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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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nick@manicgrant.com

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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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Useful Idiot

5 min read

This is a story about technocrats...

Desk

I wish I could tell you more about my day job, but I can't. I can't even tell you who my main client is, or generally what the project is that I'm working on. I mean, technically I could tell you the organisation and project, but then anybody searching for my name and that project or organisation would be brought right here, immediately, which wouldn't be helpful. I can't tell you any detail about my day, because it would probably breach code of conduct, and possibly some laws too, depending on what I told you.

Anyway.

I hate when people try to be super mysterious, and generally allude to the fact that what they do for a living is exciting; like they're James fucking Bond, or something. No, it's much more boring than that, as this quote that I love explains very well:

“I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of "Admin." The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid "dens of crime" that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern." -- C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

What I'm working on for the majority of my working week, is benign, most people would agree. A colleague reads my blog, openly, not secretly, and they said that they agree with me: the project, and indeed the work of the organisation is benign in their opinion too. It's hard to see how what we're doing is not benign, but we should explore the topic with a little more of an open mind.

Something which you might pay little heed to, but will be well aware of if you've ever been unwell, is that there is a vast mountain of administrative headache, which has to be ploughed through, simply for the privilege of being alive. Even though all my bills are paid via direct debit from my bank account, or auto-renewal straight from my debit card, or some other way of money disappearing constantly from my pocket, still that's not enough. The council will write to me demanding that I tell them who lives in my house, even though I already told them. The car insurance company demanding to see proof that I've never claimed on my policy, even though it is them who administers the policy. Somebody, somewhere, at all times, is expecting me to do something for them, on pain of fine, prosecution... prison even.

The United Kingdom is ostensibly a very difficult place to live, unmolested. If you were hoping to live here, simply paying your rent/mortgage and bills, and expecting that would be enough, you are very wrong: an endless stream of bureaucratic obligations will bombard you, every single day. There are reams of forms which need to be filled in in triplicate; numerous permits, licenses, notices and interminable obligations, which are met with extremely harsh penalties if these constant intrusions into your life are not dealt with immediately.

Each organisation which contacts you thinks that its demands are not onerous, which is true. Taken individually, each task is not particularly difficult or time-consuming. However, when all these small tasks are added together, the demand is huge: I really don't give a shit whether I'm doing my tax return or revising the electoral roll... both tasks are equally irksome; equally intruding into my time, effort and energy. For highly functional people, they perhaps don't notice this burden, but those who are sick - speaking from personal experience - will find it overwhelming, to the point of driving a person to suicide.

While it might seem ridiculous - improbable - that these 'easy' jobs might tip somebody over the edge, to the point that they'd end their own life, if you consider the harsh penalties which are attached to all of these things, they can all threaten to ruin your life. An unpaid parking ticket can lead to £15,000 of court costs and other expenses, which would bankrupt most people. Other minor administrative oversights, like failing to tell the council that your flatmate moved out, could lead to thousands of pounds of fines, and perhaps even a criminal conviction. Cumulatively, I'm sure that you could end up with a very big police criminal record, and be bankrupted many times, simply because you weren't able to open your mail for a few months, because you were sick.

The letters keep dropping on your doormat, and every single one is demanding money with menaces. Every single one of those letters is threatening to lock you up, take away your home, take away your livelihood, take away your children, take away your pets, take away your transport; threatening to bankrupt you, and wreck your chance of ever having a home ever again; having a job ever again. It's a pretty shitty state of affairs, that we can do that to people, who just want/need to be left alone.

 

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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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Nick, What's the Best Way to Kill Myself?

6 min read

This is a story about email...

Inbox

When I wake up in the morning, I'm greeted by an inbox full of emails from people asking what the best way to commit suicide is. This shouldn't come as a surprise, given the thousands of readers I have every day, reading stuff I wrote about suicide methods. However, I thought I made it pretty clear in what I wrote that, deliberately, I wasn't providing any step-by-step instructions, or otherwise endorsing, encouraging, enabling or recommending suicide at all.

I think, at the root of this, we are looking for figures in authority, to make the difficult decisions for us.

It's completely insane to me, that a person in reasonably good physical health, would consider physician-assisted suicide. Why bother? It's really not hard to kill yourself. I think that we -mostly- live in a safe world, with a nanny state attempting to 'protect' us from everything. We scurry to the doctor, asking the dumbest most common-sense questions, because we feel reassured that a person of high social status - a demi-god - is dispensing blatantly obvious advice from a 'magic' building, while wearing a 'magic' white coat, and with a 'magic' stethoscope draped around their neck. It's bullshit; it's a sham - your doctor is no more qualified to guide you out of this world than a stranger you met in the street: at some point, everyone is on their own.

I understand perfectly, that we are socially and psychologically conditioned to respond to authority figures. The Milgram experiments have chillingly shown that most of us will administer lethal electric shocks to a person, who is screaming in agony, if we are told to do so by a person wearing a white lab coat, with a clipboard, who officiously tells us that we should kill one of our fellow human beings. Of course, we retain plausible deniability in that we can always say "I was just following orders" just like the Nazis in the concentration camps, who killed millions of Jews.

In a way, perhaps it's a good thing that people reach out to me, hoping that I will give my rubber-stamp of approval for their suicide, which I obviously do not give: I'm not in the business of dishing out those kinds of instructions. If you want to kill yourself, I'm not going to stop you. If you come to me, telling me that you're suicidal, then I'm not going to talk you out of it. I promise. However, I'm also not going to be the person who tells you to do it, or otherwise encourages, endorses, enables or in any way says that suicides are OK. Suicides are inevitable. Suicides are necessary. However, I have made it absolutely crystal clear in everything I've ever written: I don't want any suicides. Zero suicides. No Suicides. I can't make it any clearer than that.

If we want to talk about euthanasia, that's a whole different conversation. For sure, I'm pro-euthanasia. For people who literally can't end their lives with dignity, because their medical condition(s) have robbed them of the physical ability to end their own lives, for sure I am in favour of physician-assisted suicide.

What the fuck do you want from me? Surely you're not so stupid as to know that there are an almost infinite number of ways to kill yourself? You don't need me to tell you what the 'best' way is; to make a recommendation. I already provided ample information on all the methods. OF COURSE I am not going to give you a step-by-step guide: it's your death, so it's your responsibility.

Although it breaks my heart that so many people contact me in crisis, on the verge of committing suicide, it's a good thing that they are looking for my recommendation, approval and very basic instructions on how to end their lives. It's a good thing, because it means that the trivial obstacles are enough to keep them in the land of the living.

Of course, I do not wish to prolong another human being's suffering for a single second longer than absolutely necessary. Absolutely, if I possessed the means to wave my magic wand and take away anybody's suffering, I absolutely would do that. Me telling people - step-by-step - the exact way that they should kill themselves, in a way that shifts personal responsibility onto myself, is not responsible, right, useful, ethical, or otherwise conscionable. If you want to kill yourself, you'll find a way. If you NEED to kill yourself, you'll find a way. There's a whole internet of information out there, for those who are properly motivated.

I hope nobody sees what I've written as a challenge. I hope nobody sees what I've written as calling anybody's bluff. I believe, absolutely, that everyone who contacts me professing a desperate suicidal crisis and the imminent end of their life, is telling the truth; they are to be wholeheartedly believed. Their situations are desperately sad, and my heart bleeds. However, I am not operating a euthanasia clinic. I am not qualified to judge people's lives as hopeless, and dispense the means to end lives. Only YOU are qualified to judge whether your life is bearable - liveable - or not, and to then take the necessary steps as appropriate. If you wail that you do not know what those steps are, then I'm afraid that your fate is sealed: your desire to remain alive is stronger than your desire to pursue one of the infinite avenues open to you, to end your life.

I'm absolutely not asking you to stop writing. Please continue to write. However, I'm setting your expectations quite clearly: I will not, ever, tell you the "best" method of suicide, nor will I do anything to enable your suicide, nor endorse it, nor approve it, nor in any way get involved in your life-and-death decision, other than to say that I empathise very strongly with your plight - your crisis - and I'm very sad that things reached such a desperate situation. I will listen. I will understand, as much as possible. However, I won't try to talk you out of it. Think about all of this, if you get in contact: I'm totally not going to say you shouldn't do it, but I'm totally not going to say that you should either, or tell you how you should do it. That's your business, not mine.

 

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Infamy

3 min read

This is a story about wanting to be noticed...

Why I write

This is not a pity party, and everyone has an equally valid claim to misery and depression, but it's important - to me - that I relate this part of the most influential period of my life.

At home, I could do nothing right, and was largely ignored other than as an ornament; a clothes horse; a performing animal, let out of its cage to delight the adults, as a party trick, and otherwise told to be quiet and keep out of the way.This, I think, is not unusual, but was greatly exacerbated my lack of a sibling until the age of 10, and my parents' extreme anti-social behaviour, which left me isolated in the extreme: often in very remote rural areas; far from friends and schoolmates.

At school, I could not avoid attention of the wrong kind. My parents' obsession with training me as their performing animal, for their party tricks, meant that I was either alone, or doing my routine for adults. I had no relationships with children, before school. If you want to fuck up your children and ruin their lives, it's quite easy: do everything in your power to make them different so that they don't fit in; deprive them of every opportunity to socialise; force them to act like little adults, instead of allowing them to be children - that will guarantee that they won't fit in at all at school, and they will be bullied from dawn to dusk, every. single. fucking. day.

Good manners and confidence in the company of adults did, briefly, confer an advantage in the workplace. This supposed 'maturity' was useful for making a good first impression. Employers certainly mistook me for a person who was mature beyond their years, but this was entirely superficial: a party trick learned, because it was the only way I was able to receive praise as a child - from the small amount of adult company my parents kept; those rare occasions when I was trotted out and expected to perform. However, I had no maturity at all - the social isolation, the neglect and the deprivation, was masked and hidden behind impeccable manners and precise diction; expansive vocabulary, learned from books.

As life has worn on, my age relative to my peers has become less obvious, less remarkable. Instead, those deep wounds inflicted in childhood have come to the fore. Exacerbated by extreme stress and intolerable circumstances, the socially isolated child, deprived of a social life and otherwise ill-equipped to face the world with the same skills and experience of his peers, has resurfaced. I feel as though I'm suffering the same horrors again.

In extreme circumstances, we revert to 'type'... our 'true' personality surfaces, and our mask slips.

I wonder to myself, as I write stuff which is read by thousands of people who are suffering a life-and-death crisis in their lives, whether I am flirting with infamy. Why do I not implore them to seek professional help and bombard them with crisis counselling phone numbers?

Maybe I'm evil.

[Note: I lost a few hundred words here, because of an auto-save glitch, but I can't be bothered to re-type what I wrote. I hope it still makes sense without the conclusion, as I originally wrote it]

 

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Betrayal

4 min read

This is a story about the saddest girl in the world...

Cone of shame

My beautiful, gentle, little baby girl, has suffered a dreadful betrayal. I can't tell you exactly what the first 12 weeks of her life were like. I know that she had to contend with a house full of small children, dogs and other cats, which can't have been easy. When I got her home, she explored the whole house very cautiously, as if expecting that the place would be stuffed full of creatures which would manhandle her; a tiny placid little kitten, picked up like a toy, or jostled by the over-excited play of bigger animals. I don't think she was abused but she certainly wasn't used to being her own self, unmolested.

I can tell you exactly what every single day of her life has been like since July 3rd, 2020, because we have been inseparable. I've hardly left the house. Wherever I've been - in bed, in the bathroom, in the kitchen, in my office, in my lounge - she's been right there, next to me. We've been two peas in a pod. We've been constant companions for each other.

Ragdoll cats are very placid. They are famous for going limp when you pick them up. Obviously, I've wanted to fuss and cuddle my gorgeous fur baby all the time, but I try to respect her independence too. I tried, from the very moment I got her home, to give her space to do whatever she wants to do, whenever she wants to do it: she's the queen of the castle, and she's got the run of the place; she can go wherever she wants, whenever she wants, and I try not to interfere.

Over the course of us bonding, her trust has grown. To begin with, she always quietly tolerated my desire to pick her up and stroke her. She always wanted to be nearby, but never obviously sought affection. Slowly, more and more, she will decide that she wants attention and affection, and she will stand on my chest and headbutt my head, or rub herself on me. She drapes herself across me and 'makes biscuits' - kneading me and suckling on me, in a very relaxed and kittenish way. She's clearly been very fond of her human.

Now I have betrayed her.

She's so trusting that this third visit to the vet, she didn't make much effort to hide when I got her cat carrier out. She didn't put up much of a protest about me putting her into her cat carrier. She didn't make a sound when I drove her to the vet. Apparently, she was very friendly, playful and relaxed before her operation.

Her trust has been broken.

She woke up from her operation, and she was upset with the vet's assistant, because of the betrayal. My poor little baby was trembling when I picked her up.

I had to put her 'cone of shame' on when I got her home, to stop her from licking her stitches, so that the wound heals well and doesn't get infected. She's really had a very bad day, because of me and other humans, who've betrayed her trust.

I really hope she gets over it, in time, and will trust me again. It's really sad, because I think she'd been having a really nice life up until this point, and she really thought that her human was a super nice person who she could trust.

Now she's trying to figure out how to eat with her cone on. She's got the frustration of having to wear it for weeks, and I have to be the cruel human who forces her to keep it on. I'm the cruel human who put it on her.

 

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Dumbest Guy in the Room

4 min read

This is a story about being opinionated...

Boardroom

I cannot shut up. I will not shut up. I could not shut up, even if I wanted to. Sometimes I do want to shut up, although my colleagues would probably snort with laughter at such a notion. In fact, sometimes I can force myself to shut up, a little bit, but it doesn't last very long.

The problem is, that thoughts pop into my head - relevant, useful thoughts - which then spew out of my mouth, after only a moment of hesitation to see if anybody else is going to say anything. To say that I engage my mouth before my brain is quite untrue. In fact, my brain is very thoroughly engaged, meaning that I seem to have ample time to process everything that's being said, think of something relevant and useful, to deliberately hesitate to think about who else might have something they want or need to say, and also to simply give other people a chance to make a contribution... then having completed that process, I speak.

The way that people act in large organisations is weird. Whenever there's a large meeting, like a town hall, whenever somebody asks "any questions?" there's an unwritten rule that nobody is supposed to ask any questions. I follow that rule, because otherwise I'd be hated by my colleagues. I mean, more hated than I am already for being so outspoken.

I've started to get really bored of the sound of my own voice. I very much dislike hearing myself so much. I worry a great deal about how much I talk, versus most of my other colleagues.

I'm the dumb guy in the room. I'm the guy who doesn't seem to realise that we all get paid anyway, whether I make a contribution or not; that we all get paid anyway, whether I'm paying attention or not; that we all get paid anyway... so why bother? The smart guys in the room know that it's best to zone out, switch off, not contribute, keep schtum, and just hope that it somehow makes the working day pass a little more quickly.

It doesn't.

If you go to lots and lots of interminable boring meetings, for sure you don't want to prolong them for any longer than they absolutely must do. For sure, there are good reasons for hating the desperately ambitious people, who ask questions for the sake of making an impression with the more senior members of staff in the organisation, when everybody in the room really wants to go to lunch or go home. For sure, it's idiotic to waste so many people's time, showing off to a roomful of colleagues.

But.

I'm able to get out of bed in the morning because I care about the project I'm working on. When I don't care, the depression is so bad that I can't get up; I can't face it; I can't face the boredom.

I don't know how people do it. How do people, for years and years, turn up at an office for 40+ hours a week, just to make up the numbers; just to be zoned out and not interested in making a contribution?

For sure, there's a difference in how assertive people are. For sure, I'm at the extreme end of assertive, bordering on downright aggressive: I will be heard. For sure, I must be drowning others, more hesitant than I, out of the conversation; out of the discussion.

It's a dumb move. Work is, primarily, a popularity contest. Promotions are based on how much a person is liked by their superiors, not on merit, qualifications, experience, hard work, grit, determination, attitude, or any of the other bullshit which we're told is what promotions are based on. No. Sorry. Wrong. It's all based on popularity. If you want to get promoted, you must be popular with those who are making the promotion decision. It's that simple. No exceptions.

Mercifully, I don't want to be promoted. I'm already director of my own company. I can't be promoted: I'm already the top dog; the main man; the head honcho.

Mercifully, I don't have to play the corporate game. I can just get on with my job, as a professional, which means being as productive and useful as possible, to ensure a successful project outcome.

Sure, I'd like to be popular as well, but I find it's hard to be effective, productive and be popular: the two are often mutually exclusive.

I definitely don't want to be an asshole though. That would suck.

 

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Aide-Mémoire

4 min read

This is a story about writing prompts...

Book

During a more exciting and varied, but also chaotic period of my life, I habitually made a note of writing prompts for myself. I was able to stay somewhat on top of these sparks of inspiration, and turn them into essays, but the list still grew longer and longer.

I've started writing a list of writing prompts again. Currently it has 10 items on it, which have inspired me to write 3 completed essays, which I've now published.

The other thing which inspires me to write, I must admit, is my readers. My readers write to me, which I'm very grateful for, but even those who do not are inspiring me by reading, because there's nothing worse than feeling ignored, irrelevant or otherwise non-existent. However, there's also a temptation - which I try to avoid - of writing stuff which I know will bring me more readers. What's the point of making art, if you're doing it just for popularity and notoriety - surely that isn't art at all?

The majority of my readers - thousands per day - are new readers. Perhaps [most of] my social media followers and [most] friends have tired of the repetitive nature of my writing; the repetition of my story; the lack of any dramatic change in my circumstances. There isn't much narrative in my writing, because there isn't much narrative in my life. In the adventures of employee man, one day looks very much like the next.

Of course, I am grateful that I have a semi-secure source of income - albeit only in the short term - and I have stability and routine. My health and wealth are thriving, relatively speaking, thanks to the boring repetition which is the backbone of my life.

Perhaps I'll dig some more hair-raising tales of near-death and destitution out of my memory banks, to amuse and entertain my readers, but I did promise myself that I wouldn't dwell on the past, and I would attempt to start a new chapter. I would very much like it if I had a substantial period of boring "this is what I ate for breakfast" type typical run-of-the-mill yawnfest blog vapid bullshit, to put some distance between the chaotic, traumatic and nearly fatal period of my life, and the stable, secure life which seems within touching distance; tantalisingly close.

It feels a little odd to not be in the mood to write, because of low social media engagement, given that I almost exclusively transmit - never receive - and otherwise do not engage myself in discourse; do not engage with the community; do not socialise on social media, per se. A cynical accusation that I want to take, but I never give, could be levelled at me, and I would have little defence; I admit that I don't spend a lot of time keeping up with the lives of my Twitter friends, although I am extremely grateful for their continued support, and the occasional message or cat pic.

Also, I'm a little burnt out. I've been working very hard on a demanding project, and I'm extremely emotionally invested; I've been working with maximum intensity. In addition, of course, I pour my guts out every day onto the pages of this website. Writing and publishing a halfway-decent essay every day is not trivial. Those who say I'm not generous with my time and effort, are being unnecessarily cruel and unkind, if not downright wrong.

I'm not out in the community helping little old grannies cross the road or picking up litter, but people do write to me from all around the world every day, to say that my writing has been helpful - in some way - to them. I'm not saying that what I'm doing is particularly praiseworthy, or patting myself on the back in general, but I do put a lot of effort in, and that effort is not entirely a fool's errand.

Anyway, that was today's essay. I hope you liked it. Even just a teeny tiny bit.

 

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Vanity Publishing

5 min read

This is a story about a crowded market...

Art stuff

Remind me again why only certain people are allowed to make music, literature and art. Remind me again why the rest of us are banned from releasing our creative endeavours into the world. Remind me again why the creative arts are the sole preserve of the spoiled brattish kids of rich indulgent parents.

Oh yes. That's right. The internet changed all that.

Sure, the old gatekeepers are still there. Sure, if you want to get signed to a record label, a publishing house, a gallery or some other elitist institution, and publish using their marketing machine, then you'll need to kiss their arses and play by their rules.

Sure, the new gatekeepers are now in place. If you want to have a heap of subscribers on your YouTube channel, listeners on Spotify, or readers on your website, then you'll have to play by the rules of the algorithms; you'll have to comply with the demands of those digital platforms.

But.

Previously, only the likes of a multimillionaire rock star - like Brian Eno - would be able to afford professional-grade music production equipment. Previously, only the likes of a multimillionaire famous author - like Jeffrey Archer - would have been able to self-publish a book. Previously, only a multimillionaire artist - like Damien Hirst - would have been able to get their art seen by vast numbers of people.

Now.

Now is the time of self-publishing.

Sure, it's not great being locked into a platform like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Amazon, Apple, Spotify or suchlike, in order to get your art out into the world, but it does level the playing field a little. Sure, self-promotion is hard work, and it's still impossible to give up the day job, unless you have a trust fund; the barrier to entry is still extremely high. However, in some ways, the barrier to entry is quite low.

A friend of mine has a YouTube channel, filled with 90+ minute monologues. I sometimes browse the latest videos which my friend has published, and I think "oh god, that's me, isn't it? Pumping out long insane monologues, out into the ether of the internet, where nobody really takes any notice". Not to denigrate my friend's creative output at all, but I am incredibly fearful that I'm adding nothing but noise into the world.

I offer you a quote (as I very rarely do) which I often think about:

"[George] Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. [Aldous] Huxley feared those who would give us so much [information] that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism" -- Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

I think we are living in Huxley's feared dystopia, in the context of being overwhelmed with information. The 4th industrial revolution - the information revolution - has created the most complicated man-made object: the internet. I often worry that the internet is a curse, not a blessing, given that I end up empathising with the plight of a Fijian villager whose prize pig was stolen, literally on the other side of the world. I rarely leave the house; I rarely talk to my neighbours, but every morning I wake up to an inbox full of people asking me "what's the best way to kill myself?" and "why are you not dead?". The internet is a mixed blessing.

I might look back on this period of creativity with cynicism, bitterness and a jaded outlook, which causes me to think that I was wasting my time. I might - feeling depressed and anxious - reflect that my writing wasn't very good; that I was making a fool of myself in public. The whole endeavour might seem very cringeworthy and embarrassing, with retrospect.

The internet doesn't forget, very easily. I'm somewhat etched into the fabric of the internet now. Stuff I've written is quite literally etched onto metal with lasers, and buried in the Arctic, to preserve it for posterity. Not, I might add, at my own expense. My vanity and ego are gigantic, but not quite big enough -yet- to embark on such a folly as burying some digital keepsakes beneath the frozen tundra; a monument to my own stupidity.

Of course, nobody in their right mind spends 5+ years of their life, writing and publishing 1.3 million words, which remained for the vast majority of that time, largely unread; unnoticed. I am, obviously, more unhinged than my friend with a YouTube channel: at least they didn't have to go to the effort of painstakingly constructing pleasing prose, checked for spelling and grammar, and accompanied by a hand-chosen photo which was Photoshopped to improve it, before publishing. Only a madman would go to all that effort, unpaid; unrewarded.

 

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