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The world's longest suicide note.

I write about life with bipolar disorder (a.k.a. manic depression).

All opinions are my own.

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

www.facebook.com/manicgrant

 

Burying a Blog - Part Two

7 min read

This is a story about cyberstalking...

Dirty Laundry

Things are starting to happen faster than I thought they would. I'm not prepared. I didn't think things would slot into place so easily. There's a slim chance I might get a couple of things I really want and need, but the very existence of this blog jeopardises those things. Being sensible, I'd just cut the power and abandon this blog, because the stakes are too high.

How much digging are people prepared to do? There's the best part of 825,000 words here, if you wanted to read it all. Would you be able to say that you reached the right judgement about me, unless you read absolutely everything? Is it really fair to judge somebody on the chapter of their life you walked in on? Can you claim that a small random sample would be representative of who I am?

The easy answer, for most, is not to make so much stuff public. It's simple: Don't write a public blog. Keep things so utterly boring that nobody would get any further than the first few words. I should write about what I ate for breakfast. I should write about things that nobody can relate to. I should write about things that nobody's interested in except for me... well, maybe I do that already.

I'm really badly exposed. I could lose a couple of things that are really important to me. I have the opportunity to build a nice quiet little life in anonymous obscurity, but the cat's out of the bag - my whole psyche is on display on the pages of the internet, for anybody who wants to take the time to Google me, although mercifully I'm a little bit buried thanks to a rapper who shares my name.

I'm changing mindset. In London there are so many people that you can do anything you want and nobody will recognise you or remember anything you've done. In London there are so many people that there's anonymity in the crowd, even if you're doing something that would ordinarily draw attention to yourself. I need to change my mindset to get into the small community mentality, where my face and my deeds are more likely to be remembered. I'm still an nobody; a nothing, but I want to keep it that way - there's no sense in making a fool of myself. I've gotten so used to saying and doing whatever the hell I want, because there are no consequences in London, but in a small town that's not the case. I could end up making myself undateable and unemployable.

I'm trying to tread a fine line between the humble assumption that nobody gives a shit who I am and nobody cares what I've got to say, versus the very real possibility that somebody somewhere might notice me - I really don't want to mix my blogging identity with my professional identity, for the sake of my career. I'm quite careful not to drop the names of my clients or any details of the projects I work on, but I'm not anonymous - I use my real name.

This blog is an experiment. I don't want to be anonymous, but London forced anonymity on me. I could have died in a ditch and nobody would've noticed. I wrote this blog because I wanted to raise my profile. I needed to raise my profile, because anonymity had led me to the point where I felt like nobody cared whether I lived or died, and nobody understood what was going on.

I have ethical objections to anonymity and the pressure to maintain a spotless corporate-friendly immaculate CV with no gaps, and a whiter-than-white social media image. I think it's too much pressure, to ask people to hide their faults. I think it's bullshit, to pretend like we don't have mental health problems, or have made any mistakes in our life. I think anonymity is a fate worse than death. Fuck anonymity.

I hope that one day, I can unify my dating profile with my CV and my LinkedIn and this blog. I hope that one day it's socially acceptable to announce my faults along with my achievements. I think that too many talented people; too many valuable lives are squandered because we insist on presenting such a bullshit image of perfection, when humans are anything but perfect. I think it's making us sick and anxious, having to wear a mask all the time, for the sake of our pathetic salaries.

It's me who's going to end up buried, potentially, if I'm not careful and I don't shut up. One slip, and you're labelled as undesirable, unemployable, undateable... the wrong sort of person. One slip, and you can find yourself shunted into the sidings. There are so many gatekeepers who are looking for a reason to reject you.

So, I challenge those who would skim a tiny fraction of what I've written and decide that they've read enough to judge me, to either read more, or not to bother trying to leap to any quick conclusions. If you want a synopsis of me, it's there to be found in the form of my CV, my LinkedIn and my other sanitised bullshit that you see every day. This is something special that you don't normally get to see, so treat it with respect. Everybody has a real life which doesn't fit onto 2 pages of A4 paper, and contains mistakes as well as all the good stuff, but you don't get to read about the bad stuff, normally.

I think what I'm doing is brave, and it helps me so I'm not going to hide it. I think that we should be moving towards honesty, transparency and authenticity. I think we've been living for far too long, with an encroachment of the workplace that forces us to present ourselves in the very best possible light. I think that society is facing an incredible amount of problems because we can't talk about our mental health problems; our stress levels, for fear of being seen as sick, weak and unreliable by our employers. I think that I'm living life the right way, even though it could potentially be very costly for me. Somebody's got to be brave enough to do it first.

This is my 'baggage up front' declaration, and I refuse to back down even though I'm scared. I'm scared I won't be able to get a girlfriend. I'm scared I won't be able to get a job. I'm scared that people will judge me and think that I'm a bad person. It's scary, to write down everything that goes on in my head like this, but it's also cathartic and helpful to me. There's an epidemic of mental health problems and most people are just about managing, and this seems to be the antidote to me - to write with candid honesty about what's really going on, rather than the usual "I'm great" bullshit mask we have to maintain. It's hard work, pretending to be a perfect human being.

So... let's see what happens. I might go broke and be single. If nobody does the experiment, we'll never know the outcome.

 

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Why do I Write so Much?

11 min read

This is a story about brain dumping...

Hospital bed

I wish I was writing short and sweet think-pieces, but I'm not. I wish I was writing on a variety of topics, but I'm not. I wish I had all day long to compose something, edit it, improve it and give it some quality, but instead I come home and unload - I spend all day chained to my desk, hating every second, so when I finally sit down in front of my computer all I can do is pound out thousands of words that need to be unleashed, because I've been driven crazy alone in the office all day.

One of the reasons for writing so much is fear: Fear of dying misunderstood. If you felt like you had to write down everything you ever wanted to say, because you were going to die, then you'd write lots too, wouldn't you? What would you want to say to your family? What would you want to say to your partner? What would you want to say to your kids? What would you want to say to your friends? What would you want to tell the world? When you start to think about all that, then you might find that you've got quite a lot to say.

Isn't it so painfully embarrassingly teenaged angsty to be saying "I don't want to die misunderstood" and writing a diary where I go on and on about how the world is out to get me and grown-ups are awful? Isn't it super-duper immature to write like I've got all the answers and I'm the first person in the history of the universe to ever experience a few bad emotions and get a bit grumpy about having to work for a living? Shouldn't the shame of realising that I'm making a fool of myself cause me to shut the hell up? Can't I see myself? Don't I know how I'm coming across?

I guess I got into this writing habit when I felt like I was writing my own obituary. Then, over time, I've felt more and more comfort from knowing that I have uploaded as much of my mind into the cloud as I possibly can. It would be ridiculous to think that I'm somehow immortalising myself by spewing words out into the ether, along with all the trillions of others - every man and his dog has a blog, and believes what they're writing is profound. To think that I'm in any way original or making any kind of useful contribution, would be complete stupidity.

I've now reached the point where the steam of consciousness is seemingly endless, if anybody were to dig back in the archives. Any new reader would quickly tire of reading my boring dross, so it's almost as if I've been writing since the dawn of time. I write so much that it has to be skim-read - the themes are so repetitive; my points are so laboured. Like measuring the height of a child every single day, there seems to be very little progression - to the naked eye, I'm going nowhere with this, yet if we look back in the archives we can see that my life today is remarkably different versus 3, 6 or 12 months ago. 3 months ago I didn't have a job. 6 months ago I didn't have a home. 12 months ago I was a drug addict.

The archives don't chart my turbulent existence very well, because I don't write regularly when I'm sick and dying. It's hard to continue writing when you're in hospital, for example, so there are gaps. The gaps themselves tell a story. I have access to my photo library, which fills in some of the blanks, but I need to tell the story of what happened because otherwise people would never be able to guess from my photos. I write so much at the moment because I'm fearful that I'm going to lose my mind, kill myself or relapse into drug addiction. I write now, for fear of not being able to write later.

Just to write words like "drug addiction" or "didn't have a home" conjures up images of injecting heroin under a bridge. I write so much because I could easily be dismissed with a lazy label: Addict, for example. I write because things aren't as simple as they would seem to the casual reader. I write because there's complexity. I write because there aren't any easy conclusions that can be quickly drawn.

There's a process of reconciliation - those who know me are trying to reconcile the person they know with the story I'm telling of the more unfortunate events in my recent life; those who are getting to know me through only the pages of this website, are trying to reconcile what they understand of drug addiction, homelessness and mental health, with a story which seems to feature these elements in an atypical and non-stereotypical way. I deliberately write factual things - "I was a patient on a locked psychiatric ward" - knowing that it's shorthand for describing a person who serves no useful function in society, and should be kept in the asylum forever. When I write "drug addict" I do so knowing that it conjures up images of syringes and crack dens. I write because I'm an educated middle-class white guy who works for an investment bank, and I don't take drugs and I'm not homeless. Every preconceived notion you've ever had is going to be challenged, if you were to read my whole story. I don't think I'm original, special or different. However, my experience of addiction treatment services, homelessness, mental health and other public services, has shown that I'm an outlier - I'm even suspected of being some kind of hoax, or otherwise just a tourist passing through.

"It's not all about you" I'm often reprimanded. If you think I'm selfish and self-centred and conceited and vain and narcissistic and anything else of that ilk that you want to throw at me, you can f**k off and read somebody else's blog. This is where I write "Nick woz ere" in the hope that I either get better, or at least I made my very best attempt at explaining how difficult life is when you're laid low by depression, mood instability, abusive relationships, averse childhood experiences, divorce, loss of status, loss of home, addiction, mental health problems, suicide attempts, hospitalisation, institutionalisation, police, fire, ambulance... you name it!

To have built a Twitter following around one topic, and one topic only - the many trials and tribulations of Mr Nick Grant - seems incredibly narcissistic. I promise you that one reason I'm NOT writing, is to simply to shock and entertain... I'm not writing to be popular, even though I must admit that it helps my self-esteem a very great deal that people are reading what I write.

There's a very great temptation to give my 'fans' what they want. I can see that there are certain topics that create a great deal of engagement with my readers, and I could become addicted to the buzz of feeding that desire. I know what gets 'likes' and retweets. I know what gets chins wagging (virtually). I know that I could easily seed a thread of discussion, or otherwise troll in order to feel that I'm noticed and I'm making some ripples in the pond. Like many relatively early pioneers into cyberspace, I've spent enough time online to know what courts controversy and what kind of online persona I project... but that's not the way I play things. What I write comes from an earlier period in my childhood, when I used to write a journal for a cherished English teacher of mine to read - it was a formative experience.

I write because I'm a sensitive little soul in a world of bragging and bravado and bullshit. I write because I'm not going to win at sports, or even some kind of memorising-regurgitation exercise. I write because it's non-competitive and it's the only way I know to express myself - to dump out all the emotions that surge in my heart.

I'm aware that I have a bad case of verbal diarrhoea, but I don't care because my life is otherwise ascetic - I work, sleep and eat, and I have little outlet for self-expression and the pursuit of things that tickle my academic fancy; I have little opportunity for interesting discourse with fascinating people. It seems horribly self-indulgent to write so much about myself, but nobody asked you to read, did they?

I often think about the ears:mouth ratio, and that I should use them in the correct ratio. If you meet me in person - and I hope we do get to meet in person - then you might see that since I started writing, I've stopped the dreadful habit of just waiting for my turn to speak. I hope I'm a good listener. I hope I'm more engaged than I appear to be, writing all this god-awful stuff about myself. I've learned a lot about other people since writing so much about myself, because I don't feel so pressured to defend myself and otherwise present myself in the most favourable light that I can. I don't feel the need to tell you much about me at all really, in person, because it's all written down in a lot of detail if you really want to read it (which I don't recommend).

I'd ideally like to be writing high quality pieces on a variety of subjects, that take no more than a few minutes to read. 700 words is the sweet spot, I think - not too short, and not too long. As I write this, my rambling has just passed the 1,600 word mark. If ever you thought that writing a 2,000 word essay, a 10,000 word dissertation, 40,000 word MSc or 80,000 word thesis was a torturous task, then I'm just going to laugh at you because I've blogged 821,000 words to date and I'm aiming for a million by the end of the year. "Yes, but they have to be the right words" says a friend... she forgets that I've also written tens of thousands of lines of computer code in the last year alone, which have to be right otherwise they simply won't work - there's no wiggle room when a computer's involved, because it either works (true) or it doesn't (false)... it's binary.

I'm now writing utter horse shit, you realise, because I can't bear to be parted from the page. This moment - writing - is when I feel connected and switched on. It's like I've had the brakes on the whole time, and suddenly they're let off and I can just flow. If I wasn't writing, then I'd be getting up to mischief, so it's great to be able to write about whatever I want... just pouring words out onto a page.

Of course these are the insane ramblings of an unhinged man, but that's why you came here, isn't it? If I'm writing, it means that I'm still in the land of the living. If I'm still stringing together a coherent sentence, there's a little bit of me left on this earth - I haven't departed for the next life yet.

Do I cringe with embarrassment when I think about things I've written? Of course. If I could go back in time and stop myself from writing publicly about all the gory details of the inner-workings of my mind, would I do it? No way. If I could stop myself and go back to living a life of quiet obscurity, would I? No - I much prefer to document what's really going on with me, in a place that's readily available for anybody to come and peek into my mind.

I feel like I should write an obligatory bit of self-deprecation, saying what a self-centred idiot I am, but you know what? I can't be bothered. Yes this is all meaningless waffle - and so much of it - but the internet is not going to run out of bytes anytime soon... better out than in.

There we go... 2,000 words of nothingness. Just as meaningless as your uni dissertation that nobody will ever read. Just as meaningless as that thesis, that book, your entire life... whatever it is. It's easy to write, and it's also hard.

 

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Stubbornly Refusing to be Cured

12 min read

This is a story about being bloody minded...

Hospital wristband

I've been subjected to the most bizarre accusation: That I can "get better" anytime I want; that I enjoy being depressed or somehow need to have a mental illness because it's part of my identity; that I want to be unwell. Part of the accusation hinges on my Twitter following - I'm accused of being two-faced: Writing blog posts and tweets which don't somehow manage to convey that sometimes I'm not suicidal.

I'm a bit confused to be honest. I don't think I could be any more authentic. I don't think it would be possible for me to be any more candid and open. My blog isn't supposed to be a diary, accurately recording the day's events. My blog is therapy for me - I write about the things that are upsetting me the most; the things that are causing the most pain and anguish.

Perhaps I'm being given credit where no credit is due. Perhaps I'm perceived as intelligent enough to be able to rationalise away my problems and force my moods to bend to my will. Perhaps the decisions I've taken out of desperation have been mistaken for choices. Perhaps my determination to stick with a plan which will boost my finances and continue to give me a lucrative career, is seen as deliberate self-sabotage: I'm purposefully making myself sick, in the eyes of my accuser.

I can see the positives and the negatives of different "choices" without assistance from somebody else to help me 'see'. I'm not so cognitively impaired that I need somebody to point out the bleedin' obvious to me. For everything that I moan about because it's making me ill, there are many benefits which make my choices worthwhile. My work, travel and living arrangements are not conducive to good mental health, but neither is poverty and hinderances that would make me less employable. The playing field is not level. I do not get to make unbiased choices - I've got to do what I've got to do, even if it's unpleasant.

I'm accused of being the problem. It's not the job, it's me. It's not the commute, it's me. It's not the lonely AirBnBs, it's me. Apparently, everything's all my own fault and I can choose to be healthy and happy any time I want, according to my accuser. Personally, I think that life's a lot easier when you've got money behind you and you've got a stable home life. Personally, I think that we are healthier and happier when we get the pieces of the puzzle in place: friends, family, a home, an income, financial security and something we're passionate about. Let's leave aside the blame game of how I ended up in the present situation. We can even assume that everything's all my fault if you want to, but that doesn't change the fact of the matter: I am where I am and I need to get back on my feet. Blame doesn't change my needs. Blame doesn't change my situation or my mood. To accuse me of fucking up my life AND deliberately keeping it fucked up is dumb. One of the big reasons why I'm suicidal is because I've tried so hard to fix the things that are broken, but it's been a miserable exhausting experience and my life's still pretty messed up. I really am trying very hard to get things sorted out. It's a lot easier said than done, I'm afraid. Sorry about that.

I think there's a lot of ego involved. People want to be helpful, but then they start thinking like they've understood me and I can be 'cured' with simple solutions. When the simple solutions to an oversimplification of my problems don't work, then the 'helpful' people get annoyed with me... like I'm deliberately messing up their useless suggestions. I seem to have really frustrated my accuser, that I'm so determined to be a real living person, with a real life, instead of some simple little thing that can easily be fixed. "Oh I'm so silly! How brilliant of you to point out the completely obvious solution to an easy-to-solve problem that I don't have! Thank you!" I'm expected to say all the time, on top of dealing with real life.

There aren't any quick fixes. Things take time and effort to get better, and it's exhausting. Things have to be done in the right sequence. Sometimes, it costs a lot of money to make changes. Sometimes we have to wait for the things we want and need, because we can't get them immediately. I can't - for example - switch jobs until I have a financial cushion to give me some runway to make the change. Every change I make brings with it a whole new set of problems, so I need to deal with things in a step-by-step way. There's a plan, even if somebody thinks that I can just teleport straight to the end goal. Sadly, life doesn't work like that - we have to suffer in the short and medium term, to achieve our long term objectives. You have to pay to play.

I'm not short of ideas for what to do when I have surplus time and money. I'm not short of ideas of what I'd do if I could do anything, because money's no object, but it's bullshit to suggest I'm able to just abandon my current source of income and go off and do something else. I can't be a student again. I can't be a poet or a dog walker or a sculptor or a circus clown. Life doesn't work like that. Even if I took a shitty McJob, I would still need to afford to travel to work every day for a month or so until I get paid. How do you think capitalist society even works? I'm making smart economic choices which are painful at the moment, but will give me the financial means to pursue something more rewarding and better for my health. I'm giving myself the working capital to be able to pick and choose my next options.

I might have spent some of today playing like a big kid and enjoying myself, but that doesn't mean that my mood can't be plunged dangerously low when reality bites: Monday morning will come around, along with the realisation that almost nothing in my life is quite where I want and need it to be. There's so much unpleasant hard work ahead, and so little reward in the short term, that it's quite understandable that I'd get worn down and decide to reject life altogether. What looks like a few short months of hard work to you, is somewhat of an insurmountable obstacle for me, because of the journey I've been on. I've fought my way back from nothing, and I'm still fighting, but yet it feels like I'm getting nowhere. Where's the reward for my effort? Why is life still so miserable, most of the time?

In the company of my friends, or going on a date with a girl - for example - life can briefly seem wonderful, but the bulk of my existence feels like packing and unpacking bags, moving from place to place, sitting at a desk and hating every second... unsettled and unpleasant. The dread of the rat race - the treadmill - is enough to cast a dark shadow over other times. When I should be enjoying the last few hours of my weekend, I'm already depressed about another week shackled to the job I do out of economic necessity. I make a fuss, but it's not over nothing and it's not me. I'd pick up dog shit if it paid as well as my current job... at least it would feel like I was making a real tangible difference to my local community, if I was doing something like that.

There are a whole raft of issues at play, including my desire to be free from medications. It might seem obvious that my depression could be 'cured' with pills, but it wouldn't be a cure - my depression is a reaction to my toxic circumstances. I don't want to become medication dependent, when I've worked so hard to wean myself off so many different pills. I'm quite close to being 100% substance free.

I want to plan a holiday. I want to buy a car. I want to dream, but dreams require money. The dreaming part is the easy bit. Life's a lot more complicated than it seems for a casual observer. It's easy to come up with a million "you should do..." ideas, but they're infeasible if you don't have the time, money, company, energy, motivation and a million other things that are the product of getting some building blocks in place: a home, a girlfriend, some friends, a tolerable job, some money in the bank, disposable income etc. etc.

There are myriad broken things in my life, and no quick fixes. If I haven't fixed something yet, it's not because I want it to be broken. I'm not choosing to be depressed. I don't want to be sick. I'm perfectly capable of imagining a life that would be healthier and happier, but it takes time, money and energy to make it happen.

Moaning on my blog is what I do for therapy. Moaning on my blog is what I do, because it's cheap and it helps me to limp along while I'm getting the cash together to be able to do whatever I want to do next. Moaning on my blog is not my identity - it's my outlet because there isn't any other healthy way to cope. I'm trapped by circumstances and there's no escape, except through the path I've "chosen". I do not choose to be depressed, miserable and suicidal.

I don't know why I'm accused of being the architect of my own depression, when I'm working so hard to fix my life. The accusations don't even make any sense - they just seem to be an egotistical version of "have you tried being more simple so that I can solve the problems that you don't have?" and "have you tried being me instead of you, because I think I'm great?".

I've exhaustively documented the challenges that I'm facing. It upsets me that somebody would want to oversimplify things, just because of their own ego and a desire that I should blame myself and generally feel like I'm lazy and stupid, despite the fact that I HAVE TO LIVE 24 HOURS A DAY WITH SUICIDAL DEPRESSION and I'm the one who does all the actual hard work fixing my life. Pointing out the blatantly obvious is not a hard thing to do. Leaping to incorrect conclusions is not a hard thing to do.

There is a prerequisite condition for having an opinion on "what's wrong with me" which is to have read what I've written. If you want to know what's wrong with me, I've exhaustively documented everything I'm going through right here. If you want to tell me what I should and shouldn't do with my life, it needs to take into account the reality of my day-to-day existence, which I have accurately explained the most challenging parts of on this blog. If you want to give me "you should..." type instructions, then they need to be grounded in reality or else I'm just going to ignore them. Please don't get upset when I ignore your unhelpful suggestions. Please don't accuse me of wanting to be miserable and depressed.

I've written more than I intended to. I'm wondering why I'm writing. What's the point? But, that's what this blog is. It's not an attempt to manipulate sympathy out of my audience. This is a living document that records my distress in unflinching detail. This is where I pour out all the stuff that's really upsetting me. Here's where I work things out that are going round and round in my head. This is therapy for me.

One other accusation that I've faced is that my blog is making me sick - my blog is causing me to get stuck, ruminating on things that I'd otherwise let go. I think that's bullshit. My blog is where I've been able to finally let go of things that have been upsetting me. It's taken a long time, and I've repeated myself A LOT but that doesn't mean it's not working. If you take a lazy glance, you might think that I always write about the same stuff and that I'm therefore stuck in a rut, but if you look at the full story, you must surely see that I've been through some pretty traumatic stuff and this blog has helped me to cope. Writing is my healthy coping mechanism. People don't often pull through the things I've been through, and go back to being healthy happy productive members of society. I give credit to this blog for allowing me to deal with things that would otherwise have caused me to lose my mind.

I could probably edit this down, or just delete it and rewrite it, but I'm going to publish it because I want the public scrutiny. I want to document what I'm going through. I want to capture a piece of my consciousness, without censorship.

Yes, I'm lashing out, but I don't deserve to be accused of not helping myself, when I'm working so hard.

 

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"Don't write about me on your blog"

5 min read

This is a story about invasion of privacy...

Sex shop

I've lived my life online since the nineties, writing using my real name on parts of the internet which are preserved for posterity. Many websites have ceased to be maintained and entire online communities have been lost, along with myriad digital identities and all the words that were written. However, there's always the chance that something shared publicly might become permanently recorded. Sometimes, the internet never forgets.

It kind of goes without saying that I write mindful of the fact that people I care about might not appreciate being splashed all over the pages of a website. A friend writes a blog where he refers to people by the first letter of their name, but I tend to prefer not to write about my face-to-face relationships at all. It's a strange kind of double-life, where bloggers follow the trials and tribulations of each others' lives, but I have a completely private part of my life which I don't write about. It might seem like I'm a completely open book, and I certainly don't keep any secrets per se, but I do respect the privacy of my friends.

I've written in the past using the personal pronoun "her" to refer to my [ex-]girlfriend, but I wasn't broadcasting intimate details of our relationship. At my lowest ebb, when I was extremely unwell, I did share some stuff on Facebook - restricted to just my friends - which I regret and I deleted when I got better and understood that it was a stupid mistake. I enjoy the public scrutiny of my life, but it's not my place to share the parts of the story which overlap with other people. When something's very important to me, and I'm not able to write openly about what's bugging me, I write cryptically and I hope it obfuscates precisely who and what I'm writing about.

Being an open book and living a life that is unflinchingly candid, honest and authentic, is very important to me. I think I'll always write this blog, because it's been the best thing I've ever done to help me with my mood stability and generally regain control of my life.

I worry that I'm becoming a bitter, twisted, poison pen writer sometimes. Anything that's upsetting me and otherwise causing me emotional distress, gets written about here. Writing is a great way to work out my frustrations, without being snappy, bitchy or sharp-tongued with anybody. Writing publicly means that I write more considerately than I would if I felt my words would only ever be read by my intended recipient.

Because often times, private correspondence is now being shared far and wide, there can be unintended consequences for shooting your mouth off when you think it's just between you and another person. The more public scrutiny I'm under, the more my behaviour moves in the direction I want it to. There are things I'm incredibly hurt and upset about, and there simply isn't any way I could communicate healthily in 'private' because my blood boils. Writing publicly is brilliant, because I'm forced to be fair and reasonable, keep things civil, and I know that my words don't fall on deaf ears - even if my intended recipient ignores me, other people are reading and that means that those who have upset me are held accountable, so I feel satisfied that my point has been made. I feel like I've finally managed to get my tormentors - the bullies, the abusers, the oppressors - into the dock and I'm having my day in court. It feels like justice.

The unintended consequence of having a large digital footprint - a social media identity - is that those who are in your life who do not live their lives in the same way, have to be treated separately. It would be unfair, for example, to share the gory details of how my dating is going, or the particulars of life embedded in my friends' family (see The White Wolf and the Black Sheep).

Perhaps it's a good omen, that an increasing proportion of my life is off-limits for my blog. I won't write the name of the client I'm working for at the moment, although it's pretty obvious that it's an investment bank. I won't write about how I spend my weekends. I'm not documenting the details of relationships that are beyond the realm of social media and the internet.

It does pose some difficulties, that some of the things I really want to write about have to bubble and boil away until I burst into an incoherent rant, which hopefully could never be connected to the real-life events that precipitated it.

So, I'm not being quite as open, honest, candid and authentic as I could be, but I do have a responsibility towards people who don't want lurid details splurged all over the internet, becoming an unwitting part of the Nick "Manic" Grant show, although I do occasionally receive extremely angry messages from people who felt that they very much should have featured.

In conclusion, I'm pretty happy with the balance I'm striking. One of my closest friendships was tested, but I think things are all better now. Generally, it's better to assume I'm not writing about you.

To save you a lot of digging, you might be interested in reading So Lonely if you want to see the kind of stuff I write about other people.

 

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What do People Want to Read About?

7 min read

This is a story about giving the audience what they want...

Glowing book

It should come as no surprise that Google mainly brings me readers who wish to find out how to kill themselves. My number one blog post is all about how to suppress the hypercapnic alarm response, in order to be able to asphyxiate yourself, or in other words suffocate to death. For writing candidly about suicide, I was once accused of being irresponsible by a psychiatrist, but frankly if somebody's intent on killing themseves then they're going to find a way. I'm not encouraging anybody to commit suicide, nor do I glamourise suicide - you must surely be convinced that my life is not an enviable one. How is it possible to envy the dead anyway? There have been 100 billion humans who have died since homo sapiens became a species, so it's hardly like I'm a unique role model.

Secondly, Google brings me readers who very dearly wish to know how to have better sex. I don't mean lovemaking techniques, I mean drugs and medications that significantly enhance sex. The main search term that seems to bring readers in their droves is "drugs that make you horny". Perhaps more interesting - although very few people search for this - is my research into medications that allow men to have multiple orgasms. There's information hidden in these pages that explain how to reach unimaginable heights of sexual ecstasy, so I don't really know why the Google searches seem so unimaginative and my sordid little guides on how to have masses of mind-blowing orgasms remain largely overlooked.

That I know what kind of Google searches bring readers to my website is not any kind of hacking or cybersnooping, but is a service that Google themselves provide called Google Webmaster Tools. In addition, there is Google Analytics, which somewhat less reliably tells me the keywords that people used to search and find this site. The idea is that I could better tailor my content to give people what they want. People seem to mainly want to kill themselves with nitrogen gas, or some other inert gas other than carbon dioxide.

It's sometimes said that we see a world that reflects our own feelings. So, if we're angry then we perceive the world as being an angry place. Because I'm depressed and suicidal, I therefore see depression and suicide everywhere I look. However, there are good data to support my feelings: suicide is the number one killer of men under the age of 45... far bigger than any diseases, car accidents, murder, drug addiction and all the other things you could think of that would prematurely kill a person. It seems I'm onto something doesn't it?

What do any of us want other than to fuck, eat, sleep, procreate and various other things that an organism would be expected to do? I could write about food and the pleasure of eating, but I've found that the pursuit of drug-enhanced sex has been more rewarding. I could write about extreme sports, and the adrenalin rush from doing dangerous things, but I've found that taking addiction to its most extreme has been far more exciting than any parachute jump or cliff face that I've climbed.

There are an incredible amount of people who want to read about getting high. There are very few people who seem to want to read about quitting drugs, although my blog posts about detox and rehab are often visited. There are heaps and heaps of people who want to get sober. In fact, it's quite depressing just how many people are looking for a cure for their alcoholism. There are heaps and heaps of alcoholics who would very dearly like to find a way out of the situation they're trapped in, and some of them find their way to this website looking for answers.

Another thing I can see is trends. I can see whether I'm getting more visitors, or fewer. I can see that live-publishing a draft manuscript of a novel on my blog was not a crowd pleaser. I can see that documenting the trials and tribulations of an IT consultant working for an investment bank is not a crowd pleaser. I can see that generally, there's an inverse correlation between how well I am, and how many visitors I get to my website. That would be expected... there are a lot of concerned people out there, and when things are going swimmingly there isn't so much of a need to keep an eye on somebody who's been actively suicidal at other times. However, there's a cynical part of me that wonders how much people are looking for drama, also. There's very little drama in a wealthy white educated middle-class guy complaining about his lot in life, because his job is a little underwhelming.

Of course, I'm writing now with my tongue in my cheek.

There's more drama than there's ever been, because this is make-or-break time. I'm fending off drug addiction, sex addiction, porn addiction, alcoholism, risk taking, money spending, near-bankruptcy, crushing levels of debt, homelessness, insomnia, anxiety and panic attacks, suicidal depression and complete melancholic malaise about my life and the state of the whole world and those who live upon this planet's surface. In terms of jeopardy, things are at their most precarious, because a slip-up now would send me crashing drastically. To relapse when I'm in the middle of on/off addiction and a mental health crisis is no drama because I'm living with daily highs and lows and I don't spend more than a few days or weeks without a major incident. To relapse now would be to throw away 6 or 7 months of arduous struggle against adversity. To relapse now would be a cruel blow, when I've overcome such insurmountable odds.

To deviate from my plan and my story would be foolish. To attempt to react to the stats and the data I have in my possession and write what the audience seem to want - to play to the crowd - would keep me in a perpetual state of sickness. If I was intent on having the most popular blog that I could write, it would conflict with my desire to recover and live a normal life. I've even been accused of wanting to stay sick to please my 20,000 Twitter followers. I'm regularly accused of being alarmist, attention seeking and melodramatic. I'm occasionally accused of being contrived, and even that I'm some kind of fake.

Where's the punchline, we wonder. When am I going to ask you to reach for your credit card? Am I selling T-shirts and mugs? Am I going to emblazon this site with advertising and harvest your personal data? Am I going to start a mailing list and spam you? How do I even make money out of this? Do I want fame or notoriety?

Of course I want to be noticed. Of course I want readers; followers. Of course I want what I write to be read. How ridiculous to suggest that there's some virtue in writing in obscurity. It's not noble to hide your thoughts and feelings and emotions and inner monologue... it's stupid. What people want to read more than anything else is authentic writing from real people. Public diaries; journals; blogs. If you like people and human stories, what could be better than the real-life soap opera of a person's life laid bare for all to see, warts and all.

I don't know where I'm going with this, but I don't want to go down the well-trodden path of clickbait and slavishly obeying the analytic data that seems to suggest that pictures of kittens and puppies go down very well on the internet. What kind of an artwork would I be creating, if I was to ask the audience what I should paint on my canvas?

Does life imitate art, or does art imitate life?

 

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Childish, Immature, Pretentious, Self-Centred, Pompous, Condescending, Stupid, Ignorant and Arrogant

6 min read

This is a story about a lack of insight...

iPad and pencil

I didn't invent the English language. I didn't invent consciousness and feelings. I didn't invent thought. So, how can I ever have an original thought or idea? How can I ever write something original? Everything I ever think and write is going to have been thought about and written about somewhere else, by somebody else.

In fact, the idea of originality is a dumb one, borne out of pretentiousness. Anybody who thinks they're being original is horribly egotistical, and also wrong.

I cringe a little when I see aspects of myself reflected writing that's smugly taking the piss out of angst-filled teenagers. It's quite easy to mock and belittle. It's quite easy to hide behind a comforting wall of sneering cynicism and criticism. I cringe, but I'm glad that I write - I'm glad that I expose myself and my flaws. I'm glad that I set myself up as a somebody who can be easily attacked. I give you the ammunition, and you use it.

My intention of writing so much is to exhaust my enemies. I've written so much that nobody can ever catch up with me now. I've written so much that anybody who's determined to tarnish my name will never be able to do it with their words, because mine outnumber theirs by an order of magnitude. Bullies are quite lazy and cowardly, and they will pick on easy targets - they will bully the vulnerable.

In the process of making myself incredibly vulnerable - admitting to every vanity and flaw in my character; every freakish fetish and grotesque quirk - I'm actually protected from anybody who wants to prey on my weaknesses. It's impossible to shame and embarrass me. If there's anything compromising that you wanted to know about me, it's all here, documented in unflinching detail. If you wanted to try and blackmail me or otherwise coerce me, you wouldn't be able to because everything bad about me is written down and on public display.

Ok, not everything.

I'm going as fast as I can. I feel like my life is in imminent danger, so I must get as much of myself down on paper as possible. I have to write everything, because my writing will be all that's left when I'm dead. I don't fear death... I fear being misunderstood.

Of course, it's terribly teenage angsty to write such a thing, isn't it? Surely I should cringe and self-censor when I write those words: "I fear being misunderstood". Surely I know it's not cool to admit to such things. Surely I know that being a grown up is all about pretending to not be affected by fear, anxiety, insecurity and all the other ailments of the mind; the existential questions around identity and morality and mortality. Surely I should pretend to be more cool, and pretend to be more adult.

When my writing is discovered, I'm sure I will become very famous.

Can you see the dry humour? Can you detect the self-deprecation? Can you see that the irony is not lost on me? Can you see that I'm aware how pretentious I am? Can you see that I write things that are like little traps, designed to elicit an emotional response from you? Can you see that I'm deliberately provocative? Can you see that your first reaction is the one I intended you to have, but it doesn't mean that you immediately understand who I am and how I think?

I feel all the emotions that you do; the things that hold you back from writing with honesty and authenticity. I feel those things, but I write anyway. I don't care that I'm making a fool out of myself. In fact, I'm deliberately making a fool out of myself. Having been bullied and abused for most of my life, I'm punching myself in the face so that at least I'm the one who's in control. If I'm going to get punched in the face anyway, it might as well be me doing it, rather than my tormenters.

I insult myself and declare my flaws so that it's not interesting for you to attack me. If I've already done the thing that you wanted to do - to shame me; to abuse me - then there's no sport in it anymore.

I try to head off every criticism at the pass. I try to anticipate every potential way that I'm going to be attacked, and make sure that I'm first past the winning post. If you try to attack me, I'll simply refer you to something I already wrote. Eventually, you'll see that it's you who is unoriginal, not me.

"I've heard that one before" I often think, rolling my eyes. It's all here... the proof. I have documented proof that your idea is unoriginal. If you're going to come at me, make sure you've done your damn homework. Except you won't, because you're too lazy. Thus, I'm protected. Instead of getting upset when I'm attacked, I have the comfort of knowing that I already exhaustively addressed the topic. I'm almost immune from attempts to shame, embarrass and otherwise abuse me.

As I write, I don't excuse my actions, behaviours and thoughts that are not morally as I would wish them to be. I don't write to justify myself. I only write to be transparent; open and honest; candid. Through transparency, I remove the power that those who know my secrets have over me. I have no secrets. I'm an open book, and therefore it's not possible to shame me by sharing details of my most compromising material. I already shared it. It's already written down.

I'm flawed. I'm a flawed individual. I've done things that make me groan aloud and cup my face in my hands. There's a seemingly endless list of embarrassing things I've said and done. However, I'm making a bloody good attempt to write it all down, so it no longer has any power over me.

What do you see, at the end of the day? Do you see evil? Do you think I'm a bad person? The more you get to know me - and you can know as much as you like - the more you start to have doubts about my character... maybe I'm not such a nice guy after all. What should we do with me? Lock me up? Kill me?

Having been bullied and abused for so much of my life, I have pretty strong views on how we should treat vulnerable people. I think I'm able to quickly detect injustice. I think of myself as perceptive, when it comes to psychological abuse - I can see the subtleties in human interactions, and detect the power struggles and detestable misbehaviour.

Really, I should be coerced into silence. I should be shamed into a dark corner, never to be seen or heard from again. Why the hell am I so damn noisy?

I'm so damn easy to hate.

 

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Not Very Profound

12 min read

This is a story about losing my way...

Peace in the Middle East

I've kind of screwed everything up since my suicide attempt. Why did I tweet when I was really sick? Why did I piss my readers off by live-publishing the draft manuscript of my dreadful second novel? Why am I struggling to find my voice again, and reconnect with people?

It feels like there's a lot of pressure to write very profound and meaningful things, having cheated death. It feels like whatever I write should be a decent contribution to society. However, I'm missing the mark. I'm falling short of my own expectations. I feel like I'm letting everybody down.

I feel considerable embarrassment that my story does not have a nice linear progression. Why doesn't the tale read like a straightforward rags to riches fairytale? Why are there flies in the ointment? Why is there bad stuff in there, mixed in with what I dearly desired to be good? What's my message anyway? Where am I going with this?

Writing another novel took me down a peg or two. It was hard, and my arrogant belief that I'd be able to just sit down in front of the keyboard and crank out something decent, was a delusion that was shattered. I've had to face the very real conclusion that I've still got a long way to go if I want to produce anything decent. I'll need to pre-plan more. I can't just shoot from the hip and expect everything to go my way.

Writing these stream-of-consciousness blogs has become quite easy. If you do aspire to be a writer, writing needs to become a daily habit. I've developed the habit, but writing a journal, a diary or a stream-of-consciousness blog is probably the easiest option. Writing short stories is fun and not that hard. Dedicating even a mere 30 days to a single work of fiction, turned out to be very hard. I thought it would be easy, because my first novel came with little effort and I've managed to write this blog for two and a half years, but the construction of characters, plot, scenes... it's tough going when you get up to and beyond the 30,000 to 35,000 word point. It's not about the word count, of course. You have to write the right words, naturally. However, I can't understand why anybody would write the wrong ones. Just edit as you go.... except that's hard when you're doing creative writing.

I'm trying to recover my raw and uncensored voice. I'm trying to rediscover myself; my identity. I briefly thought I would own the moniker: novelist. I wrote "thinker" on my bio because I thought it would piss people off. Aren't we all thinkers? How dare I declare myself to be some kind of intellectual philosopher type chap. "Show me your certificate immediately!" people demanded. "Show me your credentials!" they screamed.

I'm backing down.

Although I hold a balanced set of opinions, have lived a varied life that's given me first-hand experience of almost every aspect of human society, and I can string a sentence together, I'm surely not entitled to write on whatever topic takes my whimsical fancy, and expect people to read it? Who the hell am I? What's my job title? What position of authority do I hold?

I think my readers are figuring out that I'm just a guy; just an ordinary person. These are not the words of a superstar celebrity CEO chairman chief lord god. These are merely words. Where are my citations? Why am I not quoting people you've heard of? Who the hell am I to hold my own reasonable opinions, and dare to express them as if I'm somebody of any import?

There isn't enough room in this world for the rich and famous, and the likes of us. Make room for the celebs. "SILENCE, PLEB!" scream those who are entitled to an opinion, because of their superior status.

It would be OK, but what the hell am I going on about anyway?

I feel like I missed my chance. The spotlight was on me briefly, but I choked. When I had the attention I craved, what did I do with it? I screwed up. I wasted my opportunity. When that chance came, I didn't have anything profound to say. It's time to shuffle red-faced back into the audience. It's time to shut up and let the stars of the show resume their performance, isn't it? Make room for the celebs!

I lost 2,000 Twitter followers in the weeks following my suicide attempt. I've lost 500 Twitter followers since getting a job. If I was cynical, I could argue that it's not very interesting to read about somebody who's succeeding; somebody who's safe and is probably going to be OK. Where's the drama? Where's the jeopardy? Where's the suspense? I'm not cynical though, so I take it personally: my message must be wrong. It must be something unlikeable about me. I must have changed. I failed to say anything profound and interesting when I was passed the microphone. I had my moment of fame and I've screwed it up. Next!

What frustrates me is that I know there is something profound to be found in my writing. I know that my story does contain an interesting and exceptional tale. I know that there's a message that can be teased out, and it might prove useful for other people who are going through hell. The odds were stacked against me - as they're stacked against so many - but what's different about me that's allowed me to pull through? Why am I alive when so many others would have died? I certainly don't want to piss anybody off by smugly declaring myself a success story - it's a different message from that... it's about what lessons can be learned, even if that's not an original thought or idea at all.

I've had to sit and listen to cult-leader type characters, while they talked about their spiritual awakenings in sweat lodges or in South American jungles, intoxicated with ayahuasca. I've had to listen to endless amounts of people who've wanted to share their stories of recovery. Nobody who's listened has been able to emulate them though. It's all well and good going on about your own success in recovery, but it's not helping anybody, is it?

There are a lot of very desperate people out there. My website is visited by the suicidal, alcoholics and drug addicts. There are millions of people out there who are looking for solutions to their problems. There's a temptation for me to start writing as if I've got the answers. I know that there's an eager audience for any kind of self-help material. I know that it would be incredibly popular, if I was to start writing a prescriptive guide for how to cure yourself of your depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse. I know that people are desperate and they haven't found anything that works.

Nobody's a done deal. Nobody is a finished article. It would be dishonest and misleading for anybody to write as if they've got the answers; they've found the cure.

During my treatment for mental health problems and addiction, I discovered a world of non-judgemental people, and people who will listen to your story. Your story is interesting. You deserve the chance to recover - every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. It seems as if there's a monopoly on storytelling - only the celebs get to tell their stories, and the rest of us should silently cower in a dark corner, filled with shame and regret; convinced that we're worthless sinners; eternally damned. I wouldn't be surprised if we discover that the secret to recovery is to allow people to recover, by allowing them to no longer feel as if they must pay a lifelong price for their shortcomings; by allowing people to revel in their own identities and their actions, rather than apologising and thinking of themselves as useless and flawed.

You may notice that there's rather a different code of morality applied to celebrities, than is applied to the general populace. You will see a great outpouring of sympathy for celebrities who are affected by mental health, alcohol and drug addiction issues. You will see that celebrities are celebrated for their faults - it makes them more relatable. However, the ordinary likes of you and me will become black sheep - scapegoats for the ills of society - if we stumble and err. Nobody's going to forgive our sins because we're not celebrities. Nobody wants to hear your story.

However, you should write like you're already famous. You should own your story. You should tell your story, because nobody else is going to tell it correctly. Nobody but you should own your identity. You decide who you are; you decide how your story gets told.

I'm having a wobble. Why are people disengaging? Why are fewer people connecting with me and my story? Why am I losing Twitter followers? Why do all my graphs trend downwards?

I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know where the hell I'm going with this. If I was going to be a writer, why am I not punting my novel manuscripts to every literary agent I can find? If I was going to be a writer, why am I not relentlessly pursuing a writing job? If I was going to be a writer, why am I not promoting myself through every avenue? It must be clear to my audience that I'm confused; directionless.

Often times when we're consuming content on the internet, we wonder what the commercial angle is. All those lovely webcomics that you read have usually got associated merchandise - T-shirts, coffee mugs etc. - and all those silly Buzzfeed lists that you love, are paid for by the advertising that's plastered all over the website. The deal you've struck is pretty clear - your eyeballs are being traded. However, what's my angle? What do I want from you?

I guess I need attention to feel valued; worthwhile as a human being. Without an audience; with nobody listening, who the hell am I? Who really cares whether I live or die?

My social media success is inversely proportional to my real-world connections. As I've made new friends, reconnected with old ones and impressed my new work colleagues, my social media identity has suffered. As my health, wealth and prospects have improved, my digital footprint has declined. I suppose I should be happy, but this blog and my Twitter followers provide me with a comforting safety net. If all else fails, this blog is something that would be hard to take away from me. This website - and my writing - is something that's inexpensive and provides stability; support; self-esteem. I suppose I could dismiss my virtual life as unimportant, and concentrate on real face-to-face human relationships, but I'm loathe to do that when I'm fragile; delicate. Why would I cut off one of my biggest sources of security?

A blogger friend has recently completed a year of sobriety, got herself a regular spot as a guest blogger and now has a boyfriend. Writing has been staggeringly successful for her, as a healthy coping mechanism. Blogging has been her constant companion, and she's proud of what she's produced. She's buzzing with the excitement of getting noticed. She's thrilled that she's achieved so much.

I remember when I started writing this blog, I suffered the usual thing that most bloggers do, which is to believe that I was writing amazing stuff that needed to be shared. I was a blogospammer. I would share my content as far and wide as I could. I exhausted every avenue, trying to get exposure. I wanted readers, like a junkie wants drugs. I obsessed over my stats; my metrics. I quickly came to believe that I was a serious writer, and that I'd produced a significant contribution to the literature.

Now, I beaver away in relative obscurity. I put very little effort into self-promotion. I cringe a little when I think about how I spammed every social media site I could, trying to get readers. Now, I'm passive - read if you want to... you know where to find me.

I'm still a bit hooked on my stats though. It upsets me when I have fewer readers this week than last week; fewer followers.

I imagine that I'm going through an important developmental phase though. To write every day for a year is necessary to develop the writing habit. To write for a second year is to prove that the first wasn't just a fluke. To write for a third year is to discover why you're really writing. What is it that I'm getting out of this? Where am I going with this?

It's incredible that there are some people who've read everything I've written here. I've written 770,000 words, which is the same amount as in the King James Bible, more or less - it's my next milestone, to have written as much as is in the Bible. Then, I want to write a million words, just because it's a cool number. How cool would that be, to say you've written a million words?

So, I don't really know what I'm writing about. I don't really know why I want followers; readers. I don't really know what I've got to say that's profound and interesting and useful and entertaining and moving and helpful and original and all the other things that I vainly want my writing to be. Why am I doing this? I don't know yet.

I imagine that people reach the end of these sometimes lengthy brain-dumps, and they think "that's 10 minutes of my life I just wasted". What knowledge have I imparted? How have I improved anybody's life?

I am going to find out where this is going. There is a purpose, I promise. I just don't know what it is yet.

 

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Habit

7 min read

This is a story about routine...

Hypodermic syringe

I used to write every day. Where did I go wrong?

It's been costly, not writing every day. I write because it allows me to keep more people informed about my fragile mental health, than would otherwise be possible through all conventional communication mechanisms. The phone is the worst: being tied up talking to just one person, and having to listen to what they had for lunch, just out of social etiquette. Email is not at all a good one for me: I tend to segue into angry rants about matters which I'm deeply unhappy about, but have managed to repress emotional wounds for the sake of everyday functioning. Texts/instant-messaging/direct-messages: these are so throwaway and only useful when both conversation participants are actively involved... do you know any greater frustration than seeing that your message has been read, but no response is forthcoming?

There are three things that are driving considerable self-censoring. 1) I live with friends who I love dearly, and it would not be acceptable for me to talk about that private life. 2) I'm working again and a friend helped me get the job - I can't risk losing the cash or letting my friend down. 3) I tried to write a 50,000 word novel in a month, while publishing the draft manuscript live... I haven't recovered from the exertion of the demanding feat yet.

On the subject of the novel, it was of considerable embarrassment to me to have failed. A mere 42,000 words in 30 days. Also, a sex scene crept into the first chapter and then the whole thing went totally berserk. Having told the world that I was going to write another novel in November, I had put considerable pressure on myself. It seems apt that I would have confused the homophones taut and taught, in the very first sentence - if ever there was to be a lesson in overhyping, I learned the hard way that it's so easy to turn your audience off. Those subtle mistakes that get picked up in the edit are glaring errors when somebody reads your quick-fire draft. One slip-up and your readers can decide that you're an illiterate idiot and move on.

Why didn't I write every day? When writing my blog, there have been considerable advantages to writing every day. A gap in my otherwise daily writing habit has tended to indicate periods when my life has become unmanageable. Writing daily has served usefully as a kind of 'heartbeat' for anybody to know whether I'm alive or dead. The gaps during my latest novel writing escapade were only due to genuine writer's block - I hadn't preplanned my novel carefully enough, and I was overwhelmed with the task ahead of me on the days I didn't write... there was no dreadful crisis that had consumed me.

Why haven't I resumed my daily writing routine? Well, the obvious answer is that I've been zooming all over the globe with a new job; life's been pretty stressful and disrupted. Also, I disturbed my shoot-from-the-hip stream of consciousness; I disrupted my natural habit of sitting down in front of a blank sheet of paper and pouring out all my thoughts and feelings on whatever eclectic topic I happened to feel most compelled to write about at the time. In short: I got into the habit of hesitating.

I have some of the old habits. I still make notes about things I want to write about in more detail, when circumstances allow. I still wake up and immediately think about what I'm going to write. However, between work and travel and speaking to my friends, I'm not finding the time to stop and pour my heart and soul into these little snapshots of my state of mind.

If I had written every day, I think you would have seen how circular my thinking patterns are at the moment. My thoughts revolve around the paradox of me working, which brings money, but that I'm also running out of money, which brings stress - working will fix the financial problems, but it also causes them, as well as being incompatible with good mental health. It's intractable.

A lot of what I want to write about is in response to banal criticism. However, my critics are so repetitive and their points so invalid that I've started and then erased a whole series of blogs which would have added nothing to the literature. Who really wants to read about homeless people who have tried and failed to elevate themselves from poverty by economising? What is there to learn from those who have unsuccessfully failed to tighten their belts? Why would we imitate failures, when we are trying to succeed?

I write to you now, having polished off a bottle of wine and completed a boring day in the office. It seems impossible to separate one habit from the other. My day job is immensely lucrative, but its soul-destroying nature seems to bring an insatiable appetite for intoxication: how else am I supposed to make sense of the absurdity of the incredibly well remunerated work that seems to improve precisely nobody's life.

My daily habits include sleeping tablets and an anti-anxiety medication which I became hooked upon because of damage to the nerves in my left leg. My daily habits include a dressing-up game where I go to the office wearing a fancy suit and with a poker face that does not betray the contempt I hold for banking and IT. My daily habit is to question the absurdity of existence, from the moment of waking to the moment I lose consciousness.

It upsets me that I've gotten out of the routine of writing every day. It upsets me that I had a hit-and-miss month where I was writing fiction of dubious quality. It upsets me that I have disrupted the relationship which I had with my readers, where I had become part of their daily routine - "I wonder what Nick's doing today". Every time I've turned my back on my blog, it's been a mistake.

If this is an addiction - writing - then it's a healthy one. There's no doubt that writing every day is a good habit, where supercrack is a bad one. [NOTE: you can't take supercrack every day, because you start to get psychotic after about 10 days without sleep]

The story of a man who puts on a grey suit and goes to an office every day is not an exciting one. Where are the pulse-racing tales of police chases, addiction, homelessness, destitution, destruction, psych wards, madness and otherwise going bat-shit insane? Of course, my mind inundates me with imagery of all the most inappropriate things I could do; all the most ridiculously unacceptable things play on a show-reel in my mind, and it sometimes takes concerted effort to not act on my self-sabotaging impulses.

To write today has caused me to override my instinct to bury my blog, as I thought I was going to do earlier this year when I had an employment contract. In fact, it was a mistake to hold back. To own my identity is the most important thing I've ever done. Not writing so much made it easier for me to be exploited - I had deliberately held back, believing it was the responsible thing to do, but I was mercilessly taken advantage of.

My parting thought is one about the effort required to create versus the effort required to consume. While it may take you but a few short minutes to hoover up the words on this page, you should consider that it might have taken me some hours to craft them - there's a considerable disparity. While we live in a society where art seems to be in no short supply, that does not mean that art is worthless. Although I've been driven to a point where it's been impossible to avoid expressing myself, that does not mean that these words are cheap. In fact, I've earned the right to pursue my creative endeavours. I delayed gratification; I waited.

So, I'm considering re-addicting myself to writing. I'm considering a resumption of my daily writing habit.

 

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Novelist

5 min read

This is a story about editing...

Poste Restante Novel

I decided to re-read my first novel. It surprised me just how well it starts - I was prepared to cringe with embarrassment at something that had not stood the test of time well, but it was OK. Later in the book, I fumbled with a couple of things - perhaps I was hurriedly bashing out a chapter, without a clear plan of how the scene should unfold. Towards the end of the book, there was a glaring error that was due purely to a lack of research: I had been a little lazy. The ending tried very hard to be enigmatic, but I imagine that it would have been confusing for many readers, and a little underwhelming.

Wouldn't it be arrogant to assume that I would be able to sit down one day and pen a good novel? Of course my first full-length story was going to be a learning exercise, and I was going to make mistakes. All I had was the first scene, the general plot outline and a twist - I had no idea how I was going to end the story. Writing dialogue is not something I'd done a lot of, so I had to develop that skill as I went along. I would spend quite a long time trying to remember what I had and hadn't told the reader, so that I wouldn't contradict myself or spoil the surprises I had planned. As a learning exercise, it was brilliant.

As November 1st approaches, I'm getting increasingly excited about starting my second novel. My first book explored an individual, and the other characters were purely set dressing in a story which was about loneliness and isolation. My second book will study relationships; societies - my mind buzzes with ideas, because there's so much scope to play around with multiple actors in my new story.

The opening scene is very important, to set the tone for the rest of the story I'm telling. I keep adding little bits to the image I'm creating in my mind - it's so much more than an image. I think about the textures, the mood, the sounds and importantly, the smells. I want to make the book as much an olfactory experience as is possible to do without having to impregnate the pages with scratch-n-sniff chemicals.

It seems amateurish to break the fourth wall, and to be 'so meta' as to talk directly to you, the reader, about the process of writing a work of fiction. To have hijacked my blog to talk about my next book project, is an indication of just how overexcited I am about writing another novel, such that I can't quite contain myself. I'm terribly afraid that I'll be suddenly overwhelmed by the challenge when I start on Wednesday - the blank page in front of me will intimidate me, and I will be afraid to make the first mark.

As I did last year, I plan on publishing my first draft live, as I go along. I'm thinking that I might publish on medium.com this year, so that I'm sharing a popular writing platform with other authors who are partaking in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo 2017).

Many publishers will tell you to shove your manuscript up your arse, if you are foolish enough to tell them that you wrote it during NaNoWriMo. There's quite a glut of crappy unedited manuscripts that gather in the inboxes of literary agents, during December. Like people who join a gym straight after the Christmas holiday season, as a New Year's resolution, those fat unfit faces soon disappear as the year wears on. I know that if have serious intentions of becoming a bestselling author, I will need to become a better editor.

Like I did last year, I'm inviting edits, improvements and suggestions, as the new novel emerges from the depths of my imagination. It was immensely pleasurable, to have my friends trying to guess what was going to happen next, and to be then able to gauge whether the pace that I was telling the story was too fast, too slow, and whether the twist in my tale was too obvious or not.

I had a wonderful girlfriend and her incredibly supportive family, egging me on to complete my book last year. This year, I'm living with friends on a lovely peaceful farm in the Welsh countryside - the kind of environment which would leave most aspiring authors green with envy.

Completing the project - 53,000 words - was the name of the game last year. To actually finish a novel is very hard - many budding writers won't have the discipline to keep up the word count. The initial excitement and energy can quickly dissipate, to be replaced by a sense of dread, when one thinks about returning to the neglected manuscript. This is the brilliance of NaNoWriMo, which encourages you to finish the project within the month of November, and then worry about going back and editing the damn thing. As a completer-finisher, it suits my personality perfectly: what point is there in an unfinished book? Perfectionism will get you nowhere, if you never get to the point of publishing.

Tomorrow I have boring chores to do and I will write an ordinary blog post, which is a deliberate demarkation between "Nick the blogger" and "Nick the novelist". I'm thinking that I'm going to pause my blog, partly because I want to divert my readers to my draft manuscript, and partly because I don't think that I can context-switch between storytelling mode, and blogging mode.

I'm afraid to lose the comfort of writing my blog. I'm afraid that I'm going to fail. However, it's a really exciting time: I'm like a kid before Christmas.

The working title for my next novel is High Dependency.

 

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Kevin Ghora with Vow-er

6 min read

This is a story about life on the farm...

Barbed Wire

Yesterday, I was too depressed to get out of bed. Being awake was horrible - I tried to doze for as long as I could. I was irrationally afraid of having to get up for some reason; on edge that there might come a knock at the door. My friends make me feel incredibly welcome, and I would always have somebody to talk to if I was feeling lonely and desperate, but I also feel like I should demonstrate my willingness to help wherever I can.

Today, it's been sunny and mild; very good weather for the time of year. Hiding under the duvet doesn't feel so bad when it's grey skies and raining, but I feel guilty about wasting the day when it's nice outside. Nice weather can paradoxically make me feel even more depressed.

I'm naturally a restless, anxious and fidgety person. "Where am I going? What am I achieving?" I continuously ask myself when I'm not consumed by a task; fixated on a mission.

At the beginning of the week, I dragged myself out of bed to go to the seaside. It was a drizzly foggy day, so the picturesque beach wasn't going to yield any nice views, but still, it was an outing. Rain-drenched families trudged through puddles. "Why are all these children not in school?" I asked. Apparently, it's half-term school holiday time in England - not so in Wales.

This jarring disparity; this acute difference between what consumes my thoughts, and what most other people are concerned with, is being well highlighted in my current environ. I was cut off from the world in my London apartment. It was wonderful to have the space & time to think & write, but I was very far removed from the day-to-day reality that most of humanity experiences. In the past few weeks, I've been reminded about school-runs, commuting to work and long days in the office, car maintenance, housing, pets, children, cooking and cleaning, although I can claim absolutely zero personal involvement in the running of these affairs - I'm an idle observer; a tourist.

Of course I worry that I'm lazy; worry that I'm mooching; worry that I'm a leech; a parasite.

"Yes, we'd all like to be a thinker; a writer; an artist; an intellectual; a professional layabout" I imagine people saying. "Your art is just a hobby... get a job" is what I imagine people are thinking. I feel guilty for not producing anything more tangible than the words on this page.

I started to get a little stressed about November, when I plan to write my second novel. "How am I going to find the time to write?" I wondered to myself, which must sound a little ridiculous to you. Why am I even writing anyway, when I'm not overtly commercialising my creative output?

There's something more socially acceptable about saying "I'm sorry, I need to write my book" as opposed to just "I'm sorry, I need to lie in bed feeling incredibly anxious and depressed". I wonder if more people would have breakdowns and refuse to go to their stressful and boring jobs, if it wasn't so stigmatised. Wouldn't we all love to just spend all day with our children, and not get out of our pyjamas? Why can't we skip breakfast and have cereal instead of a cooked meal, and completely reject the demands of society?

I feel immense guilt for not having a proper job, spending hours of my life stuck in traffic, being bored to tears by a bullshit job. What's my contribution to society? Why am I allowed to pontificate, when I haven't done my 9 to 5 grind?

I'm not so naïve as to think that the good life doesn't have to be bought and paid for with human misery. For every beautiful countryside cottage set in manicured gardens, nestled in lush green countryside, there is also an immense amount of suffering that's gone into delivering that dream. The children who wait 5 minutes, staring at a single marshmallow on the table in front of them, will receive two marshmallows as a reward for their patience. Those same patient children will shed tears when they are packed off to boarding school, but it'll all be for a good reason one day.

Are we even supposed to be so patient; so tolerant of intolerable cruelty? Are we any happier for all that homework? Are we any happier when we get "A" grades and go on to get a fancy job, miles and miles away from our home and our family? Are two marshmallows sweeter than one?

I feel like the cuckoo in the nest: I'm no genetic relation of the lovely family who I'm living with. Why do I get to enjoy the comfort of a farmhouse straight from the pages of Country Living magazine? What's my contribution to the household? What's my contribution to humanity?

Extrapolating, I can easily imagine that I will have produced my second novel in a little over a month from now, but I will have very little else to show for my time, not to mention the food and energy that I will have consumed. To say that I have been working on restabilising my mental health and attempting to rediscover my reason(s) for living, feels a little untrue given the trajectory of my mood. To turn a blind eye to my very real concerns about the difficulty of obtaining paid employment during the Christmas & New Year period, seems short-sighted - November will be over in the blink of an eye.

Throwing a ball for the dog in the garden, sucking in lungfuls of clean fresh air that's blown inland straight from the Atlantic Ocean, my physical health is undoubtedly improving. I'm seeing an aspect of existence that I'd long forgotten, trapped in a polluted concrete jungle, and surrounded by the seething masses in densely overpopulated cities. This life is so much healthier and happier than the rat race, but I can't afford it - it feels as if I'm enjoying a retirement I haven't paid for.

Perhaps you imagine that my time is free for the pursuit of leisure. Perhaps it is. If so, why am I so damn stressed?

 

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