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I write every day about living with bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. I've written and published more than 1.3 million words

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An Essay on the Preoccupations of My Mind

5 min read

This is a story about a stream of consciousness...

Kitchen table

An alternative title for this essay which I considered was "why you shouldn't invite me to your WhatsApp group" which might have been very true, at one point in time, but I don't think is fair, true or accurate now, today. As the title suggests, I'm writing today very much in the vein of my usual stream of consciousness as I am wont to do. Of course, this writing style is heavily over-utilised by me, but I shall explain...

I've often written about the 'creative' process of mine. I put 'creative' in inverted commas, because obviously I'm not totally utterly ridiculously stupid: I do know that there's very little 'creative' about pouring out the contents of my mind onto a page. However, thinking of a topic to write about, choosing a photo, thinking of a title, thinking of an intro, and then churning out hundreds, if not thousands, of words on that topic... it's hard not to consider that a little bit creative. I am, after all, creating content for people to read. I am well aware, of course, that the content might not appear particularly good or interesting or original or indeed hard to create, but you try doing it every day for 5+ years and see how you get on.

Anyway, I have a list of writing prompts: things which I thought "I must write about this... soon" and then made a note of, so I didn't forget. I go to my list of writing prompts whenever I can't think of something to write about.

The list doesn't always work.

Today I went to my list, and I thought "there's nothing on the list that I want to write about today". So, what do I do when I don't want to write about anything on my list, and there's no other thing which I want to write about? Well, I write about writing, obviously. Sorry about that. Sorry about this. Sorry about everything.

Another part of my daily writing process, is as already described: I try to choose an appropriate photo. This photo choosing process has changed substantially since I cleaned up my laptop, such that I now have to choose the photo on my phone and send it over to my laptop for editing. I had become very used to searching through my photo library on my laptop; familiar with the chronology of the photos, so I could easily skip to certain points in time and find a particular image which I had in mind. Now, I'm using AI to search for particular things which are in the photo, in the hope of finding something which seems - to me - to be appropriate for my chosen subject.

real artist would keep their creative process mysterious, and create deliberate ambiguity, never correcting anybody on their ridiculously incorrect interpretations of the artworks. "I think the artist was trying to express the juxtaposition between man's fear of death, and the sublime beauty of delicate natural entities" some public schoolboy wanker art critic might say, talking about another public schoolboy wankstain's 'art', when they both know it's all just a stupid game everyone's playing instead of getting a real job, because they don't need jobs... their trust funds and family wealth mean they can waste eye-watering sums of money wafting around being "aesthetic" and otherwise not contributing to society.

Ah yes... I promised to let you know what's on my mind, didn't I.

Work is front and forefront of my mind. Hunger is a big part of my existence at the moment, as I'm on an extreme diet. I've been very tired and irritable, so I've been thinking a lot about how rude and impatient I've been with people; considering what damage might have been done, what repair needs to be done, and how I might better manage foul mood and suchlike in future. Various mundane things are on my mind, often: tax return, personal finances, cleaning the house, some correspondence I need to decide whether or not to deal with. I think about current affairs a lot, and I have a selfish reason for taking more of an interest with pandemic developments, because I plan on taking a holiday in the not-too-distant future. I sometimes worry about the damage inflicted on my house by my cats, which will need somewhat remediating next year, I imagine: some new carpet, a hole in the wall to plaster, plus some other bits to hide as best as I can, like clawed curtains. All pretty boring stuff.

I've over-shot my daily word count limit, which I've set for myself to stop myself from rambling interminably. It's a slippery slope: once I start writing thousands upon thousands of words every day, it makes it very difficult for any regular readers to get any sense of what I'm blathering on about.

Anyway, there it is: a brain dump, as best as I can manage within the word count limit I've set [but exceeded by 20% oops].

 

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Emotional Labour

5 min read

This is a story about being drained...

Building site

I suppose I made a mistake. I wrote that people who were reading my stuff about suicide should write to me. Many did, and I managed to respond to pretty much everybody - sorry if you're still waiting for a reply, but I will get to you - but it was a foolish thing to say. If had set anybody up to expect a reply, which I did try to avoid, but it might still have happened, then perhaps I could have been the difference between life and death. Obviously, anybody who wants to speak to a crisis counsellor just phones one of the very many well-funded crisis counselling phone lines, which are very well known and very well advertised. Obviously, anybody needing crisis counselling would just do that, however it was still infinitesimally a microscopically small subatomically remote improability, but still a non-zero probability that me being busy when somebody in crisis contacted me, could have been the difference between life and death.

This is what I'm thinking, now, with hindsight.

Anyway, whatever, the well-funded crisis counselling websites have moved in and flooded the zone, further shutting out anybody who wanted to actually have an honest conversation about suicide, and not be bombarded with the usual "don't do it! you've got so much to live for!" trite clichéd nonsense which I am legally required to say that You Should Totally Seek Help From The Professionals™.

It was foolish of me to think that I was serving my readers as well, when the numbers reached many thousands per day, versus back when it was a fraction of those numbers. It was arrogant to think I could stay on top of everything. Worse than arrogant, deluded, naïve or whatever, those well-funded crisis counselling organisations will say, predictably, that it's dangerous. "What about the starving Africans?" they will ask. Oh, well, not that... but predictable words along those kind of lines anyway.

Meanwhile, suicide rates continue to climb. People are as desperately depressed and anxious as ever, and the global economic situation worsens every day; debts spiral out of control, companies are laying vast numbers of people off, and there's no jobs. Anybody doing anything about that? No. It's business as usual.

I thought it would be useful to be honest with people, and so many people have written to me to tell me that they're glad that I've written what I have - that they were able to find some content which wasn't the usual "don't do it! you've got so much to live for!" - that I know that it's been a useful exercise, writing about suicide without the usual "don't do it!" bullcrap.

It turns out that it's quite hard work, corresponding around the clock, on top of a full-time job. I'm not complaining at all, but I set up this website expressly because it was so exhausting, corresponding with individuals. Like any good engineer, it seemed obvious that it was far more efficient to write things once in a place where any interested party would be able to read, instead of responding to countless individuals, who are all asking more-or-less the same stuff. It's far better that I should broadcast this stuff in a way where people can come and read it whenever they want - a one-stop repository with everything written down - than to suffer the exhaustion of individual correspondence.

I kinda forgot why I set this website up. I kinda got drawn back into talking to people individually, instead of ploughing that energy into a broadcast medium, which saves vast amounts of time and energy.

I did take a break from writing, because I feared that writing would cause me to endlessly ruminate on a static and unchanging situation, making it worse. That break from writing wasn't intended to be replaced with other writing - private writing - but it was. The need to write never went away.

I'm writing again, in case you hadn't noticed.

I'm writing, and that means that my writing energy goes into the pages of this website. I don't have much time or energy for other writing.

If you write to me, I will do my very best to read and respond. I do try to respond to everybody. It's very kind of you to write. Thank you for writing.

It was foolish of me to style myself as some kind of alternative to crisis counselling, although I don't think I ever did: I made it pretty damn clear that my inbox was open, only in as much one guy can handle on his own, and only in terms of being a non-judgemental silent ear; somebody who'd listen and not interrupt or tell you how to live your life. I can't quite remember how I positioned myself, but of course you can email me if you want or need to, and I'll do my best to get back to you, but no promises. Of course, it goes without saying that if you're in crisis You Should Totally Seek Help From The Professionals™.

 

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Diet

4 min read

This is a story about hunger...

Burger

I've only ever been on a diet once before in my life, about a year and a half ago. I was going on a beach holiday and wanted to get thinner, for reasons of vanity, which must pretty much be the main reason anybody ever goes on a diet, surely. I remember that it was pretty easy: the weight came off quickly. This time has not been so easy.

I wanted to avoid talking about things which are long and difficult, lest it become boring and repetitive. The combination of lockdown, sobriety, dieting, exercise and various other health-related activities - or more specifically, non-activities - was going to make for pretty boring reading, so I shied away from writing altogether.

My diet is, I'm told, quite extreme. I've been aiming to eat a maximum of half my calorie need, every day: 1,250 calories. In reality I've probably been eating closer to 1,500 calories per day, but it's still substantially less than the bare minimum needed to maintain my weight, which of course is the whole point. I don't want to bang on about the hard numbers, because it's very boring.

Psychologically, I wanted to cross a threshold quite quickly, to get below a certain weight because it then seemed like I was the 'right' side of a bad number instead of the 'wrong' side of a bad number. Ultimately, I'm trying to get my BMI down into the 'healthy' range again, but I've had to set myself some milestones along the way.

I've never owned a set of scales. My reason for dieting the previous time was that I wanted a flatter tummy. My reason for dieting this time is the same, but I bought some scales thinking it would be good to have some hard numbers. I WAS WRONG. I was in for a big shock when I stepped on the scales for the first time. I had let things get pretty bad, even though I was kidding myself that things weren't that bad, and it wouldn't take long to sort the problem; wouldn't take long to lose the weight.

I think I'm about 5 weeks away from reaching a healthy weight, which is not bad at all. I have the motivation of a holiday, which helps.

It's a fairly tough regimen, not drinking at all, trying not to snack, calorie counting... I'm not used to it. I had always been able to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, but lockdown has tipped the scales, as it were... I've been fighting a losing battle. I didn't think it was difficult or even necessary to watch what I ate; I didn't think I'd ever find myself in the position of dieting. I was wrong.

I wouldn't say I'm hungry all the time, but I am cold all the time, and I am tired all the time. Low blood sugar is playing havoc with my mood and energy levels, and also my ability to think and concentrate. There are lots of times I notice that I'm craving sugar. This could, of course, be as much my sobriety as much as my diet: for sure, being teetotal should be taken into consideration.

The reason for my sobriety is obvious: alcohol is so calorific; so fattening. Also, when drunk or slightly tipsy, I make poor decisions about food - I get takeaways, eat snacks and generally lose self-control. It's not unheard of for me to eat an entire can of Pringles, or suchlike, when inebriated. It's an easy way to cut a lot of calories, by simply not drinking.

In absolute terms, I've lost 3.5kg (almost 8 pounds) in 4 weeks, which is OK; pretty good. I want to try to lose a kilogram (2.2 pounds) per week, just for easy maths, and also because psychologically, it seems like a good milestone. However, there's no way I can reduce the amount I eat without putting myself through hell. Having used food and alcohol as coping mechanisms, life's very difficult without those crutches.

My clothes are looser and my tummy is flatter, but according to the scales I have a long way to go. If I can keep it up though, I will be looking nice and slim for my holiday.

I know this diet stuff is a bore, but I wanted to tell you about it anyway.

 

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Abandon Hope

4 min read

This is a story about devastating blows...

Mushroom

My break from writing was precipitated, not by the second lockdown, but by the need to purge spammy comments from my website, and wait for the search engine(s) to re-index all the content, such that I'd no longer be consigned to the dustbin of spammers, along with those pedalling illegal drugs, controlled medications and suchlike.

Now, I have to start rebuilding my reputation again. Not with my readers, but with the search engine(s) which had kinda blacklisted me, because there were so many spammy keywords all over the comments section, in a desperate attempt by Chinese and Indian sweatshops to generate links to their clients' websites, in order to try to improve their page's ranking in search results.

Obviously, I spend a significant proportion of my time, lovingly crafting some well-written prose, for no other reason than that I want to freely share the contents of my brain, lest it prove useful to some soul out there on the interweb.

I spent a lot of time cultivating, creating, crafting my content, and all that hard work was paying off: I was getting many thousands of readers every day, and many of them were writing to me to say that they were grateful that I took the time to write and share. Mercifully, I still have a reasonable number of readers; all my hard work hasn't gone to waste. People still write to me to say they're grateful that I spent the time writing and publishing what I did.

Nobody would ever spend 5+ years of their life writing every day, seemingly getting nowhere, if they were fixated on how many readers they had: it's a thankless task with pitiful progress, to begin with. There's an enormous amount of very high quality content already out there, so why would you think that your content wouldn't just get lost in the noise? You're right: most of your content will get lost in the noise. Only the most dedicated will survive, and the rest will litter the interweb; the interweb is mostly composed of people's abandoned creations... except nobody much sees that content. Part of the whole advertising eyeball-driven business model of the commercial interweb, is driving the content creators to push stuff out on a daily basis, to habituate them and their content consumers. If you're not publishing regularly, you will be harshly penalised.

So, having played the game, succeeded, then lost - almost to the point of being buried into obscurity - I now need to dedicate myself 7 days a week, to the challenge of writing and publishing, once again. I need to build, again. I need to create, again.

I've really really missed the daily writing habit. I've really really missed having the opportunity to express myself. I've really really missed the security it gives me, knowing that I've composed my thoughts on a page, publicly, for all to see. It's a life insurance policy: that I'm about as close to not dying misunderstood, as anybody could ever possibly be. Of course you can hurl predictable insults at me - narcissist, egocentrist, self-centred <expletive> and whatnot - but who gives a shit about your jealous tantrum? Who gives a shit that you're too stupid, lazy and cowardly to write and publish your thoughts and feelings? I'm doing it and it's allowed; it's OK. It's useful for me to write and publish, so nobody's going to stop me. It's useful to a lot of other people, that they can read my thoughts and feelings, so I'm going to keep going.

Winter's a particularly bad time for my mental health, and I've been struggling without my writing crutch. It's been pretty bad, not being able to tell this blank page about how I'm feeling. It's been really hard to cope, without my daily writing habit, which has become so central to my healthy habits and routine.

Anyway, I'm back, writing again. Hello, welcome back.

 

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GO AWAY SPAMMERS

6 min read

This is a story about information overload...

Spam comments

This is why we can't have nice things. I've written more than 1,100 high quality essays, most of which have undergone some kind of proofreading, and some light editing, amounting to an aggregate total well in excess of 1.3 million words. Those words were not written by a machine-learning algorithm at the click of a button. No. They were written by me, by hand. Every. Single. One.

Some of my readers were kind enough to leave comments.

A lot of my readers were kind enough to leave comments.

There was a time, before I got beaten by the spammers, when I was able to read all of those comments, and reply to most of them. The battle is lost. The spammers have won.

I have removed the ability for members of the public to comment, although you can still reply to my content on Twitter or Facebook if you want your comment to be public, otherwise email me or direct message me. I promise, I do read everything that reaches me, but it was very hard to see the real comments, lost in amongst the vast quantity of spammy rubbish.

I find it regrettable that I've had to disable public commenting, because in just a few short months some half a million people - many of them in crisis - have been brought to my website looking for information relating to suicide. Many of my readers write to me and tell me one very important common thing: my writing is honest and authentic, and relatable, in a way which so much of the "stop! don't do it! you've got so much to live for!" clichéd stuff out there, causes a bunch of suicidal people to immediately ditch that site and move onto the next.

I'm not so big-headed, egotistical and suffering from delusions of grandeur, to claim that I'm offering anything other than what it says in big bold letters on the carton: I have a mental illness and I'm plagued by suicidal thoughts, which I write about; I have attempted suicide several times, which I write about. If you came here looking to be saved, you should try crisis counselling. The number for suicide crisis counselling appeared when you searched on Google. It was literally the top hit. If you didn't phone them or click the number one Google suggested website, that means that you know what you're looking for, and it is not somebody saying "don't do it!" over and over and over and over again, ad nauseam.

You've heard it all before.

Anyway.

Sorry. I had to turn off comments. I had to hide all the spammers comments. I had to get rid of that horrible load of spammy crap. I should have done it sooner, but I was putting it off. I put it off for too long and the situation got out of hand.

I know which posts were the spammers favourites, and it really makes no sense.

I seriously don't advise you read these, but I'm going to list them here, because I need Google to realise that they should re-index the pages, and they should hopefully see that all the horrible spam is now gone.

The kind of stuff that they were spamming with was mostly harmless, but there was a lot of illegal stuff, and immoral stuff too. Basically, it was a bunch of bad people, trying to leverage my 1.3 million word artwork for their own financial reward, which sucks.

The posts, which I really don't advise you read were:

Day nine of my attempt to write a novel in a month, while publishing the draft manuscript live.

The fourteenth day of that novel writing attempt.

Something I wrote while I was on secure psychiatric ward, five years ago.

Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and other parts of the well known acronym.

My profile... although people are probably just clicking that. I have no idea if it's the spammers or not.

Some stuff about being a sensitive soul... who'd have thunk it?

Day thirteen of that same half-finished novel.

Some weird rantings from five years ago... the day before I lost my job

Typical political dross as you might expect to find anywhere on the internet.

Some stuff about burnout. I write a lot about burnout.

... etc etc ...

 

There are about 500 of these, which have been spammed in the last week alone. I should painstakingly go through all 400 of them, and link to them somehow, so that our friends at a well known and popular search engine know to go take a look: the spam has gone now. The horrid people trying to peddle their illegal, life-wrecking wares are gone from my website now. The horrid people who profit from human misery are banished forever, at least from this little island in the swamp of excrement.

I don't know what else to say or do.

To give you an idea of how bad the problem appears to have gotten, it seems like the average number of comments on my 1,100+ essays is somewhere in the region of 2,000, which is a total of 2.2 million spammy comments. I presume that when my 1.3 million words, lovingly crafted by a prose-smith (me) were vastly exceeded by a tsunami of spam, our chums at the well-known tech giant decided - algorithmically - that enough was enough and they shouldn't send me any more readers. For sure, there are very good reasons not to send people to a den of nothing but spammy illegal crap. For sure, I understand why it happened. For sure, I blame myself for being too lazy, tired, depressed and otherwise consumed with my chaotic and often suicidal life, to deal with some spammers.

This website is a lifeline for me. Writing is a lifeline for me. If I hadn't started writing then I wouldn't have had friends from all over the world, frantically contacting emergency services, which saved my life... in which case, you wouldn't be reading this. I'm not saying I'm glad I'm alive because I'm not, but I'm glad that I have my friends, my readers, my writing, my website and many things. Spammers robbed me of a whole load of readers, which I'm frustrated and really upset about, but I'm working as hard as I can on rectifying the problem.

Please, if you came here feeling suicidal, check out everything I wrote about by clicking on the tag, or check out the previous thing I wrote on the homepage, and follow links from there. I guess that's what a spammer would say, but I promise you that a spammer would not spend 5+ years of their life pouring their heart and soul into a writing project, as a not-for-profit venture and half-assed attempt at creating a work of art.

Thank you, readers, for persevering.

Normal service has resumed.

 

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How to Kill Yourself

8 min read

This is a story about an explicit step-by-step set of precise instructions specifying exactly how to commit suicide...

Suicide salad

I get a phenomenal amount of readers every day, reading what I've written on the subject of suicide. Mostly, they come looking for information on suicide methods. I know this for two reasons: firstly, my inbox is stuffed full of people asking more questions about how to kill themselves. Secondly, it's possible to see what kinds of things people are searching for on the internet: these are standard tools, which are used by advertisers, all the time, to decide how best to target their online marketing.

So, if I was a manufacturer of steak knives, for example, I might do some research to see how many times people search for "what is the best kind of knife to cut meat with?". While I was doing that research, I might also - if I was an unethical company - search for something like "what is the best kind of knife to cut human flesh with?". If there are more people searching for the latter than the former, I might decide to spend my advertising dollars selling my steak knives to people who want to use them for a purpose which they were not originally designed or intended for.

It was always my intention to drive a portion of suicidal people on the internet, towards my website, and my reasons were always - I think - ethical and reasonably well thought through. I know with certainty, that there are a large number of people who will end their lives without reaching out to any of the widely publicised and well known counselling services, which are available in person, on the phone, or online. I know with certainty that the reason why some don't contact those services, is because they're not stupid: turkeys don't vote for Christmas, and some suicidal people don't go to services which are explicit and overt in their intention, which is to stop you from committing suicide.

I've brought you here, and I've disappointed many of you, because I have never once given any explicit instructions on how to kill yourself.

But.

Here it is.

Here is one way to kill yourself:

1. Buy, borrow or steal a steak knife
2. Cut yourself so that you bleed

Not explicit enough for you? Okay, I'll try again:

1. Obtain a sharp knife with a serrated blade
2. Make as many sharp slashing aggressive fast cuts to the area of your neck, which is in-between the front and the side
3. Repeat step 2 until you either see blood gushing out at high pressure, or you lose consciousness; whichever happens first

I'm guessing you're probably more frustrated than ever now. Yes, I know that what people mainly search for is the most painless, quickest, easiest, and "best" way to kill yourself. I know what people are looking for. I really really know what people are looking for.

The knife method fails, because it's not at all painless, although it is quick and easy, and also really obvious. In fact, it's so obvious, that I don't know why anybody would go to the trouble of buying rope and tying it to a tree or something, when the knife method is so much quicker and easier.

If you want painless, which I know you do, the most common method - which has been popular for years - other than an overdose, is to poison yourself with carbon monoxide from an internal combustion engine, meaning most probably a car. The method is so simple that I can write it in just one line: pipe the exhaust fumes into the interior of your car.

Okay? Are you happy now?

No.

If you were happy, you wouldn't have been searching "how do I kill myself?" would you? The question is rhetorical. I KNOW YOU ARE SUICIDAL; KINDA THE OPPOSITE OF HAPPY.

So, the next question, and a very important one, is one which I'm asking myself as much as I'm asking you now, as you're reading this: what now?

I plan to commit suicide, when the time is right, so I would be a hypocrite - and a dishonest cynical horrible man - if I was trying to tell you to live your life differently from how I live my life; if I didn't practice what I preach.

Let me answer the question with a short story.

A little over five years ago, I decided to write my own obituary. I was a homeless, bankrupt, alcoholic, drug-addict, with no friends, no family, and nothing in my head except guilt, shame, regret, anger, bitterness, resentment, trauma, depression, anxiety, paranoia and a whole lot of other bad stuff. My life was totally and utterly wrecked beyond belief. My brain and body were trashed. The obituary writing turned into a writing habit, which eventually became this website, which eventually became the stability I needed in my life. This website brought me readers, and those readers helped me, even though I didn't want to be helped. The writing helped me, even though I didn't know it would help me.

I expect that, when I commit suicide, I will be a homeless, bankrupt, alcoholic, drug-addict, with no friends, no family, and nothing in my head except guilt, shame, regret, anger, bitterness, resentment, trauma, depression, anxiety, paranoia and a whole lot of other bad stuff... so don't go thinking that this story has a happy ending. IT DOES NOT.

But.

This is my damn story now. I'm in control. I'm the one who writes the narrative, not the people who would gladly see me buried, and talk shit about me literally over my dead body.

So, ask yourself this: what are people going to say about you, after you commit suicide? Are they going to call you crazy? Are they gonna call you a drunk and/or a druggie? Are they going to say that you were bad with money, or a bum; a loser? Are you going to let those despicable scumbags write the ending to your story, or are you going to write it yourself?

Obviously, I'd like it if nobody felt like suicide was their only option, but unfortunately, so many people do feel like that... so we have to address that.

Of course, we all have different reasons for wanting to kill ourselves, but we all want the same thing: the pain and suffering to stop. Tell the damn story. Tell people why you're suicidal. You don't have to do it like me, so publicly. You don't have to do it to an expensive therapist. Get a diary. Get a notebook. Get it the hell down on paper, at least, so it's not a bloody mystery to the people left behind.

I know, often, we are so desperate for the pain and suffering to stop that we don't care what anybody thinks of us anymore; we don't care about any of that... we. just. want. it. to. stop.

Sure, yes. I get it.

But, so many people write to me, and they all tell me a little about their story; their own personal reasons for wanting to end their lives. I mean, they don't have to. Sure, a few don't say much. Sure, lots of people read and never write to me. I don't know everything but nobody does. With the incomplete information, which is still a heck of a lot more than almost anybody you know, I'm able to say that almost everyone has something to say; wants somebody to know something.

Anyway, my inbox (and DMs on Twitter and Facebook etc) are open, but apologies if I don't write back quickly, or maybe even at all, because I have to say, every single one of your personal stories is devastatingly heartbreaking, but I'm glad to be kinda there still, as much as I can be... receiving, reading, even though I'm struggling to stay on top of replying.

You wanna kill yourself? Fine. But write to me first. I want to kill myself too.

* * *

A brief summary of what I've written already on the subject:

First, I listed out every suicide method I could think of.

Then, I wrote an essay all about the reasons I could imagine which would drive a person to kill themselves.

Most people, as I said, are interested in the 'easiest' and most painless suicide method, which I kinda wrote about, talking about my own plans to commit suicide.

 

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Monetization Strategy

4 min read

This is a story about mixing work and pleasure...

Billion dollar banknote

My inbox is full of an ever-increasing number of requests for me to publish a guest blog. On closer inspection, these are really requests to pay me to put advertising on my website, or links to help other websites to improve their Google search rankings. Basically, I don't get genuine requests from people who legitimately want to share anything here... only online marketing and search engine optimisation people, trying to piggyback on my hard work.

What about that hard work?

Why would I do that hard work, if I'm not getting paid?

Well, although I have moaned about crippling debts for many years, I actually have enough money. Very nearly - once - I came within £23 of bankruptcy, but I've always managed to service my debts, pay my rent, pay my bills, buy food and otherwise pay my way in the world. I wouldn't say money has been plentiful but it has been adequate even though a lot of it has been borrowed in order to bridge the gap between the necessary expenditure to stay in the game, versus being cast out from mainstream society and trampled underfoot. I don't really need whatever pitiful sum of money I could get, by perverting my artwork into a commercial artefact.

Wut?

Yes, that's right. I prefer it that my folly - this monument to my madness and stupidity - is kept as something entirely non-commercial. That means no advertising. No selling data. No product placement. No backlinks. No quid quo pro. You can't offer me anything that I would accept in exchange for turning my idiotic endeavours into a money-making scheme. If I wanted to make money, I'd have done something else. I'm not in this for the money. I don't want to become yet another lifestyle blogger, influencer, social media expert, or other person in that particular area. I'm a writer, and I'm able to write and publish whatever I want, and reach thousands of readers every day, which surely is a writer's dream? I mean, sure, some writers have to eat but c'mon! There are so many easier ways to make money than writing! Surely nobody would be stupid enough to try to make writing into their main profession, when they could just as easily work a fraction of the time, and have the majority of their working week available - free - to pursue any writing project that a writer would want to pursue.

Okay, so I only managed to complete a single novel manuscript to an acceptable first-draft standard, in the 5+ years I've been writing 'full-time' but I also produced a couple of 80% complete manuscripts, plus a 1.3 million word blog with thousands of readers, which appears on the first page of Google for a whole bunch of things that people are searching for. I don't mean this as a boast, but merely to point out that if writing was my objective, I've managed to do plenty, without having to earn a writer's pittance of a salary.

Of course I would love to call myself, more legitimately, a writer. I wish I had the balls to give up my main profession, and pursue writing to combine passion, vocation and work into a single thing, but then, I think I would feel very insecure and touchy about my work. Anyone can tell me "your writing is shit" at the moment, and I'll know that they're wrong, but it's not professional grade either; it's a damn sight better than your average keyboard-mashing internet-dweller, so they can fuck off. If I called myself a writer by trade then I'd probably take it very personally, and get really upset. I've not been writing for long enough, nor had enough external validation, to fend off criticism of my writing, if I was doing it in a professional capacity.

So, if you're thinking of contacting me, asking if I can - basically - help you sell you or your client's product or service, don't expect to get a response back from me, other than an unpleasant one. I don't go out of my way to be unpleasant to people, but some of the people who email me are really aggressive and get unduly unpleasant when I ignore them, which is uncalled for. Also, it pisses me off when people want to use me and my artwork - my folly - to further their contemptible commercial endeavours.

You will never see any ads on this website, and I will never sell the data (what data would I even sell anyway?).

 

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Second Lockdown

3 min read

This is a story about a broken record...

Names

What's the exact idiom? A broken record surely wouldn't play at all, so I always reject the idiom "broken record" thinking it must instead be "scratched record". However, I don't think we really use the idiom "scratched record" so I'll stick with my original preamble, which was probably correct insofar as being a well-understood idiom, but literally wrong, like so many things in life.

Anyway.

I've been a bit of a broken record, meaning that I've been repeating myself a lot.

I'm in lockdown, again. Last time I was in lockdown, I stopped writing because I didn't want to drive myself and everyone else round the bend with my repetitive days; I knew that it would be a marathon, not a sprint, to the finish. The first lockdown lasted longer than almost everyone had anticipated, but I had psychologically prepared myself for it to last many months, so I was OK. I also anticipated that this second lockdown was a certainty, so I was psychologically prepared, except I haven't taken the step of stopping writing.

I was planning on having a totally sober October, as has been my tradition. Also, I was supposed to get a new mountain bike, so I could start getting fitter and shedding some korona kilograms: I've put on weight, having been more sedentary than normal, and also utterly devastatingly depressed about the lack of opportunity this year to have travel and adventure, like normal.

I'm not sure I could stand the sound of my own voice - or my words - if I have to write for a whole month, sober and in lockdown. I might have to take a break from writing again.

The world is pretty toxic to mental health at the moment. The impending US presidential election, the impending no-deal Brexit, the never-ending pandemic, the impending economic armageddon, the rioting... the lockdown of course, and the effect of being under the same roof 24 x 7 x 365.

I find writing therapeutic, but what am I going to tell you about my present situation every day: it'll be the same. Still need that mountain bike so I can go and exercise, still need to stay sober, still need to eat less, still working on an important project I can't tell you about, still under lockdown, still depressed, still suicidal. It's going to be groundhog day; repetitive.

So, I'm warning you: if I keep writing and you keep reading, things might get pretty samey.

 

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Stock Footage

5 min read

This is a story about creativity...

Shave

If you were to ask 100 people "can you draw?" most of them would answer that they cannot. If you were to ask 100 people "can you paint?" I expect that more would answer that they cannot. If you were to ask 100 people "can you compose and play music?" then most would say that they could not.

However.

If we asked 100 people if they could do a dot-to-dot picture, or paint-by-numbers, or indeed play a piece of music which had already been composed, then most people would say that they could do all of those activities.

What's the difference?

I suppose it must be self-confidence. Since smartphones became ubiquitous, most people would consider themselves to be professional photographers, curating their Instagram pages full of their 'art'. What happened, to change photography from an art into something which the masses think they're brilliant at, and would have no problem answering "yes" if they were asked if they can take photographs. It seems to me, that having taken away the complexities of shutter speed, aperture, film speed, lux levels, considerations about depth-of-field and whether the subject is moving... now that photography is point-and-shoot, everyone thinks that they're brilliant at it.

Why not painting?

I suppose we take photographs all the time. If you have children and/or pets, your phone will be filled with photos of your progeny and/or your fur babies. If you are a youth, your phone will be full of selfies and suchlike. We are, perhaps because of the social changes which have occurred due to technology, getting a lot of practice taking photos, but we are still getting almost no practice painting, unless you are a professional fine artist.

Why not writing?

I find it unusual that, given how much screen time we all have now, writing isn't going in the same direction as photography. For sure, I suppose that people have a Twitter account, but not a blog. People have a blog, but don't write for a newspaper or magazine. People write for a website - like Buzzfeed - but don't have any published books. Perhaps everyone is writing more, which - like photography - makes it seem like people are still rubbish at it; amateur (myself included, of course).

An interesting thing happens when you make a piece of art and put it into the public domain: people who lack the confidence to be creative, connect with that artwork; they are moved by the artwork. If you love a particular song, why don't you learn to play the instruments so that you can make more of that music? It seems a little mad, to think that we each possess the ability to scratch our own itch, but perhaps it isn't true: maybe the world really does divide into creators and consumers.

I wonder why I don't include more quotations and references in my work. It's not because I'm not well read, or I can't think of where my thoughts and ideas came from: I know my source material, almost without exception. However, while my influences are well known to me, I don't see any value in parroting the authors whose work I admire. For sure, I could write a lot about other people's ideas, but it's the amalgamation of the accumulated wealth of knowledge in my mind, which is interesting. I'm not here to masturbate the dicks of the academics who had the good fortune to be afforded the time and space to formulate their own ideas, and publish. No, I already paid for their books; they already got my money. I took the best bits - cherry picked - and used that knowledge to build my own worldview.

I think to attempt to be original is foolish; a childish mistake. When we are young and immature, we choose unusual hairstyles and wear atypical clothes, in an attempt to achieve originality. Of course, there's nothing original about red trousers or a leather skirt studded with metal spikes: those superficial and pathetic attempts at originality are, in fact, the very opposite; the classic clichéd attempts of immature insecure people, to appear original.

I often worry that perhaps I'm trying too hard to be original, making the same immature insecure attempts to deliberately avoid the typical; the common; the ordinary.

I hope that what I'm achieving, is a kind of beautiful simplicity. The authors who I admire the most are the ones who have mastered the English language to such a great extent, that they don't feel the need - driven by insecurity and pomposity - to pepper their prose with long and obscure words. As [George] Orwell wrote: Never use a long word where a short one will do. I know it's a fucking cliché to quote Orwell, which is why I'm fucking doing it: because to deliberately avoid quoting him, in a desperate attempt to appear like more of an original thinker, ironically achieves the opposite.

Of course, there's always a danger whenever we start thinking "I know enough now" and that we can stop reading; stop looking around for influential figures. My worldview is, however, difficult to substantially influence now that I'm older. My mind isn't closed, but don't expect me to suddenly U-turn on some views which are quite integral to my personality and identity, such as being a socialist; a scientist. Don't expect me to suddenly find God, or start writing about how poor people are lazy and we should kill them (or at least let them die; same difference).

To write about writing is a self-indulgence which I too frequently embark upon. Apologies.

 

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I'm Not Sure This is a Good Idea

4 min read

This is a story about hindsight...

Disguise

Imagine this: you've spent your whole life dreaming of becoming a published author, with a fucktonne of readers; perhaps being a bestselling author. Then, one day, you hit the jackpot: your books are flying off the shelves; you have a ton of readers around the world. Thousands of people read your writing every day. Millions read what you wrote every year. Are you happy? Are you content?

What was your objective?

Did you want to get paid for doing something you love? Did you want to convert your love of writing into a profession? Did you want approval; did you need for a publisher to tell you that what you wrote was good, before you'd believe it for yourself? Did you want fame and adulation? Did you need for the general public - en masse - to recognise your brilliance, by luxuriating in the delicious prose which decorates the pages of your books? You've got it now. Are you happy?

Then.

Suddenly you feel very exposed. Your psyche is exposed for all to see. Was it really worth it? With all the money in the world - the best paid author in the business - was it worth the effort, and the sacrifice? Was it worth it to be out there in the world, for everyone to judge?

Now the academics will pore over your words, gaining so-called "insight" into things which never existed; imagining that there is more deep meaning in your writing than ever existed; creating layer-upon-layer of intellectual mastubatory wankstain bullshit, if you're so lucky as to be considered a literary figure of great importance.

You must remain enigmatic. Never explain yourself. Culture your eccentricities: this is your life now. You are creating a myth; a legend. You have to maintain a certain image, if you want to achieve a cult following, and to be somewhat immortalised, insofar as making your way onto the undergrad reading list of an English degree at a substandard academic institution; well-thumbed copies of your book being kept on the shelves of every pretentious student in the land.

Still, is it worth it? Is this what you wanted?

Still, you have to ask yourself, why did you embark upon this fool's errand? Why did you start writing in the first place? What was the point? When will you be satisfied? When will you say that enough is enough?

Then.

There's a backlash. People hate you now. The mood of the country has turned against you. Your so-called 'overnight' success (which took decades to achieve) which inflated your ego to the point that you thought you would be welcome in the national dialogue - the daily discourse - was grossly miscalculated. People fucking hate you. You're the cunt who wrote those bestselling books, and in the popular imagination you're another elitist wealthy shitbag, disconnected from the plight of ordinary people no matter how humble your origins were.

Why did you do this?

Sure, you're rich now; you're a household name. Your face is recognisable. You can court a little controversy and fill the tabloid headlines, easily. Is that what you wanted? Was that your aim, all along?

Ultimately, aren't you infamous? Aren't you known for all the wrong reasons? If there was ever a smidgin of integrity which lurked at the centre of you, isn't that now long lost? You're just an attention seeking publicity whore. You're just a disgrace. You're not an artist. You're not a creator. You're just part of the newspaper-selling, avertising-sellling, merchandise-selling, capitalist machine. You couldn't be more distant from your original "I like writing" origins, even if you tried your hardest.

How did it end up like this?

 

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