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I'm a writer. I write about life with bipolar disorder - also known as manic depression - so my eponymous alter ego is MaNic Grant.

I've written more than 1 million words: it's the world's longest suicide note.

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

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Clickfarm

5 min read

This is a story about modern slavery...

Computer monitors

A friend and I had been puzzling over how to stop a massive influx of spam comments from spreading all over my beloved blog. The fact that it's possible to leave a link back to your own blog - if you have one - is too much of a temptation for those who are trying to get websites to appear higher up the Google search rankings. I have done the hard work of writing more than 1.2 million words, which have been indexed by Google, and lazy individuals are attempting to profit from my labour, by associating their crappy websites with mine: so-called 'backlinks'.

Having a link from a reputable website to another website is seen as an endorsement, in Google's eyes. High-ranking websites confer some of their pagerank 'score' to other sites which they link to. It's an SEO trick that's been around almost as long as Google - trying to get links onto other people's websites... especially high-ranking ones.

Google has now punished me harshly for not staying on top of my spam comment problem and has removed me from many searches. If, for example, you were to search for my name - Nick Grant - you would have found me on page 2 or 3 of the search results, but now I've disappeared completely. As far as Google's algorithm's are concerned, this website is a contrived creation, created purely to help people promote their dodgy websites. I'm not even going to write about what the kinds of grim and immoral services these sites are offering, because to use those words would further hurt Google's algorithmic perception of me and my website.

I had presumed that it was bots leaving the comments, so a friend helped me to introduce a couple of mechanisms to stop automated comments from being left. Surprisingly, the comments kept coming - there are real people whose job it is to sit at a screen and click those annoying ReCaptcha things, and then copy-paste in links to websites along with some nonsense made up text that's supposed to look like a genuine comment.

I'm not even going to share the kinds of comments that these clickfarm people leave, because it would again detract from the 1.2 million words that I have painstakingly written in clear plain English, with good grammar and highly considered sentence construction. I have taken the time to structure my writing into concise sentences and paragraphs, and express myself with great clarity, while there are an army of people leaving comments which are almost but not-quite nonsensical.

Google's natural language analysis is able to tell that what I write is genuine human-generated content, but it's also fooled by stuff written by people whose job it is to write generic comments for the purposes of search engine optimisation (SEO). The volume of text that Google scrapes from the web and indexes includes vast swathes of nonsense from social media, where literacy standards are woeful, but the majority of content on the internet is at least user-generated. It's hard for a search engine like Google to punish the spammers and the scammers, while also making sure that an ordinary member of the public who builds, maintains and publishes to their own 'home-brew' website, is not caught in the same net.

The same friend who has been helping me with my spam comment problem was also associated with a popular forum which had millions of visitors, at one point in time, until the site was completely over-run by bots. It's hard to battle bots and suchlike, when you're just a tech enthusiast who's making their small contribution to the body of internet text, and you don't have heaps of spare time to innovate and stay one step ahead of the spammers.

For me to comb through all the comments that have been left on my blog and delete the spam ones would be something which would either be a time-consuming manual task, or a time-consuming and technically difficult job to automate. Obviously, automating the task seems like the smart choice, so that the job of deleting all the spam is easily repeatable, but it would be work that's very similar to my day job - the whole point of writing for pleasure is because I have no opportunity to do so in the office. Doing "office work" in my spare time seems like an unfair burden, given that all I want to do is write and publish my thoughts, for the benefit of genuine readers - why should spammers benefit from my efforts?

Ultimately, the spammers might sink my website, just as spam Twitter accounts almost sank my social media presence. I can't help it if I don't have the resources to painstaking delete, ban, block and otherwise defend myself against those who are making money off the back of my effort, energy and generous contribution.

I do feel a little sorry for the poor people whose job it is to click on fire hydrants and traffic lights, and paste gibberish into comment sections of a website. In fact, I feel very sorry for them. That's a terrible job to have.

Anyway, any website link you leave now will not link anywhere except back here, so I'm sorry spammers: you're wasting your time. Leave me alone. Not that you read my blog anyway.

 

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New Website

3 min read

This is a story about dusting off the keyboard...

Dusty keyboard

If you are reading this then something fairly major has been achieved - I've managed to migrate 1.1 million words and 10,000 photographs from one one part of the internet to another. For anybody who uses Wordpress or Blogger dot com or some other type thingy, you might not find that very impressive, because your website is hosted by some mega-corporation and all the technical complexity is hidden away from you, but my website uses a piece of software written by some old school-friends - it's a startup - and it's now hosted by little old me, typing undecipherable commands in green text on a black screen, in scenes reminiscent of The Matrix.

I made a commitment about 4 years ago to use my friend's new startup as my home on the internet, and it still my home to this day: his startup powers my website, but it's now me who's responsible for "keeping the lights on". My friend kindly used his time and money to keep me running, but I always felt guilty about it, especially as my site has grown and grown in size.

"The cloud" is a bit of nebulous concept. Basically "the cloud" just means "other people's computers". My website is hosted in "the cloud" which means that if the power fails at my house, or somebody breaks in and steals all my computers, then my website doesn't go offline - security and uninterrupted power are somebody else's problem.

Your eyes are probably well and truly glazed over by this point, but it's a big deal - I did some stuff which I usually get paid to do, which I'd really rather not have been doing in my spare time, unpaid, and now I have the ongoing responsibility of maintaining my own little bit of "the cloud".

There's a great fear that I might have lost something precious during my migration from my friend's hosting to my own hosting. It certainly wasn't a straightforward procedure. Everything appears to be working OK, but given that it's just me myself and I, it's hard for me to do much testing - I'm relying on regular readers to report anything that's not working.

You might notice that my site is now "secure" - complete with a little padlock up in the browser bar. All this means is that if ever you were commenting on one of my blog posts, the data that's being sent would be encrypted, which is useless given that your comments would appear publicly anyway, but people like to see "secure" sites, even if they don't store any personal data. It feels a bit more professional that I've properly "secured" my site with encryption.

So, this is the new old. Everything should look pretty much identical. If it's 100% identical, then I've done a great job and I'm really happy.

It's a strange thing, to have done lots of work "under the hood" but nothing that anybody can really see, but that's what I've done for a living for the past couple of decades, so I shan't bore you with the details... although I already have.

Bear with me if there are any teething problems and do drop me a line if you spot anything not working - I'd be really grateful, because you readers are my beta testers.

If you're reading this, then great!

 

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Nick Grant

6 min read

This is a story about secret identities and alter egos...

Nick Grant's glasses

I'm Nick Grant and these are my glasses, which are my cunning and infallible disguise to protect my real identity. It would be a disaster if anybody found out my real name - Nick Grant - because this blog is pretty unflinchingly honest and contains a lot of very unflattering things about me. I'm pretty damn exposed, hence why I wear my disguise.

Today I'm celebrating 3 years of blogging. I've been writing every day for 3 whole years, with only a few gaps due to sickness and near-catastrophic events in my personal life, which have threatened to see me bankrupt, evicted, homeless, penniless and destitute. To have kept writing regularly throughout all the ups and downs of the past 3 years is a huge achievement.

To date, I've written and published 1,013,091 words in that 3-year period.

The last 36 months could be summarised thus:

  • September 2015: working for HSBC, living in a hotel, dating a BBC journalist. Rent an apartment on the River Thames.
  • October 2015: working for HSBC. Suicidally depressed. Hospitalised. Fly to San Francisco.
  • November 2015: fly back to the UK and deliberately get sacked from HSBC. Dating a PA to one of the directors of a major investment bank. Meet my guardian angel.
  • December 2015: protesting against bombing Syria. Sober for 100 consecutive days. Relapse back into abuse of legal stimulants and benzodiazepines.
  • January 2016: self harm and drug abuse. Start drinking again. Destroy my bed.
  • February 2016: abuse of sleeping pills and tranquillisers
  • March 2016: poly-drug abuse, combining legal highs and medications
  • April 2016: holiday to Southend with my guardian angel. Start dating again
  • May 2016: working for undisclosed major multinational organisation, with 660,000 employees worldwide. Replace destroyed bed.
  • June 2016: working. Suicidal. Bored.
  • July 2016: holiday to Fuerteventura for my birthday with my guardian angel.
  • August 2016: working. Suicidal. Bored.
  • September 2016: project cancelled. Meet love of my life. Minor relapse. Lies. Antidepressants and tranquillisers.
  • October 2016: in love. Mini-break to the New Forest. Weaning myself off tranquillisers.
  • November 2016: in love. Drinking a lot. Writing my first novel.
  • December 2016. in love. Christmas with her family. Eating and drinking a lot.
  • January 2017: DVT and kidney failure. Hospital and dialysis. Working for Lloyds Banking Group. Neuropathic pain from nerve damage. Taking tramadol, codeine, dihydrocodeine and pregabalin for the pain. Abusing large amounts of Valium and Xanax. Lose contract
  • February 2017: fully-blown supercrack relapse. Completely addicted to prescription opiates.
  • March 2017: supercrack. Abusing sleeping pills and tranquillisers. Quitting prescription opiate painkillers. Drinking. Still in love.
  • April 2017: supercrack. Still in love.
  • May 2017: attempting to quit supercrack by staying at girlfriend's and taking dextroamphetamine. Not succeeding
  • June 2017: drug and insomnia-induced mania, paranoia and general insanity. Break up with love of my life. Regret
  • July 2017: run out of money. Get a job in Manchester. Put all my stuff into storage. Leave London. Fling with girl from work.
  • August 2017: working for a startup in Manchester. Dating a different girl. Still physically addicted to painkillers, tranquillisers and sleeping pills.
  • September 2017: breakup. Suicide attempt. Hospitalised. Sectioned. Locked up on psych ward.
  • October 2017: move to Wales.
  • November 2017: writing my second novel.
  • December 2017: working for undisclosed bank in Warsaw and London.
  • January 2018: working for same undisclosed bank in London. Dating a Welsh girl
  • February 2018: bank. London. Girl.
  • March 2018: working for undisclosed government organisation. Rent an apartment in Wales.
  • April 2018: successfully quit all drugs and medications. Job, girlfriend and apartment all in Wales and very close.
  • May 2018: relapse. Breakup.
  • June 2018: government project finished. Mini-break to Faro, Portugal to see old friend.
  • July 2018: working for another undisclosed government organisation. Living in a hotel.
  • August 2018: government. Hotel. Single. Depressed.
  • September 2018: still working for same government organisation. Dating again.

By my calculations, 27 out of 36 months have been relatively OK, but 9 months in the past 3 years I've been a complete and utter train-wreck. The damage that's been done in that quarter of the year where I've been struggling with addiction, has been enough to completely screw up my life the rest of the time, but not quite bad enough to lead to me becoming unemployable, bankrupt and homeless - I always find a way to bounce back.

Somehow I've managed to fit 5 serious girlfriends and 5 major IT projects into the madness of my day-to-day existence, as well as 3 hospitalisations for major medical emergencies, being sectioned, two psych wards, an arrest, two evictions, moving 5 times, 6 cities, 5 countries, 13 powerful prescription medications, 5 street drugs, 121 consecutive days sober, 56 consecutive days sober, 799 blog posts, 1 million words, 14 thousand Twitter followers and a couple of hundred thousand pounds... and all I've got to show for it is this poxy blog.

The story of Nick Grant and his ups and downs might be a bit repetitive, but I'm sure it's not boring. I would argue that it's pretty remarkable that I'm still alive and kicking, and able to string a sentence together. It's remarkable that I'm reasonably mentally stable and I'm working full time on quite an important project. It's remarkable that my colleagues don't suspect a thing. It's remarkable that I haven't made myself unemployable or otherwise ended up excluded from mainstream society. It's remarkable that I'm unmedicated and yet quite functional and productive.

Along the way, I managed to lose my original pair of glasses, but I had a new identical pair delivered today, which I'm wearing now. I had no idea when my replacement glasses would be delivered, because they were being hand made to order, so I find it deliciously wonderful that they were delivered on the day I'm celebrating the 3-year anniversary of starting this blog.

When I think back to my very first blog post 3 years ago - Platform 9.75 - it's amazing to reflect on the journey I've been on and marvel at how effectively my daily writing habit has functioned as a stabilising influence. I very much doubt I'd have been able to recover and continue my journey without the huge amount of help and support it's brought me. I feel really proud of what I've achieved, which gives me some all-important self-esteem in the times when I need it most. I'm sure I'd have killed myself long ago if it wasn't for the people who've engaged with me and what I write, and encouraged me to keep going. I feel loved and cared for even during some very dark and dismal days.

Obviously what I've written is not particularly palatable or compatible with dating and my professional life, but they'll never be able to find me - Nick Grant - because I've been so careful to disguise my identity and make sure that nobody could just Google me and find out all my closely guarded secrets. Nobody will ever be able to make the connection.

My next objective is to get through September 9th - the anniversary of my most serious suicide attempt - without incident. I plan on phoning a couple of the people who managed to get the emergency services to rescue me in the nick of time, to thank them for saving my life.

 

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9,500 Words To Go

11 min read

This is a story about summit fever...

Hawaiian mountain

I'm writing an average of 1,900 words per day at the moment, which rather pleasingly works out to be exactly 5 days to reach my 1-million word target on August 25th. I'll be finished about 12 days ahead of schedule.

The finishing is important. So many projects get started but never finished. There are so many abandoned blogs where the author just got bored after the initial excitement. There are so many uncompleted novel manuscripts. If you never finish, you'll never publish. Publish or perish.

If you're a bird, there's no point only having one wing, or tiny little wings. Even bad wings are better than wings which don't allow you to fly at all. At least if you've got something that's a bit rough, you can improve on it.

Creating software forces you to finish stuff. Your software won't work at all unless there's a beginning, a middle and an end. An unfinished manuscript can fool you into thinking that it's going to be perfect, but it'll never be perfect unless you write all the way to the end. Striving for perfection can stop you ever completing a project. Done is better than perfect.

I thought it would be funny to write more words than there are in the Bible. The King James Bible has 783,000 words in it and it's not exactly a page-turner, so I don't feel like what I've written is complete crap, because my creation is organised into lots of little sections. Somewhere buried in the 990,500 words I've published during the last 3 years, there's some good stuff. Sure, there's a lot of repetition and rubbish, but that's what you'd expect from a single author churning stuff out at high-speed. Producing a large volume and having the discipline to write every day is an OK place to start if you're an aspiring author - the blank page and the daunting prospect of completing an entire work of literature is otherwise too daunting if you've never successfully managed to finish anything more than crappy poems and short stories.

"Why do people climb mountains?" is a question oft-responded with "because they're there" but that's not everything you need to know about climbing mountains. One reason to climb them is because it's amazing that simply putting one foot in front of the other, slowly, slowly inching your way up the steep incline, eventually leads to the summit. Reaching a mountain summit is an incredible experience of achievement and wonder that a comparatively tiny human could get to the top of such towering peaks. From the summit of a mountain, you can look down at the path you took to get up there and marvel at how far and how high you've travelled.

One reason to keep a journal is because of the pleasure of seeing all the pages full of your handwriting, and building up your collection of journals over the years. The more completed diaries and journals you amass, the greater the sense of achievement. There's a great deal of pride about having created someting - made your mark - when you see that stack of bound pages.

The blog is the modern equivalent of the journal, except of course that it's usually public from the start. The huge advantage of writing on a computer is that your creative output has already been digitised - nobody's going to have to type it up. I imagine that many journal-writers dream of one day turning their journals into a memoir or otherwise doing something with the vast amount of words they've produced, but they never will because of the enormity of the task. Nobody's going to sit down and struggle with your handwriting unless you become very very famous, and even then it'll probably only be some poor archivist who has to catalogue your stuff before it's stored and never looked at again. At least a public blog is a living document that's available for anybody to stumble upon and dip into. Blogs are Google'able and sometimes a blog can be the top hit when doing a Google search.

During my 3-year writing project I've averaged 900 words per day, but I've been writing more than twice that amount during the last 20 days. I've seen the finish line and I'm sprinting towards it. I've got summit fever and I'm desperate to reach the top of the mountain after over 1,000 days slogging away.

I've tackled my goal with a siege mentality. I've avoided being drawn into discussion. I've avoided approval seeking. I've tried not to worry too much about quality and to get too fussy. To say that I'll do some editing later is ludicrous. Most of what I've written is fairly throwaway, but that doesn't mean it's been easy. It shouldn't be underestimated, the difficulty of one single author writing and publishing 1-million words, which need to be at least of the minimum quality deemed acceptable for public consumption. If I was writing total garbage, that wouldn't be anything to be proud of. There'd be no sense of achievement if I'd written total crap.

Somewhere - around the middle - of my 3-year odyssey, I wrote a novel which I think is reasonably good. That novel is 54,000 words long. I should probably subtract those 54,000 words from the cumulative total, because I plan to remove the draft manuscript from this blog at some point. I wrote 42,000 of a second novel, which I could finish at some point but I'm not pleased with a lot of what I wrote, so I might just bin it and start again.

I've deleted A LOT of blog posts. When I first started I wanted to write really good stuff, so I would delete thousands of words which were a bit rambling and meandering. When I started to get unwell I wrote vast amounts with manic intensity. When I was feeling threatened and insecure I wrote a huge number of things driven by those unhappy feelings. When I got angry, frustrated and upset with people, I wrote passive-aggressive attacks. Some of the regrettable stuff I've written has been deleted, and some of it I've preserved because the whole point of my project was to capture every bit of the entire spectrum of mood swings, mental health problems, addiction problems, relationship problems, work problems, money problems, housing problems and every other thing that's been going on in my chaotic life. I decided to write my stream-of-consciousness with candid honesty and emotional rawness, and not particularly worry about whether I was making a fool of myself.

I was wondering whether to pop a champagne cork to celebrate the achievement of reaching 1-million words, or whether that's a little ridiculous considering how much of a rough diamond my artwork is. There's so much I could be upset about - that my blog contains things which are very unflattering; that there are many tens of thousands of words which were written when I was seriously unwell, and barely able to string a sentence together. I could get quite depressed about how far from perfection my creation is - it's not as if I've managed to produce 20 high-quality fully edited and fully proofread novels which are ready for publication; I've produced just ONE novel that I'm happy with in the whole 3 years, and it needs a good edit.

Thinking about how unwell I've been and some pretty catastrophic things which have happened, it's remarkable that I have managed to write 900 words. Every. Single. Day.

If you dip into what I've written at random, it's surprising how much of it reads OK. I find it very hard to read, because I'm reminded of the difficulties I was going through at the time. My life isn't perfect, but it's certainly a lot better than it has been during awful periods over the last 3 years. I cringe with embarrassment that I continued to write without a filter when I was extremely unwell, which of course exposes me and makes me vulnerable - it's plain for all to see that I was suffering from very strange thoughts and ideas; my sickness is quite apparent and I'm a little appalled that it was me who wrote some of the things I've written. I could have hidden the bad side of myself. I could have attempted to continue to pretend like everything was fine and present a fake image, but I'm glad I've been consistent in the way I write. I think people need to see what's really going on beneath the surface. People have been sympathetic and kind.

Making myself so vulnerable by documenting all my struggles was a huge gamble. It's hard to know what would have happened if I didn't, but I feel like writing every day has given me structure and purpose. I feel like having this project and this goal has given me something I can work on even when I've been unable to work. Being able to produce and create is important for self esteem and a sense of achievement. I think I'd be much more depressed if I didn't have this huge volume of work I've produced, as a testament to my own industriousness and ingenuity. Perhaps it's not an original idea, and perhaps it's not a great contribution to the vast mountain of words which are published every day, but it shouldn't be underestimated. That I've done it through the highs and lows of a very challenging 3 years of life is a huge achievement.

It's unlikely that my vast repository of words could ever directly be turned into a useful resource for people who are struggling with mental health problems, addiction, and general difficulties with debts and suchlike, but the process of writing so much has creating a writing habit and given me a written voice which flows very easily from my brain onto the page. If I take some time to rest and recuperate, I imagine that I will be able to use my toned writing muscles and stamina to be able to produce whatever I want with relative ease; certainly a lot easier than it would be if I hadn't had so much practice.

Perhaps I've gotten into bad habits. Perhaps I should've gone on a creative writing course. Perhaps I should've produced vast quantities of bad poetry and short stories to cut my teeth. Certainly, my two attempts at novel writing have taught me that I'm a bit of a one-trick pony. Perhaps you think it's easy to write about your thoughts and opinions and express them clearly. If you read my stuff and you think what I do is easy, then I'm really pleased, because I set out from the beginning to develop a writing style that would appear effortless. I've attempted to write using simplified language, which was a style I had to learn. It's easy to write dense impenetrable text which is off-putting to the reader, but appears as if the author is very intelligent and the writing was very difficult. To make things look effortless is a sign that a person is mastering their art. Of course, I'm aware that I could also just look like a pretentious idiot, spouting complete rubbish.

Well, I'm getting close to my daily word count target. I really didn't want to do diary-style daily journal entries and just write until some arbitrary point where I decided to stop. The bulk of what I've written are little bite-size self-contained nuggets. The bulk of what I've written is coherent, at least on a given day for a given title and topic. These past 20 days I've just pounded out as many words as I can, because I'm so desperate to reach 1-million words.

I'm sorry, dear reader, that I'll have spent the best part of 3 weeks bombarding you with 46,000 words which were written with the sole objective of reaching my goal as quickly as possible. If you've stuck with me this far, that's super kind and awesome of you, and I hope to reward you with some more well-considered and higher quality efforts, which I'll be aiming to keep below 700 words per day, as opposed to my 2,000+ word rambling meandering waffle.

Can't wait for this final phase to be over.

 

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