The perils of writing: When you are, in fact, not a writer.

I am forever finding articles, opinions, and endless lists of how to kick-start that dreaded bastard known as writer’s block. Methods to trick your brain into writing without thinking about it. Suggestions of writing, quite literally, without thinking or reading until you are entirely dry of words. Attempts to ignore that irritating little voice in the forefront of your mind telling you that actually the use of “stupid” is as stupid as you currently look (with your face scrunched into a concentrated frown, tip of tongue poking between your teeth, and last night’s dinner still staining your t-shirt), and encouraging a process of self-correction as you go. Something I personally struggle to escape from (even with a clean t-shirt).

Another option is to, quite simply, just write. Write anything. Write everything. Do whatever you can to allow those words the breath of life as they appear on the page before you. They don’t have to make the perfect of sense. They don’t have to form coherent sentences. They can simply be word after word of gibberish nonsense. As soon as they’re written, so they say, you will feel better.

I’m finding an interesting collaboration of these suggestions to be true. Whilst, yes, I am unlikely to ever shake that nagging voice of correction and on going editing, I am also finding that writing is, believe it or not, handy. It’s almost as if it is its own breed of ironic procrastination. In an attempt to hide from the pressures of an inability to write the words I need to write, I am instead finding solitude in the meaningless, the random, the unnecessary. Regardless of this fact, I have indeed managed to trick my bitchy little brain into simply writing for writing’s sake. With no deadline, no boundaries, no structure, format, or outline.

I am not a writer. I have never intended to be, nor have I ever pretended to be, a writer. And yet I frequently find myself assuming role of writer. Be it through personal or business matters, writing, it would appear, is a part of my life. Despite this, I am in a constant battle with both the need for inspiration and the challenge of having too many thoughts. It is becoming a challenge to grasp those floating thoughts and ideas and merge them with a kick-arse selection of words, that not only make sense, but make an interesting, occasionally witty, and always coherent argument/message/narrative. So instead, I just am writing. Anything. Everything. Without thought.

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The theatre bug is back.

I didn’t sleep well last night. For someone like me, who struggles sleeping at the best of times, this was fairly irritating. However, for someone like me, who is constantly trying to come up with new ideas for theatre/performance/pretty things, it wasn’t so bad. What can I say? The theatre bug is back.

For a good six months (Sept-Feb.) I massively struggled with the sleep thing. Partly because of my daily caffeine intake, but mainly due to the fact that my mind refused to switch off. I was constantly having fights with my mind over the practicality vs. the prettiness of fairy lights and scaffolding towers and candles-in-jars and various costume ideas etc etc etc. I was in full ‘Rent’ mode. I had dreams about lighting rigs, and nightmares about stretchy white sheets. I ate/slept/breathed the show, the songs, and everything in-between. My lack of focus towards anything else (I would like to think) paid off and I was able to completely devote my brain to my degree once February had finished and I was no longer in full-blown musical mode.

Now, however, I haven’t had anything like this on my mind for a few months. Sure I had to do the degree thing – a final year performance, 3 dissertations. Y’know, the usual. But I didn’t feel my mind opening up all the nooks and crannies of crazy and experimental in the same way that it had with ‘Rent’. Not even close. Not until last night.

I literally couldn’t sleep. Everytime my eyes closed my mind would jump into a new scenario, new idea, new colours, new cast sizes, new sound montages – all for a tiny little speck of an idea that has only really been vaguely discussed. My mind likes it anyhow. The bloody thing forced me to stay awake and scribble page after page of pencil drawings and 3 word notes that no longer make sense to my conscious and awake brain: “Kneel. Fab. v/o.” Not to mention the fact that this was all scribbled by phone light as I couldn’t bring myself to jump out of the warmth of bed and turn on a light. Not at 2 o’clock in the morning.

I think the mind’s trying to tell me something. Despite being on holiday, I’m ready to throw myself into all-things-theatre. All over again.

Smile of the day.

There are few things that make me smile as much as Zac Efron being mistaken for a Jonas Brother.

That’s a lie, actually a fair amount of things make me smile. But today, this wins first place. Remember Lisa Loeb? Remember her? She’s the one that sang that incredible song when I was about 9 and didn’t understand the actual story in her lyrics but loved it anyway. (Turns out I was actually 3 when ‘Stay’ came out. Bloody hell. That makes me a whole lot younger than I thought I was.)

Anyway, she gave this brilliant interview at HelloGiggles.com in which she describes the wonderfully embarrassing moment that she confused Zac Efron with a Jonas Brother.

For this, I love her all the more.

3am.

It’s been a while since I’ve written in the middle of the night. Possibly not since first year in fact. Then, of course, it was as a form of procrastination from various essay writing. And as a distraction from the distressing fact that I was a terrible fresher who spent nights in with her housemates playing cards and drinking coffee rather than going out and destroying her liver.

Now, however, it’s because my mind’s decided that it’s enjoying it’s new found creativity and doesn’t really fancy switching off. This week I’ve got giddy about theatre and recorded songs in my bedroom because I haven’t had anything better to do. It’s been massively enjoyable.

It’s strange actually, how suddenly having something creative to latch my mind on to has pulled me straight out of the depressed-anti-climactic-funk that I’ve been coasting since handing in dissertations. It’s like I zoned out for a couple of weeks whilst my mind dealt with the stupid amount of words that it had decided upon using. And then, having helped out on a pretty fantastic Sondheim revue – “Putting It Together” – I realised that I needed more theatre in my life, and decided to make it happen. Weird, how a little motivation and direction can get you back on the happy train.

Admittedly I’m still a poor, struggling student (at the very least until I graduate next month), but at least I’m a happy and inspired, poor, struggling student. Little things really.

May Day. (Also known as 13 days before I have to start real life.)

I should be writing a dissertation right now. In fact, I should actually be writing three dissertations right now. Needless to say, I’m taking a break. Who knew that it was actually possible to do work over a fortnight before it is due in? Crazy. I used to be able to write an entire essay (or two) the night before hand-in, now I’m getting excited about the fact that I’ve managed to write 1,000 words in a day. What a nightmare.

Naturally, now that it’s got to that point in my degree where I should be “knuckling down to hard work” I actually just want to do everything else. I’m procrastinating by thinking about the future – however scary (though exciting) that may be – and have started watching television (the BBC) religiously for the first time in three years. Admittedly, it’s The Voice, which, until this week, has been a brilliant concept. Judging people on their ability to actually sing rather than how they look is something that I feel massively strong about. However, introducing the whole now-the-audience-get-to-vote-to-save-people thing is horrible. There’s no other way to describe it. And on top of that, they have a terrible presenter. Anyone who can say, on live television, to the first person to be voted out “I don’t know what to say to you…” should really consider a different profession. Don’t get me wrong, Holly Willoughby is probably a lovely person, but that was shamefully tactless. Despite that, I’m hooked. Talented musicians always get a smile from me. I can’t help it. Music junkie right here.

In other news I’m officially losing my mind. Apparently sitting surrounded by books (you haven’t read) and trying to create a coherent academic argument on their narrator’s unreliability/presentation of reflection in children’s literature/fetishizing of the suffering human body is enough to drive you to destroy your sanity. I rock a lot more than I usually do. I’m frequently shouting at inanimate objects for their refusal to co-operate. I’m almost at the overdose point in my daily caffeine intake. I’m giggling. I don’t giggle. Ever. It is beyond bizarre. Having said that, it’s also excitingly inspiring. Just not in the dissertation-writing sense. It is however making me want to create crazy theatre that is basically an extension of my current mind-set. I keep finding myself down a path in my brain that I haven’t found before, in some terrifying little hole that’s crammed with exciting (terrifying) blinking eyes and black glitter and millions of post-its and bottles of laughing and tears and fear and dreams. It’s bloody odd, to say the least.

At least I know that I want to do things when this dreaded fortnight is over. That’s got to be worth something. Sitting doing sweet F-A doesn’t seem like my ideal future. But I have to get there first. And that, of course, is the challenge.

Day One in the ‘Eating Healthily to Avoid Early Heart Failure’ series.

Monday. Mid-March. Sunshine? What on earth.. Not only is the sun shining, but it’s about 18˚C. Not massively warm, but for early spring in the UK? We’re doing pretty well.

It’s also the time of year when deadlines are rapidly approaching. And therefore the time of year that I decide to kick-start a healthy living regime. Naturally. Am I insane? Probably. But if I keep it up then maybe this summer won’t be quite as horrific as those previous..

Anyway, kitchen times. I spent a few days at home with the family this week, (which resulted in a stressful train journey home) and as is often the case when the mother and I get together, spent most of those days in the kitchen. Inspired by her many many cookbooks, and by the fact that the brother has turned into a better cook than me, I’ve decided to inject more kitchen time into my life. Not only will it result in the consumption of healthier, tastier food, it will also serve as a fantastic tool of procrastination when I should be writing dissertations. So, day one in the eating-healthily-to-avoid-early-heart-failure series:

Sunny lunchtime..

Fresh salmon baked with herbs and whole garlic cloves, with a beetroot and spinach salad, topped with feta cheese and homemade honey-mustard dressing. Healthy eating can be pretty looking. And pretty tasting.

Internal Monologue: Public Transport Made Me Do This

It would appear I’ve just been hit with all the anxiety I’ve been repressing for the past two and a half months. Typical really. That it would strike whilst I’m on a train. On a train with nothing to read and no headphones. On a crowded, warm train with nothing to read and no headphones. Fan-fucking-tastic.

Being left alone in my own head for the first time in god only knows how many months is an odd feeling. Having not had a minute to think about life or anything other than theatre it’s a bit alarming suddenly having space in my head. Both the musical and my degree show took over my entire existence this past term. In fact, thinking about it, the musical has pretty much occupied my mind for the past year – it was exactly this time past year that I had the sudden ridiculous thought that I could direct the show. Crazy really.

I’m remembering why I tend to throw myself into things that completely take over and don’t give me a minute of piece in my mind. It’s a scary place to be. Just thinking. And not really thinking about anything specific, but just thinking. I’m realizing that train journeys are horrendously claustrophobic-inducing, especially when you don’t have an endless supply of music to lose yourself in. I’m remembering why I usually sit in the row of 2 as opposed to the 4-person table seat – families coming and sitting around you is intrusive at the best of times, but when you don’t have a book or music to shut out the world? Gah.. I’m appreciating why people may have methods of relaxation or stress-relief. Just pausing to ponder a specific word I’m tapping out inane rhythms on the keyboard and my leg jitters have a mind of their own. I finally understand why people say I never sit still..

I’m currently unsure as to whether or not I’ll actually post this. I have another good two or three hours of traveling ahead of me, and will quite possibly decide against a rambling of nonsense as my first post in several weeks. Alternatively, I will quite possibly post this, and if I do I’ll leave this paragraph in. An example of the indecisive, babbling, mess that is my mind.

The family that rudely intruded on my under-lying panic attack decided to move. The daughter was reading over my shoulder, (always appreciated) and quite possibly determined that I’m a crazy person. Probably a wise decision..

Although, I have now calmed a considerable amount. I could probably write a book on methods to prevent public displays of panic or anxiety.

Step 1: Drink water.

Step 2: Focus and regulate your breathing – blowing in counts of four onto your thumb works, as does shutting your eyes and breathing in and out to counts of four. Something about counting is ridiculously soothing.

Step 3: Sing. I know not everyone is a natural singer, but that shouldn’t matter. Singing is another way to regulate breathing, and focuses your mind on something else, thus causing you to forget your panic. Anything that gets your mind off the cause of panic is a good thing, this post for example has so worked wonders. But singing is actually a good one because it does genuinely calm your breathing. Even something as simple as the alphabet can prevent a fully blown anxiety attack..

Step 4: Go to your safe place. This may sound ridiculous, but everyone has one. For some people it’s a place in their thoughts, for others it’s a physical place. In my case it’s a public toilet. I know, grimy. But there’s something about sitting in a toilet cubicle that calms me the fuck down. And hey, if it works who am I to question it.

Step 5: Get fresh air. This is actually one of the hardest ones for me, as a lot of my anxious feelings creep up whilst I’m on public transport or stuck in a place that I know I can’t easily leave. But often just a few breaths of fresh air can completely calm me down.

Step 6: Talk to someone. Either in person or on the phone. Whether you tell them you’re freaking out or not, just knowing that there’s someone else there can work wonders.

Step 7: Sugar. A small square of chocolate, or something fizzy and sweet can help calm your nerves. Of course you don’t want to rely on this one, especially if you regularly panic, as you may find yourself piling on the pounds or needing to visit a dentist! But a little bit now and then, I find, can massively help to stop the shakes.

Obviously these don’t have to go in this order, and they’re not listed in order of importance either. Just a few steps that can prevent a public display of panic. Or even a private display of panic..

Weird. This is not how I saw this post going. In an effort to prevent a panic attack, I ended up writing about how to prevent one. Crazy. I’ve also just clocked how many words I’ve managed to write (I’m a student, it’s practically an ocd..) and all I can say is I hope my dissertations (yes, plural) are this easy and fast to type.

Lights. Camera. Action. (Or something like that..)

It’s show week. Traditionally this is where I suddenly find a burst of adrenaline that keeps me healthy before a massive crash of the immune system next week. This year however, the body decided to be keen and push things forward a week..

Health = horrific. Head = horrific. Stress levels = horrific. But the excitement levels are high.

With the current exhaustion felt after 9 hours of rehearsals, the prospect of a 15 hour day tomorrow is definitely making me want to cry. Having to deal with scaffolders, light-rigging, and endless soundchecks as of 9am, I can already predict my sense of humour will be massively lacking.. But the knowledge that the show is only 3 days (THREE DAYS) away is exceptionally giddy-making.

And with a cast and crew this beautiful, who can blame me for my excitement..

Such a pretty cast

So despite the fact that I doubt I’ll be sleeping over the next three days (stress/excitement/too much caffeine/the need to do my degree) I wouldn’t change a thing this week.

(And on the off-chance that anyone suddenly decides they’d like to travel to Brighton to see my show..)

Skinny vanilla latte for one.

Every so often I decide to give something up. Be it in a spontaneous desire to be healthier, a chance to create welcome change in my life, or simply because I just can’t be bothered with it anymore. It’s a kind of social experiment on myself I guess.

A couple of years ago I gave up on entirely female social groups, realising I wasn’t one of those who could constantly compete with girls-en-masse. Before you label me as some sort of anti-feminist, I have nothing against any of said girls in said groups. I simply couldn’t commit to the stressful high-energy necessary to compete and keep up with a group of girls.

Last month I gave up on social-dining. Lunch-dates, coffee-dates, any form of food or drink related activity that includes more than myself. It’s not that I don’t like people. It’s just that it seems to be the only part of my day that I get to sit alone with my thoughts. Life has been busy recently, not that that’s a bad thing, but it’s been on the insane levels of busy.

Those casual conversations I so regularly had with myself have been buried under piles of musical-related-thoughts and degree-related-thoughts and there-is-not-enough-time-in-the-day-related-thoughts, and my poor little brain needs time to itself to ponder the function of snow, or other seemingly obscure-yet-fascinating thoughts.

So yes, coffee for one seems to be the way around it.

It’s taken me a while, but I feel like I may finally be back in the land of writing.

Who am I trying to kid? It’s taken a hell of a lot longer than a while. Try nearly-four-months. Nearly-four-months of sometimes sitting down to blog and realising I didn’t have anything exciting/mundane/confusing/shocking to blog about that didn’t include not doing the work for my degree, spending 20+ hours in rehearsals each week, or the personal life that I never write about..

Having said all this, I think I may actually be back. It’s coming up to the most stressful 3 weeks of my life, which will be oh-so-lovingly followed by the most important 3 months of my life. Therefore, the last thing in the world that I need right now is to find myself being dragged back into the clutches of the life of an internet addict. Therefore, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. It’s almost like I know how I work.

On top of that I have a bag of soggy laundry waiting to be dried, a room that looks as though the battles of Narnia took place in the wardrobe and exploded everywhere, a kitchen that might literally attack me if I walk through the door, and an empty fridge. In other words, a whole mission of house work to do. Naturally, right now is the best time to rekindle my relationship with the blogging world..

The brain disagrees. The brain is currently screaming at me for even contemplating doing anything other than singing the RENT songs in an interesting and never-to-be-heard-by-ears-other-than-my-own medley, whilst simultaneously screaming at me for daring to destroy said songs by singing them in said way. The brain is a weird place. My brain is a particularly weird place. I’m fairly certain there’s less ‘intelligent muscle’, and more ‘random assortment of post-its and masking tape’ taking up the space in my head..

People always look at me as if I’m insane when I mention that. (Feel free to hide your current bemused expression and quirked eyebrow) But I am genuinely fairly certain that if you sliced into my head, you’d just see an overflowing post-it notice board. It’s probably the best way to describe the (occasionally) organised chaos that is my mind. With seemingly insignificant notes occasionally losing their stickiness and floating to the ground. That’s usually when I notice them of course and reattach them (ie. reconsider them as a possible thought, action, or idea). And then there are those disastrous moments when the never-tiring drum and bass effect of the headaches shakes the board and sends every thought scattering around my head.

A bizarre analogy, I’ll give you that, but a perfect one.