I’M ONE (blog) YEAR OLD!

ira glass creativesHEY, man!

….Ladies.

Jeez, I’ve been so busy – sorry I haven’t been around much….you know how it is! This project’s still going, that one’s almost complete; the script is in it’s fifth draft, it’s now set in a completely different century to the first and I think it’s rubbish but I’m still at the flash cards stage so who can tell, right?! I’m intending it to be the best first screenplay anyone’s ever written. I’ll let you know.fuck that shit

Although…my motivation, enthusiasm, and precarious blend of optimism and gall hasn’t been around for long. One year ago, this blog became the first creative project that I had ever truly stuck with via my own volition, despite desperately wanting to write/film/sing in the shower for years. The first post, about Stop(everything)tober, developed a desire I didn’t really know I had: to articulate thought processes via a blend of the essayistic-on-paper/informal-in-person styles to which I am accustomed, in the hope of prompting responses from people. What an ideal situation: I could create conversations in which I had as long as I liked to formulate my thoughts, and then talk to everyone about it at once.

(Very important sidenote: I’ve ended a decade-long fiction grudge because of The Fault in Our Stars.)

neil gaiman escape

And people really seem to enjoy it too. Positive feedback is golden, and I’ve been hugely honoured at the amount I’ve received. (Although I’m still not famous. Weird.)

I have had another month’s break from here, as I’m doing a lot of writing and filming elsewhere and all workloads are mounting up. (Plug: Help me out by exploring these and sharing them?)

All-volunteer microplex cinema The Cube: cubecinema.com

The Film That Buys the aforementioned Cinema: cubecinema.com/film

Happening in March 2014: bristolradicalfilmfestival.org.uk

sse

Staring at a screen each day gets lonely: @elizabethethird

Honestly, it was starting here that led me to trusting that I could take all these things on at once, see them through, and do them well.

Oh and not being a waster. That was a good decision.

me smoking mj scott
Me From The Past by MJ Scott

http://www.mjscott.co.uk/

Whilst developing a sense of worth and capability, I’ve stumbled across things that have really resonated (which I have dotted around here.) I wish I had found them years ago, but “what ifs” and “fate” and “determinism”. I probably wouldn’t have been able to absorb them at the time anyway. So we’re cool, Me From The Past. We have an understanding. (We have an understanding, right?)

Wilms presenting
Me From The Recent

http://howtosurvivethefuture.org/2013/11/11/what-went-wrong-and-whats-next/

http://sleepyti.me/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autonomous_sensory_meridian_response

www.youtube.com/user/vlogbrothershttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyQi79aYfxU

http://guru.bafta.org/charlie-kaufman-screenwriters-lecture-video

its-on

Thank you so much to everyone who has been reading for the past year. I appreciate your time; how amazing to have a conversation with hundreds of people! If anyone would like me to write about anything in particular, let me know; my inspirational juices are all going into one hole at the moment.

Speak to you all soon, and PLEASE Don’t Forget to be Awesome.

nerdfighteria shield

Beauty That’s ‘Real’

swimsuit ad“Love the skin you’re in!”

“Real women, real beauty.”

“Beauty at any size!”

You’ll likely recognise the above phrases, which, rather than necessitating quotation, were plucked from my arse. I mean mind. (Bum/mind/waist-to-hip ratio; telling the difference is as hard as it is futile.)

Such clichés are the mantras of the body-positive ‘movement’: a barrage of messages women have been receiving via advertising campaigns and glossy magazines in recent years; a compassionate and diligent deflection against beauty standards imposed by advertising campaigns and glossy magazines, in the preceding and, indeed, same years.

On the Huffington Post this week, ‘Health Coach and Emotional Eating expert’ Isabel Foxen Duke posted an astute article titled ‘Why ‘Love Your Body’ Campaigns Aren’t Working’. Highlighting the above paradox of the media and beauty industries, she notes that growing up:

“I would see images of “real women” and think to myself, I don’t want to be one. I wanted to get ahead, stand out, be special”.

I have previously written about the cause-and-effect of the wondrous ironies of body-positive rhetoric, but recently the debate around Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches campaign, and Duke’s article, have illustrated not only the need to pay close attention to the reinforcement of damaging standards and ideals in the very conversations that purport to combat them, but also the need to discuss this double-standard when you see it, continually, until it takes hold.

I know the experience Duke describes to be that of many of the brilliant and big-hearted women who get behind the body-positive movement, and they do so with much strength and determination. It feels like a transformative shift in understanding for those of us who are highly body-critical, and is potentially the first step towards making one; logically, we ‘believe’ it, as a rule for ‘all women’, especially those we love around us; but most desperately we attempt to finally stamp ‘PWNED!’ on dusty, neglected certificates of self-worth.

Yet via these campaigns, fully grasping self-worth is essentially impossible. We still want to compete to get ahead, stand-out, be special; as though we have to fight each other for these scarce statuses. Our society’s structural misogyny is underpinned by the individualism promoted under capitalism, which works to prevent us from collectively understanding and willfully departing from forces which restrict us. True acceptance and transcendence from the pain and damage of the beauty myth is engulfed by a two-fold fallacy.

Firstly, the mainstream idea of body acceptance is borne at least in part from a market drive for it. Magazines and corporations that make money from selling you ‘beauty’ need you to continue wanting that in order to survive. Dove knows that there’s a huge demographic out here who are rejecting, in some form, the beauty standards that they have thus far peddled. They also know that this is a highly emotional and contentious issue that will get them a lot of attention if they appear to be on the ‘good’ side, and will earn your trust and appreciation; then they can sell you more products! Win/win! Unless we’ve all entirely missed their development team’s ironic sense of humour, Dove’s oxymoronic Pro-Age and anti-aging ranges of products highlights their rejection of the ‘acceptance’ they are selling.

Secondly, assuming (less cynically) that this is a step in the right direction, the ideas still play by the rules of the value structure it claims to reject. Every message that informs us not to worry, we are beautiful despite our size, despite our ‘flaws’, despite our inability to lose weight, continues to frame the conversation under the heading Beauty is Important, Necessary, Fulfilling, Enriching. It continues to promote its own importance, encouraging ignorance of self-improvement in any other way; of other people; of political dynamics; of spirituality; of critical thinking; of the inane, false standards these messages hold us to.

Duke stated that “women want to experience, they want to feel, they want to be… far more than they want to look. Unfortunately, we’ve been taught that looking a certain way is a prerequisite for “achieving” throughout the rest of our lives.” Her article is commendable, in that it acknowledges that most women worry about body and beauty, and this is a real issue that creates pain (I would add: created for us, and by us, under patriarchy.)

“If we don’t actively dismantle the myths that have been embedded into women’s psyche around weight historically, those myths will linger, regardless of how many plus-sized models they see on billboards (again, important first step, but not necessarily the “answer” for women suffering from body hatred now).Indeed. The only way to find an answer to this falsehood is to reframe the questions; so that at some point, we instead ask others.

We all can, and have achieved many things. We can and will continue to. Physical appearance doesn’t truly factor into happiness or success: an employer may well hire you based on your appearance. Do you see yourself being happy working for that employer? And who says getting the job you wanted will make you happy or successful? Yet another accepted standard of happiness that you are allowed to redefine as you see fit.

Thankfully, you may also define beauty; personally I’ve found it in plenty of places. Not only are they not all visual, only a minority was attached to human flesh.

Video: Real Men Say Something by Modern Primate.

This week I have been mostly: feeling grateful for Modern Primate’s brand of dialectic. Talked me down from a panic attack the other day via one of his YouTube videos and didn’t even know it (since it was pre-recorded). Man’s pushing hero status.

Christmas is hollow. What Would Jesus Do about it?

If I say that Christmas makes me sad I’m sure that, unfortunately, most people can understand exactly what I mean without needing to elaborate too much. A time of extremes, even the greater nuances and excitement of reunions and treats is sometimes not enough to offset the Crimbo Troughs. Certain things are mandatory for a Good Christmas; family, friends, money, relaxation, time, etc. Without the full benefits of these things, Christmas can be a gruelling, painful ending to the year.

I have been so fortunate. I have had family, friends and (enough) time every Christmas so far. Thus I can calmly forgo the money (relaxation has been largely absent, but that’s a separate, non-Xmas matter in itself). Yet, something melancholy and hollow about Christmas remains. Toying with a rejection of gross consumerism, I tend to try and focus on food; however, this nervous focus inevitably leads to overeating, and the lethargic guilt that immediately follows remains long into the following year (again, another chronic non-xmas matter). The only saving grace is the time spent with my family; but the surrounding fug of Christmas™ can lead me to fear how I would experience the shopping holiday were something to happen to them….

Ahhh. Another Merry Jolly Christmas.

I stumbled across the documentary What Would Jesus Buy? early this December, just in time to inspire me to evaluate what I needed from and for Christmas this year. I spent the whole month trying to keep in more regular contact with my family (sending letters to Gran, helping my siblings out where possible, dropping my parents a text at least once a week so Mum knows I’m alive [can you say ‘hereditary neuroses’? Just kidding, Ma…]), and working out things I could do for, rather than give to, them.

I feel much more prepared this year for being grateful and giving personally, rather than financially, making the next week or so much more soulfully substantial. But I worry I have years to go before I understand what might make a truly meaningful, fulfilling end to each year.

Stoptober for Softcore Addicts: Try It.

ImageThis month, alongside “thousands” of other Britons (that’s a direct quote from the internet), I am partaking in Stoptober, the government’s first nationwide mass quit campaign. In addition to quitting smoking, I have also decided to embark on the Paleo diet meaning that my Stoptober consists of not only nicotine, but also caffeine and sugar withdrawal (all carbs except tubers/veg, alcohol and controlled drugs are out too). Mayb you’re wondering whether I am simply a masochist, or whether I lost a(n odd) bet.

In fact, going teetotal is something I’ve done numerous times for varying periods of time, and as much as I dread it beforehand and sometimes plan it months in advance to build up (what I imagine to be) the courage and emotional strength needed to do it, I always relish it. Turns out, my body and mind are, like, totally connected, man. My soul needs feeding, and it eats sobriety.

It took me a while to realise that, rather than tempering my depressive side or comforting me, my various addictions make me feel like (no) shit (Sherlock).

My career as an addict (that sounds a little extreme, though I wouldn’t say it’s untrue; let’s use softcore-addict) is quite the cliche. I was once a bright child, at an average British CofE school, with middle-class parents on a working-class wage, enough friends and clean lungs. In school hierarchical terms, I was an Inbetweener (just neither as crude nor as funny as the C4 representations.) I was a Highly Sensitive Child (turns out, actually a thing), and with this trait came huge anxiety, mental self-flagellation and frequent, violent ambushes of emotion that I didn’t understand. (It also came with abundant passion, compassion, spirituality and valuable intuition that I wouldn’t recognise until much later.)

I went from sensitive child, to anxious, sad tweenager, to depressed young-adult, via eating disorder (I hated my appearance, and understandably: I was a normal weight and believed wholeheartedly in popular culture), prescriptions for anti-depressants and sleeping pills, and whatever substances I could get from peers to change my consciousness. This brought me new, equally unstable and unreliable friends, and my confidence, rather than growing, diminished. And then I woke up at 21 years old, having hidden, hated, and inebriated 8 years of my life away.

As I say, cliched. I see and hear this same story from the majority of my generation (with significant variables, of course) but I understood my experience as negative in a way that my friends didn’t; indeed, my overwhelming feeling growing up was guilt. For my drug-seeking behaviour, for my weight and appearance, for my ‘not-living-up-to-my-potential’-ness that bore down on me from elders (“what potential?”), and from a general feeling that I just wasn’t doing The Right Thing at any given time and didn’t know how to. I had ideas to move-on-up at some point; right now, it was easier to sit in the corner with a spliff and headphones at full volume to muddy and mask all guilt and confusion.

This continued throughout University, and once I’d completed my degree with little trouble, it occurred to me that 1) if I could get a decent degree whilst occupying most of my time with head-muddying and resultant lazyness, I could do a fuckload more when ‘clean’, and 2) this was shit, I was angry, and further, I was curious. About people and ideas and life and things. So after a year and a half of help from some patient, dynamic and kind people at Bristol Drugs Project, I started eating better, exercising and smoking less. Common sense, that was buried.

(One of the most odd/interesting situations I have ever been in: the only under-30, only female member of a drug-therapy group full of Class A drug users; while I cry at my perceived inability to give up my drug of choice, a seasoned heroin addict tells me “I know how you feel. I wouldn’t touch marijuana anymore, it sends me barmy”. They all agreed. Everyone was very welcoming and never took the piss, as was my initial fear.)

That was a couple of years ago, and since then substances have still played a varyingly troublesome role in my life (I quit tobacco for a year, then something chronically stressful happened and I had a fag. That was fucking stupid.) But I rarely, if ever, do any party drugs, I don’t drink much, and I smoke on and off. Mostly off.

Every now and again when my mood dips or my confidence is rocked, I start picking up where I left off. So, I go teetotal for a bit. I always think it will be hard, and worry and worry and worry about it and if/when I’ll fail. But my determination has grown greater than my anxiety because of the work I’ve done in and around my increasing ratio of sobriety. I have gained the skill of assertiveness, built my confidence and knowledge base, made some friends-for-life (some caners, some not) and have this strange sort of feeling that I’m actually a pretty capable, worthy human. I just finished an MA, I live in a lovely house with lovely like-minded people, and things are pretty good day-to-day.

So if you take a lot of drugs, or eat a lot of junk, or buy in to The Culture (any culture) enough that you feel like shit all the time, I recommend doing a serious, multi-level Stoptober and see if it changes your spirit a bit. Or Stopvember, Stopcember, Stopril or Stopgust for that matter. Just plan it, do it, and reap the awesome benefits of treating your body like it’s mortal and needs nurturing. (I heard that’s a fact.)