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Blogging 101, Day One: Introduce Yourself to the World

Hi, everyone. I’m Becca.

I am blogging for two reasons – to learn to write better, and to connect with people. I am absolutely horrendous at small talk, but a huge fan of big talk. My dearest friends are those who don’t baulk at my weirdness and are happy to muse and share and think and learn without fear of looking stupid.

My “weirdness” has been diagnosed as Borderline Personality Disorder, after a 30-minute assessment with an NHS psychiatrist, but that has been pooh-poohed by every therapist/doctor I have met with since. Still, some elements certainly apply – seeing disgust and anger in people’s faces that may or may not actually be there; unrequited girl-crushes; taking generalised negative statements very personally; attempting to apply labels to myself to fit in somewhere, anywhere. The larger symptoms, however, of impulsive and self-destructive behaviour are moving further and further behind me with huge thanks to my incredible family, therapy, sertraline and mindfulness.

I am utterly blessed to have the actual best husband in the world. His positive qualities would require a weightier tome than this blog post to list, so I won’t even try here.

I have two two-legged boys, one four-legged girl and one to-be-confirmed, due at the end of April. I’m somewhere between attachment and free-range as a parent, but my ultimate goal is to raise kind, contented, useful human beings who voluntarily visit their old mum every once in a while.

I work part-time as an accountant, and I love it. Don’t worry, though. I won’t talk about it unless it’s really, really necessary. The confidentiality requirements of our profession are there for the protection not just of clients, but anyone who might otherwise be subjected to such drab conversation.

I am a Disney fanatic, and that’s something I like to talk about a lot. I am socially very liberal, and a big believer in taxation and public spending, when carefully considered.

Every click to publish is filled with anxiety. While I’m not afraid of looking daft, I will agonise over what people might think, before taking a deep breath and just going for it. I hope I’ve represented myself truly. Who knows, maybe I might learn something in the process?

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Blogging 101, Day Four: Identify Your Audience – On being socially awkward

Today’s assignment is to publish a post you’d like your ideal audience member to read, and include a new-to-you element in it.

Crikey. That’s kind of tough. I don’t exactly have an ideal audience member, and that’s something that’s coming up a lot in the many, many articles and books that I’m reading about writing.

On being socially awkward

People! It’s exciting to meet new people. They have different stories to tell and perspectives to bring, and an abstract concept always becomes more relatable when someone explains it from their own experience.

But people are polite. They don’t talk about themselves unless prompted. Don’t think, however, that it’s okay to ask them about themselves, because it isn’t. An immensely common blog topic seems to be “stuff you shouldn’t ask me, you fucking douchebag”. This is especially confusing when the no-go topics include stuff referred to in the blog’s URL. It’s almost like those Herbalife reps who wear a badge saying “ask me how!” and then shooting you daggers for, you know, asking them how.

Of course, I started off asking horribly inappropriate questions. As someone of unspeakably uninteresting ethnicity, I went through a few years of asking people about theirs. Do you know if your more recent ancestors are African or Afro-Caribbean? Do you feel a mix of cultures within your identity? I know that’s wrong now, and I don’t do it unless I’m appallingly drunk, which would be even more gauche right now than well-meant racism, because I’m 7 months pregnant.

I also managed to offend a girl by asking her what she thought of The L Word. A mutual friend had introduced her to me as “my lesbian friend, Jess”, and any attempts to ask her about her job were shut down fairly quickly, so I’d been at a bit of a loss for conversation. She informed our mutual friend that I was “obsessed with lesbians”.

“What kind of music are you into?” sounds like a date going badly.

“Where are you off to on your holidays?” has too many socio-economical implications and has been done to death by your hairstylist.

Questions about family status are another can of worms. Appearing to have a heteronormative agenda, or inadvertently picking at the fresh scars of loneliness, infertility and domestic strife are all risks best avoided.

I tried a new approach; something along the lines of “I’ll show you mine; then hopefully you’ll show me yours”. That wasn’t much more successful, and the description sounds a lot like some kind of emotional flasher. Oversharing doesn’t always encourage others to open up. In fact, it often seems to make people feel uncomfortable. I didn’t realise quite how much until I read a Modern Mrs Darcy post describing that horribly awkward feeling that washes over you when someone overshares and began to ruminate extensively over how many people I’d made to feel that way. It’s truly a wonder that NICE still recommends group therapy.

I have, therefore, left a trail of not-so-broken hearts in my wake when I’ve realised that the intimacy was not reciprocated. A feeling of foolishness combined with an inability to unsay and undo means that I’ve blocked all contact from plenty of lovely people I’ve been lucky to know because I simply didn’t know how to get back on an even keel.

A lot of my social awkwardness comes down to compulsion, and it’s not until several hours later that I start kicking myself for what I forgot to hold back in the heat of the social moment. My wonderful creative writing teacher, Hilda Sheehan, mentioned in class once that her writing has helped stem her blurting, and I hope that might work for me.

Lovely readers, I will be putting this out to you, if I have identified you correctly. Do you consider yourself to be socially awkward? How do you react (internally and out-loud) when someone overshares? What are your most appropriate conversation starters? And if my oversharing has made you feel awkward, then just pretend that you haven’t heard me and we can rekindle our acquaintanceship with no harm done.

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She walked slowly up the long, winding driveway, her dress trailing in the mud.

This post is part of a series devoted to the Writers’ Workshop run by Lynn at Salt and Caramel. I must confess that I am unlikely to post any of these on time, but I will endeavour to get the writing done! I rather enjoyed the prompt, as it brought to mind a mix of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca and a Style Me Pretty photoshoot…

Prompt: She walked slowly up the long, winding driveway, her dress trailing in the mud.

She did not bother to glance behind her, knowing full well that nobody would be following. A grease stain smeared her cheek and her feet still ached from long-discarded shoes. Her grey eyes had lost the very light that made everyone call her beautiful and yet the windows of the house fixed upon her like she was all they could see.

Everything was grey now. The ominous sky bulged and rumbled. The sandstone hung sallow and wan. The silver satin and lace sagged under the weight of moisture rising from the ground and hanging in the air. Only a few hours earlier had been blue and white and green, but she had sensed change coming.

How naïve she’d been to think that it could’ve carried on forever. A girl like her didn’t belong with a nice man in a nice family. She belonged to the house. It kept her soul in a box under the stairs where nobody would ever find it, and she would always have to return. Her eyes caught a movement in an upstairs window. A pale figure clad in black was watching, with the tranquillity that comes with having been right, having always known. She was coming home.

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Writing 201: Poetry, Day Nine — Landscape, Found Poem, Enumeratio

Virtual Landscape

Winner-takes-all

Sitting on a similar pile

Plainly

Every minute of every day

Ever more atomised, more fragmented, more individualised

A libertarian’s wet dream

Thoughtful contrarian

Enough dirty cabs

Certainly economically

‘Sharing’ economy

Astonishing numbers

Existed recognisably

A brave man

Stratospheric numbers

Nascent network

Compounding existing inequalities

This Faustian deal

Undreamt-of

Personally, socially, culturally

Winnowing away

Catalyst for change

A great tool for persecuting people

Quite disturbing and problematic

Profound, structural change

Many-tentacled

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Writing 201: Poetry, Day Eight — Drawer, Ode, Apostrophe

On days when I suppose that I should rest
I often feel the urge to build a nest
To rifle and to sort and to explore
The contents of my attic full of drawers.

What treasures lie within those plastic beds
Where baby clothes and high heels rest their heads
Surrounded by a fortress, soft and wide
Of tired sofas lying on their sides?

Perhaps one day the work will all be done
And I will have my afternoon of fun.
Oh, what lovely secrets do you store
Piled up high upon the attic floor?

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Blogging 101, Day Three: Say Hello to the Neighbo(u)rs

Day three’s assignment is to follow five new topics and five new blogs in WordPress Reader. The topics were straightforward enough – what do I want to read about at the moment? While I might be obsessed with finding new books to read at the moment, I am struggling with the temptation to step outside my Kindle Unlimited and Audible subscriptions, so I avoided fiction as a topic to follow… It’s just too much!

I picked Disney, Fashion, Parenting, Labrador and Wiltshire.

Disney, because I love so many things about the brand – even though it’s far from perfect. I love its origins out of the depression era, led by an art geek and a business geek. Geekery is contagious. I love the volume of material to explore and discuss with my babies. I love that they can find familiar, positive images all around them, even in a world that can be quite harsh. I love the memories of our trips to the theme parks. I love to snuggle up in front of a film, and sing child-friendly songs of outstanding quality in the car. I love to wear underwear with cartoon characters on it.

Fashion is a tricky one. I’m very pregnant right now, which takes me out of the running somewhat, but even when my usual size, I’m awkwardly in the world between standard and plus-size. This means that it’s hard to find clothes that are designed for my size and shape – standard clothes are designed for firm, rakish figures, while plus-size clothes are just too big. So I look, and I try to absorb information, and decide how I can make it work for me. Maybe I exist in a niche worth exploring – the mid-size mother.

Parenting. Well, duh. I have two sweet boys, and an alleged girl on the way. I am interested in hearing different perspectives, and coming up with ways to tire them out more than myself. For a long time, I found a number of parenting blogs to be triggers for negative thought patterns because I simply don’t belong to any particular camp, and parenting blogs sure like to form camps. I’m partly attachment-y, somewhat free range, home-ed-curious with a small dash of tiger. Learning about x while being subjected to a huge bashing for y can be unpleasant, but I’m developing rhino hide, and accepting that being a bit lazy is definitely an acceptable reason not to hand-crochet all my children’s clothing from foraged alpaca wool.

Labrador. As Ron Swanson says, “any dog under 50 pounds is a cat and cats are pointless.” I’ll make a few exceptions on the pointlessness front, but Meg is my perfect dog, even if she is trying to sleep on top of me these days.

Wiltshire. Attempting to follow blogs about Marlborough will take you to Massachusetts, which is lovely but rather impractical when you’ve got to be back to pick the kids up at 3.

Now, for blog follows – the last five posters on The Commons should do the trick. Looking forward to reading:

http://kingofstates.com/
https://keepexploringstuff.wordpress.com/
https://cherylmccullough21.wordpress.com/
https://morethanadashofsalt.wordpress.com/
http://linspiredliving.com/

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Writing 201: Poetry, Day Ten: Future, Sonnet, Chiasmus

Five Years

He asked me all about my five-year plan
As though that’s something everyone has made
I ummed and aahhed and mumbled something vague
About organic growth and being paid.

The truth is that I never want to tell
I’m always waiting for a fun surprise
To lift me out from under life’s mundane
And gentle ebb and flow, into the skies.

I find it all-too-sad to just admit
What life would be without that strange delight
Of unexpected twist and turn and leap
The things that keep us up awake at night

So I refuse to plan for five years on
But hope the Euromillions to have won.

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Writing 201: Poetry, Day Six: Hero(ine), Ballad, Epistrophe

Fallen

The tallest man in all the world
He raised us to the sky
The bravest man in all the world
With wit so sharp and wry

But charm and lies are each a face
A gold coin has to bear
But charm and lies, they turn to ash
Carried in foul air

The cruellest man in all the world
He smashed her on the floor
The coldest man in all the world
Our hero nevermore.