thetillyvanilly

Awkward things.

Rejecting Rejection

Rejection Just Ahead Green Road Sign with Dramatic Storm Clouds and Sky.

I was all ready to write something that mattered today, something that was heartfelt and well-observed, something that clicked and flowed and ticked all the right boxes of awesome.

Ha.

Hahaha.

Nope.

So instead of the soggy piece of wet flannel nonsense that I was writing, I’m going to write a rant about the stupid Catch-22 that I seem to be in, in the hopes of clearing out the crap and unclogging my brain.

Failing that, at least I’ll have produced something that hasn’t been crossed out, crumpled up and tossed into the trash.

Basically, there’s a site that I really, really, REALLY want to write for. I have sent them a bazillion pitches, (not exaggerating) and have progressed from form rejections to personalised rejections. Woo… They’re still rejections. And I’m getting to the panicking point where I feel like I’m running out of ideas, like I’ve wasted my good ones and now I’m down to nothing

And I feel like the world is ending. It’s stupid and self-centred and so bloody millennial of me, I know, but this is IMPORTANT. I am the girl on The Face, crying and humping Naomi Campbell’s leg, because this is the only thing that I can do, and the only thing that I want, and now I’m being told that I can’t.

It’s not the end of the world. I know. There will be other things, other times, and there are a lot of corners and God knows what’s around them, but right now I want to punch Naomi in the face and run away and hide and cry until I fill the room and find the dodo.

But hey, who doesn’t, right?

It’s all part of life, this rejection thing. It just totally sucks. Wouldn’t it be good if we could win at everything? If we could get picked for every team? If we could get medals for spelling our names right and getting out of bed in the morning? If there were no more red pens and frowny faces and men in suits telling us that CVs shouldn’t be written in crayon and include photographs of Nicholas Cage wearing various hats. That would be pretty sweet. But until the world crowns me supreme overlord, I guess we’re stuck with rejection, and maybe we should start getting used to it.

So here are my top tips for dealing with those times when you want to punch supermodels and earn strait jackets…

  1. Do not punch anyone.

No, not even Naomi Campbell, however much she seems to totally deserve it. Violence is never the answer, unless the question is ‘what is not the answer?’ But then we enter into a weird time-travel style paradox that encourages yet more anger and violence.* Basically, if someone rejects you, it’s not because they’re a terrible, horrible, shitty person, but because they have terrible, horrible, shitty taste. Don’t hate them, pity them. They probably don’t understand the value of S Club 7, stick on glitter tattoos and Mary-Kate and Ashley movies. Think of how empty their black and white lives must be.

  1. Give up.

If you’re trying and trying and trying and getting no cigars whatsoever, then maybe you’re never going to fit into their hole. Maybe it’s time to look for a different hole. Not necessarily bigger, just differently shaped, something that you don’t have to suffer to squeeze into. If you’re working hard and producing stuff, then you HAVE to be improving. It’s like the law. So if after a long time trying you’re still no closer, then you might have to admit that you’ve come as close as you’re going to get. Take a few photos and turn around. There are people around who will appreciate your art, trust me.

  1. Go at it with a battering ram.

If you’re really super sure that this is the place for you, then keep swimming upstream, but up your arsenal. I’m talking heavy duty machinery. Bazookas mainly. And chainsaw blow torches. Basically, you need to use everything in your toolkit to get your foot in the door. You have a connection? Stalk them until they panic and give in. You have a good reputation? Big it up. Obviously they’re not getting the message of how epic you are, so make sure they do. If they still don’t get it, there are always power tools.

  1. Stop being yourself.

The usual stuff is not going to cut it, obviously. They said no, so they’re probably going to keep saying no unless you alter your approach. Look for what they like and imitate it, or at least digest enough of it that your own style merges with theirs. Be who they want you to be. I know it sucks that they don’t appreciate your awesomeness as it stands, but if you want it that much, you have to be willing to compromise. It’s not a dirty word, it’s just another trick for getting your own way, but in a different format. Ok, it’s slightly selling out, but sometimes you have to sell out to sell, you know?

But seriously.

If you’re any kind of artist, you’re going to have to deal with this sort of stuff, and in my experience it really doesn’t get easier. Every time someone says no, I am the kid getting picked last for sports. It hurt like hell then and it hurts even more when you’re getting rejected for something you can actually DO. Sure, don’t pick me for hockey. I suck at it and will probably score ten own goals and break your ankle, possibly not even by accident. But if I write something for you, if I pour my heart, soul, blood and guts onto the screen, if I let you inside my screwed up mind and let you look around, then your no feels like a hot poker to everything that matters.

But still we keep swimming towards something we know exists, even though we might never have seen it before.

We write until our fingers ache and our minds are empty buckets.

We stumble uphill in the darkness, our feet searching for ground that might not be there.

Until…

We reach the top.

We see the sun.

We get the yes.

And we realise the nos are nothings and it’s been worth every single one.

*Bonus tips: Don’t ask stupid questions and stop trying to make time travel happen, Gretchen.

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My Make-up Free Week!

makeup

The other day I had to get my passport photo taken. Cue crippling anxiety that can only be cured by becoming suddenly invisible. Or a supermodel. I bet supermodels get passport photos taken for fun… So I went and I got in the booth and I did everything right, including not hiding my hideous face with my hair and not disguising my dark circles with my glasses. Stupid machine. The photo came out, as expected, really badly. It is worse than bad. It could be used to torture uncooperative warthogs. If Pumbaa saw my photo, he’d be crying for Simba so fast that I’d be hurtling down a cliff to my fiery death. Which I could totally go for considering my face is so gruesome. Also, I look like a terrorist. Apparently this is a common thing, but if passports are supposed to protect us from terrorists, why would they make everyone look like a terrorist?! My brother looks like he’s about to poison spies with radioactive tea*. And in his passport photo it’s way worse.

So how does one deal with photo booths basically calling you fat, ugly and so far over the hill you’re in Mordor? Well I could put a hit on the damn machine and hire my dodgy brother, but he’s not really as murderously trained as his passport photo makes out, so instead I decided to rage against the machine in a non-violent fashion. I decided to stop wearing make-up for a week. I know that this makes no sense at first glance. I mean, how does wandering around with my hideous face on display counteract the fact that I will have to display my hideous face in every country I set foot in?

The thing is, yes, the photo booth is a tool of Satan and I hope it gets hit by an asteroid with herpes. But no matter what ‘accidents’ befall that machine, my face will still be my face. I will still be going about my awesome life, flying country to country with my passport photo tucked away under my make-up, and I thought that I should probably get used to what I look like, because I’m not going to start looking like a supermodel just because I refuse to confront a mirror. So I stopped wearing make-up. I let my dark circles show, didn’t fill in my super sparse eyebrows and walked around looking like a strangely yellow corpse with an iron deficiency**.

I will now tell you what I’ve learned so that you don’t have to suffer the trauma of going face naked against the cruel world…

  • Men Either Don’t Notice or Don’t Mention

Now, I’m not sure whether this is because they are not paying attention at all, honestly think we’re beautiful either way, are completely blind, or are just being stealthy and protecting their testicles, but not one man has batted a mascara-less eyelash at my lack of make-up. Not one. And it’s not like I’m a goddess with a glowing complexion and a natural rosy glow. The first morning I tentatively looked in the mirror and nearly attacked my reflection with a ukulele. It is obvious to anyone with two eyes and a working brain that I look different without a layer of all the things on my face. And I was expecting it. I was expecting to be annoyed. Once, my best friend wasn’t wearing make-up and my brother told her that she looked TIRED. He’s dead now. Ok, so he’s not dead exactly, but scarred, definitely scarred.

Enlightenment Level: 0/5 (Too confused to reach Nirvana)

  • Beautiful, Glamorous Women Turn up When They’re Not Wanted

I’m a feminist, ok? Just slipping that in there before anyone accuses me of letting down the sisterhood with my unsisterly nonsense, because I am not. I was a Spice Girls fan right from the beginning. I have the entire collectable photo album in pristine condition, Walkers limited edition crisp packets and body spray. I am all about girl power. You know who isn’t about girl power? Every gorgeous girl I’ve crossed paths with this week. Let me tell you ladies, it is NOT sisterly to be all pretty when people have taken a vow of hideousness. Feminism is not about being effortlessly attractive while girls with low self-esteem mentally knock back a lifetime’s supply of Doritos, which they can’t actually eat because they’re on a juice fast right now. You are selfish. It is really freaking selfish to be that beautiful and to be able to colour co-ordinate clothes and not get stains on everything. It is selfish to know what to do with your hair and to never have plucked the majority of your eyebrows out. You should be ashamed of yourselves. And in case you can’t detect it, there’s a sarcasm sign. Girl power.

Enlightenment Level: 0/5 (Too jealous to be any kind of Zen)

  • My Face Doesn’t Look Like My Face

I don’t know if you’re the same, but I pretty much have a picture in my head of what I look like, and it is nothing like what I actually look like. Every time I look in the mirror, even when I’m wearing make-up, I get really confused, because that person isn’t me. And it’s not even a little bit not me, it’s like, REALLY not me, so not me that I might as well be brushing my teeth to a picture of Nicholas Cage. And when I’m not wearing make-up, it’s even more pronounced. Have you seen Tom Hussey’s ‘Mirror’ series of photos? It’s basically elderly people looking in the mirror at who they used to be. It’s upsetting and inspiring and wonderful and so, so sad, and THAT is how I feel when I look in the mirror. Like, who is this girl and how is she in my house? Somebody fetch my ukulele because stuff’s gonna go down. But when I’m away from the mirror, I’m Natalie Portman again. Maybe the solution is to smash all the mirrors and replace them with pictures of Nicholas Cage… Yeah, I’d be into that. Viva la revolución!

Enlightenment Level: 5/5 (According to Nicholas Cage)

  • My Skin is Loving it

The only one who’s happy about this whole thing is my skin. My pores are discovering what snow is for the first time ever, and I’m pretty sure that if they could, they’d be bounding off into it like excitable puppies. My skin is clearing up, figuring out its own thing, and becoming what it was always meant to be, before I got involved and smeared it with every chemical I could find. Speaking of my skin being happy, I can also see crazy changes day to day that I don’t think I would have noticed if I was covering it up. Being forced to expose my dark circles to the world like a creepy old dude in a mac has meant that I can watch them as they darken and lighten. This is TMI time btw, so if you’re of a sensitive constitution, suck it up buttercup, because this blog is not for sissies. Ok, so, my period, moon time, shark week, whatever you want to call it, drained me of all my delicious iron. Result? Dark circles reached serial killer level. But when I started juicing wheatgrass the dark circles were reduced, rendering me almost human looking! That’s science. Nobel prize, anyone?

Enlightenment Level: 5/5 (I have reached Nirvana, where there are no dark circles and everyone smells like patchouli)

So there you have it. I did some stuff and learned some things. The biggest lesson*** that I learned during my make-up free week is that it’s not that bad. There are children starving in Africa for God’s sake. You’re not going to die from not wearing make-up, and that is freaking awesome. Think of all of the things that you can die from, like radium and mining disasters and overenthusiastic sharks. On the first day, yeah, I was freaking out. Seven days is a long time if it’s in front of you, but not so much if you’re looking back at it. Am I going to chuck the make-up? Hahahahahaha… No. My dark circles will have to say adios to the sunlight, but I am going to go lighter with it. And I’m definitely going to become much more acquainted with Nicholas Cage in the near future, if you know what I mean.

*Yes I know news things. I’m not just a monstrous face.

**I don’t have an iron deficiency. I have inherited dark circle genes from my parents. I am losing faith that I was adopted and my real dad is Will Smith…

*** Which I didn’t bullet point because sometimes you’ve got to say screw the system, even if it’s your own system and you are a really big fan of bullet points.

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Juice As I Expected

juice

It’s that time of year again! Yes, the time when I willingly submit myself to a chewing ban. Last year I juiced for nine weeks. This year I’m going for twelve weeks, because I am an attention-seeking masochist. This is my diary of the first week…

Day 1: It’s day one and I am confused. It’s not like I’m a newbie at this. If juice fasting won medals, I would have a freaking medal, but there are no medals, so we should just move on before my hopes realise what’s happening. Like I said, I am confused. I know what the first few days of a juice fast bring, and this is not it. The whole day I’ve been happy, energetic, and less likely to eat my loved ones than usual. That is not how it’s supposed to go down! Where are my headaches and random pains and extreme tiredness? Where are my mood swings and urges to kill? If I’m feeling good, are my toxins still hanging out inside me, waiting to mutate all of my cells with a sledgehammer? Call me paranoid, I don’t care. I could at least get an itchy boob or something. If I don’t get a good dowse of misery tomorrow, I’m writing a letter of complaint to Joe Cross…

Day 2: Today’s phrase is: I am sooo tired! Seriously, I can’t stop saying it. Also I can’t get out of bed, even though I need the toilet and would quite like to not die of dehydration. Isn’t that the strangest situation in the world? I need to pee, but I’m so thirsty! If I drink will I explode? If I pee will I die? Oh what a crazy, exciting life I lead. Anyway, I had a few juicing symptoms, so Joe and I are still bros. I had a mild headache this morning, I have felt a bit bleurgh at random times and have a delightfully disgusting tongue. And now of course I have glued myself to the bed with no hope of escape. Oh well never mind, this is most people’s dream come true.

Day 3: Today I am the weirdo who randomly grins at strangers. I am happy – SO happy. I think someone may have spiked my juice… I am just hanging out in my big bubble of Zen and gratitude and cheesy pop music and puppies and everything awesome about life. I remember this feeling, and I’ve just realised that I haven’t felt it since I last juiced. There is a well of joy inside me that’s only tapped when I’m juicing. How crazy is that? It’s mad how what you consume can change who you are. And this is probably proof that eating junk turns me into a psychotic, tearful mess. Juice it is then!

Day 4: Back to tired again. My body is doing this strange, looping rollercoaster of feelings. Elated and dancing around the supermarket to unconscious and back again. Today I decided that it would be a brilliant idea to muse on the meaning of life. This is NEVER a good idea, and always ends in misery and alcohol and death. Luckily there’s pineapple in my afternoon juice, so I’m distracted by the deliciousness more quickly than I would be by chocolate, since this is my only food source. Ooh, and while we’re talking about it, I don’t want chocolate. Ikr? I can’t even remember what it tastes like, it’s that much of a burned bridge. So I’m on the up of the rollercoaster right now, hanging out on the smug side of town.

Day 5: I am feeling good! I have all the energy and have used it for swimming and cycling and wandering to the library. I want to read all the books. I’m feeling super motivated right now, like I could become a completely different person, one who’s named after fairy tale creatures and says things like ‘rad’ and has delicate facial piercings and builds robots for fun. I love her already and I’ve just invented her. I’ve got to the point where I am not having much mood difference between full and hungry. I am not hangry any more, merely in need of juice. I am Zen and serene like a beautiful, robot-building mermaid. Must google how to swim, because I almost drowned several times. Not the juice’s fault, that’s my own ineptitude and lack of practice. But juice will transform me into a mermaid, because juice is like magic!

Day 6: I want to sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep. I was fine until I spotted my bed, and now all I want to do is snuggle up and grab some delicious Z’s. Everything hurts, I am freezing and I am verging on irritable. I’m pretty sure my body’s unearthed some major toxins under last month’s Glamour magazine, and now they’re raising hell, because in my head, my body is like a theme park spa. You know, there are rollercoasters, and they screech to a stop and flip you into a hot tub. Disney characters hand you glasses of champagne and Gaston, (my new boyfriend, Gaston) is on hand to rub you down in all the right places. Yeah, my body is definitely like that. So who can blame the poor little vicious toxins if they don’t want to leave? Exactly.

Day 7: I want to say that I am feeling freaking amazeballs, and bouncing off every wall there is, like a kid who’s inhaled a lifetime supply of sherbet sticks. I’m not. I’m tired. I’m so tired. I just want to sleep for a week, and I’m telling you this because, in my juicy experience, this is atypical. By day seven I should be verging towards something like normal at least. Maybe I would be if my tyrannical boss didn’t decide that today would be the day that we did ALL the work. Maybe I would be if I hadn’t embarked on a pretty packed exercise schedule. Who knows? All I know is that I’ve only lost three pounds, and instead of being upset about it, I’m happy. I have gained muscle. I know this because my calves are like rocks and my downward facing dog is looking pretty awesome.

So there we go. It’s the first week of twelve, and like being in a car driven by a platypus, it’s been a bumpy ride.* But it will get better. Oh wow, I sound so morose. I’m not, I promise. I’m just concentrating really hard on holding my face over my laptop via one elbow. Drool is a tech killer, people. So now I’m going to sleep, but before I do, I’m putting money on the fact that I’ll wake up as freaking Pollyanna.

*Platypuses are notoriously inept drivers. Everyone knows that.

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5 Things I Learned By Getting Into Mensa

dating

Recently I took two IQ tests, hoping that Mensa might, you know, ask me to hang out or whatever. And, awesomely, they did! Cue party hats and kissing glasses and photo opportunities. Or not.

I was ready to write this article whether I made it, or whether the letter that landed on the mat was a big fat “no thanks,” because I knew that I was going to learn something either way. This is one of those big deals in my life that means a lot, but not for the reasons I thought it would. It doesn’t matter because I got in. It wouldn’t matter because I didn’t. It matters because I tried, and you learn a lot when you reach for something you want.

I will admit it. I took the test because a lot of people think I’m stupid, and I wanted to be like “Um, actually…” I can be blonder than Paris Hilton sometimes. I panic about filling in forms, was convinced until recently that anvils were a comedic prop created by Looney Tunes, and walk into inanimate objects on an almost hourly basis. I am also what my friends kindly refer to as ‘adorable’. I insist that they name their cars, I swear that I have seen a unicorn, and I cannot resist the allure of anything in my path that sparkles.

But I am not stupid.

I do algebraic equations for fun, I can recite the 27 moons of Uranus in order of orbital period, and I read more than my optician is happy with. I am a healthy mix of fluff and dust. I am a grumpy old man in a tutu, poring over yellowed pages on special relativity, whilst knocking back a drink that’s pink and comes, pleasingly, with a cocktail umbrella and a curly straw.

On the outside, yeah, I seem to be a bit on the slow side of the street, but a poor grasp of blacksmith tools does not an idiot make. So I took this as an opportunity to prove to people that I am not as thick as I look, and also to prove it to myself. When you are treated a certain way, if you’re not careful, you can start to believe that you are what they think you are. But I didn’t just get a shiny certificate and a metaphorical pat on the back, I got a lot more than that.

Here is what I learned…

  1. Things aren’t as horrifically terribly horrendous as they seem.

On test day I was constantly reminding myself about my question-reading weakness, and the fact that I should take it slowly, not rush and read every question thoroughly, rather than doing what I am wont to do, and giving the opposite answer because I’m not paying attention. So the first test started and I plodded through, conscious of every possible slip avoided. It was going well until BZZZ. Time up. What? WHAT?! Noooo. Head meet hands. I missed so many questions on that test. But it was ok. It didn’t matter. I screwed up super badly and left half the sheet blank, but test two saved my question-reading backside. Side lesson: Three minutes is no time at all if you’re not paying attention.

  1. I care.

A LOT. The day before the test I was terrified, during the test I was a wreck, after the test I was an emotional car crash. Suddenly getting into Mensa was the only thing I wanted in the world, and if I didn’t get in, I was an intellectually stunted moron. In fact, why was I even bothering to try? Everyone knew I was stupid, it was common knowledge. The fact that I was wasting everyone’s time here wasn’t only laughable, it was offensive. This test would serve as nothing more than a baseball bat to crack me down the few pegs that I’d mistakenly ascended. When the congratulations letter arrived, I screamed and phoned my best friends before even bothering to take off my shoes.

  1. It doesn’t actually matter.

At first it is the best feeling in the world. It’s official. You are an intelligent person. The other intelligent people want to play with you. You can visit libraries and discuss Shakespeare and do Rubik’s cubes together. All the yay for you! But it doesn’t last long. I am still me, ditzy as a poodle with a mouth full of candy floss. Except now I have a certificate. I guess it’s the equivalent of having a lifetime of low self-esteem issues and someone telling you how pretty you are. It’s nice to hear, a shock even, so much of a shock, in fact, that you decide that they are a liar, probably a scam artist. There’s a pyramid scheme trundling into your future, pulled on a cart by a man with a pocketful of magic beans. There is probably some screw up with the test. You’re not going to make anyone aware, but you know, oh you know.

  1. Nobody is impressed.

My mum’s response was to screw up her face and ask me where I came from. No parental pride from that side of the fence. My friends were more curious. The thing about having the appearance of being a few paintbrushes short of a picnic, is that once you get into the genius club, everyone else decides they can too. Rather than Mensa being a prestigious organisation for brainiacs, it becomes accessible. Which is fine and dandy and all that jazz. But it’s also a teensy bit, I don’t know, annoying. It feels like “Pfft! They let you in? That means I could do the test with my elbows, wearing my knickers on my head whilst Benedict Cumberbatch whispers breathily into my ears!” Instead of people’s opinion of my intelligence going up, I’ve managed to bring people’s opinion of Mensa’s standards DOWN. I am probably the only person in the world that could manage to do it, so slow clap for me.

  1. I am brave.

Intelligence is all well and good, but the best thing that I realised is that I am brave. I’ve been pushing myself this year to jump off all the metaphorical cliffs, and have mostly only managed to walk to the edge, shudder and scramble backwards to safety, whilst creating new and unusual swear words. But I took the test, even though it was terrifying, even though there was a high likelihood that I would get a letter saying “Hahahahahahahaha… No.” Bravery is being scared and pushing through the fear. Bravery is telling your coward of a brain to STFU. Bravery is risking your shaky opinion of yourself on the chance that someone somewhere might just agree. I took a chance and whatever the outcome, it would have paid off because I didn’t leave the chance on the shelf in the first place.

So yeah. I am smart and I can be dumb. I am scared and I am brave. I am a human being with a bucket load of contradictions wrestling inside of me like a bunch of greased up deaf guys. And that’s ok, because, I’ve realised, most people are.

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Sick of Not Being Successful

kurt-vonnegut

I am sick of not being successful, completely and utterly bored out of my mind with the idea of not being who I know I can be. I mean, I thought I’d be there by now. I had a ten year plan. I made lists. I consulted self-help books. I visualised and I created vision boards and I thought positively and… Yeah, no, definitely not successful yet. So who do I have a word with about that? Is there like, I don’t know, a manager or someone I could consult with? Did my wishes go to the wrong address? Is there a delay? Will I be refunded? Who do you blame when your wishes don’t come true?

And I’m trying. I’m trying so hard. I rock a crazy schedule, working and writing and editing and pitching and pushing everything forward, across the gravel with my nose, but it’s like I’ve hit a wall. Of lava. And I have no idea where this metaphor is headed, so let’s just say that the metaphor is a metaphor for me. I have no idea where I’m headed. I’m running blind, just hoping and wishing and tripping over shadows.

You know what sucks about the freelance world? You could pitch something that you think is perfect. It’s completely typo-free and just their style. You’re enthusiastic, complimentary, brief, explanatory, basically all the good stuff that gets an editor going, but two days after the pitch, the rejection hits your inbox like a freaking anvil. Why? WHY?! WHY DO YOU NOT WANT ME?! Who knows, man? You certainly don’t because they’re not telling. So you tweak and pitch, tweak and pitch, over and over until you get accepted or go insane. Or both. Usually both.

Sometimes I think that I just want to give up and lie on the sofa and stuff Pringles in my face. I want to watch reality TV and cuddle my dogs and just not care anymore. I’ve been writing at least one thousand words a day every day for the past year and a half. Some days I don’t want to, and I debate with myself, whether it’ll matter in the long run, and I think hard about taking just one night off,  but I don’t. I write. And I’m glad I did, because I know that one day turns into two, turns into a week, turns into a month, a year, a lifetime. I know that momentum is something that’s hard to get back. And I know that what I’m doing is working. I’m improving. I’m tallying up the little things that would have been big two years ago, but now they’re mundane. I should be grateful. I should be happy.

Neil Gaiman once said something, and I can’t find the exact quote, so I’ll paraphrase. Hey, maybe some of you wondrous research types could track it down? Basically it was about some advice he’d been given. The advice was to enjoy it. Don’t waste your time at the top freaking out about falling. You need to look around while you’re up there, admire the view, be thankful that you got so far, and marvel at how it was possible. But Neil Gaiman, like most human beings, ignored that awesome advice, panicked and worked like a nutcase scrambling to stay up there. I can imagine doing that. When you get somewhere you’ve always wanted to be, the worst thing in the world would be to have it taken away from you. But if you’re freaking out, you’re not enjoying it, so is it worth all the fear and the blind flailing to get to another location where you’re just doing what you did all the way up? Well if it’s good enough for Neil Gaiman…

I just want to get somewhere so different from where I am. I’ve thrown all of my previous dreams out the window. Screw marriage, (he never showed) screw kids, (just NO) screw illustrating, (I have no talent) screw teaching, (I don’t get on very well with grown-ups) screw everything that doesn’t involve putting words in the right order, because it’s all I want. I want a hardback copy of the inside of my mind. I want people to step into worlds I’ve unlocked for them. I want to make people feel all the things. I want to make people think and understand and talk and want. I want my scribbles to mean something. I want to inspire people to be the person that they can be, to be brave, to jump, to fly. I want to do exactly what other writers did for me. I want to teach people to believe in magic and hope and other people. I want them to breath in pages and feel all of their worries drop with their shoulders when they step inside a book shop. I want to help, and this is my way.

So I could just give up, shut up and sit down. I could just lie on the sofa and say maybe tomorrow and let time drip and drip and disappear. But I won’t. I have thought so many times that if I’m not successful by thirty, I’m out. I’m not cheapening suicide here, I mean it. This possible future is what I live for. I have tried to kill myself a few times before. Obviously I’m still here, and I am so, sooo grateful for that. I wouldn’t swap what I’ve known and felt and had for oblivion, not now. But I know that feelings come back, that darkness rises up if you feed it, that your life can short circuit if you let it. There will be days when it seems like the right thing to do, and there will be days when nothing could be better than being alive in that moment. In the words of a great man, “life is a rollercoaster”. So yeah, sometimes things get heavy and life gets hard, but I’m not done yet. I just need to remember that Kurt Vonnegut was a late literary bloomer, and as long as I’m alive, there’s always time.

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I Feel Fuzzy and Woo!

drunk

Ok, so I don’t get drunk that often. And when I say I don’t get drunk that often, I mean it, like seriously. I’m not hanging out in the booze closet with a bottle of brandy in one hand and a tankard of cider in the other, hoping no-one comes to investigate the weird, glugging sound. I mean that in the past year I have been drunk a grand total of three times. Nope, I’m not a saint, but I’m also not a wino, so that’s something cool to add to my CV. I work well under pressure, (pfft) get along well with others, (HA!) and don’t have a drinking problem (yeah ri- Oh no, that one’s actually true. Score!). Everything in moderation and all that jazz.

But when I do decide to get gazeboed, I do it with style. The point of getting totally vajazzled is to grab yourself a good story, right? Hells to the yes times a zillion. And that is what I set out to do. Every time I purchase a bottle of something stronger than a Dr. Pepper, I am proclaiming my intentions to the world. I am out to completely and utterly mortify myself. All in the name of science, of course. And being a writer, there is always that thought in the back of my mind, or the front of my mind, SOMEWHERE in my mind, that this is an amazing opportunity. This is living. This is material. In the words of (my future husband) Jim Moriarty…

thatswhat

So in the interests of studying normal human beings, sometimes I like to make believe that I am one, infiltrate the in-crowd and get utterly and completely carparked. And I don’t just jump into it blind and crawl out of it the next morning, memory-less and grunting for a glass of water and some paracetamol. Oh no. I am no fool, my friends. The last time I was drunk, I made an effort to accost my friends via recorded instant messages. The time before that, I actually took a notebook and a voice recorder with me to sit on a park bench with a crush and glug rum until it was too dark to see the terror in his face. I repeat: Score!

But, as I’m sure you know, we humans are an imperfect lot, and not everything we decide to do goes completely to plan. Or at all to plan. Or even acknowledges that there might have been the merest hint of a possibility of a plan. Such is life. So the notebook and voice recorder plan? The utterly, totally, completely fool proof plan? Yeah, no. Didn’t work. The only things I recorded in my notebook were a few incoherent squiggles and the beautiful line, (that I may get tattooed one day, such is its intricate and delicate description of the human condition) ahem, “I feel fuzzy and woo.” Gold. And the tape recorder got switched off just as the night was getting interesting, because I decided that it was a terrible idea to record my live mortification, and that I’d probably find it hilarious, play it to everyone I know and regret it.

Drunk me happens to be a lot saner than sober me.

I have no idea what happened that night, apart from sending my best friend texts about love and bread, and the fact that I accidently tipped some rum over a stranger’s dog while enthusiastically trying to pet it and then fell asleep on a bucket swing.

When I am drunk, I become me times a billion. I am clumsier, ditzier and surprisingly, more eloquent. I mean, while I was throwing rum at dogs, I was also using words like compartmentalise. My handwriting also becomes this beautiful, calligraphied piece of art. Ok, so maybe it’s not THAT good, but it’s totally legible and everything! Which leads me to believe that being drunk all the time would be an excellent idea, and would probably result in me getting some sort of well-paid stapling job, but then I think NO. No, that is probably the worst idea that I have ever had, apart from that time that I decided to ride a blind, angry dragon to work and all those people died and town smelt like barbeque for a week.

The most embarrassing thing that happens when I am drunk is that my interest in the opposite sex goes into overdrive. Anyone that I’m with gets ALL THE COMPLIMENTS about the dumbest things. Like, “You have the most beautiful sideburns. I want to plait them.” I accost boys that I like with amorous (yet slightly nagging) and badly spelled messages. Luckily the boys I like tend to reply with information about their extractor fans. That or they edge away slowly in digital form, which tends to involve reading the message and NEVER REPLYING.

Side rant: Don’t read the message and not reply! REPLY! Or don’t read the message. But mostly reply. Please reply. Not that I’m needy or anything.

Anyway…

If I’m not messaging boys, I’m messaging my best friend ABOUT boys. Like, “Why is blahblah so booooooooring?” “Why does blahblah like football?” “Should I phone blahblah? I should totally phone him. Now is EXACTLY the right time to phone him. Quick, before I fall asleep and start drooling! I shall profess my undying love for him and THEN fall asleep! Yes! Plan!” Ok, scratch that about drunk me being any sort of sane. Clearly she’s a special kind of special.

And every time I get drunk, the next morning is the time for resolutions. I am never drinking again. EVER. EVEEEEEEEEEEEER! Four months later… Do you know what would be an AWESOME idea? I actually have a video recording that my ex-boyfriend made when he was seventeen or eighteen, where he’s in the dark, (the video is literally just black) and he’s slurringly bemoaning the fact that getting drunk is a terrible idea, and how he’s let everyone down and how he’s, yeah, you know what’s coming next… Never. Drinking. Again.

So I’m not going to say that. I am going to be the snowflakiest unicorn. I plan to get drunk again. I plan to pronounce words properly and to lose interest in writing anything useful. I will aggressively internet stalk boys who are so not interested that they’re considering moving to Canada. I will spill things and drop things and fall over. I will stumble across parks and sleep in inappropriate places and eat ALL THE BREAD, because after I’ve made a complete mess of everything and my reputation has been ripped from shreds to tatters, I will have an excuse.

I was drunk.

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Sleep Problems

sleep

Lately I’ve been having trouble sleeping. I’m usually a crazy heavy sleeper. Like, I can literally pass out anywhere. One of my friends drives like Jenson Button on speed and yet I manage to catch some Zs in his car. I can also sleep through earthquakes, hurricanes and alien abductions. Don’t ask me how I know. I just do, all right?

Also I used to never have nightmares. EVER. Another friend of mine has nightmares all the time and does crazy amounts of damage, breaking teeth and battering her husband and everything. But I’ve always had the type of zen sleep that I’m sure the Dalai Lama gets. That clear conscience, totally just checked a few souls into enlightenment shiz. Recently though, I’ve been jerking awake in a cold sweat. The other night I had a nightmare about the manager of my local coffee shop being a complete see you next Tuesday to me. She was supposed to be giving me an interview, but completely ignored me to play World of Warcraft. We now have a feud in real life that she doesn’t even know about.

I keep a notebook next to my bed that I ignore like it’s my job. It’s supposed to be a dream journal or something, but mostly it’s used as a paperweight. Sometimes I balance drinks on it until I decide that that’s a terrible idea and move the drinks perilously close to my laptop instead. Obviously I suck at learning lessons. But even though my notebook goes unused, sometimes, in a fit of conscious unconsciousness I will find somewhere to scribble down notes from dreams that seem to matter at the time. Not in the notebook though. Never the notebook. I bet that if I ever actually used the notebook, the world would implode, or a genie would appear, or it would be like the literary version of Jumanji… Ok, now I’m determined to never use the notebook.

This morning I woke up to find that I’d scrawled something in pencil onto a piece of tracing paper, which in my sleep-addled state is somehow better than writing in a book specifically designed for that purpose. I lifted it up to the light and squinted at it. “I can’t die now, because my room would make a rubbish shrine.” Yes, I thought, glancing around, it would make a rubbish shrine, and this is relevant to the human condition how? How will this solve the world peace conundrum? How will this generate food for the hungry or shelter for the homeless? How will this cure cancer or HIV or Ebola? Clearly subconsciously I’m much more concerned about the amount of candles that I own.

Also, I think Paul McKenna might be screwing with me. I’ve been listening to these self-hypnosis tapes. Actually, they’re not tapes. I don’t know why I called them tapes. Maybe I’ve finally become one of those constantly confused little old ladies. Every song is a record, every guy under forty is “such a nice young man” and every problem can be solved with a cup of tea and a little sit.

Anyway, so I’ve been listening to these self-hypnosis whatevers, and Paul McKenna is promising to transform me into a skinny, confident, genius billionaire or something like that. I didn’t actually read the small print, but I think that’s what’s supposed to happen. But all that actually seems to be happening is that I wake up at midnight, (yes, I know that to all you young movers and shakers that’s practically the afternoon, but Grams needs her beauty rest) and my ears are aching from the ear buds, my mind is spinning, and all these random lines of nonsense are begging to be written down.

I think that I convince myself when I’m barely functioning that I’m some sort of prodigy, rather than an inept, clumsy moron with a massive urge to go to the bathroom. I’ve met a few people in my life who have been such a special sort of thick that they think they’re genii. That’s me when I’m half-asleep. I’m an imbecilic egomaniac. There’s a massive probability that I will storm the University Challenge stage in my pyjamas, burbling about the nesting habitats of cheeses, or the sound barrier of marmalade. If only I could grab myself in that moment, shake myself and scream “Wake up Alice!” …Or maybe something that makes slightly more sense.

Anyway, it’s not all bad. There are a few plus points to my sleep problems.

  1. I know what the coffee shop manager is REALLY like. Also she didn’t seem that great at WoW, so ha. The next time she gives me a plain soya latte instead of hitting me up with some caramel syrup, I’m totally gonna insult the stupid pandas.
  2. Maybe one day (night?) I will come up with something more meaningful than a commentary on the state of my bedroom. Hey, maybe I’ll write the next great American novel, only in British form. It could happen.
  3. Paul McKenna is totally transforming me into the next Richard Branson/Tyra Banks hybrid. I can just feel it.

So yeah. Watch this space. I’ll just leave you with these words of wis- Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

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Business Plan

hire man

I’m thinking of a new business venture. Basically you hire a man, but not like that, nothing untoward, don’t worry.

You hire a man, and he brings you chocolate and whispers the sweetest of nothings in your ear. This man will tell you how beautiful you are, how funny, how clever. He will plan surprise picnics, buy you books and take you to the theatre. He will leave you love notes to find around the house. He will hold your hand. He will cuddle in bed and watch trash TV. He will love America’s Next Top Model as much as you do, and The Great British Bake Off, and snort Pepsi out of his nose at Gogglebox. You will secretly worry that he’s developed strong feelings for Joey Essex, but you will understand.

He will roll his eyes every time you mention that girl who clearly hates you. He will point out the fact that she owns a pair of Crocs, and how that means that she obviously has no taste in anything. He will have every quality that you loved in your exes and none of the downsides. He will be punctual, kind, generous and easy-going, but just jealous enough to make you feel like he cares. He will be funny but have a deep hatred of puns. He will kidnap you for spontaneous trips to the beach, avec vintage picnic basket and cosy blanket. He will understand the importance of ambience and stash a supply of candles in his car. He will have a car and he will drive said car like a sensible human being who has no wish to die imminently.

He will not be overly neat, but he will know what a shower is and use it frequently. His hobbies will include chopping up firewood, reading Shakespeare and listening to you complain whilst soothing you with bubble baths and all the wine. He will have hair that straddles the line between Nazi skinhead and deadbeat hippy. He will have an obvious stomach because he appreciates food. He will cook with enthusiasm and clean up the inevitable mess. He will want to feed you and he will love your body, every last bulge and wobble of it. He will stroke you and grab you and tell you which bit of skin is his favourite. He will constantly change his mind about that.

He will not get angry or back you into corners. He will not point out your flaws. He will not smirk when he realises he’s upset you. He will not belittle your hobbies or complain about your friends. He will not shut you in or break you down. He will not demand more than you can give him. He will be content to be with you and only you. He will see your broken parts and will work with you to glue them back together, but only if you want to. He will know that even though you’re broken, you’re whole. He will want you as you are, because that is good enough.

Basically you hire a man. There is no searching, no waiting, no wanting, no hurting. There are no broken hearts or black eyes, no what-ifs or if-onlys. There is no by-the-time-I’m-thirty, no settling, no panic. There is no body clock, no soul-mate, no fairy-tale. There are no crushes, no affairs, no divorces. There is only supply and demand, to love and be loved in return. For a fee.

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7 Things I’d Rather be Doing than Work

soul

For those of you who don’t know me, I have been working a lot this week. Well, this fortnight. We’re talking nine days in a row of being in charge of stuff that I don’t particularly care about, but it would be inconvenient to get fired from. The sort of job that makes you feel like an under-appreciated genius. The sort of job that makes you want to scream and cry and punch pillows until they scream and cry. Possibly a bit like your job. If so, I feel your pain. Maybe we should hang out and complain and self-destruct and down drinks that stink of nail varnish remover and give our pillows a rest.

For those of you that do know me, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it. I’m under a lot of pressure right now. Also I plead unconditional friendship, which means that I get to smear snot on your shoulder and whine about a million things that you care about even less than I do. So ha.

Anyway, whilst muttering under my breath*, I decided to list the myriad things I’d rather be doing than my job right now. I came up with five hundred and forty-four things, but decided to stop at seven, because I’m nice like that. Also I will have to go to work again. &%UYRBKI@L)K^&%^T!!!**

So here are my seven other choices, and if anyone is offering these activities with payment, hit me up. Seriously. Anybody?

  • Being Asked What I’ve Been Up To.

This is a major pet peeve of mine. People will only ask me what I’ve been up to under the following circumstances: If I have done nothing but binge watch Sherlock in my pyjamas all weekend whilst downing multipacks of crisps, in which case, I don’t want to incriminate myself; if my brain has decided to vacate its premises for the day, in which case I’m too busy figuring out how to breathe to list my activities; or if the person asking the question has done something stupidly incredible over the weekend, like skydiving with baby tigers, whilst teaching African children English and winning the lottery and giving all the money to a circus full of disabled orphans, which they helped to set up in the first place, since they have the ability to juggle twenty copies of Ulysses and unicycle to France at the same time, whilst showing off their bikini body and eating five cinnamon-maple-pecan-pumpkin cronuts. From the moon. Somehow. Gosh, I hate those people.

  • Drowning.

Ok, not actually, totally one hundred percent drowning. But drowning a little bit. Enough to get me wet and panicked and breathless. Enough to encourage some sort of life-saving, red-short situation. Not sea water though, pool water is traumatic enough. And the life guard needs to be bearded. And he needs to have a really deep, soothing voice to woo me back to consciousness with. And if he wears Davidoff Cool Water man perfume, that would also be helpful. In the resuscitation part, I mean. And I need to be approximately fifty-six pounds lighter, with black hair and blue eyes and a pre-existing relationship with my rescuer. I’m thinking unrequited love. I’m thinking the Maldives. I’m thinking Michael Fassbender and Megan Fox. I’m thinking an Oscar-winning will-they-won’t-they tropical drama, with a twist. I’m thinking maybe I got a bit distracted…

  • Getting a Smear Test.

Now, I don’t know about you, but personally I cannot think of anything more fun than having a stranger fiddle around with my lady garden. I don’t know whether it’s the fact that I don’t know them that makes it such a wonderful experience, or maybe it’s the fact that they’re sticking a cold, metal instrument inside my body. Perhaps it’s the fact that by having the test in the first place, I am that much closer to receiving terrible news. Whatever the reason, there is nothing more enjoyable than a smear test. After all, you can’t spell fun without vagina. Oh wait… Nope. That was all sarcasm and I forgot my sign. And can someone please explain to me why they don’t hire attractive men to carry out the test? Surely it’s our basic human right. I have to pay for sanitary products, so I deserve to have Benedict Cumberbatch probing my cave of wonders. I pay my taxes, damn it.

  • Making Awkward Small Talk With an Ex-Boyfriend (and his New Girlfriend, Kelly Brook).

How I hate the fact that my exes continue to exist after I’m done dating them. All right, this isn’t strictly true, since I’ve stayed friends with a few of them. But the other ones, why don’t they just stop it already? Why are they even here? Who invited them? It’s bad enough seeing them in the street, (unless they got a really bad haircut, took some terrible style advice,***** and get struck by lightning at the moment you deign to give them a single glance) but having to actually stop and behave as if you still care about their mother from hell or their educational advancements is too much to handle. And then, THEN they rock up to the party with a super babe on their arm, and of course they’re intent on rubbing it (read: her bigger boobs) in your face, which you totally don’t blame them for, because you’ve been planning on introducing them to your boyfriend, Vin Diesel, for weeks. But then Vin was busy saving the world or something, and now not only do you hate everyone in the world, ever, you’ve also figured out that by the time you can afford a boob job, you’ll need the money for a face to match. Great.

  • Having an Ethical Debate.

Ok, if you’re reading this and you happen to be Christian or Muslim, vegan or vegetarian, tee-total or peace, love and all the drugs, pro-life or pro-choice, (basically if you happen to be a living, breathing, thinking human being) then you will know this feeling. You’re chatting along to someone, usually a stranger, usually someone you’re trying to impress, and it comes up; the dreaded subject. And then you get the look. And then the questions. “So do you believe in dinosaurs? Where do you get your protein? What do you DO?! But what if-“ Stop it. Just stop it, please. Can’t we just go back to me pretending to like the same music as you, and you studiously ignoring my weirdness? We were friends five minutes ago and now we want to murder each other before we both go insane. Literally. And would someone please show me this desert island with this one freaking bunny, because I’m sure he’s very lonely and would like to be rescued. Thanks.

  • Doing Someone Else’s Job.

Is it just me, or is everyone else’s job better than mine? I find myself fantasising about trash collection and wading through sewers on a regular basis. How awesome would it be to just turn up to work, lug around/swim through/mop up/whatever some smelly stuff and then go home to bathe, put on pjs and watch daytime TV? Ok, besides the bad TV that sounds like living the dream to me. Or answering telephones and stapling things. I could do that. I have so many unutilized skills in my repertoire, that maybe it’s time for a change. I could unintentionally set fire to things. I could spill things in a really impressive fashion. I could insult people accidentally. I could fall up stairs. I could cook far too much food for one person and proceed to cover every surface available with it, as if my brain is trying to undo my massive portions. Here chair, have some stir fry! Oh, priceless first edition, you look famished, try this Spaghetti Bolognese! Actually it’s a wonder that I even have a job at all…

  • Chatting to Someone Whose Relative has Died.

Death. There’s nothing  like it to scramble up every thought in your head and make you cross the street. We all die, we know we will, but being reminded of it sucks so hard that we tend to avoid it at all costs. It’s like a survival mechanism, except it doesn’t guarantee your survival and turns you into the worst person in the world, ever. I never know what to say. No-one knows what to say. What do you say? “They’re dead, that’s sad. I didn’t actually know them, but now I’m contemplating my own mortality. Boy is that depressing, so thanks a lot for that. There there.” And don’t even get me started on “I’m sorry”. Why are you sorry? Are you a murderer? Did you murder him? Should I be phoning the police right now? Because I totally will. I am in shock and grief and all the feelings, so don’t screw around with me, or I swear to God… That’s how the conversations usually go. Much better than work.

So if anyone fancies paying me to do anything other than what I get paid to do already, that would be lovely, thank you. Please be advised that if it is disgusting, degrading or dehumanising, Michael Fassbender must be on hand, for reasons.

 

 

*Actually, the muttering has evolved to fits of curse-riddled shrieking

**This is what happens when my face hits the keyboard. Although I added the exclamation marks, because this situation really calls for them… !!!***

***Adding exclamation marks may, in fact, be more soothing than smacking pillows until their puffy, white guts burst out!!!!!****

****Ok, this has gone too far now. I do apologise.

*****Crocs with socks. Yep.

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