Writing November

Read the article over at raeritchie.com
Using #unsmalltalk prompts for the ‘Present, not precious’ creative challenge || raeritchie.com

My lovely new friend Melissa Fu has devised a fantastic creative challenge for November.  Entitled ‘Present, not precious’, the project involves coming up with thirty prompts which you draw at random, one on each day of the month.  You then spend five minutes writing about the word you’ve selected.  Simple to follow yet undoubtedly a challenge with the commitment to sitting down and writing every. single. day.  Five minutes may only be a short amount of time but no doubt our brain can come up with a myriad of excuses to not do it: too busy, too tired, too unoriginal, too rubbish, too embarrassed to look at the results let alone share them.

Despite my mind trying to claim all of these get out clauses at once, I’ve committed to following Melissa’s example this month.  A big part of my motivation is the ethos of ‘Present, not precious’ itself: I don’t want to be the kind of writer who needs every possible variable in their world to be just so before they can get down to working.  Moreover, if I want to earn a living from my craft, I cannot be precious about how, when and why I work.  Unromantic as it sounds, I need to be able to write on demand.  Doing so consistently for five minutes per day for thirty days seems like an ideal stamina test.

Another reason for taking part in this creative project is research.  Last month I surveyed my mailing list for what they’d like to see more of in my newsletters and the biggest single answer was creative prompts – so I’m looking to test out any such offerings that I come across, such as ‘Present, not precious’.  I’m really excited about this as the opportunity to think consciously about creativity is good for me as well as hopefully beneficial for my readers in some way.  And having recently re-read Elizabeth Gilbert’s awesome Big Magic, I’ve become obsessed with the topic anyway!

The moment my thoughts turned to the prompts themselves, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.  Earlier in October, I met up with Sas Petherick and Tamsyn Hawkins on their #unsmalltalk pop-up coaching shop at the Alexandra Palace Mindy, Body and Soul show (the best part about my day, but that’s another story!).  While there, I picked up a pack of their #unsmalltalk cards: a juicy pile of fifty soul searching questions to encourage meaningful self-exploration and reflection.  How useful that when I needed thirty prompts, I had a little drawstring bag containing fifty of them right to hand!

This morning I randomly selected a month’s worth of cards from the #unsmalltalk pack, ready to be drawn one per day throughout November.  My plan is to add my daily response to this page in the hope it may be useful or of interest to someone else, although that is not my primary goal with this.  My main aim is to simply write for five minutes each day.  That in itself is challenge enough but I hope to be present, not precious.

Day 27 of Writing November || raeritchie.com
Day 27 || raeritchie.com

I’m sorry for all the days, weeks, months and years that I spent being afraid.  Suddenly feeling able to stand in my own power, I look back at all that has gone before and wonder what was stopping me then.  Of course I know the answer: it was fear.  I was as scared of my light as much as my shadow, although the latter was pretty significant too.  I’m sorry that I was afraid of both.  I’m sorry that I kept myself small, not daring to reach out and grab even those things that were well within my reach.  I’m sorry that I didn’t see the promise that lay before me; instead I was blinded by the doubts and the darkness.  The voices of the naysayers rang in my ears, deafening me to my own inner voice, the still small call to move onwards, to push the edges of my comfort zone just that bit further.  I couldn’t see and I couldn’t hear until one day I was awakened.

 

25-and-26
Days 25 & 26 || raeritchie.com

When have I felt most like myself?  The odd strangest moments: crossing the drive once at work, just this flash of seeing myself from the outside and recognising that I felt (and looked) like I knew I would at some point.  It was like some vision of myself from the past had crossed paths with the reality of that moment and the two pieces fitted like hand in glove.  It was a strange and spine-tingling moment.  That moment is not the only time but it is the instance that stands out the most clearly.  I’m trying to remember other occasions and last weekend’s retreat comes quickly to mind.  It felt so powerful, so wonderful, to be seen by other women as I see myself on my best days – it was like they could see the very best in me and their presence drew that out like a magnet.  I didn’t have to be good; I didn’t have to walk across hot coals, as Mary Oliver asserts in that wonderful poem of hers.  I didn’t have to do anything, they simply saw me as my best self just through me showing up.  I had to be me.  That was it.  That was enough.  I was enough.

What was the last beautiful thing you really noticed?  Yesterday lunchtime, Friday, as I passed through the south foyer of Somerset House from the symposium on hair to Tom’s Deli for lunch. As I crossed the vast white marble space, my eye was caught by the piazza to my right.  The square was filled with an ice rink and skating around were dozens of people, some gracefully, some less so, all looking happy and joyful, as if they had found the pearl of great price right there in the centre of London.  In a way, they had: what could be more joyous on a random Friday lunchtime in November than donning some skates and swooshing round in circles (or gingerly shuffling along near to the side)?  Whether you’re good or bad, old or young, it is an enchanting thing to do, especially surrounded by Christmas trees and lights.  As is this scene wasn’t gorgeous enough, the winter sun was as high in the sky as you’ll see this time of year and its rays bounced of the pale walls of the four surrounding sides.  The sky was bright blue, not a cloud in sight, and it was the perfect backdrop, just the right level of contrast, to the activities of ground level.

 

Days 23 & 24 of Writing November || raeritchie.com
Days 23 & 24 || raeritchie.com

What is the one thing I lie to myself about?  My gut response is my weight – well, less my weight and more what I want to do about it.  I know I weigh more than I would like to weigh.  I also know I weigh far more than is deemed healthy; the BMI may be an imperfect measure but even taking its guidelines loosely I’m significantly over the ideal or even the top end.  I lie to myself day in, day out, saying that I’ll just eat this one thing – this one brownie, this one bag of peanut M&Ms, one evening with biscuits, one packet of sweets grabbed last minute at the shop.  Every time I eat something outside of my three square meals (or even sometimes when I have a second helping of one such meal), I tell myself this is an exception.  Just this time, just this once.  Of course this total baloney.  I have another brownie the following week, I often eat a bag of M&Ms, several evenings each week may involve biscuits, I regularly grab some sweets en route to the checkout.  All bad habits, all easy ways to ingest a heap more excess calories…and all easy to pretend otherwise.

 

If I saved myself first?  I guess I am doing that, which is why this process of self-recovery generates so much resistance.  We all know the oxygen in an emergency analogy but of course it is nonsense.  We, by which I mainly mean women, are trained from an early age to value the needs of others over our own.  It can start innocently enough; maybe we’re told to not brag about our spelling test results because our younger sibling struggles so much with theirs.  We’re told this is being kind to other people’s feelings.  Noble enough, but what about our feelings?  In adolescence the situation can get seriously warped.  No-one ever tells us that sexual arousal feels good; instead we’re warned that this is what boys want and we have to resist it.  Yet at the same time we’re encouraged to be nice to people and meet their needs.  We fulfil the wishes of our parents, our teachers, our group leaders, our friends…and our boyfriends too, even if we then feel bad about it.  It never occurs to us that it should actually feel good.  Years go by and the pattern continues.  We’re uncertain how to save ourselves even if we wanted to.

 

Day 22 of Writing November || raeritchie.com
Day 22 || raeritchie.com

 

Connection.  Adventure.  Abundance.  These are my touchstones, my signposts, my guiding lights, and I hold them sacred.  I believe they are the most important markers of a good life well lived and we touch the divine, the holy, through them.  Increasingly I’m adding creativity to the mix too – creativity and courage as well.  Through that melee we can dwell in juicy, fulfilling, spirit led lives.  Those five words are where the good stuff happens.  It’s funny how despite my recent crisis of faith, I’m still happy to use this kind of language and rely on phrases such as ‘spirit led’.  I guess I haven’t been scarred by religion; rather that I’m not sure where I am with it all right now.  I certainly still feel that there are things in our lives that are so special, so extraordinary, that they warrant designation as holy – whether that is truly divine or actually just the most precious expression of humanity and our existence.  Connection, adventure, abundance, creativity and courage.  I hold these dear.

Day 21 of Writing November || raeritchie.com
Day 21 || raeritchie.com

An intake of breath.  A pause.  I’m wracking the furthest reaches of my mind as quickly as I can.  What am I hiding from the world?  I can only think of facetious answers such as my weight, although maybe that isn’t as flippant an answer as I initially thought.  Something else is stirring now…what is it…the word is coming: ambition.  I am hiding my ambition from the world.  Hell most of the time I’m hiding it from myself too.  I am hugely ambitious when it comes to my new career trajectory, writing.  I love it.  I am passionate about it.  I am brimming with ideas and cannot think of much that is more pleasurable than sitting at my desk and opening a blank document to share and shape my thoughts.  Even writing those words causes a huge sigh of contentment.  It is heaven.  It feels so good and not only that, I am determined to pursue it to the best of my ability.  I am determined and passionate and driven and focused and all the other adjectives that one associates with ambition.  Ruthless?  Maybe even that too.  Ruthless, the harshest of words associated with wanting to pursue one’s goals, particularly so for women it seems. I like to think I wouldn’t trample someone in the process of achieving my aims but I am quickly learning that I need to assert myself.  No-one else is going to pursue my ambition for me.

 

16-20
Days 16-20 || raeritchie.com

I’m off on a retreat tomorrow until Sunday (17th to 20th November) so I’ve cheated a little and just done five questions and answers in a row – today’s and the four that I’m away for.

What am I longing for?  I’m not sure.  It makes me think of the tweet I just read asking what’s on our Christmas lists; I really don’t know what I want.  World peace seems a bit clichéd although I like to think most people would opt for that if it were a genuine option.  I suppose I long for peace on a more personal level – peace in my soul.  A quite calm within, a surety and ease that unhooks me from the emotional tumult that mars my days (and often my nights too).  Medication is currently curtailing the highs and lows but even so I know they lurk underneath, waiting for their chance to prowl again.  Furthermore knowing that it’s medication curbing the excesses of my moods feels like a false state of…of what?  I guess I just think how I’m feeling is fake because it is being shaped so strongly by medication that I ingest every night and every morning.  Yet it’s still real in that this is what I’m experiencing today.  It’s real but synthetic, real but precarious – yes precarious, that’s the word.  The relative quiet I feel today, that I had yesterday and hopefully will experience tomorrow too, it is precarious as without the medication my peace would be shattered.

 

17th November

Lol.  This one actually made me laugh out loud.  Again I know the answer immediately, instinctively, but feel reluctant to name them in public.  Some answers I don’t want to declare to the world, or even to my little corner of the internet.  Can I write about this anonymously?  I guess I can try.  I am trying to please two particular people even though I know that it is futile.  We can never truly please others unless we bend ourselves so much that we lose all that makes us ourselves.  Even then, we may not achieve our goal because we are sure to fail – sure to make one small error or take one different choice to what they would have done.  If we live to try to please others then we are doomed to a life of failure and disappointment – theirs and ourselves when we fall short of the standard we have set ourselves.  Yet learning to break free, to stand alone and not try to please anyone but our own conscience feels like a scary act.  It feels like rebellion, somehow wrong, selfish maybe.  If we say we are only trying to please ourselves then we sound like we don’t care about others but this isn’t necessarily the case.  It doesn’t mean we are self-centred, only that we don’t spend our time trying to satisfy the aims and goals set by others.  Instead we focus on what it is that we believe to be right and good.

 

18th November

Great question!  I love this kind of thing, and I’ve found exploring money and my relationship with it (both individually and in coaching) to be a really powerful experience.  Right now there are mixed messages from my money but it is in the main good.  My money would say I’m feeling a little shaky because we are not monitored and checked and balanced like we used to be.  This feels scary but we are getting used to this newfound freedom and trust that we will be okay.  Occasionally we panic but all has been fine so far!  My money would also say we are learning that the ebb and flow, like water, really is a great analogy.  Last week you worried that you wouldn’t be able to cover the deposit for a forthcoming girls’ weekend; this week you find you suddenly have enough to pay for the whole thing.  Money comes in, money goes out – no stress, no strain, no grasping.  My money would add that we are built on a firm foundation, our ducks (or should that be bucks?!) lined up in order.  We have made sure that at the beginning of each month our cash goes out to destinations we feel are important: music lessons for my niece and nephew, contributing to a charity working on gender equality, sponsoring my girl in Senegal, a gift to my Quaker community, investing in my pension fund.  All these feel like a good way to start each financial month.

 

19th November

If only I’d considered this question ten or twenty or even thirty years ago.  I am a novice when it comes to boundaries.  I have little clue how to protect my own heart, which is probably a major factor in why it has been so resolutely thrashed over the years.  Learning about healthy safe boundaries has been a big focus of mine for the last decade or so but I’m still hesitant about how to answer this question.  The only answer I feel I can confidently give is that I need to maintain a strong sense of self.  I easily lose myself and my sense of identity in intimate relationships of various stripes.  I always thought this was a personal failing, a character flaw, but this summer I learnt that it’s an integral aspect of Borderline Personality Disorder, which I suffer with.  A personality disorder!  Sounds scary but it explains so much!  My reaction was frankly joy at being realised from seeing myself as basically pathetic.  I’m not lame, I’m ill!  And if I lose myself easily, how can I work to prevent this?  Be clear about who I am.  Easier typed than done, but it’s a start.  What’s important to me?  What makes me, me?  An ongoing process to discern this and put it into practice but I know I’m getting there.  I have my own thoughts, feelings, preferences and wishes.  I don’t like blackcurrant squash.  This may seem silly but it has been a major stepping stone on the path to protective boundaries for me.

 

20th November

My greatest regret?  Just one?  How am I supposed to narrow it down?  I know the popular view is to strut like the little sparrow herself, Edith Piaf, and belt out ‘Non je ne regretted rien’ but personality I think this is BS.  We all have regrets.  It is only human.  If we didn’t wish that we’d done something differently or not at all or actually tried it then we must have lived a pretty tame life with no desires and no adventures.  Alas, however, regrets are rarely on the back of misadventure.  I don’t regret sleeping in a tube station car park after London Pride 2003 nor losing my best knickers at a rugby club Christmas party.  What I do regret is the situations I’ve found myself in because I’ve been incredibly vulnerable or naïve.  Of course these are also the situations where actually I shouldn’t be the one with regrets: in the three main examples I am thinking of, it is the other person in the scenario who should have the regrets.  They were in the wrong.  They were wrong.  I did nothing wrong but it’s still hard to believe it’s not my fault.

 

Day 15 of Writing November || raeritchie.com
Day 15 || raeritchie.com

I feel like there’s a slot machine rotating through my mind, but instead of cherries and gold coins the spaces have the names and faces of the different people who could be the answer to this question.  I never thought of myself as someone ill at ease with a lot of people but my struggle to answer this question decisively is making me wonder.  I can feel my brow furrowing to make what I call the Harry Potter wrinkle between my eyebrows even more prominent.  What is my response to this question telling me?  I’m trying to slow the mental fruit machine down…who appears on the rotating barrels?  Are they the same people over and over or are there many different faces?  One, two, three, four, five, six…six emerge immediately.  Seven, eight, nine maybe, although I question with the latter whether it’s my place to make peace – in that particular case, it’s her beef to sort out.

 

Day 14 of Writing November || raeritchie.com
Day 14 || raeritchie.com

My partner, Mark.  Where to begin?  Thank you for showing me a new way to be in relationships.  Thank you for showing me unconditional love.  Thank you for holding my hand through the horrendous struggle I’ve had this year – not just being there for me but continuing to love me, telling me your heart still exploded even on some of the darkest days.  Thank you for just being there, a steady and constant presence in my life over the last few years.  I could go on and on adding more similar sentences but none will really strike at the depths of gratitude I have.  Nor will they truly communicate the love I have for you in return.  Sometimes it literally knocks me sideways when I feel the full force of my feelings for you.  I had no idea such strength of feeling was possible, and often I don’t really know what to do with those feelings.  How do I express my love, my thanks, my everything?  Neither words and declarations nor kissing and cavorting are adequate.  I don’t know what to say, nor what to write, except thank you and I love you.

 

Day 13 of Writing November || raeritchie.com
Day 13 || raeritchie.com

How am I meant to answer this one truthfully while still posting my response publicly?  I’m not sure I can actually do this one.  Is it a specific act that I regret deeply or a more general anxiety?  My breathing has slowed and got shallow.  I feel like a rabbit in the headlights, glancing round from side to side hoping for something to come and rescue me from the next four-something minutes of my life.  Won’t someone please knock on the door so I don’t have to answer this?  Or should I just come out and say that I’m terrified you – not just you the person reading this but you as in the entire human population of the planet (and sentient animals too) – will discover the truth that I’m not a good person.  This is how I feel pretty much all of the time.  I guess it’s imposter syndrome writ large across my life.  I see myself as a bad person, both in terms of being a failure and some kind of sinner too.  Basically just bad in every sense of the word except the slang term for actually good.  Not that meaning.  But all of the others, yes.  I see myself as a bad person and I life with the fear that everyone I know, and even people I don’t, will sooner or later learn this about me and then they will hate me.  I spend my life looking for ways to cover this up; all for nought if I’m going to sit here typing otherwise.

 

Days 11 & 12 of Writing November || raeritchie.com
Day 11 & 12 || raeritchie.com

What do I need liberation from?  Wow, this one has me pausing, unlike the previous ten days which I’ve responded to instinctively.  My mind is now flitting from idea to idea: my past, my family’s unspoken rules, my addictive behaviours.  My addictive behaviours.  This haunts me.  I go from one addiction to another, like a pinball spinning around the machine, hitting the bumpers and spinners in continual motion.  I never stay still.  I never feel free.  These behaviours and compulsions are relatively easy to disguise.  My life doesn’t appear controlled by substances.  I no longer lose days of my life or hours from an evening as I used to.  I still may crave a cool crisp pint of lager or deep rich glass of red wine from time to time but I don’t act on these gradually diminishing urges.  Instead I’ve found other more subtle acts to replace these.  The specifics shift from time to time, but that essential pattern of relying on some consumable good outside of myself remains.

The last time I really laughed?  I’m raking my brain.  I can’t think.  I know it’s not as often as I used to, although I’m not sure if this is down to my assorted mental health issues or the medication that is used to help me manage these – either way I feel slightly numb to the whole gamut of emotions, including amusement.  That’s not to say I never laugh.  Bizarrely I often chuckle at jokes I’ve made, particularly ones that never even get spoken aloud.  Working alone seems to have cultivated this relationship with my own humour, where I can often literally LOL at a thought or quip that I’ve thought of myself.  I love this feeling, it makes me feel self-reliant and reassures me that I actually do enjoy my own company.  It also indicates that I’m okay with spending so much time on my own, i.e. all day every work day except for those where I go to Crave or to a lesser extent the Post Office.  I enjoy human interaction and know that at heart we are social creatures but I do like to simply be alone with my own thoughts, my own whims and my own sense of humour.

Day 10 of the Writing November challenge || raeritchie.com
Day 10 || raeritchie.com

Good lord, the one with my body.  It’s been going on so long that I can’t even remember what life was like when were at peace.  Were we ever at peace?  Does peace count if it was only when you weren’t really aware of yourself as a specific, boundaried human being?  I have pushed and pulled and pummelled my body in all directions.  It may be the most intimate relationship that I have but it’s also the most abusive.  I wouldn’t even contemplate treating someone else how I treat myself: restricting food, overwhelming with food; attempts at eating cleanly co-mingled with days filled with Haribo Tangtastics as my main food group.  I admit things perhaps aren’t so bad since I stopped drinking (that *really* took its toll on my body and physical health) but that’s only like saying the war in Syria isn’t as bad when there’s a shaky, poorly observed cease fire in place.  Lots of shit still happens, it’s just not as bad as the shit is at its worse.  I know I’m not alone in pursuing this particular line of warfare.  I see many other women, and some men, doing likewise.  We sign all the treaties we want saying that we’ll behave differently but the truth is that on the ground the situation usually stays the same.  It’s the bloodiest, most damaging civil war that most of us experience.

 

Day 9 of Writing November || raeritchie.com
Day Nine

What is asking to be born in your life?  Oh heavens, it’s love.  I know it’s love – this answer was there before I’d even read the question.  This answer was there because I know today of all days the world needs love like it’s never needed it before.  I thought Brexit was as low as things could sink but jeez I was wrong.  I don’t even dare to think that this is the lowest ebb because alas I fear this is only the beginning of a new downward spiral.  How can we have gone from the hope of Obama to the hate of Trump?  In a longer time frame, from the optimism of New Labour to the pessimism of UKIP?  These questions cloud my brain.  I can’t think straight.  My mind is overwhelmed by the physical and emotional sensations of dread and despair.  I’m feeling those right now, feeling them big time.  Yet there’s still a glimmer in my heart.  There’s still a small flicker of light – a tiny beacon that reminds me things can be different.  The world may seem to be turning to darkness but I can always chose to turn to the light.  I can and I will make this choice, today and every day that lies ahead.  I choose light.  I choose love.

 

Day Eight of my November Writing challenge || raeritchie.com
Day Eight

Loss has taught me that whatever changes in the world around (and surely everything does and will change at some point), you carry within you a constant.  What that constant is, I’m not sure.  Maybe it’s your soul or your aura or your essence.  Maybe it’s a combination of your genetic makeup, the experiences you’ve had and the memories you carry.  Maybe it’s a melange of all these things.  Whatever this constant is, it is – as my word choice suggests – always there not matter what.  I suspect that this constant evolves over the years as well, but in slow, almost imperceptible ways.  You never realise it is changing; it is only with time that you can stand back and recognise that it is no longer what it was.

Of course these insights only come from learning the hard way, from having experienced crushing, crucifying, gut wrenching loss myself.  My throat tightens even recalling it.  My shoulders have tightened and a chill runs down my spine.  I never ever in my whole life want to go back to that emotional place, to those days, weeks, months and years when I too was lost in its vortex.  But now that I know my constant, I feel safer against its threats.

Day 7 of Writing November || raeritchie.com
Day 7

My relationship to receiving?  Paradoxical, ambiguous, ambivalent, contradictory, messy.  That just about sums it up: messy.  I’ll take anything offered, gobble it up, chow it down, greedily devour whatever it is – whether I want it or not – for fear that it’ll never come my way again.  From a biscuit that I don’t really like (hello shortbread) to the scraps of affection thrown from the table, I’ll swallow it all like a starving person before a banquet.  Give it to me, give it to me, give it to me – whatever it is.  I need it, I want it, I’ll die without it.  Yet at the same time I struggle to accept what is truly offered to me.  The meaningful gesture, the thoughtful gift, the no strings attached favour: these allude me.  I wrestle with myself to take these.  I’m weary and suspicious and will deprive myself because I think I’m not worthy, I don’t deserve these gifts, this generosity.  I’ll deprive myself and deny myself (and offend the giver) until one day I snap and the senseless all-consuming greed takes over, destroying everything in its midst.

 

Day Six of my Writing November challenge || raeritchie.com
Day Six

If I believed I was inherently worthy I would forge ahead with a deep-rooted, calm belief that I can do what I’m aiming for – at the moment, that is specifically developing a sustainable career as a freelance writer.  If I believe I was inherently worthy I wouldn’t spend time second guessing myself or questioning whether I have the skills or experience needed to seize a particular opportunity.  If I believe I was inherently worthy, I would trust in my own capabilities.  In doing so, I would feel powerful.  I’d feel self-assured.  I’d feel like a responsible adult, caring for myself and supporting myself.  I’d feel less dependent on others; instead of needing other people to rely on for basic survival, I could interact with my loved ones from a place of mutual love and respect.  There would be less fear in my choices and less dread about the future.  I would trust that I’m deserving of any success that comes my way, and also trust that such success would indeed come to my door (or my inbox).  I’d carry myself with pride and an assurance that says ‘I deserve to be here’.

 

Day 5 of Writing November || raeritchie.com
Day 5

What am I ready to walk away from?  Self-doubt is the initial response, the one that sprang immediately to mind.  I’ve spent too long thinking that I’m not capable, not capable of anything grand or big – that I’m somehow deficient.  I think a lot of this stems from having to negotiate mental health issues.  Despite all the discourse to the contrary, the actual experience of such difficulties can still feel like it’s a personal weakness, a character flaw, rather than illness(es).  I’ve felt weak, as if I can’t push myself too hard else I’ll crack and break (again).  I’ve for too long believed that I don’t cope well with too much pressure or stress, that I somehow need protection from the demands of the world – the demands of adult life.  What I’m learning as I pursue this new path of being a writer is that I can take demands, I can manage pressure, I do handle stress.  I can work fast, to deadlines, when the goal is urgent.  I can schedule to work on my HMRC tax return on a Saturday just because I don’t want it interfering with my working week.  I can get out of bed on a Saturday to sit and write for five minutes just because I’m demanding this of myself.  I can do these things – these things and more.

 

Writing November || raeritchie.com
Day Four

What brings me deep joy?  Ah writing.  Opening a fresh new blank Word document (yes I’m heathen and still use Microsoft Office.  Sometimes I feel like the only adult in the UK, possibly the entire Western world, who doesn’t own a single Apple product.  I don’t even have an ITunes account).  Opening a fresh new blank Word document and pausing to stare at the white screen in front of me, breathing in that moment when all the promise and allure of creativity lies ahead.  A new page to fill and the process of writing itself.  I don’t know what makes me feel more like a freak: not owning any Apple products or liking writing.  So many writers complain about it.  I don’t get this.  I don’t really understand how it is possible to ‘love’ being a writer but hate the act of writing.  Surely the two are integral, intertwined, impossible to pull apart?  Of course there are dull moments, frustrating moments, annoying moments.  All told, however, I love the act of writing.  Sitting here now clicking away on the keyboard even though it is well into the evening and I’d normally be ‘clocked off’ but I forgot to take the prompts with me to the coffee shop where I was working today.  Even though I’m truly bone tired, this – this – this is my deepest joy.

 

Writing November creative challenge over at raeritchie.com/writingnovember
Day 3 of Writing November || raeritchie.com

I’m struggling to think of my proudest accomplishment!  As with polls about the greatest pop song ever and the best sitcom ever (supposedly Robbie Williams’ Angels and Mrs Brown’s Boys respectively), things that happened recently spring to mind most easily.  Thus my first thought is the language modules that I’ve just completed on Future Learn, an outpost of the Open University.  Future Learn offers free short online courses on a huge range of subjects.  My partner forwarded me the link to a mental health module that he thought may be of interest and I ended up signing up for Beginners Spanish Module 1 and Beginners Italian Modules 1 to 6 (24 weeks in total).  I’ve now done the Spanish and the first two blocks of the Italian and all three have bought me so much satisfaction!  It’s difficult to explain the sense of accomplishment that I’ve gained from taking part in these frivolous forays.  Five minutes already?  Well, adios, one might say, or perhaps ciao.  Fino a domani!

Writing November: Where Present, Not Precious Meets #unsmalltalk || raeritchie.com
Day 2 || Responding to Present, Not Precious

How does it feel to be alone?  Good question as I sit here at my desk at home rather than at the thriving local coffee shop where I usually spend my Wednesdays.  I panicked when I heard that they’d had to close for a few days.  What would I do with my Wednesdays and Thursday afternoons?  I love going there as it breaks the monotony of working home alone, although I can’t say that I mind this.  I love the solitary feeling of knowing I won’t be disturbed for the next eight hours as I go about my work.  Being alone in this sense feels like a precious gift: in a world where time is an oft-sought commodity, one seemingly in short supply, having all this time alone is indulgent.  I also relish evenings alone, time to curl up on the sofa and catch up with whatever I choose – usually reading.  Nearly always reading, because despite all this time alone, there is never enough time to read.  To bury one’s head in a book and re-emerge an hour later, surprised to find that you are still yourself and you are still sat in the same chair in the corner of your bedroom.  Yes, time alone is a jewel that I hold close to my heart.

 

1
Day One

What am I willing to suffer for?  I feel like I already have suffered so much just to be alive itself.  This year has felt tortuous at times, and I’ve truly struggled to make it through the next minute, the next hour – let alone the next week or month.  This struggle with the sheer essence of being alive, of being conscious, has taught me that I am prepared to face life and not only deal with it but also suffer to create the most joyous and soulful existence that I can.  I could simply get dosed up on more meds and ignore the bigger issues that underlay my mental health issues.  I could choose to be numbed out rather than having to face the pain and feel it.  As I go onto the [waiting] list for trauma centred therapy, the mental health professionals that I’ve seen have repeatedly checked that I’m sure I want to go ahead with it.  It’ll be difficult, they tell me.  Wouldn’t I prefer to just make the best of where I am rather than go digging through the difficult issues of the past?  No is always my clear answer.

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5 thoughts on “Writing November

  1. I love this! What a great idea to combine Melissa’s ‘present, not precious’ with the question cards! I’m sure you’ll unearth some great stuff Rae, and I’ll be following along and seeing what the questions you pick bring to light for me. I think it’s incredible too that just 5 minutes of sitting down to write each day can feel like surely the simplest thing in the world, but at the same time such a challenge – but I’m far too busy to spare 5 minutes! I’m sorry to hear your cafe is shut at the moment, but hope that the temporary change of routine will only bring good things for you 🙂

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  2. What a beautiful introduction to your rationale and mindset for being present, not precious. Thank you for participating along with me. And such lovely thoughts you’ve shared today. I was so intrigued by the #unsmalltalk prompts when you mentioned them earlier. Now I love that I get to peek at them, and have a glimpse of your thoughts. I haven’t known you very long (yet), but you are so so brave. I love reading your writing because it feels like communication, not writing that distances (which is what some writing that is highly acclaimed does). And I agree – even with a lot of time alone, there is STILL never enough time for all our books to read!

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