Okay, here’s a serious Monday afternoon question for you: do you prefer lined or unlined?
But back to real life - for today's commenting experiment i thought it would be fun to let off some steam, plant a few f-bombs, let our hair down and break a few nicey nicey blog rules. So please answer the following question as creatively and colourfully as you want.
What's your favourite swear word? I'll go first...
Updated to add: I have been laughing all afternoon! This might be my favourite post ever. Check out a video link from Lori here, a link to the bad word dictionary from Julie, and a video clip that always makes me chuckle.
The contents of my head as of 18:14 Tuesday afternoon maybe i should stop working now it's time for dinner but i'm not really hungry words words words book ideas chapter titles this is so exciting but what if i have nothing to say but what if i have so much to say i can't say it right what if the words dry up hungry now maybe it's time for dinner polaroids make me happy i want to take pictures but it's dark hunger is calling me to the kitchen but i want to keep writing maybe i could pen a quick blog post i miss my blogging i wish i had more time but being busy is good isn't it yes being busy is good i am grateful for this work if we had thanksgiving in england i would be thankful for so many things love it makes me think of love i miss love i miss companionship hungry feeling more hungry time to stop writing but the ideas keep coming i hope i can say the right words my words words words words.
Hungry now. Kitchen calls.
'Creativity comes from trust. Trust your instincts. And never hope more than you work.' Rita Mae Brown
3 cups Jeanette Winterson
2 cups Oriah Mountain Dreamer
1 cup Michael Ondaatje
1 cup Twyla Tharp
2 scoops Anne Lamott
1 tbsp Jane Kenyon
1 tbsp Carol Ann Duffy
a dash of Pema Chodron
a pinch of May Sarton
Blend together until smooth. Serve over ice, with a long curly straw and a comfortable sofa.
I buy a lot of books, at least two or three a week - it's a sickness, really. Fiction, non-fiction, cookery, business, poetry, art, photography, spiritual, self-awareness, inspiration. As i no longer drink or smoke, it really is my only vice - well, that and buying film for a certain camera. I like to have books around me, as evidenced by the piles on, under and beside my coffee table; the two teetering piles beside my bed; the warped shelves stuffed with books. I try to stick to a one-in one-out policy, so that any time I purchase something new - glasses, plates, tea light holders, whatever - the older items are taken to the charity shop; alas, i fall down when it comes to the lovely beautiful books. Today i forced myself to fill up a couple of bags with books to take to Oxfam, but i know i'll come back with more bargains.
I think i'm always on the search for the perfect book. You know the one? The book that you'll carry in your bag wherever you go. The book that you scribble notes in. The book you turn to when you need something to lift you up. The book you can quote by heart. I have yet to find that book. I mean, i have many books i treasure, and i can think of four or five i could mix in a blender for a near-perfect book smoothie. The other night i was trying to unwind, bored of television, computered-out, and i picked up book after book, flipped through page after page, and nothing stuck. And the next thought was: write the book you want to read. Just get on with it, for heaven's sake!*
In my first ever blog post i mentioned that i was writing a book. I honestly can't think of a time when i haven't been writing or making notes towards a book idea. These days I'm feeling the urge to run away to a remote cabin in the countryside, where i can sit with my laptop (absolutely NO internet access) and start stitching together everything i have written so far. Make a proper start on something concrete. But i also know that the words need the fertile soil of my life around them to help them grow. I can't write in a vacuum, as much as i'd like to; it's just that the soil is a bit too fertile these days. I'm pouring everything i can into my courses, and concerning myself with building something sustainable - something i've never had in my life, other than the love of my family. I see my sister growing my niece/nephew and with every day that passes she is building her own family, one that will consist of the three of them. and i want some of that too, but it will be in my own way: i no longer relate to the word "single" - i am simply a family of one.
But I digress. It's time to accept that there's never going to be a perfect sea of endless days when i can write. I will always have other stuff to do. So if that's the case, then i may as well just get on with it. I don't want to be one of those people who talks about the book and never actually writes it. It's time to face up to what's really going on here - blatant fear of failure. Why do our creative dreams cause us so much angst? - and just start somewhere. Even if i do feel like my days are already full-to-bursting, I can still eek out some time. No more talk; it's time to put my pen where my mouth is.
* the language i used was a shade more colourful
While my recent Yoga Shame post was contentious, I'm very aware that writing this next post may get me excommunicated from the Blogosphere, so i am writing this at my OWN peril...
I don't like Eat Pray Love.
Please believe me when i say I wanted to love it. As a single gal I wanted to soak it in and be inspired by her journey of independence and revelations; I wanted it to be a book i felt moved to keep with me at all times, a book i would scribble notes in and underline passages in pencil.
But that just didn't happen.
Simply put, I didn't like the way she wrote it - it read like one very long magazine article, a style of writing that works for 2,000 words in a glossy publication but not, for me at least, in a book. I have only read the book once, and no longer have it in my possession so i can't double-check, but my overall impression was that the Italy section was superfluous, the India section touched on interesting things but felt rather forced (a stay in an ashram that didn't have a spiritual experience attached to it could still have been powerful), and Bali was forgettable and self-centred, with a panic to find a bloke at the end. I hated the ending. It felt like such a cop-out, as if she thought her book should end with a relationship so she jumped on the nearest guy. I would have been more moved if she'd ended the story as a strong single woman, ready to take her newly acquired self-knowledge back to America to start writing her book and start mindfully living her new path.
The book didn't hold any surprises for me. It read as i feared it would read: a wee bit surface, with not enough grit or texture. Just like a magazine article. I seem to remember that she was commissioned to write the book/take the trip, so that in itself threw up a few question marks for me. Can we plan to go and find ourselves in this way? Or does it just happen when you least expect it, when you're doing the dishes or walking through the park on a warm autumn day. I know that if i planned a trip to those three countries, my experience would probably be a lot more pedestrian than that of Ms Gilbert's. Maybe the book jarred with me because i've found my own revelations in the humdrum normality of my everyday life. The idea of going to another country to find what we're looking for is so seductive, so incredibly appealing, that i can understand why this book is beloved by so many; I'm catching a flight to Canada tomorrow, and as i haven't been on a plane in two years i'm excited, hoping some travel will stretch my mind out of its day-to-day shape. But i also know that my deepest searchings, and my most excavated self, were found in the quiet moments sitting at home, journeying inside rather than outside.
I tried to read the book again recently, hoping i'd find the deeper meaning that I'd obviously overlooked, but i didn't make it past the first ten pages - her tone just alienates and irritates me. I have since given the book away. It's just not meant to be. But you know what the irony is? I'd love my Unravelling book to be as popular and well-received at EPL - who wouldn't? I remember when i bought EPL I was hoping it would inspire me to start writing my own story - a story i've been penning in pieces since 2005 after he died - but what actually happened was i discovered the style i didn't want my book to be written in. I'm not saying I'm going to be writing high-falutin' literature - far from it! - but i guess i envision more poetry woven through it. And more everyday textures.
I'm sure there were parts of EPL that i enjoyed, and paragraphs and turns of phrase that spoke to me, and I am not knocking anyone who loves the book. Hell, that's why so many books are published each year - so that there is something to suit everyone's tastes. And i must take my hat off to Elizabeth Gilbert - she got the book deal, she took the trip and she wrote the book. And she's enjoyed fantastic success from it while touching people's lives, and we need lots more of that good stuff. I fully support any woman who has work published as it is a long-held dream of mine too; if i was to put my words into book form and send them out into the world i know I would open myself up to criticism too, and I've often wondered how that would feel, considering how brutal a negative blog comment can feel.
So in summary, I know many of my blogging peers enjoyed Eat Pray Love, and for some reason I felt the need to hold up my hand and admit that i didn't. I did, however, really enjoy her recent TED talk; i just wish she'd written the book in the same voice she used that day.
If everything goes to plan I’ll have something really exciting to share with you on Monday; this exciting thing has been taking up a lot of my time recently so I’m sorry I haven’t been round these parts as often as I normally am.
A while back I responded to a meme on Penny’s blog offering respondents five questions; I couldn’t resist, so here are my five questions answered. If you’d like five of your own, leave a comment and I’ll email you back five juicy ones…
Tell me about a book that changed your life
It would be impossible to choose just one as I feel like every book I’ve ever read has changed my life because I’ve either learnt something, recognized myself in the pages or my brain has expanded and new words have crept in. I’ve always been a book worm; I remember late nights reading Danielle Steel and Stephen King as a teenager; I remember the first time I picked up a novel by Jeanette Winterson and dove into the words; I remember reading practically non-stop in my first year of grief as a way to escape the world, soaking up every drop of poetry I could lay my hands on later as I started to feel again. Lately I’ve been dipping into Michele Roberts’ memoir, Paper Houses, and the way she describes her passion for words is exactly how I feel too.
If you could photograph anything or anyone, what would that image be?
Two situations immediately spring to mind – the second one is me, Saffron Burrows and an afternoon spent taking Polaroids in Paris. Saffron is extraordinarily photogenic and I’d love to capture her eating a pink macaroon from Laduree while wearing ballet pumps and a floral tea dress, all cheekbones and luscious lips.
The first one involves me, a wonderfully charming and worldly man who is no longer here and an afternoon picnic on a sunny summer’s day; I’d love to have the chance to photograph him just one more time.
In the vein of Ally McBeal, what's your theme song?
Ooh, I have so many for different moods and occasions, different memories and emotions. I guess the most obvious one is Unraveling by Deb Talan – I was sitting at my computer on January 1st 2007, wondering what the hell I could call my new photo blog when this song started playing. It was one of those meant-to-be moments because from there the word has taken on so much significance for me and the work I’m doing.
However, when I need to get moving and want to shift my mood into one that's happy and positive I listen to Good Times by Chic - I'm lucky that I have so many good associations attached to this song. It's the one guaranteed to get me up on the dance floor.
What rituals do you have?
I’m embarrassed to admit that my whole day is one long ritual; living on your own and working from home means you tend to do things the same way over and over as there’s no one else here to break the routine. Some days I make a point of getting out of bed on the other side, and brushing my teeth using my left hand – I’m not joking - just to mix things up a bit.
Who would you like to play you in a film, and what would the storyline be?
A few people have told me they can see a bit of Jennifer Aniston in me so I’d either choose her for that reason, or Julianne Moore because I think she’s a great actress (and I once had an idea for a book/film where I could see her as the main character and have never gotten past that thought). The storyline would be: screwed up young woman survives a personal tragedy, fights to save her sanity and in doing so discovers the world is a magical place after all. Or something along those lines. Julianne would carry a Polaroid camera at all times, obviously.
Health update: all my body wants me to do at the moment is lie down; walking and doing are exhausting. I'm making lists in my head of all the things i'm going to do to get my health back together including buying some hardcore vitamins, taking an honest look at my diet, caffeine consumption and stress levels and finding a local yoga class. But those all feel impossible with the energy levels i have right now. If I'm honest I'm starting to get a bit freaked out - surely i should be better by now?
Yesterday afternoon I finally left the flat to go buy food; as i don't have a car this is an energy-sucking operation, so i've been putting it off all week, but the cupboards were bare and old mother hubbard needed supplies. It's amazing how much more personal space you have when you're coughing your lungs up; people were looking at me like i had the plague. I shuffled down Milsom Street, trying not to scowl too obviously at the healthy people gaily walking past me, and allowed myself a restorative pit-stop in Waterstone's. As always I walked up to the first floor and headed to the back of the shop; that's where they keep the self-help books and tarot cards, and that's where you'll find women like me lingering over books promising to change their life in 30 days. Yesterday there were two women doing the I-hope-no-one-can-see-me-reading-this dance, dipping into an astrology book and one about angels - I've seen men browsing these aisles too, but they generally smell of patchouli oil and need to eat a decent meal.
It's not often that I'll find a new book-friend there; most of the books I treasure were found through recommendations, but once in a while a book will jump out at me and I'll know i need to take it home. So like hopeful disciples we stand before the great wall of books looking for answers, for some clue on how to get back on track and feel closer to something bigger than us. And as i tried to cough quietly into my tissue i watched the women as they dipped into their books only to then put them back and try another. Some days you just don't find what you're looking for, and it was then, for the one hundred and fifty-seventh time, i thought to myself, I've got to get my book out there.