“you can dance and I will sing and merrily pass the day”

Snowdrops begin to shoot up through leaf litter. Fletcher Moss Park, Didsbury. January 2018.

Snowdrops begin to shoot up through leaf litter. Fletcher Moss Park, Didsbury. January 2018.

February is a month of pearl: the snow has nearly been completely replaced by the sheen of gold or royal purple croci. The bright white bells of snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) droop down as if contemplating the earth.

I submitted my PhD thesis on the 13th Feb, hooray! (Even after being hit with flu again just before finishing – who gets flu twice in less than 2 months? Seriously?! Me obviously…) Anyway, a chunk of goal 1 has been met! It will take anywhere from 6 – 10 weeks (perhaps longer) before I have to defend it. Trying to suspend panicking about this.


I’ve been trying to have a small break from thinking about: Rochdale or place theories or maps or the Northern Powerhouse (of course I’ve thought about all of these things). However, I have been trying to indulge in goal 3 (make stuff) over the last week through knitting a pair of socks. But have RSI in my middle finger which I’m going to blame on too much tension while sock knitting and watching some of the breathtaking, and incredible, Olympic snowboarding/skiing tricks. Annoyingly, this has coincided with the – expected but hard to take – post-thesis hand-in comedown after last week’s joyful relief of slam dunking it in. Knitting was keeping me sane! Ah well.

As for other goals:

  • Goal 3 (make stuff): Current RSI in finger has put knitting on hold, going to sew up my mum’s birthday present this evening.
  • Goal 4 (friends): Working on it! Sorry friends. Went to a family party in Bristol, though, so getting back into being sociable.
  • Goal 5 (make music): I’m not singing – yet. Will rectify this when I’m feeling a bit more up-for-it (winter = never a good time). It WILL happen. Yes.
  • Goal 6 (avoid despair, do stuff): Erg, with the current torrent of poo that is politics I suspect that this one may be a deal breaker. However, much solidarity with those affected by Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS pensions) who’re striking for their and their colleagues – and their colleagues to come – futures.

Goal 2 is currently in progress, however, I’m trying to take on more tutoring while looking for something a little more steady. I have had an application rejected recently which I was a little surprised about as I thought I was qualified enough to at least get to the interview stage – hey ho, one of those things. In the meantime, I am tutoring one student at the moment who is capable, creative and funny but a bit stubborn in completing homework tasks. When asked to give the synopsis of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde this was the response: “Jekyll’s just, like, chillin’ while Hyde does the killin’.” Teenagers are ace. I love teaching. (I have advised that this is perhaps not the best context to use when in exam conditions!)

Exciting writing collaborations and commissions are still happening so will post more when things are firmed up. And my heart is warmed by the return of blackbird song. Spring is definitely getting louder.

Song inspiration:
Samson & Delilah, ‘Begone Dull Care’, And Straight On Till Morning.

‘the blues they send to meet me won’t defeat me’

It’s been a while!

Moon on 1st January, not quite a super moon but still brilliant through the silver birch.

Moon on 1st January, not quite a super moon, still brilliant through the silver birch.

That new year freshness, a small glimmer, even in the constant Yorkshire rain. Not a blank page, perhaps a hopeful continuation.

These are not resolutions per se, more loose goals for this year (well, except goals 1 & 2; they’re fixed). Writing more is taken as a given so I’ve not included ‘write more’ as writing is part of who I am regardless of sharing it. I’ve not included more walking in wildlife too as above.

2018 Goals
1. Finish PhD thesis, hand it in, try to pass PhD. Take a short break after this to recover.
2. Find a job/some sort of paid work that draws upon goal 1.
3. Make at least one thing a month; crafting keeps me focussed and stops feelings of inadequacy; I can be joyfully amateur in this pursuit. Expect pictures of knitted objects/dresses over on Instagram.
4. Reconnect with friends.
5. Start singing again (I’ve now promised 2 people that I’d do this and I hate breaking promises).
6. Try not to get depressed about ongoing crappy political bobbins, but take action when possible/able.

There are continuing projects (two writing groups, some teaching and tutoring), and I’ve some ideas for projects – the sort of stuff to make the heart satisfied if not happy and not necessarily for cash. I’m trying to balance expectations, including my own. I can overstretch myself by being over-ambitious – sometimes too ambitious for my skill set – & this, as I discovered in December, leads to burnout & then succumbing to every bug that’s floating around northern England.

I am excited about an upcoming writing collaboration which I’ll share more of when it gets going (ooo, intrigue!).

Finally, I mentioned this site is changing last year. So, when blogging personal stuff, I’m going back to a convention I used over a decade ago when Livejournalling: trying to find song lyrics to sum up the blog post I’m writing. I’ll note the artist, song & album (where relevant) in case you want to look it up.

Song inspiration:
B.J Thomas / Burt Bacharach ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head’, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Original Score

Writing back into it

I had a job interview last week, I didn’t get the job. It was a (very) part-time, temporary post, but I still would have liked it as the department looked ace. I did, of course, put a lot of preparation and thought into it. (Not going to whine: this preparation isn’t wasted as I can use it with my creative writing groups and future interviews.) This meant that last week the work towards PhD thesis completion was a little limited.

I have a month to go.

I’m so close. It’s nearly at the complete draft / rip bits up / rewrite problem areas – or at least flag ’em up for potential discussion / neaten and sort out the (blasted!) referencing stage.

‘Er, Jen?’ I hear you say, ‘If you’re so close then why the heck are you writing here rather than in Chapter Six 19.09.17.docx?’

Well, since you asked so nicely, it’s partly because I feel a little burned out and therefore moderately distractible/down, partly because of the time of year, but mostly it’s The Fear. The last two chapters were supposed to be the “best” chapters, the two I feel that I know most about. A chance to showcase some of my own creative work.

I open the document.

Know what I have to do.

Then stare at the cursor, it beats on the screen as if it’s constantly giving me the finger.

Flip, flip, flip.

I’ve built it into this impossible thing – where ambition outstrips ability (and time-scale). To evoke a simile involving the South Pennine fringe: it’s like climbing up the surface of the sheer gritstone face of Summit Quarry in the rain, with no carabiners nor any climbing nous. I’ve gotta climb this beast and the only way, for me, to do that is to write into it. Et voila, a blog post.

Hyperbole aside, while this piece of work, ultimately, won’t change the shape of the universe: ‘there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle’. Over the past few years, it’s taught me a few things about writing. In creativity, there is ‘a place for the genuine’.

Rather than a WOW! These Ten Writing Tips will BLOW YOUR MIND, the following is a list of things I find helpful (when I remember to put them into action). And I’m sharing them in the hope that it’s a helpful list! Would love to hear your thoughts too.

  1. That little voice, you know, the one that says ‘What the hell are you doing?! What right do you have to do that? You know that it’s going to be rubbish anyway? You can’t!’ may not go away but there are ways of coping with it
  2. You ARE good enough. And you CAN do this. Just gotta believe it – while retaining a sense of humility.
  3. Foster a resilience: learn it, remember it, put into practice.
  4. Locate your allies, they do exist. (In my case: my supervisory team, friends, family, fellow creatives.) If low, and feeling on your own, they will be there.
  5. Unless someone has something constructive to say, ignore the trolls. (I know, it’s hard, people can be gits.) As Taylor Swift sings: ‘Haters gonna hate, (hate, hate, hate, hate)’.
  6. Sometimes you’ve got to write your way in, or around it, to get where you need to go to. Or, if not, to take you on a wobbly, or even circuitous, route elsewhere.
  7. Your writing &/or research is important; there may not be many other people writing about, or looking into, this area (yet!).
  8. LOOK! You just made something up/wrote something down that wasn’t there before. That’s some kind of magic, yes?!
  9. If you can’t write, do something related to it. (I make stuff in a joyous amateur way, possibly not/never for sharing!)
  10. Nothing is ever really completed.

I think I might have written somewhere before about the feeling that when you make something, and then share it, that sometimes it is like putting your heart on a platter. And with that, I’d better pop off and get that organ ready for plating.

Flip, flip, flip off cursor.


In other news, this week marks 20 years since I left home for a tumultuous three years in Sunderland. If someone can go back in time and tell the tempestuous little idiot pictured below that, while everything won’t quite be all right, it’ll be more or less OK.

Red eyes! I think that I got an infamous Boots 'Quality Control' sticker for this one.

Red eyes! I think that I got a Boots ‘Quality Control’ sticker for this one.

Some plans & schemes & ‘better dreams’

Hello hello to the readers of these irregular dispatches. Hope all’s well in your worlds.

Wow, August was physically and mentally exhausting. Bit glad that it’s done with, to be honest with you! Phew. It’s the last month of pulling my PhD thesis together and I can make out some dim light at the end of the dark tunnel (is that an angler fish? Best not think too hard about it).  So, yeah, anyway, that was August and now we’re into the colour changing days of September. And writing writing writing.

And sometimes writing, thinking about writing, worrying about writing, feels frivolous. There’s so much else going on in the world – if, indeed, there is any world left by next week – so it feels a little futile sometimes carrying on in this  (mostly) introspective endeavour. But carry on we must!

In terms of carrying on, this means keeping an eye out for jobs during the final Thesis Write Up™ so that I don’t become a Calderdale statistic once I’m done. Although if I do need to go to the job centre I will do so in the biggest, flounciest dress that I own.  Mostly to cheer myself up, mind. In all seriousness, I have had to sign on in the past and it isn’t a big bag of fun but it is a safety net that I have appreciated. I will never grumble about contributing to it.

Anyway, I’m not here to give big grandstanding political statements, not at the mo.

Moving on.

I’ve been thinking about this Wild Writes website and blog. I set the site up as part of a project originally, but it’s sort of developed away from what that was.  I’d like to keep this to blog with because I really like using WordPress. My other “professional” website www.jenbee.me.uk uses Drupal which is a bit of a pain in the bum to use and I have guilt chills when I think about how much updating it needs (sorry Drupal fans). Once I’ve finished my PhD I’m going to have a bit of a think as to what to do with my social networks, websites & blogs as they’re a little unwieldy. I would like to keep a blog – to share practice and some blether on what I’m getting up to.  I’d like to just keep it even if it’s just to pop some of the gorgeous sights/sites of West Yorkshire, where I’ve moved to.  Oh, sharing some less salubrious sights too, of course.

tl;dr: I have too many online things, I want to rationalise them.

I think that I’d like to blog about making things; I’ve written somewhat on the writing process, but crafting feels different. Perhaps it’s because I feel that there is so little to lose in the process of making. Writing is important to me; it’s possibly one of the few things I love doing and know that even though I may get anxious about what others think of my work I do – most of the time – think that it’s something that I’m at least OK at! Crocheting, sewing, sketching, and baking I find fun and feel less emotionally invested in these endeavours as they are like a sort of release. Making is a kind of therapy (read that last term in your best Freud voice!). I have a load of sewing that I’m looking forward to as a reward for completing my thesis (including a compass-themed dress and pyjamas for my mum).

So yes, just thought that I’d share some thoughts and, hopefully, we’ll all be less worried about the threat of nuclear winter by the next update. . .

Here's to Better Dreams for all

Here’s to Better Dreams for all. . .

On anxiety, “procraftination”, and academia

Content warning: some of this blog post discusses anxiety, depression, still birth.

This is possibly the most personal – but hopefully helpful – post that I have done (and think I will do) on this site.  Over the last few years, I have changed and the Wild Writes project will change too. Here we go.   Continue reading

On not completing poetry and the near future…

So, didn’t quite achieve a poem a day like last year. Partly because I’m writing up, partly because of the onslaught of bad news, partly because I didn’t have a solid theme. I will do better next year!

Follow the route against the current. (River Goyt through Woodbank Park, Stockport, Greater Manchester.)

Follow the route against the current. (River Goyt through Woodbank Park, Stockport, Greater Manchester.)

All concentration is now focussed on finishing my PhD thesis – not as easy a task as it sounds. Writing up various notes, editing bits that – whoops – are currently ropey and need smoothing and/or expanding. And I’m thinking of the future. I was worried last September that time had zoomed by and that I would be unemployed/underemployed/unemployable by October 2017. Basically, I love this job. I love the mix of outreach which has incorporated teaching/tutoring creative writing, the research, and writing. Statistically, however, I may not be able to break into an academic role. I’m not as worried now, though; I’m sure that I can use this academic knowledge to share skills in different, possibly unorthodox ways! I am confident in my skills as a speaker/teacher, even with some “stage fright” at conference times. (Anyway, public speaking is just acting, like creative writing is acting.) While my research is niche, I do have publishing ideas with the work I’ve done so, hopefully, I can get that out there when I’ve finished. Finally, being “Doctor B” will be awesome (no, not that sort of Doctor but I can pop you in the recovery position if need be).

So yes, there will be more poetry/writing but it may be after I’ve finished this 80,000ish word document!

And with that – back to writing Rochdale.