

I love the crackle of leaves underfoot, don’t you? Crunch crunch crunch. It’s such a satisfying sound, the crisp crinkling of dead leaves being pulverised to smithereens like city blocks under Godzilla’s heel. Very empowering. Next time you go to the park, I thoroughly recommend stomping around on them and going ‘RARGH’. It can be very cathartic.

Once again, it’s time to take stock and do a bit of introspection. The nights are drawing in and the days are ever cloudier, so fire up your SAD lamps and make sure you get plenty of vitamin D. I know that won’t cure my depression, but it can’t hurt. Unless I stub my toe on the SAD lamp, that is. It’s pretty hefty.

So where am I, right now? In my life, my career, my everything? Well, in terms of career and material considerations, I’m not much farther than I was last time I had a look at myself, though I’ve definitely been busy.  Remember I submitted The Bride Wore Blood to the Screencraft Screenwriting Fellowship, the Finish Line Competition and the BAFTA Rocliffe New Writing Competition? No? I don’t blame you, it was ages ago, but scroll down and you’ll see that I did mention it. Anyway, I reached the Quarter Finals in the first two and didn’t place at all in the latter, nor in a couple of other competitions and opportunities, including the BBC Writers Room. It’s been a bit of a blow, to be honest, though I know it’s all part of the process. Failure isn’t the opposite of success, it’s just one of the steps you carry out in the process of succeeding. Do you like that? I made it up just now, didn’t get it out of a fortune cookie or anything.

Quarterfinalisting is pretty good, though, and I did manage to get a free read of ‘Bride’ from The Literary Consultancy, which was a big opportunity. The notes were great – and even better, I recently got notes from a great fellow writer (hullo Lucy Linger!) and her notes were in line with TLC’s. Thanks to that, I know exactly where to start on the next iteration of this script, starting with a change I’ve been thinking of for a while – from now on, The Bride Wore Blood will be titled Hen Party Massacre! I think it gets the gist across quite nicely. I also have a hook for the pitch: “It’s Bridesmaids meets Friday the 13th!” – succinct and fits the tone well, I reckon.

I’ve started a new podcast (don’t ask what happened to the old one for now) which I’m really quite excited about – a friend and I will each choose a film, we’ll watch them both and then talk about the differences and similarities and things we found interesting about them. My tastes are more mainstream and esoteric horror/scifi while hers are more classic an arthouse, so we’re finding common ground in this Mixed bag of Pictures; or we’re Mixing our Pictures; I dunno, tag lines are hard, it’s called Mixed Pictures, ok? Watch out for it early next year, I hope, as by then we’ll have recorded enough episodes to have a nice buffer for when we start.

I also had a huge breakthrough in that I’ve worked with a friend of mine to write her film school graduation short! This will be my first proper credit (though as it’s a film school one and it’s unpaid then I don’t think it counts as a Professional credit?) so I’m quite nervous about how it turns out. It’s called Nancy, and it’s about a young girl who may or may not be haunted by the spirit of her mother. I did 10 drafts, and then another writer was brought in for an 11th draft to change a few things for logistical reasons, but that’s how it goes! Filming has just wrapped this week and I’m really looking forward to seeing the final film and eventually sharing it with you all.

Also, I went to the ScreenSkills Open Doors event in Leicester recently and met some very nice and very talented fellow creatives who I was only mildly jealous of. It did drive home my biggest weakness right now: confidence and speech. I tried to pitch to someone there and flubbed it twice thanks to my shy nature and pressured speech. I hate the way I pause and stumble over words as my mouth tries to catch up with my brain, and I hate what years and years of low self-esteem and lack of support for my mental health have done to my confidence. If I’m going to make it in this business, I need to address that and fast. I also need to defeat my phone anxiety. And maybe defeat my nervousness about driving.

Essentially, as ever, the biggest thing that’s holding me back is myself. I always have to try harder because of the limitations of my brain/psyche/mind/abusive subconscious, and the things that come more easily to others always seem just out of reach for me. Once worked up, it can take me hours just to write a 300 word paragraph about myself. Just trying harder isn’t going to get me there, though. I need to do Actual Work on Myself. I need to Introspect. I need to Do a Self-Scrutiny.

I’m happy to say I can at least report positive progress on that front. Earlier this year, tired of suicidal ideation (no that is a word, Chrome dictionary, look it up) and deep depressive spirals, I finally self-referred to Trent PTS for talking therapy. This is a Big Deal for me, as asking for help doesn’t come easily; not because of bullshit toxic I-am-a-man-and-men-don’t-ask-for-help reasons, but for I-should-be-able-to-just-carry-on-and-I’m-not-worth-anyone’s-time-anyway reasons. But I did it, and I had 8 sessions with a lovely counsellor who listened and said ‘gosh’ a lot. And she validated me. She told me I’d been through a lot, and am going through a lot, and she acknowledged how hard it is. And to hear that from a stranger, a professional, someone with no emotional investment in me? It was like a soothing balm. It let me realise that yes, I have been through a lot. I moan about it, yes, but I always downplay it and insist to myself that I’ve got it easy and should just get on with things. I’ve internalised this idea that I’m lazy, and will moan about how lazy I am as I run around trying to get three things done at once. Stopping for a break isn’t allowed, because treading water is the same as drowning and standing still is a waste of time.

The counsellor helped me think of myself in terms of the person who’s driven by an impulse to push himself and punish himself if he doesn’t hit perfection. I talked about my past, beyond the traumatic incident towards the potential roots of my depression and my anxiety. It was a safe space to air grievances and express emotions I’ve been repressing for too long. Ultimately, it was an extremely helpful 8 sessions of deep thinking and prodding at my psyche.

Add to this the fact that when my wife was diagnosed with adult ADHD, I sat in on the assessment sessions and went ‘Oh. Oh dear.’ at about 90% of her answers – they match up suspiciously with my own experiences. So much so that I’ve decided to to seek assessment myself, just in case; it would certainly explain my craving for constant stimuli and my struggle to remain focused on any single task. No idea if anything will come of it, but we’ll see.

If you’ve read this far, thank you, you’re a trouper and I salute you. Let’s go for a drink sometime.

So that’s how I am. It always feels like one step forward and two steps back, but I know that that’s not the case at all. Even not placing in competitions is an achievement, merely because it means I still have the confidence to put myself out there. Garfunkel and Oates put it better than I could. I’m still here, I’m struggling but I’m stronger.

And no matter how long it takes, I will succeed.

ambitions, creativity, writing

Internet Wasteland & Fertile Dreams

Yes, I know I’ve used this before. No, I don’t care. Shut up.

Well! It’s been a little while since I dared show my face around here, isn’t it? Believe it or not, this lapse was accidental rather than the usual apathy and laziness creeping in and hiding all my productive thoughts.

I’ve moved house, see. Nothing drastic, just down the road. But it came with all the usual inconveniences – packing, organising, putting off unpacking. And, of course, transferring utilities. Like the internet. Which I’ve not really properly had for about a month now. I’ve been like a junkie, scraping by, getting my hits when I could through hooking my laptop up to my phone and using mobile internet. I’ve gobbled up data in huge slimy chunks. I think I’ll stop now before my imagery breaks down entirely.

While this has been going on, I’ve been settling in to my new role at work, which is rapidly moving from my new role at work to plain old my role at work. Which is nice. It’s nice to feel some self-confidence, professionally speaking.

Another area I’ve been treated to some self-confident is in my writing. Remember my last blog post? “Barely?” “Way back in the mists of time?” Cheeky bastards. Anyway, I mentioned I’d had an idea for a little film, one scene, couple of minutes. Something light and fluffy and geeky and romantic.

Well, not long afterwards I came across the 50 Kisses competition.

2 page script. Set on Valentine’s Day. One kiss.

I’d already written it. Two minor edits later and it was suitable.

I took a deep breath.

I took a plunge.

I emailed it in.

I also approached James ‘Gus’ Boucher, a good friend of mine, about potentially directing it. You may remember him from such shorts as Tea Leaf and Jeremy (you know, that one wot I wrote). He entered the competition and we filmed it on the off-chance that the fates would smile on us and my script would be considered worth a damn.

Well, 50 Kisses started the reading process and I don’t envy them. They had over 1000 scripts to sift through. They whittled it down to a longlist of just over 500.

And my script was one of them.

At least one person has read it and thought it merited passing through to the next round. I’m under no illusions, I’m not expecting to see it win, to get my name up there on screen. Hoping, yes. But not expecting. Cliche as it may seem, winning isn’t the important thing, not really. Having had the confidence to send it in, that’s the important thing. That’s the big important thing.

I’m getting there. One day I’ll believe in myself the way others seem to believe in me. This isn’t the first step, but it’s one of many, in the right direction.

ambitions, resurrection, writing

Well This is Going Well.

Ahah! Nobody expects the resurrection of the long-dead blog!

I think I’m going to try a different tack here and try to think of this blog as anything but a journal. Soapbox, maybe. Opinion-dump, certainly. Article/fiction practice, no doubt. But not a journal or a chronicle of the events in my life. That just doesn’t seem to work.

Perhaps it’s because my life is fairly run of the mill; I don’t go hitch-hiking in India, bungee-jumping in Chili, vampire-slaying in The Congo. I work in a call centre. I watch geeky films and occasionally go to a pub. My lofty aims of being exciting and interesting and creative have long since seemed to fall by the wayside. But perhaps I can try and rescue at least the last of those aims, and in doing so rekindle my desires to be a wordsmith of note.

Or perhaps I’ll fail and this blog will once again slip into disrepair, ignored and forgotten by all. Is there a place where unread and poorly-updated blogs go to die? Do they slip away in the dead of night, sticking their virtual thumbs out, hitching a ride with cybertruckers to The Big Blog Graveyard in the Digital Sky?

No. Of course not. That would be silly.

Unless I write about one, of course.

Hmm…

But I digress. Sorry about that. I do that occasionally. It’s in my nature. Where was I? Ah yes, this blog.

I intend to revive this blog, to zap it with 1.21 jigawatts of creative juices, if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphor. It won’t be easy; my natural state is one of laziness, inertia and well-intentioned apathy. I’m going to need Help. Help from You, dear readers. Yes, both of you.

I would greatly appreciate the occasional poke, nudge or karate chop to remind me this thing exists and that I need to update it.  To be honest, I have a nasty habit of putting myself down and telling myself I’m not strong enough to accomplish things. This needs to stop, but in typical me fashion I’m not sure I can do it on my own. With the odd reminder from you, I know I can somehow drag myself out of the creative funk I’ve slipped into and maybe gain a permanent sense of confidence about my abilities into the bargain. Help me, Reader-wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.

That said, I know I’ve got to put in a lot of work myself if I want to make anything of myself. To that end, I will (not ‘intend to’, ‘must’ or ‘should’, but will) set a creative schedule for myself. It won’t be strenuous or elaborate; as a teen I spent far more time crafting study schedules than actually sticking to them. Yes, I was a Rimmer. But I need a framework, something flexible and attainable that I can work around.  X hours a day, y hours a week, z hours a month, maybe. Something I can hold on to as a routine of sorts, to get me back into the writing habit and to stop me wasting my time. Life is too short and precious to spend it wishing I were doing other things. It’s time I finally made things happen.

That’s all from me for now, though. Do please feel free to comment, especially if you’d like to offer suggestions for future post topics; I’m more likely to keep coming back to a lively blog than a desolate word wasteland. It’ll also feel a lot less like shouting into the wind that way.

tl;dr : Go back up there and read the post, you lazy sod, it’s not that long. The gist of it is I’m going to try and write more, write here and generally better myself creatively-speaking & I’d quite like you to remind me of this when appropriate.