Not waving, not drowning: Treading Water

Treading water

I missed posting anything last week. I wonder how many people noticed. That’s not a bleat for attention, by the way, but a genuine musing on a question that has been bugging me. How much difference does it make whether I post a weekly blog or not? As in the whole spectrum of differences: to me, to you, to my books, to the whole world. I had a couple of poems in the drafts folder but I didn’t want to post them; the time didn’t seem right. I’d had a run-in with vast self-doubt some weeks before when a friend had been asking for submissions for a new poetry website he was starting. I’d sent in a handful, and immediately regretted it. Not because they weren’t good poems, or that it wasn’t a good website. I admire the chap running it and I like his poetry. But what I didn’t like was the stepping into the old role of supplicant; of being appraised and judged and inevitably found wanting. That was one reason I stopped entering poetry contests and why I stopped submitting to publishers. You might think I just need to toughen up, suck it up Buttercup and other such phrases. Maybe I do. I don’t know. That’s why self doubt is such a bitch. Perhaps what you fear about yourself IS actually true.

Anyway.

I’m treading water.

I’m struggling with my health, both mental and physical and I’m struggling too to filter out the effects of what has become known as inspiration porn. You know the stuff; Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest are plastered with it. The examples of people who overcame all sorts of disabilities and disasters to come back better, stronger, fitter, slimmer (SLIMMER???), the people who start a fitness regime in their 70s and become world champions, the people born without hands or feet who…. You get the picture. There’s always lots of pictures. And sound-bites. And people cheering them on. They don’t inspire me; they make me feeling guilty, a failure, a blob. The ones that start, “If I can do it, anyone can!” The ones that basically tell you that if you’re reading this (THIS? That) you’re one of the lucky ones. You know, I know I’m one of the lucky ones. It still doesn’t stop me hurting all over, and having bad days with depression where my biggest achievement is getting out of bed, showering and sitting all day hoping I’ll feel better. Again, this is not a bleat, but a statement. I don’t find the inspirational memes inspiring. I find them profoundly depressing because they actually ADD to the stigma that is levelled against those with depression and other debilitating conditions, by adding to the unconscious prejudice of human beings, that people (such as I) COULD help themselves if they just made up their mind to it and stopped being such negative nellies and made themselves sweat a bit at the gym blah blah blah.

Some of the things I’m doing while trying to keep my head above water:

1) I’ve produced a new edition of Strangers and Pilgrims, with a nice matte cover (though the same cover art, because I like it and it has significance to the book I might tell you about one day), and decent sized print, and like the Kindle edition, the errors of the first published version removed. It’s really rather lovely. It took me much longer to do that it ought to have, for all sorts of reasons, one of which is that I sell few paperbacks so the energy needed is disproportionate to the results. So far, no one has bought the new edition. QED.

2) I’ve got the collection of essays from this blog almost ready to publish. I’ve got paperback proof editions and am at the stage of weeding out any remaining issues after five people have kindly proof read it. There’s a launch party on Facebook here, though the date is currently moot because I’ve got various work commitments coming up. Do invite yourself and any friends.  I’m extremely pleased to have got this far; my brain some days is like fossilised treacle.

  1. I’ve got the next poetry collection almost ready in paperback. I need to go back and rewrite the back matter and blurb, because I realised that mentioning a Mary Oliver poem on there was unacceptable to me. I admire other poets and using their success to boost my own visibility (even though it would have been accidental) is just not right.

So, as long as it stays relatively calm I can keep treading water. If anyone could spare a life raft, life jacket or even a small boat (metaphysically speaking) it would be appreciated.

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15 thoughts on “Not waving, not drowning: Treading Water

    • Indeed! When we lived at the sea side, I did actually consider being an RNLI volunteer lifeboat crew. But then I realised I had no useful practical skills and risked being relegated to manning the shop or making tea!

  1. Dear Viv – I love your posts, your honesty, your intellect and the way you make the words come alive on the page. You have such a gift. I don’t read very many blogs – most of them annoy the socks off me and I can’t stand all of those “I climbed to the top of the mountain in my size 8 pants even though I don’t have any hands” type of stories too. I instantly feel guilty because at the moment I’m a hefty Size 16, have hands and avoid climbing mountains… Keep on treading water, and I hope a big friendly
    wave comes and gives you a lift very soon. And keep on writing!! xx

  2. Reblogged this on The World of The Teigr Princess and commented:
    I often wonder, is anybody reading what I write? Should I bother with a blog or just give up? Is it just my self doubt and paranoia talking to me?
    I’m glad that it isn’t just me feeling these things; I’m not the only one. That’s why I read Vivienne’s blog and why I repost from there.
    Thank you, Viv!

  3. Nice to know I’m not the only one struggling with doubt and wondering if I’m really as good as I aspire to be. Hope you’re feeling better about everything soon.

  4. Dear Viv, Just writing to tell you that you are a very good writer- not just good but amazingly good.

    I always look forward and enjoy your blogs, especially your meditations; (even though I may not always leave a comment.)

    So sorry to see you doubting yourself and your great talent. Please don’t and please do not feel depressed.

    Be happy and of good cheer, friend!

  5. I don;t have a spare life jacket – and busy keeping calm about not having one of my own. But you have brightened my day by giving me my introduction to the phrase: inspiration porn. I wondered if it had a name. Probably goes along with the concept of the brave patient [or something like that] – great for the one who is ill and is doing grand stuff but a stick for the nes who are not… Several inspirational sorts [especially on the physical front] have started following me on Twitter – why? I don’t want to even see their stuff.
    But…sorry that you are struggling with your health – that’s where I’ve been too. Perhaps the life jackets – even life boats – are formed by many of us treading water together making a vast and beautiful island in the sea.

    take care – hope the water is warm and lovely x

  6. Just read your blog. Familiar with treading water–and getting tired of dog-paddling. Really appreciate the shared experience. I’m imagining a group of us writers holding hands in a synchronized water ballet routine. We’d probably all sink, but it’s a humorous image!

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