Dealing with depression

I haven’t made a blog entry in I don’t know how long. This past year I’ve adopted a one-track mind focused entirely on working hard and earning money. I’ve ignored all my creative instincts and shut down my ’emotional’ intelligence, because of how unreliable it has proved in the past.

Four nights ago, I suddenly started suffering from insomnia again. Rationalising it, I can put it down to three or four factors: the fact I’m looking to move house again and the anxiety of wanting to get the move perfect; money, or my perceived lack of money; work, and my feeling of having not got everything ‘perfect’ during my time at my current school; and my utter lack of desire to spend time by myself.

So I thought it’d be good to talk about it. And to talk about the ‘dirty’ word depression, and how I’ve come to stigmatise it more than I ever used to. A dominant part of me felt if I could rationalise my thoughts and feelings, I can just vanquish the feeling. Of course, that is a stupid belief for one so intelligent.

So, moving house… I’ve made the decision to buddy-up with someone I found on spareroom and find a tenancy together. The search has been plagued with problems, from landlords not accepting pets to us both looking for slightly different but irreconcilable things. For the past three or four weeks, I’ve been attached to my phone, ringing every letting agency. I must have viewed twenty properties. We’ve finally found one we both like and tomorrow we find out if our application has been accepted. I’m scared the tenancy won’t work out. That we won’t manage to co-habit well together. That it’ll all end in disaster, because I’ll have one of my depressive episodes one evening and ruin any good relationship we’ve built up.

And that links to my next thing. My desire to buy a house. Which means scraping together every – damn – last- penny. I don’t want a house as a status symbol, or because all my friends can afford to buy whilst I cannot, but because I want stability in my life. I want a place to live that nobody can take away from me. Living with my parents is no longer an option, as both my parents are in a more dire mental state than I am. It’s hard to go to them for help when I know that even the slightest extra emotional baggage might tip one or both of them over the edge. So I need to buy somewhere of my own, that can root me down and give me an anchor in my otherwise fluctuating world. When I am going through one of my hyper states, I dream of flying off to  Australia or New Zealand – working as a ranch hand or as a barmaid and just spending my spare time in the sun with a notebook in hand. Money? What does that matter. I would only need a portion of my current earnings, to pay for board at a local hostel and cheap beach food. But I know in reality that running to the other side of the world isn’t going to help me escape my greatest enemy.

I have the opportunity to run away, since I will be changing jobs in September. This school was only a year contract, the History department is over-staffed and I made the rational decision to find somewhere else. I didn’t regret the decision, I still don’t. But I regret that despite my utmost hardest efforts, I won’t be leaving the school with a straight A report, so to speak. I cocked up two weeks ago over booking details for a school trip – and the fact I made such a foolish mistake hit me hard. My pride hurt bad. I felt incompetent. Whilst everyone else seems to have put it behind them, I know it’s one of the reasons why I am feeling over-anxious coming back to the school for the final term. Which is stupid. This isn’t my last school, where I very obviously had a bad relationship with my line manager and head teacher. This is a school that cares and recognises good work and hard effort. I just fear now that I’m spiralling downward and my work life will be affected, if I don’t sort something out quick.

Which comes down to the underlying issue, I guess. Which is that I am struggling to manage my ‘down time’. I very rarely come straight home from work and switch the TV on. In fact, I rarely just go to the horse and then come straight back. Today is a prime example – driving straight from work to pick up some furniture I bought on an irrational impulse, followed by an hour of time-killing at Katy’s (which was a lovely social relief, but did nothing to relax me), followed by an hour’s tutoring. Then home, dinner, bath, bed. During this whole time, I must have sent at least 100 texts to various people about various things (did I mention I’m trying to sort out somewhere to live?). No wonder I was unable to sleep.

I am scared of being by myself. When I’m left alone, I feel low. I dwell on how meaningless my life is. How I’ve been able to find a boyfriend, a place to call home, a permanent workplace, or a friendship group that is there for more than a few months. It’s not just this inconsistency in my life – it’s the fact I don’t write any more, the fact my spare time is spent working or thinking about work, then blowing my spare cash on nights and meals out, just to feel even guiltier about money. I feel guilty spending money on my supermarket shop, my diet is poor, and I’ve stopped enjoying the things I used to like riding, swimming and cycling.

I joke that dating has become my new favourite hobby. But I would estimate I’ve been on about thirty first dates in the past year alone. And only two second dates. Most of the guys want to see me again, they get sucked in by my witty humour and my seeming confidence. I don’t give them the chance to see the emotional wreck beneath that. Friends keep telling me to take a break from dating, but it’s become an addiction. It’s a vanity exercise, if nothing else. I still hold this waning candle of hope that one day I will turn up and stood there will be my perfect man, who will sweep me off my feet and kiss all my problems away. Oh wait… That happened eighteen months ago! And that landed me in even greater shit! No, maybe I should stick to dating as a vanity exercise.

I suppose the best thing to come out of this half-hour long purging of exhausted feelings is that I need to learn how to live with myself again. I need to spend the summer prioritising activities I can do alone, or with the horse, so that I can live with myself before looking to co-habit with others. I’m going to try and go to the doctor’s tomorrow and ask to be put on antidepressants. Cognitive therapy doesn’t work on me because I’m too good at rationalising my problems. I just need a fucking drug to control my feelings. I need to be able to put my problems back within the context of the world and appreciate that a) I do have friends and family that love and support me b) I have a career, along with a job for at least the next six months c) I earn enough to save a little each month for that dream house and with a 5% deposit it may come sooner rather than later and d) I’m not a bad person, others want to spend their days with me, so I should want to be around me too!

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Run along…

Ok, so I’ve decided that blogging just about writing isn’t going to motivate me to blog, since it’s only one part of my very busy life. So I’m going to chuck in talk of Insanity classes, dating men from the Armed Forces (as I said to Gemma earlier, “I fail to find civilian men attractive”) and ad hoc horse and teacher talk.

I’ve managed some writing this week. Usually if I set my alarm for 5.30 am I can just about crawl out of bed by 6.10 am, get through the ringroad traffic before it builds up and be at my desk with mug of coffee for 7.45 am. That gives me until 8.30 to write. Yes, it’s tight! The temporary traffic lights at Arnold really have not helped. It only takes a meeting, or a resource I’d forgotten to print, or an email about somethingorother and the time has completely lapsed. Nonetheless, I reckon I’m about 10k up from where I was during my last blog post. Problem at the moment is how to make Book 2 as exciting as Book 1. I have three deaths planned but they don’t come quickly and the story arc for both Lucian and Eawan requires lone questing for truth and redemption. How do I do that without falling into the usual trope pit holes? I am fermenting an idea for Eawan’s story, but Lucian’s… Well… Sigh.

Also, I may leave Milo dead. The role he was going to play in Book 2 is now redundant due to the changes I’ve needed to make to Lucian’s storyline, which means I’m going to struggle to find a meaningful role for him. It’s a shame. I’ve spent the past 2 years trying to keep him alive in Book 1 by constantly rewriting his storyline to give his plot greater meaning. It turned out good, I love his story and I’m sure my readers will too, but… Yea, it might be time to say goodnight.

So that’s where it stands at the moment. Nothing too exciting to report.

My latest fad (and I do go through many) is my gym classes. I’ve lost 2 pounds last week and 3 pounds the week before my doing Insanity three times a week, plus spinning, gym sessions and a dance step class. I’m finding it really empowering to work my body up to a fat burning rate. After about five minutes in a class, I’ll go into a zone where I’m no longer aware of those around me and I’m completely focused on what the instructor is showing me and how to push my body to its limits. It’s becoming quite addictive and a great way to boost my self-esteem and stamina. I managed 7 minutes of running on the treadmill today, which doesn’t sound a lot, but running has always been where my stamina most flounders. I am hoping to do 7 minutes a day on the treadmill this week and then perhaps increase it. Come Spring, I’d love to actually be running properly. It’d be a great way of burning off the stubborn pouches of fat I have on my thighs, upper arms and midriff.

So yea. See how long that lasts. So far it’s been 5 weeks and I’m feeling good for it.

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Going ‘indie’

I have spent a lot of time reading through articles online and what people are saying on the forums, and I’ve finally conceded that I should have a go at self-publishing. I say conceded because for many years I’ve held the old-fashioned view that self-publishing is a last resort after every literary agent has been enquired. Well, I’ve read multiple agencies’ websites and I’ve also read what authors have said on the matter. Whether traditional publishing is a dying industry or not, you cannot escape the ‘200 submissions a week, one or two chosen for representation a year’ statistic. Now I’m good at beating the odds. I’ve applied for History teacher jobs and beaten off 30+ applicants. But there’s 30 applicants to one job, and there’s 2000+ manuscripts per representation. And that’s just representation. There’s the whole process of moulding and negotiating with an agent to go through after that, just to be placed in front of publishing houses.

So I’ve come to the rationale, as many have, that it’s worth going indie. It’s worth going through the process of editing and marketing the novel myself, just to see what happens at the end. Yes, it’s a veryveryvery scary thought that I may spend months working on this just to have nil people pick it off the Kindle shelf. But there are ways I could advertise the book across my local community and across online networks, if I invested the time.

The first stage is to get the sequel written, with a view that I published it fairly soon after the original, so to begin a series. It’s the best way of getting a readership, no matter how small, invested in your work. It’s a strategy that seems to work for many indie authors and there’s certainly scope within the story to turn it into a trilogy, or even beyond.

This week I have written about 5,000 words, which isn’t an awful lot, but considering how busy my week has been, I’m pleased with this. The most interesting thing is getting into the head of Jasper, a reasonably significant minor character of the first book who comes to the fore in this second book. I really enjoyed writing this morning because I got to explore what made him tick.

I am also going to spend my time acquainting myself with online indie communities. Learning from the folk on there, and schmoozing where possible. And we will just go from there.

Fingers crossed!

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A trip to Belgium

I haven’t managed any creative writing in over a week due to a four-day trip to Belgium over this weekend. It was fantastic: saw the battlefields at both Ypres and the Somme and came back with lots of great ideas on how I could bring to life the English Civil War in the same way our guide (a brilliant historian) brought to life the Western Front.

The trip was one focused mainly on teachers. You take two kids each and receive all sorts of training on how to deliver a battlefields trip. I was fortunate enough to share a room with two lovely ladies, one of which has offered to read Journey, while the other read it, non-stop, while I sat beside her on the coach. It’s the first time I’ve ever watched someone read my book and was really encouraged by how engrossed she became. On the way back from Calais she literally couldn’t put it down and was full of praise at the end.

Whilst it did give me a massive confidence boost, it has also given me a completely fresh perspective on my novel. This wasn’t a jaded, struggling author, like my beta readers (and I say this in the nicest way, being the ultimate jaded, struggling author), nor was it a friend who knew me and wished to flatter me. She was shocked by some of the ‘dos and don’ts’ of the publishing process and some of the apparent logic to publishing success. She especially didn’t see the negative attitude toward opening with a battle scene – saying she couldn’t name the number of famous works she’d read that had. It certainly makes me pleased for sticking with my guns on that one. Or at least, so far I am.

So on the back of this, I have compiled a list of ten literary agents for submission. I’ve rewritten my synopsis so that it’s tighter. Need to tweak it a little just to add more of my ‘voice’ to it, then it’ll be good to go. No doubt they’ll get rejected… but I live in hope that one will come back with sincere feedback at least.

In other news…

In the pub planning a trip to Scotland with Ellie. Dan popped back online while I was in Belgium but nothing to report, 0ther than the hope of seeing him in a fortnight. Mass tomorrow so better practice my creed. A lady is coming on to try Misty for part-loan tomorrow so to help me out in the working week. Misty was a cow today in the school and Lynne thinks it’s because she’s not had a good gallop in a while; I’m sceptical. Diet has resumed and it’s fucking awful.

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Dusting off the pages…

I’ve had a productive literary morning. It started with writing a new chapter for my project, which took me to the end of my notebook. I need to get on eBay to order a new one since this novel insists on being handwritten. It’s certainly different to my last one, far more introspect, darker, relies more on the suspense of disbelief.

Afterward, I decided to read the opening to a novel I wrote three years ago. One I had abandoned as ‘too hard work to get right’ after my frantic desire to write Journey. But this one required a lot of meticulous research. It’s a proper historical romance. Yes, it’s flawed, but reading it, I’ve found myself sucked back into the world of the characters. It wouldn’t take much to re-work some of the opening and have it ready for self-publishing. The only problem is that it is based on the Wentworth estate in South Yorkshire and one reason I backed away from it was that my friend told me it might upset the local community. Now, when he says the local community, I don’t know if he means the very close circle of Wentworth enthusiasts rather than the normal folk living around where I grew up. The non-fiction book Black Diamonds which is based on another era of the Wentworth estate was a roaring success, even though areas were criticised for being inaccurate. My novel, however, relies a lot on author liberty. Yes, the political and geographical aspects are all correct, but to make a romance out of it I needed to have Wentworth’s third wife get involved in his life much earlier than she would have done. There’s no document to say she didn’t… but certainly no documents to suggest she played any part in his household before their hasty marriage just before his departure to Ireland. In reality, I savvy political decision to get himself a wife of breeding age before starting a very important job. Not a romance.

I spent an obscene amount of time researching this novel, even going so far as visiting Sheffield’s archives and squinting over facsimiles of handwritten letters, and I’ve always felt like what I did has gone to waste. But the manuscript is still there; it just needs a good polishing off. So I’m going to continue reading it. Advertise for a beta reader to give me a fresh perspective on it. Might even throw it at a few lit agents and see if I get anything more than a form rejection. We shall have to see.

In other news…

New job is going well, kids all seem nice and very polite, and I’ve been invited to France for four days next weekend. I failed to book for a five-year alumni gathering at St John’s so am the ‘one who didn’t go to the party’. I am going to Meadowhall on a date instead. Cantered Misty around the stubble fields and now dreading what Leila will make me do next. Can’t do my marking of the year 7 baseline tests because I left the mark scheme at home. Only have one lesson to teach on Monday, so hard to motivate myself to working, especially when I’ve planned all my lessons up until half term (no, fellow teachers, I am not joking!)

 

 

 

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21,930 words…

It’s a fair amount. 5,000 words more than my undergrad dissertation but woefully less than I had hoped to write this summer. At least my type up is completed now which means I can get on with the business of story writing again. So far, I’m pleased with the overall pace of events and the way characters seem to be developing themselves nicely. Ailis, my anti-heroine, is certainly proving to be a dangerous character. She’s the type of woman who, if she had similar wealth and connections in the modern day, would likely be a drug-addict and celebrity personality. The hero and her husband, Edward, has stayed a little out the limelight in the first 20,000 words, but I quite like doing that. I like throwing in red herrings as to who the romantic hero might be and at the moment I have Jamie, the illegitimate son come stable hand, and Christopher, the typical rich dandy. Prue, my heroine, has really found her voice. I’m glad I’m not slipping back into Evelyn mode, the kickass, bloodthirsty mercenary heroine of my last project. Prue is a very godly and unwordly girl, who displays an unusual sense of maturity for someone of her age. I want to play with that more in future chapters. I want her to be lulled into a false sense of her own virtue so I can thwack her with some fallibility.

Anyway. It’s going well. Shame I’ve only one more day until I start my new job and my writing time will be reduced significantly. But on the other hand, I think another week at home would drive me crazy.

In other news…

Mum is in a mard with my dad and me because things didn’t go smoothly on a dog walk yesterday. Misty schooled well yesterday and her old owner is coming up this aft for a ride. A year ago today I sold Bailey 😦 I’ve stopped talking to Nick because he doesn’t want to date anyone so soon after his last girlfriend (wish he’d bloody told me three weeks ago). Liverpool play Spurs in two hours and I’m like fuck whoa we better win this one. And I’m fucking nervous about my new job! What if I turn up at the wrong time? What if I say something stupid? What if I make some massive epic error? Arrrgh! 

Yea. Blog post complete.

Sammy runs into the lake to avoid being caught!

 

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97 scribbled notebook pages…

 

I’ve decided to resurrect this blog (again) to talk about my latest literary venture. I’ve made the rather uncanny decision to have a go at self-publishing, since I live by the mantra of trying everything at least once (apart from bull’s balls, that’s just plain wrong!) 

I’m too ‘close’ to Journey of Pride, the novel I’ve spent the past two years writing, editing, re-writing, proof-reading and painstakingly writing query letters for. I want to keep trying for a lit agent with that, even though it breaks my heart just a little more each time I receive a “thanks but no thanks” email in my inbox. 

I’ve had writer’s block all summer. Apart from two short stories I wrote (one of which received a runner-up prize, which just goes to show that hours of editing isn’t necessarily the recipe to success) I managed nothing but fragments for four weeks of my summer break. I began to philosophise and use stupid clichés when in the pub about having ‘lost my muse’ or being ‘unable to get into the flow’. Thankfully, I stumbled across Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and that gave me the nudge I needed back toward the first-person POV fiesty female heroine niche that I’ve developed for the past ten years.

Then, in a ‘wave of inspiration’ (or heat stroke, more likely) I returned to a project I’d aborted a month ago, turned the heroine into a witch, and re-wrote the opening chapters. Twenty-seven handwritten pages in the Mediterranean heat, fed by cheap cocktails and a bartender telling me I was going to be the next E L James, and my new project had started at last! In total, over the last five days of my holiday, I hand wrote 97 pages in a crappy little notebook while my best friend took photos like the one below. I’ve spent three hours this morning typing up some of it – an impressive 4000 words – and hope to get the rest done before starting the new school term.

And I’m going to blog about my progress, from beginning to end. For what it’s worth. So that when the next nosy bastard asks me why I’m not publishing my work and why I’m not cashing in my millions, I can refer them to this so they can see just how tough it is to be an author in the cyber age. 

 

In other news…

Misty, my Connemara pony, had her teeth checked and all is good in the world of her mouth. Dan, my never-was-boyfriend, is actually making conversation today. Sammy (big dog) and Alfie (puppy dog) went out for a walk and I only tripped over them once. #GBBO’s bingate is hilarious. I’ve started a new protein shake diet and it sucks. I swam 30 minutes without goggles!!! And I’m thinking of going over to the pub to watch the support act for Status Quo who have just signed with Bon Jovi’s record company – best stockpile some autographed underwear to sell on eBay!

 

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