Spider in a Glass

I have caught many spiders with a glass. Usually one of my husband’s pint glasses.  The spiders have meant no harm, they’ve just come from the nowhere of their world and into the somewhere of my world, suddenly appearing and scaring the life out of me. I trap them in a glass, slide a piece of paper underneath, go outside and set each one free.

It’s a great way to have a good look at a spider. Their bodies are covered in tiny hairs and I think they use these hairs to perceive their environment; they have a lot of eyes but I think their vision is blurry and used only to pick up the movements of their prey.

The spider becomes still and is probably wondering what’s happened to it; one minute it is meandering along and the next it can’t progress, it can’t get moving. It seems to just sit and accept its fate, until it gets bored or frustrated with the inability to fulfil its purpose. It starts to use its feelers and gently taps the glass. It tries to get some leverage to climb up the glass but the surface is too smooth and it slides back down again. I wonder if it feels cheated? Disoriented? This barrier has just come down out of nowhere and stopped it in its tracks. It can still see everything that is familiar to it until it finds itself dumped outside in an alien landscape.

I’ve never really given much thought to how it survives once I have “rescued” the poor arachnid, but I have wondered if spiders are introverts. I think they probably are.

I’m an introvert and so is my husband, although I am further up the continuum/spectrum towards extroversion than he is. I can behave like an extrovert when the mood takes me, but I need to spend a lot of time on my own to recharge my batteries and think; I am someone who reflects, and I take a lot of time to reflect, but I have struggled with reflecting during this lockdown, and about this lockdown; trying to think clearly, I’m finding, is a challenge.

The other week my husband pointed out that the lockdown was having a greater impact on me than I realised (he felt). I asked him to explain:

“Well, you gave up your job to do the MLitt and you were anxious but excited about it. You were throwing caution to the wind and taking a leap into the unknown. You said you wanted to immerse yourself in the whole experience. And that is exactly what you were doing. You were going to classes, you were taking part in different projects, you were churning out creative work like I have never seen you do before; you, have never seen you do before. You made new friends, you were meeting them for coffee’s and lunches and chats about each other’s work, you were spending time in the library reading books you didn’t know existed. Your whole world had opened up…”

And all of a sudden it ground to a halt. Everything as I knew it, stopped. Everything as everyone knew it, stopped.

We are unable to immerse ourselves in the experience of university. It’s all still there but we can only access it in certain ways. The world has become virtual; Email, Facetime, Zoom, WhatsApp, Facebook, Microsoft Teams: faces framed in technology, tinny voices and frozen screens.

I’d give anything to meet friends for a coffee and a chat

volunteer to discuss a poem with a class of art students

spend an hour figuring out what a gerund actually is

participate in an excerpt of a stage play at Livewire

attend a masterclass or the launch of an exhibition

give feedback on a piece of prose or a poem

have a round table discussion

book a room in the library

help out at a book launch

meet my writing buddies

eat a burger

eat chips

 

But I can’t do any of that.

 

All I can do is empathise with a spider in a glass.

 

 

 

 

Learning at Luath – Day One.

I’m not long back from a saunter down the very busy Royal Mile following my first day at Luath Press. What a change from grassy hills, sheep and cows; and the wonderful aromas I had to walk through–coffee, food, waffles! But I managed to resist.

My first day was busy in a way I’m not used to being busy. After a friendly welcome from Laura and a steep climb up the many stairs, I was introduced to Gavin and encouraged to read the Luath website to familiarise myself with the current projects first. I had already had a good scan, but it was good to have a re-cap. I was informed they were waiting for Ella, another intern who would also be learning at Luath this week. The views from the small, stappet fu office are immense

When Laura arrived, Gavin gave us an overview of all things publishing. We were handed a list of all the learning opportunities available and asked to highlight what interested us the most. I sat with my yellow pen highlighting various tasks such as “book blurb” and “assess manuscript” and “interview author”. It was a bit nerve wracking, but I didn’t get the opportunity to worry.

Next it was over to Laura to allocate us work for the day. I spent the day proofreading my first manuscript. Later in the day, Gavin called us over and gave us a run-down of other projects and suggested work that might be beneficial to us in terms of the courses we are doing, as well as personal/writing interests.

I have to say, I was slow to get going and a bit frightened to put red pen marks on the white paper but by 5pm I had tackled my fear. I was also worried that I was reading too slow but a quick chat with Gavin soon fixed that. He explained that there are many aspects that effect how fast a manuscript is read; people read at different speeds, the type of reading that is required i.e. proofreading, editing, as well as the type of manuscript–factual or fiction-are but a few that he mentioned.

So, what have I learned?

Publishing is a multifaceted process that requires patience, skill, a keen eye as well as bucket loads of creativity. The manuscript I was reading was dense with factual information and not the type of thing I would normally read. I was aware that I was trying to rush and had to actively slow myself down. I had to check names, dates, and place names to ensure they were correct which slows the process.

Before I knew it, it was 5pm and time to come back to the hotel. I packed up and descended to street level and into the throng that is Edinburgh. I can tell that this week will fly past!

Sleeping with the Imposter

So, here I am, cosied up in my aparthotel room in Edinburgh listening tae storm Dennis blawin a hoolie at the windae. I was pleasantly surprised with the budget room, it has all the mod-cons that I need, even a dishwasher! I decided to stay for the week rather than commute because I live semi-rural and thought a week in the big smoke would be a novelty–the long lie was also a no brainer.

I’m prepared to start my  internship at Luath, but I have to admit, the imposter syndrome is clagging in. It fills me with doubt about my abilities and, if not managed, impedes creative flow.

I first learned about imposter syndrome during staff training when I was a community psychiatric nurse. The facilitator discussed the syndrome, “we all experience it” he said, “it’s that feeling when you’re saying your piece at the team meeting, at the same time thinking that you’re talking rubbish, you don’t have a clue and your colleagues know that you’re at it.” I was stunned. I knew exactly what he was talking about and thought it was just me being me. Well, it was me being me, but I was comforted to know that I was not alone.

And… there are five different types of imposter syndrome–who knew?

This is something I have chatted about with my lovely classmates, writing buddies, even published authors. It doesn’t seem to matter how much positive feedback, constructive criticism, success or general comments of loveliness we receive about our writing, Imposter Syndrome sucks the self-belief right out of us and makes us terrified, makes us run away from our exhibited pieces–I cringed as my esteemed fellow student and Imposter Syndrome compadre shrunk into the shadows as my mother-in-law ordered me to stand by my piece at the River Deep Mountain High exhibition, so she could take a photograph to show her friends–just as Victoria Lothian writes.

I don’t think the issue will magically disappear as our confidence grows, but I do think the voice might fade or, we might feel strong enough to tell it to hud it’s weesht!

I wonder if I’ll be exposed tomorrow… I’ll sleep on it.

Pipe Dream

Organisation is key to managing a busy workload and all things stationary are required to facilitate organisation–as all stationary fetishists will understand. Yesterday, after accepting delivery of the eight hexagonal cork boards I ordered a few days ago, I ran upstairs to my writing snug like a kid with a new toy at Christmas, peeled off the sticky backs and stuck them to the wall beside my desk.

I sat for around thirty minutes thinking about how to organise the information that I need to organise my busy writing and studying schedule. As I deliberated it dawned on me that I was procrastinating and I don’t have time for that!

Semester two of the course is proving to be exhilarating. I was fortunate to be involved with the University Archive’s River Deep Mountain High exhibition, and I am currently collaborating with my wonderfully talented and creative peers–both writers and artists– on a project with the V&A Museum in Dundee.

On Sunday I’ll be packing my suitcase and heading down to Edinburgh for a week-long internship at one of Scotland’s leading independent publishers: Luath Press. My nerves are jingling in response to this but I’m excited by the prospect of learning a few things about the publishing process.

Funnily enough, on this day 17 years ago I was already a few weeks into my first placement as a student mental health nurse. I simply put my dream of writing down to being nothing more than a whim, a fantasy…

Wanda McGregor

It was around this time last year that I took the plunge, tendered my resignation as a mental health nurse and began preparing myself psychologically for the MLitt Writing Practice and Study.

I entered my first creating writing class last September with trepidation and my imposter syndrome, but I managed to maintain a poker face as I poised my pen above paper. And off I went.

The first semester has flown past and I have produced writing that I didn’t know I was capable of. The experience of creating new works stirs feelings of sheer delight that take me back to the first time I hooked a duck at the “switchies” and won a goldfish: don’t worry, I haven’t jumped up in class cheering and shouting “I won! I won!”

So far, my mind has been stretched in many directions and I am having fun trying everything; I have moved from my comfort zone of writing in the vernacular to poetic prose, experimenting with form and voice across all genres.  I don’t have a background in literature but I am learning the lingo and getting to know the literary giants, past and present– as are my husband, my daughter and my three dogs.

I’m not sure where this is going… but it’s exciting unraveling my new writing life.