Sunday, 29 June 2014


About, what, eight months ago, I posted about this drawing I had been working on - the first drawing I'd really done from life for a long time. And it was great fun, and a real re-learning experience from all the life drawing I'd done before uni. I had it tacked to the wall of the old flat, all pencilled up and nowhere to go, mocking me for not feeling like I could paint it. The problem was that I was so proud and pleased that I'd started again, that I didn't want to ruin it, and, truth be told, I'm really not that good at water colour. When I look back at what I did with it at school, I cringe.

But on Tuesday, I was suddenly seized with the idea that not painting it - indeed, leaving it unfinished for ever, was even worse than potentially ruining it. So, for the first time in ages, I unrolled my bag of brushes, and took out the sketch watercolour set I've had for over ten years. And it felt like coming home.

Innit lovely? But look how much white I used to use! Nowadays my feeling is "white is cheatin'" so I've completely avoided it in this one. And now it's Sunday, and I've painted nearly every evening after work and both days of this weekend, and it's nearly... done? 

Early shot after the first hour of work - and yes, that is a high contrast b/w picture of me for shading purposes. I've really noticed how much better things look when I use references. I'm just not good at painting from imagination. Which isn't so good when you're painting a tower of hair full of trinkets you made up. 

And here it is... kinda finished? I don't want to show it properly because I only "finished" it tonight. I need to leave it a day or two to know if anything needs changing. But while I know there are things (particularly non-referenced things!) which could be so much better, I am enormously proud of what I have done. Getting back into this sort of thing has had a massive impact on my day-to-day happiness this week, and my mind just feels better for doing it. There's probably only 3 hours, maybe 3.5 hours of painting here, and it's not the most amazing thing in the world, but I can feel it coming back, and I want to do so much more. 

I've struggled to do any creative work over the past year or so, and now I'm getting back into it, it's like I can feel my brain healing. Overwork had left me tired and grouchy, with no energy, and my brain constantly felt too drained to take anything else on. Over June I have made the conscious effort to drink less, worry less, and try and do the sort of things that will nourish my almost drained mind, but even I'm surprised by how much this little bit of painting has worked. Definitely more to follow.


Sunday, 22 June 2014

Creepy Summer Songs

I have always hated summer.

The first line of His Wicked Shadow (plug!) was drawn very much from my own personal feelings. I have always hated summer. When I was little I found something about the heat and the strength of light unsettling. I felt on edge in a heatwave, as though something awful was going to happen. 

Perhaps it's perversity on my part, but even though I don't tend to feel that way any more, I have an enormous fondness for creepy summer songs. It's atmosphere. The feeling of sitting outside on a baking hot day, miles from anywhere, with a storm approaching. That's creepy summer songs. Listen to them loud, with headphones, somewhere quiet. 

And I can't be the only one, because two big films have creepy summer music soundtracks. And they are amazing.

While I do think this could have got a bit more atmosphere in there, I love it. 

There's something very special about a piece of music that can give you goosebumps on a boiling hot day, and this does just that. I've not read or seen any of the Hunger Games trilogy, but heard this on an advert. I'd bought it before the ad had even finished.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Lies by Omission

The other day I read An Abundance of Katherines, and it wasn't until I got to the end and saw the author picture that I realised that John Green was in fact, that John Green, whose YouTube channels had briefly glanced upon my life. I had been impressed when I saw those few videos, watched a couple more, intended to look further and then forgot.

Today, and following the buzz that even someone like me, who actively avoids the mainstream media, had picked up around the release of A Fault in Our Stars, I read an article on Green on the New Yorker website. I hadn't understood before the depth of his influence, and I remembered what I had noticed when I watched those few videos. John Green cares. He doesn't care to sell more books, and you can see that even though he is dealing with some huge topics, and is clearly worried about the advice he has to give to young people who look up to him, he puts everything into his caring.

I started wondering what it was I cared about enough to give up all fear for. There are lots of things I care about. Lots of things that stop me sleeping, lots of things that I refuse to be part of. To name a few, I'm vegan because I refuse to have the way animals are treated from birth until death in the food industry performed in my name. I have no TV license because I don't agree with the way the license fee is spent and I don't believe the BBC to be unbiased. I do what I can to limit the input Rupert Murdoch has into the media I consume. But I don't stand up for any of these things. I don't fight. For example, I actively avoid confrontation about being a vegan. My stance is and always has been that if you have educated yourself on what happens in the industry and you are happy for that to continue in your name, then so be it. Perhaps it's defeatist to accept that things will not change. 

Then there's the depression. It took a lot of redrafts to write that piece on depression that I published a few weeks ago. And when it was published, I didn't link to it in the standard channels I usually do, to my admittedly meagre audience, because even though I was happy for strangers to see it, I didn't want my friends, colleagues or family to know what I had been through. Even though I had faced death and won (dramatic as it sounds), I was worried I would be judged or treated differently. Even the blog itself wasn't entirely honest, and things were missed out to make for a more comfortable write. Similarly, for the past year, where my writerly output has been close to zero, I was attempting to work on a novel based around depression. But I couldn't do it because it was too close to home. It felt too self indulgent and too raw, both at the same time. 

I put up barriers between myself and the things which may hurt me, but it never seems to do any good. I still get hurt, and I still spend all the time worrying about getting hurt, and worrying about the paths I haven't trodden, and worrying about the depression returning so much that when it does, (and it has), it's not even a relief, it's just a different type of bad. That's no way to live.

There are things I have always wanted to do, but I don't because of fear of failure, ridicule, and hurt. I don't vlog, I don't sing in public, I don't write books or blogs which bare the pain of depression or the agonies of loneliness and fears of mental illness. And I want to, but I'm so scared. Hell, I can't even bring myself to market my book, or send it to any reviewers because someone, at some point, will probably say something bad about it and I'm trying to spend my life being cushioned from that sort of blow, but it isn't working. Stuff hurts, and if it isn't external then it's internal. I don't even put proper posts on the blog I moderate, that nobody even reads, because I'm too scared to get into a fight with a stranger on the internet. Which both overestimates the importance and reach of my blog, and undermines the importance of my opinions in my own space.

This isn't some realisation I've suddenly stumbled upon after reading an article about John Green. This messy stream of consciousness isn't my life-changing pivotal moment, it's something I've known and tried to ignore for years. And I hate it. And it's time I believed in something enough, because all these barriers I put up are merely of my own making, protecting me from the life I could have, leaving me alone to be tortured by my own mind. 

So there you have it. I want to make a change, and over the past year I have made one or two. But where there are days that even paying to a real person in a shop, rather than using self-service feels like too much interaction, I'm going to struggle. But maybe in the future you'll see a video of me singing 'Let It Go' on YouTube. (You won't.) Perhaps more realistically, I'll start writing more honestly and openly about things I really do care about, and maybe I'll even return to that WiP on depression I never finished. Because there's no point being too afraid to do it./

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

This is How I am Feeling Today

So make of that what you will. I'm not entirely sure what to make of it myself.