The weight of the world

I don’t usually write poetry but today at lunch time I took myself off to Potters Fields to sit with the sadness I’m currently feeling for some people close to me, and out poured the following (pretty sure today’s post won’t meet the 200 minimum word quota I set myself but sometimes an artist must suffer for her work, and now is one such time):

The weight of the world

If heartbreak had a physical weight, this bench would have buckled years ago. So many came and went, sitting with their burdens when carrying them became too much to bear.

The late summer sun, whilst beautiful, seems now to taunt the hopeful souls who stroll and sit beneath it, catching the last rays before the seasons roll inexorably on.

Above the fading blooms two butterflies (who did not get the end of summer memo) frolic in the air, rising and falling on a breeze so faint it hardly stirs the blades of grass below.

Is this an end or a beginning? In some ways it is neither, but rather just a phase in the constantly shifting cycle of existence.

Why is it only humans want answers? Simple: Because the universe already knows.

(…and will you look at that, I’ve just broken the word count barrier).

The happiness quota

On the way home from work today I was ruminating on the idea of having a personal happiness quota. If such a thing exists I’ve already moved considerably further towards the top end of mine by changing jobs and taking the decision to reduce my working week to four days a week (even if it does mean less money coming in – though maybe best to reserve this particular declaration of happiness until after my first pay cheque’s cleared).

Another way I’ve increased my happiness rating over the past few years has been through incorporating competitive exercise into my routine (not that you’d know it if you’d been watching me over the past week, slovenliness having set in a little in the wake of my last race). And over the past couple of days I’ve managed to crank the score up further still by signing up to the Take Ten programme by Headspace, a daily ten minute guided meditation which already has me feeling more calm and in control of my life.

So, you may ask, if everything’s going so well what’s stopping me from hitting the top rung of the happiness ladder? I’ll tell you what: My commute. After months of travelling to work on the new extended overland train to Shoreditch I’d almost forgotten the trauma that is the Northern line in rush hour. Now I’m working in London Bridge, however, it’s proving unavoidable.

There’s are few things worse than spending the 20 minutes before reaching the office and the 20 minutes after leaving it face-in-armpit with a total stranger – especially now it’s nearing summertime when the airless tubes turn into human microwaves (readers of my old blog may remember the time a six foot four inch giant fainted ON TOP OF ME at the end of a packed tube carriage on the hottest day in summer – NEVER AGAIN).

If I’m to avoid a summer of discontent it’s becoming patently obvious I’m going to have to find an alternative way to cover the four odd miles from Clapham to London Bridge. And the obvious solution is to get on my bike and cycle there. Not only will it keep me fit (possibly negating the need for a new gym membership?), it will also save me considerable money on the cost of tube fare. So what’s stopping me from getting on and doing it? The fear of becoming a statistic after having an unfortunate collision with a lorry, that’s what. I know you shouldn’t live your life thinking ‘what if,’ but when it comes to road sense I’m woefully lacking – at nine years old I cycled round a roundabout the wrong way, nearly giving my parents a heart attack in the process.

All of which leaves me in quite the dilemma: Do I face my fear and cycle or face a summer of discontent on a smelly tube train? I think I know what you’re all saying: Get on your bike! Right? Right. Now where did I put that pump?

This was taken during my triathlon last September – incidentally (and shamefully) also the last time I did actually get on my bike…

The write read

It’s a well-known fact that, for the most part, writing doesn’t pay. Or at least it doesn’t pay until you make it big, though you might be surprised by how few authors ever reach the heady heights of JK Rowling’s wealth, despite being on the best seller lists for weeks on end.

So what do aspiring writers do to make ends meet? Some sacrifice luxury and get a part time job in a cafe, devoting the rest of their time to writing in the hope they’ll have that much needed break and be catapulted out of their Hackney bedsit into a Hollywood condo.

Others, like myself, who have fallen into a relatively comfortable way of living and aren’t keen to suffer for their art to quite the extent of living below the poverty line, get a full time job. Days, therefore, are spent in an office, doing someone else’s bidding for eight hours or more at a time, and nights are spent trying to fit writing in amongst the other many competing priorities.

But I’m not complaining, and nor should anyone who is serious about making it as a writer, because if writing is your passion it shouldn’t be difficult to make time for it. What can be a problem for the aspiring writer, however, is what they choose to sacrifice to make time for their writing. In my case, I’ve realised that what’s all too often being sacrificed is reading.

I take my Kindle to work every day, but on the journey there often struggle not to be distracted by the free newspapers. I therefore spend the duration engrossed in the latest drama in Rihanna’s love life instead of making a start on the latest Booker Prize-nominated tome I’ve downloaded.

Before conceiving my 365 day writing challenge I would at least spend the return journey reading a good book, but in recent weeks even those few precious snatched minutes have been compromised, as I’ve spent them drafting that day’s blog post. What this means is that although I am now (at long last) writing regularly, when it comes to reading I’m not getting much further than the odd sensationalist tabloid press story – hardly inspirational stuff.

What’s troubling me is this: How can I even hope to be a good writer if I’m not seeing how it’s done by learning from the best? To use an analogy, imagine trying to ride a bike without seeing someone else do it first. It’s not that you couldn’t do it – if you had instructions you’d get there in the end – but the whole experience would be harder, and you might not end up cycling to the best of your ability.

The realisation that I’m not reading enough has made me see I need to reassess my priorities again; rather than substituting reading for writing I must make time for both, or risk my writing being so badly compromised that the heady heights of JK Rowling will always remain out of reach.

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This little badge represents me having completed my fourth National Novel Writing Month. It serves as a reminder of how important writing is to me – perhaps in light of today’s post I need a similar talisman for reading?