Hands off my hobby!

Audio recording of blog (please excuse the word fudging towards the end!)

It’s a weird time right now, isn’t it? Globally, it feels like the winds are changing, so we’d best remember not to pull a face, lest it get stuck that way.

With the vaccine rollout steaming ahead, society is waking from its government-enforced hibernation and venturing back out into the shops and pubs world with equal parts hope and trepidation. I’m in simultaneous fight and flight mode, and I very much doubt I’m special in that respect.

Like lots of others, I’ve used the locked-in freakiness of the last 12 plus months to revisit a hobby. I love to write (gasp!) but imagined time constraints and my inner dictator/perfectionist/cranky old lady (I call her Betty) likes to snuff out any little sparks of motivation with her orthopaedic shoes.

Fortunately, the dress code for lockdown is slippers and loungewear – pet hair encouraged but not compulsory. All must leave their metaphorical creativity squashing shoes at the door.

From March 2020, I saw an opportunity to throw myself into no-pressure writing as my weekend plans dissolved, along with my commute. I started by joining the lovely, judgement-free Writing for Fun and Sanity community (Eventbrite link here if you’re curious). We scribbly sous meet most Saturdays online to be led through a handful of thought-provoking exercises by author and beacon of positivity Marianne Power.

I also took it upon myself to follow the 12-week programme in creativity bible The Artists Way and thoroughly enjoyed its hippy-dippy approach to pen wielding (the book covers all kinds of creative expression, not just writing). I also read and reread a tonne of ‘writers on writing’- type books. My favourites so far are:

  • Bird by bird – Anne Lamott
  • Writing down the bones – Natalie Goldberg
  • Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert
  • On Writing – Stephen King
  • Zen in the Art of Writing – Ray Bradbury
  • And, of course, The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron

As devastating as this crappy pandemic has been, one twinkle of silver lining for me was this being able to reconnect with an activity that gives me joy for its own sake, and if Facebook is to be believed, there’s a small army of bakers, gardeners, painters, sketchers, linguists, and guitarists, you name it, who have felt the same way.

So, I wonder, has the recent change of course back towards ‘normality’ (I’m starting to hate that word) awoken the kraken named ‘Should’ for you too? My sense of play over the last year has produced a gothic horror novella and a clutch of odd-but-endearing short stories. But now, Betty is stressed again. My dictator brain is telling me that now these things exist, I should send them off to some agency/magazine/publisher or another in a bid to make money, because why ‘waste’ all that time if cash and recognition aren’t the result?

While I won’t deny that money is useful, and recognition feels great, it does frustrate me that these things seem to be the ultimate end goal for all human endeavour. I’ve been guilty in the past of telling others who are bossing their pastimes that they should start a cake making business, sell their art to others, make a side hustle of their hobby!

While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing so, it should be a personal choice, entered into because it’s what you genuinely want. The popular idea that to be worthy, your efforts must bear financial fruit makes me want to hide in a cupboard. Bloody capitalism. Grumble, grumble.

As I write this, I’m unsure what, if anything, I’ll do with the modest mound of fiction I’ve collected. I do enjoy sharing what I’ve done – it feels like a natural part of the process. I’m the same obnoxious child who got her kicks from having her doodles displayed on the fridge – I’m just fractionally taller and slightly more obliged to pretend I know what I’m doing.

Maybe I’ll stick the stories up for a few pence on Kindle or figure out how to host them for free for download on this site. Maybe I’ll print them off and demand that Mum digs the magnets out and sticks into her kitchen appliances. Or I could just keep them in the Word documents they live in and enjoy looking at the files from time to time to remind myself that “Look! I did that!”

I don’t know.

I think my point here is that just because the beast we call society, with its love of productivity and tangible, sellable results is reawakening, we don’t have to offer up all our wonderful messy, artsy stuff to appease it, to prove that we’ve been productive while it was sleeping, honest. The fruits of our play are ours alone to do what the hell we want to with. Or even nothing at all.   

When life gives you hang overs…wear your wellies?

When I drink wine, I always do it dressed up as a cat attending a masquerade ball. Why? Don’t you?

I am slightly hung over.

My first clue was the dull throbbing between my eyebrows, and the second came when I decided to make cheese on toast (extra cheese, chunky bread, drowned in hot sauce) and couldn’t stand to wait the 5 minutes for the grill to do its thing. Instead of practicing patience, I snarfed down a bag of crisps, several slices of ham and multiple spoons full of chocolate spread like the feral beast I am.

I don’t handle hang overs well. I usually alternate between flopping around the house in the manner of a fainting lady of the manor and snapping at my nearest and dearest for not psychically knowing what my exact needs are at every moment. To be fair, the latter isn’t difficult. It’s usually more snacks or a nap.

It’s like the layer that usually forms a barrier against my soft, squishy brain and everyday annoyances is temporarily thinned by booze, and for a day or two, I’m vulnerable to animal rescue videos and the idea that every petty thing is out to get me.

Today is a perfect storm for self-pity in Brain Del Becky. Last night, I celebrated Halloween by donning cat ears and eyeliner whiskers and chatting with friends on Zoom, all while mainlining wine and Bud Light. A classy combination, I know.

Today looks like someone’s put a crappy black and white filter on the world outside and we’re experiencing the kind of drizzle where raindrops aren’t especially visible, but outdoors is just a curtain of wet. On top of that, I can’t go anywhere, because Wales is experiencing Lockdown, The Sequel: Shorter, Sharper, Shitter.

Then why am I in such a good mood? My weakened bullshit barrier appears to be letting in more of the wholesome stuff than the usual angsty nonsense. I spent the first part of my day nestled into my chins and dressing gown on the sofa, laughing inanely at the boyfriend responding to that Sky ad that samples Martin Solveig’s song Hello with an unenthused “…hi” every time the singer said “hello” and enjoying flashbacks from last night’s Zoom chats. A particular highlight was watching a friend demonstrating how to pull of some complex yoga moves in a bear onesie at gone 1am, which prompted me to write a reminder to pull “pubes to boobs” for a particular pose on my home office whiteboard…if only I could remember what the pose was. It sounds painful.

…downward dog? Answers on a postcard.

This afternoon, I also discovered that

  1. I own wellies (thanks Reading Festival 20..16? Can’t remember)
  2. I don’t have to walk the dog with rainwater squelching between my rapidly wrinkling toes any more.

I took an inordinate amount of pleasure from this while I dragged my only semi-willing jack russell/pug/sensitive princess mix round the local park; Me making a point of only walking in the muddiest patches of sodden grass because I could and him primly judging me on the path beside me.

The best part of our walk was when we passed by the playground, which is usually a petri dish teeming with racing small people and saw that it was empty of all life, bar a family of four – two parents, two young children, all in matching, brightly-coloured rain coats and wellies. They were oblivious to my creepy, watching presence, too busy attending to the important business of alternately flinging each child down a zip line as violently as possible while they screamed in terror/glee (hard to tell. Amusing either way).

I don’t know if I’d have been slightly emotional if I hadn’t melted my defences with wine the night prior, but I just remember being struck by how lovely that was. I felt a weird kinship with this nuclear unit. While everyone else in the area was burrowing at home, away from the wind and rain, I was sloshing around outdoors, thinking nothing more than “Hah! Dry feet!!” while they had fun in a space that would otherwise be full of chaos and other humans. It sort-of reminded me of that Christmas ad where the family are indoors, and the fox has a go on the empty trampoline.

I have no idea what my point is. Am I endorsing hang overs, rain gear or seeing the silver lining in things that most people naturally view as a bit rubbish? I dunno.

Wellies are good, though aren’t they?

P.S My baby sister got engaged last night! If you’re reading this, please comment a nice message for her so I can screen grab a bunch of well wishes from strangers and share them with her while she waits for her Moonpig card and present to arrive from me…apparently turning up at someone’s flat to drop a gift off and scream about potential hen do’s is considered “non-essential travel.” Pfft!