When It Comes Crawling

IMG_9488

 

Why does it come crawling

As the day fades into night

To push away

And sap the joy

Of moments barely past?

I’m supposed to sit and be with it

To accept and see and name

But all I really

Want to do

Is scream please go away.

I know the balance of my life

Is far outweighed with good

From all the love

And all the hope

So I can’t help but feel I should

Be able to dispel this fear

With nothing more than breath

But when it comes

And crawls again

I shrink

And cower

And cry

All of those frustrated tears

Because willing it away

Is not enough

It’s still a part

Of what makes me

And the hardest thing

I’m yet to do

Is simply let it be.

But tomorrow is another day

And bring it rain or shine

This creepy crawly

Haunting thing

Won’t stop this life of mine.

Advertisements

Dreaming Seriously

IMG_9352.JPG

For a very long time I have wanted to be a writer. Wanted to be but never thought I would actually be one because I thought that in order to be a writer I would have to get published or be paid to write in some capacity or another. And I figured neither of those things would happen for me because I assumed my writing would never be good enough. So I continued to daydream about ‘being a writer’ without really doing anything about it. I didn’t even write as much or as often as I wanted to because I couldn’t see the point. It felt self indulgent to write for myself so I continued with the odd blog post here and there, the odd scribbled poem in my notebook, and random snippets of ideas that never became anything more.

And then I had an epiphany.

I couldn’t even really tell you where it came from, or exactly when I became conscious of it. I suspect it had been building up in the back of my mind for some time. What I realised was that the only thing I needed to do in order to be a writer was to write.

I know, I know, it seems stupidly simple. Or maybe it just seems stupid, I don’t know. But I suddenly accepted that I could write just for myself and call myself a writer. That I could write without it being my job or career or providing any sort of income and call myself a writer. That it was the act of writing that would make me a writer and not anything else.

I also began to recognise that if I wanted any hope of writing becoming my career/job/source of income then I would need to get better at it, need to get into the habit of building it into my day and committing time to it. And in order to do those things I had to start writing.

Once I had this moment of enlightenment I was full of all sorts of ambitious goals for myself. I would write every single day, without fail! I would get up an hour early to write! I would write at least four blog posts a week, finish a writing a novel in a month, write and publish a poetry collection and produce some short stories! I was not especially realistic and after 3 days of trying to get up early to write and either failing completely or getting up but just being too tired to write, I also realised I was going to have to make this work for me.

I’m still working on a regular writing routine, but what I have been able to do is write far more regularly than ever before. And I’ve loved it! I’ve seen increased engagement on my blog, I’ve written over 11,000 words of the novel that’s been in my head for six years, I wrote and submitted some poetry to an independent publishing house and, in the last week, I wrote and submitted my first paid piece of freelance writing and was invited to be a contributing blogger for a local not-for-profit mental health organisation.

The act of acknowledging myself as a writer is the very thing that triggered opportunities where others might see me as a writer.

I don’t know where these opportunities might take me. I don’t know if writing will ever be my full time job. But I do know that by taking my dream seriously it has started to become a reality.

Wild & Improbable Tales – Silent Melody

IMG_9344.JPG

Her hands fluttered at her chest; a delicate, hummingbird movement that those who didn’t know her would think showed nervousness. But he did know her. He watched her fingers beat the rhythm of an unheard melody and knew that her mind was a riot of harmonies and movement, not fear. His eyes followed the gentle tightening of lean muscle under her lace sleeve. At that moment, he wanted nothing more than to hold her in the circle of his arms and be led by her music. But he waited.

Eventually, her distant gaze cleared and sought his face, a flush of anticipation rising on her cheek.

She reached for him, excited whispers of what had thrummed in her veins spilling from her lips to his waiting ear. The music had spoken to her, as it always did, but this piece was more beautiful than any before: it’s staves of clouds and starlight, it’s notes undulating birdsong and the rush water falling through rainbows.

She stepped into his waiting embrace and, with a step as light as the brush of a butterfly’s wing, their bodies moving together as one, they began to dance, out into the waiting twilit sky.

 


 

“You’re a storyteller. Dream up something wild and improbable,” she pleaded. “Something beautiful and full of monsters.”

Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Inspired by Erin Morgenstern’s Flax-Golden Tales, I have decided to embark on my own creative writing blog series, “Wild & Improbable Tales”, as a way to write more freely and more frequently. At least once a week, I will choose a card at random from The School Of Life‘s ‘Small Pleasures’ box and use the image and/or writing on the back to inspire a short piece of creative writing. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Wild & Improbable Tales – Paradise In Flames

Stepping out into the blistering heat, they walked with heads down, oblivious to their fellow travellers. They watched their steps, trying to avoid tripping and falling to the scorching ground below, and so did not see the creature that reared above them, cloaked in the poisonous fumes of their journey.

Heat rippled through the air. Shimmering waves of boiling atmosphere distorting the landscape until it seemed to shift and heave around them: almost alive.

They had dreamed of basking in the sun. After all, they deserved paradise. They deserved that long rest, surrounded by beauty, every need and want met.

Turning up their faces to absorb the warmth of the sun, they didn’t realise that the flames were all around them. They smiled, at first. And then they burned.


“You’re a storyteller. Dream up something wild and improbable,” she pleaded. “Something beautiful and full of monsters.”

Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Inspired by Erin Morgenstern’s Flax-Golden Tales, I have decided to embark on my own creative writing blog series, “Wild & Improbable Tales”, as a way to write more freely and more frequently. At least once a week, I will choose a card at random from The School Of Life‘s ‘Small Pleasures’ box and use the image and/or writing on the back to inspire a short piece of creative writing. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Education for (Real) Life

I don’t often write about my work on here. I had always intend to share some of what I do but there never really seems to be the right thing to write about and I always feel under qualified to be writing about it. But there have been some things on my mind recently and just feel the need to send these thoughts out into the void.

To give you a bit of context, I work as an HLTA (English specialist), and more recently Whole School Literacy Coordinator, in a large, comprehensive secondary school, in the suburbs of Manchester, where we have a very diverse student body. I started the HLTA role just before all the curriculum changes came into effect, so have seen the the tail end of the last specification and the process of moving across to the new. My role is interesting and varied and, in some ways, quite unique to our school. I have worked mainly with KS4 students, supporting them with their GCSE studies, and in KS3 I’ve worked mainly with year 7 students in their first term. Nearly all of my work supports students who struggle with English as a subject. In my newer role of WSL Coordinator, I work with students and staff across the curriculum supporting various literacy needs, and I am seeing more and more of the challenging nature of the new GCSE specs outside my own subject.

There is a lot I love about my roles and I am incredibly fortunate to work with an absolutely amazing team of people. There are also a lot of frustrations. Recently, my biggest frustration is an increasing feeling that I am working within a fundamentally broken system. A feeling that, despite the best efforts and intentions of the people working in education around the country, we are not equipping our students, our young people, for life in the 21st century. That our education system is no longer fit for purpose.

With the exception of the boards being dry-wipe rather than chalk, and the presence of a few more computers, classrooms today look largely the same as classrooms from a hundred years ago. So much progress has been made in the last century and yet we are teaching our children and young people (largely) the same things in (largely) the same ways. The one major change is probably in the amount of scrutiny and pressure put. upon schools and school staff, which, quite frankly, does no one much good and is surely having a negative impact on the mental and emotional wellbeing of school staff – a negative impact which undoubtedly gets passed on to our students. As the noose of red tape and tick boxes tightens, we spend hours and days and weeks and months and years dragging students through curriculums saturated with content and yet lacking in diversity, in preparation for ‘rigorous’ exams that don’t really tell us much about students’ abilities. We sweat and bleed and stress over planning lessons and designing schemes, which, because they have to prepare students for said exams, so often end up with the passion and interest of the subjects drained out of them. And all the while our students are missing out on some of the essential skills needed for modern life.

Where are the opportunities for them to innovate and create? Where are the opportunities for them to problem solve and think outside the box? Where are the opportunities for them to find their passions, their interests, their skills and learn to hone them? Where are the opportunities to develop team working skills and to learn more about the beautiful diversity of living in a global age? Where are the life skills that equip them to recognise fake news, or to effectively challenge people in positions of power who are supposed to represent them but fail them continually?

Don’t get me wrong, I believe there is value in a broad and varied curriculum and in the traditional teaching of traditional subjects, and that some of these opportunities can be offered through it. But only if teachers are given the freedom to do so. Far too often, they are not. They are given the promise of such freedom but then presented with content and skills lists so vast that in practice that freedom is so limited as to be practically non-existent. Even if they did have trump freedom, shouldn’t we also be offering the opportunity for more? By all means, keep the study of a broad range of subjects through Key Stage 1, 2 and 3, but without the pressure of  continual formal assessment. At KS4, however, moulding it make more sense to choose a small number (just 4 or 5 rather than the current 9 or 10) of subjects to study, with more vocational options available to those less academically inclined? Why not keep English Literature, English Language, maths and sciences as optional subjects rather than compulsory ones, and have every student sit a core set of assessments in functional literacy, numeracy, and digital competency? If there are going to be core compulsory subjects at all surely they should provide skills that might equip them to function successfully in this digital age?

I am no expert and I don’t know what the answer is, but I can’t help but notice that those calling the educational shots aren’t exactly experts either, and I feel like they’re getting it all wrong.

Wild & Improbable Tales – Celestial Tears

The stars were lonely. For a millennia they had watched life blossom over the planet below and yearned to be a part of it: longed to immerse themselves in the warmth blanketing that lump of rock, rather than hanging in beautiful, cold isolation in the emptiness above.

Humanity gazed up and admired the gentle twinkling bestowed by the stars, not realising those endless flickering lights were celestial tears blinked from heavenly eyes. From Earth’s vantage, the stars were in good company, nestled amongst each other in glittering clusters, surrounded by the reflected glow of their orbiting planets. They could not comprehend the distance from one distant sun to another. Nor could they understand the sense of desolation that such loneliness brought.

Eventually, that stars could take their exile no longer.

They stole down to Earth on sunbeams and disguised themselves in the world. Dust motes glowing in morning light; that distinctive twinkle in a mischievous child’s eye; the sparkling of frost on a winter’s evening; the shimmer of moonlight on still water.

The stars live among us now, and are happy.


“You’re a storyteller. Dream up something wild and improbable,” she pleaded. “Something beautiful and full of monsters.”

Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Inspired by Erin Morgenstern’s Flax-Golden Tales, I have decided to embark on my own creative writing blog series, “Wild & Improbable Tales”, as a way to write more freely and more frequently. At least once a week, I will choose a card at random from The School Of Life‘s ‘Small Pleasures’ box and use the image and/or writing on the back to inspire a short piece of creative writing. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Our Own Unexpected Wisdom

img_3901

This past year I have been mentoring a student, meeting with them at least once (often twice or three times) a week, to support them with their studies and help them work through the various stresses and anxieties that were proving to be barriers to confidence and success. It has been an incredibly rewarding process, though stressful at times. It has been a real privilege to watch this young person grow in confidence and find that they do in fact have the strength and resilience to face challenges.

I saw them for the last time this week. Their exams are over and it’s time for the start of the next, exciting chapter of their life. I was honestly a little sad to be saying goodbye. I’ve spent so much time thinking about and worrying over the best ways to support this student, that suddenly not having to do it anymore is a strange feeling – I keep thinking I’m forgetting to do something!

I was really touched, then, when at our final meeting, my lovely mentee presented me with a box of chocolates and a cuddly fox, which she informed me was the next best thing to having a Daemon (we’re both fans of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials). More moving than these thoughtful gifts, though, was the card she gave me alongside them. Inside she had written a lovely thank you message, but the thing that moved me to tears was that she had listed everything she felt I had taught her.

My first thought was: Wow, you were actually listening!

My second was: I didn’t realise I was so wise.

My third was: I could do with remembering some of these for myself…

As I read the list they had written, I felt so happy that they had taken these lessons from me. I also genuinely found myself realising that some of the lessons I had worked so hard to make them hear and learn, I’m really not all that good at paying attention to for myself.

So I’m going to share that list here, in the hopes that I will do better at remembering these lessons myself, and that maybe there’s something here for you as well.

Things I (apparently) managed to teach my mentee and need to remember myself (in their own words):

  • I CAN do things, even though it might seem hard.
  • Things are hard but do get better.
  • To acknowledge my own worth.
  • It’s okay to reach out for help.
  • Other people are allowed to care about me, and do.
  • To be me no matter what everyone else thinks.
  • I am important!
  • To be strong and independent.
  • To do what I want to do.
  • It’s okay not to be okay.
  • To look after myself.
  • To read as many books as I can. (This one I’ve got down…)
  • My anxiety is not me.
  • To be selfish sometimes and that is okay.
  • Stick up for what I believe in.
  • ‘Alot’ is not a word. (Good to know I managed to teach some English in there somewhere!)
  • 5 hours sleep is not enough.
  • Reading always helps. (This I know to be true.)
  • Harry Potter is amazing! (This too!)
  • To have faith.
  • It’s okay to trust people.
  • We are all human and make mistakes.
  • Resilience.
  • Magic can be found in everyday life.
  • To try, even though I might fail.
  • To have a day off sometimes.
  • It’s ‘should have’ not ‘should of’.  (This one is ingrained in my brain from repeating it so many times…)
  • Poetry! (And not just the stuff on the exam!)
  • The Quibbler podcast is amazing! (It is.)
  • Keep reading. (I’m sensing a theme…)
  • Sleep and eat!
  • To keep trying and trying.
  • Change doesn’t happen overnight.
  • It’s okay to show emotions.
  • Sometimes you need a book, a hot chocolate and a cosy blanket. (Most times, really.)
  • Life is going to get exciting.
  • I am not a disappointment.

 

Have you ever discovered you’ve imparted unexpected wisdom? Which bits of your own advice do you find it hard to follow yourself?

Wild & Improbable Tales – Suit Up

No one saw it for what it really was. When they saw him striding the halls and directing their meetings, they assumed the freshly pressed suit and perfectly knotted tie were simply business dress.

They didn’t know that, when he got home at night and loosened that restrictive strip of fabric, the rest of him unraveled with it. They didn’t know that their confident, assertive leader shed his stoicism with the layers of expensive tailoring. They didn’t know the vulnerability of his true self; that whilst his head may be in the game his heart was in the clouds, yearning for the life of a wandering dreamer.

The daily struggle between expectation and longing was always hidden behind buzz words and neatly ordered spreadsheets. Until he was alone and free to dream, to marvel, to create, or sometimes to simply fall apart, as the world would never allow him to do in sight of his troops. The dreaming and marvelling and creating and falling took him to beautiful and terrible places, where he meandered all the night, until it was time to suit up his armour again. For he went not to work but to war.

If only they had known, they would have unraveled with him.

Wild & Improbable Tales – Beautiful Misfits

IMG_8988

The trees thought they had seen it all. Their collective consciousness had watched the world through its centuries of seasons; observed the heavens wheeling overhead in arcs of millennia-old starlight and moonshine; held their steady gaze when dragons walked the earth; stood tall through all the ages and beheld the emergence of humanity. 

They never watched people too closely as they seemed just another beast whose time had come to rule. More destructive than most who had gone before but the trees knew their own deep-rooted power, and that they would cover the earth once more beyond the age of man. So they simply watched, never really seeing.

One day – a day just like any other – a small group came within the bounds of an ancient forest and set about a picnic. As the trees watched on, they began to realise there was more to this little cluster of humanity than met the eye: the one in the straw hat with a wide smile had onyx tears etched high on their right cheekbone; the one with a sweater slung carelessly about their shoulders moved with such weight and gravitas that the trees themselves seemed drawn towards that strange, charismatic gravity; the one who pulled faces and laughed with abandon had, not hair flowing from their scalp but fine strands of poetry, tied back at the nape of their neck. And then there was the child. The child who stood, with balloon in hand, unseen by the rest of the party, and cast a penetrating stare at the trunk of a nearby oak.

That stare sank down into the well of the world and all of nature sighed to be seen.

It was only the briefest moment in time, but when that motley crew packed up the remnants of their meal and headed back out from beneath the low-hanging boughs, the trees strained to follow and, as one, agreed: what a beautiful bunch of misfits they were.

 


“You’re a storyteller. Dream up something wild and improbable,” she pleaded. “Something beautiful and full of monsters.”

Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Inspired by Erin Morgenstern’s Flax-Golden Tales, I have decided to embark on my own creative writing blog series, “Wild & Improbable Tales”, as a way to write more freely and more frequently. At least once a week, I will choose a card at random from The School Of Life‘s ‘Small Pleasures’ box and use the image and/or writing on the back to inspire a short piece of creative writing. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.