All posts by Rachel Jenkins

My tea’s gone cold, I’m wondering why I got out of bed at all.

Alright blog!

Don’t feel overly concerned about the title, it does somewhat reflect my recent mood, but mainly it’s reflective of a recent rediscovery of the magic of Eminem.  For the (somehow) uninitiated, the title “My tea’s gone cold, I’m wondering why I got out of bed at all” comes from his wonderful (if a little disturbing) song “Stan” (alright, Dido wrote that bit, but let’s not over-complicate this.)  Whether scholars will ever agree or not remains to be seen, but personally I suspect Eminem will be remembered as one of the greatest poets of this century.

Anyway, on to the title.  So, I’ve had a bit of a writing lull recently.  I wrote and wrote and wrote during my first semester, and for the first time in my life I felt a little bit like I was actually a writer- not just someone who occasionally writes things.  Sadly, the excitement of Christmas, and a fair few bottles (alright, crates…) of wine led to me spending the best part of six weeks not writing anything beyond shopping lists (wine, turkey, cheese, more wine).

Today I tried to fix this.  I sat in down on my “work” sofa (the very uncomfortable one in the corner of the living room).  I picked up a pad of paper, tried not to think and just wrote, and wrote.  Many pages were penned, and I foolishly tried to actually read some of them straight after writing them.  They were garbage, utter garbage.  The writing on a sodding bus ticket is more inspiring.

I nearly cried.  My tea had literally gone cold, and I was indeed wondering why the pigging hell I’d got out of bed at all (at 9am, on a Saturday!).  So I reminded myself of the cheesy but true mantras I’ve recited to myself ever since I decided to sort my life out, and start running, eating properly, and went back to Uni:

“I will not defeated”

“I will not be overwhelmed”

I probably should have titled the blog with those two, but let’s be honest, who want’s to read about someone being positive?

 

What are you doing at the weekend?

“What are you doing at the weekend?”

Every Friday at work is spent fielding this question.  Do I bother telling the truth?  Go for a generic “oh, just a quiet one”, or really indulge the poor buggers by giving such a detailed account they regret ever having asked?

I tried to, once.

“Oh well, I’ll head home, feed the horse on the way, shovel a barrow of her shit, do the big shop, fall through the front door with bags of food, most of which will be for that cat.  Then probably some editing of a review, build that chicken coop, write up a bit more of the interview with an author that I did the other week, write a quick story, make a roast chicken dinner, cobble together some Miltonic(ish) poetry, find something else to review, read a few short stories for a presentation and then read Wuthering Heights and Paradise Lost.  You?”

“Oh.  Just a quiet one really”.

Then they’ll look at me, with an expression that so perfectly conveys the thought “I’m worried you’re having a mental breakdown” that if only I could describe it more eloquently I’d surely make millions.

In reality, the weekend is already destined to be filled with panicked moments of writing, procrastination (at least in part through the form of this blog) staring grumpily at the still un-mopped floors, deleting and then re-typing the same words on all my on-going projects, and picking up Wuthering Heights, only to be instantly distracted by a moderately new episode of Location Location Location.

Can someone please become my personal manager?  I clearly need someone to hire me a cleaner, sit me firmly down in front of my laptop, disconnect the internet and make me get on with things.  Instead I’m off to slurp wine on the sofa, and get cracking on Series 2 of Stranger Things.  I wonder if I can review that?

Running, writing and cheese.

Actual footage of me running-

About three years ago I was walking to work, and passed an elderly man moving along so slowly that at first I could hardly tell he was moving at all.  Each step he took clearly used every bit of concentration and strength that he had, his feet barely left the ground, it was more of a dragging, shuffling motion, it was painful to watch.

That night, after quaffing at least one bottle of cheap red wine, I went on amazon and spent money I didn’t have on Nike trainers, a sports bra and terrifyingly tight looking pair of running trousers.  My reasoning was simple- one day I’d be as infirm as that old man, one day I’d look back in frustration at the fact that when I was in my twenties, and could physically do anything I liked, I chose to spend my time sat in my pyjamas in my flat, avoiding human contact and eating blocks of cheese.  I’ve been running regularly ever since.

What the hell does this have to do with writing?  Bear with me, I’m getting there.

It’s exactly the same mindset that’s brought to the MLitt.  I’ve been sliding my way slowly to thirty, living for 5pm, Friday, holidays, anything that gave me a break from my actual working life.  I could see my future, it involved me sat with a headset on, complaining endlessly, brain switched off, dreaming of retirement or death, whichever came first.

I don’t want to look back and think ah, I wish I’d gone for that MLitt.  I wonder what could have been?  Much like the running, I don’t particularly care if I’m any good at it, I’m not going to be the next Usain Bolt, but every staggering, wheezy, sweaty step is better than not doing it at all.  Every misspelled word, every sentence that makes no sense, every scrunched up bit of paper is better than nothing.  As long as I run, I’m a runner, as long as I write, I’m a writer.

So if, by some miracle, I make it to my eighties, nineties, or god forbid live to over a hundred I hope I’ll reflect on this time with a sense of pride- look at that twenty-six year old oaf, look at her taking risks and doing stuff.  Rather than looking back and feeling nothing but regret.

I’ll stop waffling now, already been for a run today so time to get in my jammies and munch a block of cheese.

 

Sod it, the floors can stay filthy.

The current writing set-up.

What have I been writing?  Lists, mainly.  Reams and reams of lists in an effort to keep myself on track and to keep the breakdowns at bay (sort of).  I’ve now got so many different notepads that even finding my lists is becoming stressful.  I’ve had to commandeer the entire kitchen table for my notepads, hundreds of books and laptop.  Thankfully, as a thoroughly modern couple, Paul and I have only actually used the kitchen table to eat from once, generally preferring the food-on-lap, sat on sofa, watching TV in pyjamas approach to meal times.

The lists include:

  • Homework to do
  • Shopping list
  • To-do today list
  • Previous X Factor winners (a drunken contest with Paul to see who could remember the most- I won, not sure that’s anything to be proud of)
  • Dinners for the week (if we don’t do this, it descends into fish fingers every night pretty quickly)

On the homework to do list we have:

  • Write a poem of 11 Stanzas of two lines each, repeat the phrase “I put on my cloak”.  Not yet started.
  • Write a poem about the creation of the world, in the style of John Milton.  Where do I even start?
  • “Choose an aspect of the argument and take a position against it”.  I honestly don’t know what this refers to, but I’ve written it down, it must have meant something at the time.
  • 6 bullet points on Paradise lost.  I’ve got 3, that’s good progress.
  • Re-write something thinking about metre.  Also not started.

This is not even including the assignments due.  I’d quite like sit here and sob for while.  Instead, I review my “To-do today list”.

  • E-mail homework.  Done!  It’s dreadful, but it’s done, so that counts as a victory.
  • Make dinner.  Tomato sauce simmering behind me, meatballs in fridge.  Boom.
  • Mop.  Sod it, the floors can stay filthy.
  • Read book.  Later, with a glass of wine I think.
  • E-mail author.  This is for an interview assignment that I can’t think about because if I do, I stop breathing and wonder why I am doing this to myself.
  • Run.  Not likely, I’ll just get fat instead.
  • Ride horse.  Sod it, she can get fat too.
  • Cuddle cat.  Already achieved, look at me go!

It’s becoming increasingly tempting to curl up in a ball and be defeated, I must admit.  But instead, I put on “I’m the man” by the Killers, grab my notepad, and go about attempting to write a poem about the beginnings of the world.  Wish me luck.

What am I reading? An erotic novel, apparently.

Morning all.  There’s a lot of lovely highly intellectual chat about what people are reading currently.  Certainly, coming back to Uni and being surrounded by numerous very well read and intelligent people has made me look at my reading over the past five years with a mild sense of shame- quite literally nothing but Crime Fiction (littered with the odd re-read of Black Beauty).  Now, Crime Fiction is magical, and I’ll always love it, but perhaps, it would be a good idea to break free from it for a while?  Broaden some horizons?

So, this has led to me working my way through the lovely personalised reading list which Kirsty Gunn has furnished each of us with.  The first book I purchased was “In the Cut” by Susanna Moore.  Now, I wasn’t quite sure what I was expecting, perhaps something written really stylistically, with many long words and complex references I’d have to Google.  Within the first five pages some rather graphically described sexual acts occurred.  Well, OK, I thought, that’s an intense start, let’s see where this goes.  Well, onto more and more sexual encounters it would seem!  Now, I’m a cosmopolitan kind of gal, I can handle this, but problems began to arise when I was casually reading this book in the break area at work.

My lovely curious colleagues are forever asking questions about how Uni is going, so at the sight of me reading a booking, naturally they asked what it was- “is that one of your poncy clever novels?”  It was at that awkward moment that I realised the cover had the description “A ferociously uninhibited erotic thriller” in capital letters on it, and to top it all off, the front cover features a naked woman and a bit of rope.

“It’s for Uni!”  Not entirely sure they believed me…

My brain feels like mince, but I’ve been ordered to write something.

I’ve already lost track of which week it is.  Apparently this is normal.  As are regular mental breakdowns, the odd sobbing fit, permanently feeling as if your head is going to explode and panicking about interviews, writing, essays, and POETRY-real, proper poetry where you have to pretend you know what Iambic Pentameter is and how to use it.

Back in June of this year, when I was sobbing away at work (a riveting call center job for a certain British-based telecommunications giant) signing up for the MLitt seemed a great idea.  It even meant dropping my working hours to 25.5hrs a week- think of all the lovely free time I’ll have!  My god, my house will be spotless, my allotment pristine and weed-free, and I’ll have more time to spend with my fiancé (Paul) whilst occasionally casually writing a little story here and there.

Four weeks in, and I’m beginning to feel rather resentful of the Rachel of June 2017.  She was an idiot.  She underestimated this.  She’s stitched me right up.  Work exhausts me, my house looks like a crack-den, my allotment has disappeared under a sea of grass. with only one brave apple tree surviving, if I speak to Paul it’s either in grunts, or panicked moments of “PAUL.  What the hell rhymes with Badger?  I’m writing another bloody sonnet for homework, help!”

I should probably point out though, much as I might sob at any moment, I’ve no regrets.  My team mates are a joyful combination of funny, talented, and marginally bonkers (in the nicest possible way).  The teaching staff (please don’t fail me) are of much the same vein.  The writing tasks so far have stretched my brain in a variety of different ways, which hurt my head so much it must be doing me some good.  Bring on the rest!