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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Just another me-against-the-world kind of Monday

Today has been one of those days where everything points to one very clear, very vivid, very ridiculous thought: It’d probably be much easier if I were someone else. Someone taller. Someone more popular. Someone with money. Someone in a better situation than I find myself. Someone in a worse situation than I find myself. Someone who just doesn’t give a shit. Someone who cares enough to do something about it. Someone, in other words, who isn’t me.

As I suggested, a ridiculous notion. But a very apparent, very real concern for a lot of people. A lot of the time. The arts industry is one that is constantly surrounded by horror stories of clashing egos, crushed souls, and bitch after demonic bitch of power-hungry “creative types” (I’m allowed to say that, I am frequently placed in the demonic psycho bitch category myself). There are forever stories being churned out about a small-town boy or girl that managed to defy the odds and make it in the larger world, but there are rarely stories pointing out the other tens of thousands of equally driven, equally ambitious, and equally talented individuals that are just looking to make their own successes. And who will, no doubt, be unlikely to make it out of that small town.

That sounds harsh. It sounds rude, and judgmental, and unsupported, and, I suppose you’d be right in suggesting, bitter. But I am one of those tens of thousands. I am one in a very large pool of twenty-somethings trying to claw their way into the terrifying depths of the industry known as The Arts. And not just any art, but Theatre. One so elite and prestigious and god-damn-difficult-to-break, that it’s (let’s be honest) the cause of many an anxiety attack, heavy medication prescription, and psychotic breakdown for many a person over many a year. Equally, one so promising, so full of opportunity, and, on occasion, such an incredible showcase for talent and passion and mind-blowing creativity.

It wasn’t my intent to attack the theatre. Without it I have absolutely no idea where the craziness on the other side of my skull would find it’s refuge. I simply wonder how it can be such an unrivaled location for creative brain explosions, whilst achieving a stifling and unwilling environment for non-veterans, non-names, non-financially-supported-individuals.

I am bitter, I’ll admit. I am also determined, ambitious, passionate, and (most of the time) driven. Today has simply been one of those days where my brain suggests that it could possibly all be simpler if I were someone else. However, as my clock states, it’s no longer today. Now it’s tomorrow. And tomorrow is a sort-your-shit-out kind of day. One that doesn’t accept resentment, self-deprecation, or any other form that fear decides to take. Tomorrow is a dragon slaying kind of day. And dragons shall indeed be slayed.

Single, Unemployed, and Homeless.

I’m entering a new chapter of my life. One with (currently) less stability, both financially and emotionally, and less structure. I’ve completed my academic life. God knows how, after sixteen and a half years, I managed to make it all the way through, but somehow here I am at the end of it all with a 2.1 BA in English and Drama. Crazy.

However, despite the end of education, I am still unemployed, still single, and (as of yesterday) currently homeless. This doesn’t do much to calm the nerves I have to admit.

The big move out was ridiculously stressful – apparently I have too much stuff. Who knew? And my wardrobe was definitely almost responsible for the death of a close friend. (Actually this was terrifying as he was driving the van, and therefore his being squashed to a pulp would have been all the more tragic.) But we (myself and the northern one) survived it, and managed to not kill each other or ourselves in the process. So now we’re homeless, and essentially sofa-surfing for the week leading up to graduation (admittedly she’s actually sofa surfing, I’ve managed to bag myself a spare room for a few days…), and whilst the hunt for a new house is underway. The single and unemployed statuses have been around for a while. I’m unemployed because no-one wants to hire someone who’s about to go away for a month. And I’m single because, well, because I am. Which is both depressing but truthful.

Luckily, things arranged for the next few months make life seem a little less terrifying, and more exciting (and only slightly nerve-wracking). I’m going to Dubai for several weeks to visit the father, I (hopefully) have an incredible internship/shadowing position lined up for the autumn, and plans for theatre adventures later on in the year make my eyes lights up in a manic not-quite-crazy-just-really-excited kind of way.

So, not all bad really. Just need to focus on the positives and not get completely carried away by the terrifying unknowns.

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.

Peter Pan. Who knew he’d inspire my future…

Growing up. It’s a terrifying prospect. When you’re a kid you’re brought up to befriend J M Barrie’s epitome of never-growing-up: Peter Pan. You want to be this boy. You want to go to Neverland, and fight pirates, and learn to fly, and never never ever have to grow up and gain responsibilities. Some people never grow out of this mindset. They do eventually take on board their responsibilities and dress in a suit and tie day-in day-out, but they never lose that feeling of resentment towards the fact that they had to lose that innocence of childhood. That undeniably amazing feeling when you don’t have a worry in the world and get to spend hours on end in your imagination. Too many people have grown up to resent that. Occasionally there are people who decide to channel this desire to never grow up. Who use their childish dreams and imagination to fuel their adult existence. I’m hoping to be one of these people.

It’s strange because when I actually *was* a child I wasn’t all that adventurous. I’ve probably become more of a child in the past three years since being technically adult than I ever was before I turned double-figures. I’ve discovered an unhealthy obsession with dinosaurs and rubber ducks, I have a constant desire to paint people’s faces, and I really really want to go on a bear hunt. More than that though, I feel like I finally *get* my imagination. Sure, it’s dark and twisty, and (more often than not) really fucking bizarre. But at the same time it’s conceptual in it’s oddities, and it has the potential to be breath-takingly beautiful – provided that I can somehow work it out of my head and into something malleable. Something literal and physical.

This right here is why I know that I need to make theatre. I don’t have the overwhelming need to be a performer like many people. I don’t feel like my life would be incomplete if I never again experienced the adrenaline of standing before an audience and receiving their applause for my ability to be another character, or for my ability to hit several notes on-key. I do however feel like I would be empty if I was unable to make pretty things. (And yes I’m aware that that’s quite possibly the girliest thing I’ve ever admitted to, but it’s true.) I do have an overwhelming desire to take tiny insignificant thoughts and ideas and turn them into something that someone else can perform. I do crave the agonising stress that comes with putting a show together – I’m not gonna lie, I absolutely thrive off the back of pressure and high-stress situations. And the knowledge that I can potentially make new worlds through the form of theatre? It’s enough to make me never want to do anything else ever again.

Theatre makes me happy because I can create worlds from my mind. Theatre makes actors happy because they can become another person for a couple of hours. Theatre makes audiences happy because they can sit and forget about their own lives for a little while. Theatre allows you to revert to that childhood mindset of absorption into a world outside of your own. And that makes me bloody happy. So bloody happy.

Compulsive baking.

Last year I spent a great deal of my free time in the kitchen. Cooking. Cleaning. Cooking and cleaning. But what with the mania of this past year I’ve let that drop. Sad face.

Today however, baking reappeared in house 42A. Now, in true Barton style, some adaptations had to be made. We lack butter, therefore olive oil was substituted. A variety of flour was thrown together, sugar was mixed together, and easter eggs were crushed to make chocolate-chip-type-chunks. Despite this, the result was pretty darn good (if I do say so myself)…

Butter-free, left-over-easter-egg-chunk cookies?

I can’t help it though. I’m a compulsive baker. The housemate laughs, apparently this need to bake makes me an odd individual. In fact, I think the term she used was 50s-housewife-bunny. She’s a charmer. It may, however, possibly have something to do with the fact that I’m the moodiest, snarkiest member of our household, and yet occasionally turn into a crazy baking lady who sings along to Enter Shikari and Trivium whilst making said baked-good. She’s right. I’m odd.

Never mind. Cookie…?

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..)

Face-planting and A&E.. Oh life.

Today’s been an interesting one. An achy, hungover one that ended with 3 hours in A&E. Thrilling.

I may possibly have face-planted the pavement last night. Fell out of my shoe and met the floor with various body parts. It was painful. And I now have a beautifully purple hip, a fairly mauve knee, scraped arms, and a hole in the leather jacket.. Massive fail on my part. Massive.

I then took a rehearsal today. Clutching coffee and sporting last night’s makeup. Yep, I was *that* classy girl on the bus. The one with bed hair and a slept-in jumper..

And finally I ended up in A&E. Actually the reason I ended up at the hospital isn’t all that interesting, and I felt like a massive fraud in comparison with the guy that had been hit by a car, the girl with appendicitis, and the man that had trapped his hand in an electronic dumbwaiter. Believe me, I felt massively lame sat next to them..

The wait was almost worth it when my foot was bandaged up by cute-doctor-“I’m-Owen-by-the-way”, who then proceeded to throw plaster tape at me with a “shh, they’ll never know”. Charming cute-doctor-Owen. Also have massive love for the housemates who came for a road trip to keep me company and brought inappropriate-for-the-hospital snacks. Bless their little hearts.

I do however feel it necessary to question the hospital on their inappropriate nature of road signs..

Seems a tad insensitive really..

Why does time fly so fast..

It’s April. Already. In fact, it’s not even just April. It’s already over a week into April. I swear this year is going so ridiculously fast. Super fast.

Put it this way, I’ve been home for a fortnight. It doesn’t feel that way. Not in the slightest. And yet being home I’ve already discovered some brilliant (and not-so-brilliant) things about myself..

1. I still bake awesome cakes. Not that I doubted this, but y’know, when you usually make plain and simple fairy cakes it’s nice to branch out occasionally. So yes. The mocha cupcakes I’ve spent the entire evening concocting? Beautiful. If I do say so myself..

2. I would rather read for pleasure than work. Honest. Hence the fact that I ploughed through the 4 or 5 books put aside for ‘enjoyment’, and I’ve still only achieved 20-odd pages of Ulysses. It’s an absolute hoot.

3. Spotify is becoming the new facebook. In my life at least. I without a doubt spend 6 times as much time surfing through bands I’ve never heard before and creating new playlists than I do on that beauty of a book of face. Which is weird. Very weird. Not in a bad way though, it does after all lead on to..

4. ..The fact that talking about music is becoming a substitute for sleep. I still have disastrous sleep patterns, but at least now I spend time contemplating soulful lyrics and arguing about the beauty of French pop.

5. I like gin. In small doses. But..

6..I still talk too much when drunk. And tell too much. I’m not loud. I’m not lairy. But I do tend to talk. Bugger.

7. Despite owning at least 4 pairs already, when shoe shopping I still resort to converse. They’re low-tops, which is y’know a change, but still.. I should probably branch out at some point.

8. I hate Oxford on a Saturday. Regardless of the sun.

9. I drink less caffeine when I’m at home. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s more of a Brighton thing. Maybe I don’t wake up early enough to warrant it in Oxford. But yeah, it’s unusual..

10. My movie knowledge is still one of the worst things about me. STILL. Despite the fact that I’m a student and do nothing with my time. I still have the worst knowledge about films – classic ones at least. Ask me about Harry Potter, or any Audrey Hepburn film, and I’m your girl. But those must-see-before-you-die classics? Nuh-uh. Clueless.

11. It is still possible to waste an entire day watching tv re-runs. Admittedly it’s now more likely to be One Tree Hill, or Weeds. But only because the Charmed box sets are in Brighton.

12. The first ever dinosaur to be named and studied was found a few miles down the road from where I live. THIS FACT EXCITES ME SO DAMN MUCH. I’m probably still a child.

Yes I’m probably still a child. What exactly is your point..?

There are certain people with whom you can act as though you’re 12 again and it doesn’t matter, because they won’t judge you, or mock you, or be negative in anyway. They’ll join in..

Yes. Those are jelly vampire teeth.

The red-headed one (Yep, that’s her on the right) came to stay last weekend, and as is usual for the wonderful city of Brighton, it rained. No, correction, it poured. So we stomped around the beach with umbrellas, and trudged the laines running from sweet shop to sweet shop, and SPENT TWO WHOLE HOURS IN THE AQUARIUM. Which was probably the best bit.

I’m sorry. I’ll explain. I may have a little bit of an obsession with sharks. Not sure when exactly it began, just that it’s been here for a fair while. I can’t believe I’ve managed to avoid the aquarium for the entire past year. In fact the thought sickens me..

Anyway. There’s a shark tunnel. Needless to say, I was a goner. Probably would’ve sat there for a good couple of hours longer if we didn’t get ever so marginally peckish. There is something so graceful about sharks. Plus they just have this beautiful sense of freedom. I guess I’m sort of jealous of them in a way. They just appear so at ease, and relaxed, with the ability to swim the ocean (okay, not when they’re in captivity, but y’know what I mean), without a care in the world. I could easily spend hours in an aquarium. They’re one of those random places I can really relax, and for a seriously anxious person that’s pretty unusual. It’s the sharks. They just have that effect on me..

In't he pretty..

So yes, I’d like a shark please. I’ll call him Oscar and he can live in my fridge. It’s a good fridge, promise.