Mind the Gap: Perception, Taste & Reality by daintydora

Mind the GapIra Glass says it best:

THE GAP by Ira Glass from Daniel Sax on Vimeo.

There's a gap between what you want to achieve and what your first attempt produces. The difference between the two is taste. You know what you want to achieve and you know when you haven't quite done it. Yet. The trick is to keep going.

It's the sixth month of the year and the edits on my debut novel have taken longer than I thought. In fact, there's plenty more I want to do. More notes, more facts to check, and a whole document of 'take-outs' that I want to sift (again) in case there's a nugget of gold I can squeeze back in.

It's the journey of writing a novel and it can be frustrating, agonising, exhausting, but it's also amazing when I look back and see how far I've come. This time last year I had less than 30,000 words. Now I'm working on the second round of edits.

The premise of the story is brave (that's what people are telling me), and it makes me proud to think I've tackled a difficult topic head-on in my naive enthusiasm to just 'write the damn book'.

My protagonist, Amanda, is at the forefront of my thoughts. She has a mental health condition; her reality shifting and expanding as she navigates the landscape of her mind. I feel like I'm becoming her (maybe I've always been her - 'write what you know', etc?)

'Mental Health' defined: "a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being".

A gap between what is considered normal and what is not.
A gap between what you feel and how you think you should feel.
A gap between what you feel and what society thinks you should feel.
A gap between inner thoughts and outer thoughts (but no gatekeeper).
A gap between you and a faction of gatekeepers keeping you away from yourself: in limbo; reality and fantasy melding in a cold soup of confusion.

But what if that gap is just a case of taste and perception too? What if we redefined (realigned?) our societal guidelines for what is normal and acceptable; what it means to fully experience all that is life?

Mind the Gap

It's a thought for now, for our time, a time when we need the most creative and lucid minds to tackle the greatest problems of our age (immigration, terrorism, climate change, guns, crime, melting ice caps, beautiful animals locked - and shot - in cages).

Maybe there's a gap where the real, progressive conversations should be?

Just throwing it out there.

To quote the World Health Organisation on Mental Health:
"Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."

I'll get back to my edits now.

Murderous, Murderess by daintydora

I'm a killer, a murderess. Things will never be the same again. It happened yesterday, no two days ago. Saturday. I woke at 5am, had set my alarm. It wasn't the usual thing for me to do at the weekend.

I got up, got dressed, slipped out of the house without turning on a light, without waking my husband.

Blistering Sunrise

I clicked the button to unlock my car, dumped some things in the boot. The sunrise was astounding, outstanding, unbelievable.

It was my first clue and I paused to take a photograph: evidence that I might reflect on later but in that moment all I saw was the orange and the pink and the yellow that beckoned behind the church steeple in the midpoint of my vision. I stared into it for a second, two, three, then turned, got in my car and drove away.

The motorway was surprisingly busy for that time. Where was everyone going? Why were they up so early?

I flicked between radio stations, my finger tracing prints on the touchscreen. I hate touchscreens. And radio adverts. When I'm driving I just want to drive and get lost in music.

But the journey wasn't long, maybe 20 minutes. I'd hoped it would have been even less.

Time. Time. Time. Time. It just ticks away and I can't keep up with it.

The sun came up and the day was fully birthed. There was a lot of work to be done.

I did the work I set out to do, interacting with people along the way. Conversations, explanations, deviations, and money changing hands. Notes, coins. New money, old money, shiny money, dirty money. I filled my pockets with it and shivered undercover while the sun shone its rays out there, outside.

I was inside, undercover, but I could see the bright light of the heat outside. I knew what I'd done and what I hadn't done, what the consequences of each action/inaction would be, but it was too late by then. There was nothing I could do.

That's what they all say isn't it? I didn't mean to. It was an accident. It just happened. It wasn't my fault.

But it was my fault. I'm to blame. And now I'm wearing that guilt like a brand.

Killer. Killer. Killer.

Still I took no action, and with hindsight a quote returns to me:

"All that’s necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing"

It's been variously attributed to Martin Luther King, Victor Frankl, Edmund Burke. It fits the bill for what happened.

When finally I stepped back into the light of day, the heat was raw on my head, my face. I felt it and I knew. If I had taken the appropriate action at this point then maybe it wouldn't have been too late. Maybe.

Now, now, now.

But I didn't. Of course I didn't.

I pondered, gazed, grazed, ignoring the burst of thought that hovered like a speech-bubble alert somewhere above my head.

The sun began to drop in the sky; heat dispersed by an undercurrent of cool late spring breeze. It was OK. It was going to be OK.

Then it was dark, totally dark, and late. When it's dark you can't acknowledge what cannot be seen, it makes it unreal. At the back of my mind I knew by then that the damage would be done.

It would be another few hours still until I saw it, the massacre.

Not just one death, but multiple. Crisp, crippled leaves turned in on themselves, deformed, shrivelled, boiled to death, burnt alive in their pots. Herbs and seedlings and cuttings I'd carefully planted, lovingly watered. But not on Saturday.

I'd forgotten to open a window, forgotten to open the door: no-one survives a day of 40-50 degree (Celsius) heat with no shade, no respite.

I'd watered them the night before, but it wasn't enough, would never have been enough for the full glare of that murderous fire.

I'm a killer, a murderess. Nothing (in the garden) will ever be the same again.


100 days of words by daintydora

Words. Words. Words. Words. We use them everyday, all the time.

In speech, in private, in public, in text messages, emails, stories, poems, chats, transactions, when talking with strangers and with loved ones. Sometimes we write them in the air with sparklers, or arrange to have them written in the sky.

I write every day (one of my 'mantras' I set for myself at the beginning of 2015); words are my currency, my love, my passion, the essential hard-working tools of my chosen career as a writer.

Last year I took part in the 100 day project pioneered by Elle Luna and publicised by The Great DiscontentInstagram the mechanism for accountability.

I chose to write 100 Haiku poems (#100daysofhaiku), although it wasn't a unique project to me or a unique hashtag. I didn't mind sharing.

Some days it was hard, some days it was easy. Some days I left it far too late to get a proper shot that looked 'nice', but the point was the act of creating each day in a big, unbroken, chronological chain of accomplishment.

I spent time breaking my words down into syllables, the root of their sounds and meanings, moulding them into 3 lines about what I was feeling that day or what was happening in my life.

Then I promised to make an eBook out of them.

No-one asked me to, it was just my own idea to 'complete' the project, come away with a tangible body of work comprising 100 days of creative output and effort. But I haven't done it yet. The guilt ebbs and flows. It will get done (I know it will - it's on my to-do list. Right after 'complete my novel'.)

I'm single-focusing you see. I have to get my novel completed. I'm three-quarters through the first re-write.

So this year when the murmurings about the 100 day project popped up, I decided I wasn't going to play along. I would eschew the tyranny of daily creativity (oh the misery of it!), for slow, steady, regular progress on my book. Nearly there, nearly there, I whisper to myself at night. Just another week, fortnight, month. Maybe.

But then on 100day eve, I was sitting in bed and I had the urge to write down a list of my favourite words. It was an act inspired by an art journal prompt, part of the Get Messy Art Journal 'Season of Lists'.

"Write a list, you could make it a hundred items long."

So I got to about 25 and realised it was a quarter of 100 (yeah, I'm simple like that). I carried on writing, squeezing words all over an A5 page instead of taking a new sheet, until I got to 100 and beyond.

100 days of my favourite words, The 100 day project 2016

All those lovely words crammed between lines and over lines; diagonal, horizontal, bleeding into each other.

I put my list away. I wrote in my journal. I read my book. It was just a list. 

Then the next day I saw everyone posting on social media about their 100 day project, about all the cool things that people were going to document and achieve between 19th April and 27th July. I felt like I would be missing out (the worst kind of creative FOMO?) and then I remembered my list. 100 of my favourite words, in complement to this starter for 10. It was a creative 'do or die' moment.

As the night ticked on I wrote down my first word, dated it, and uploaded it to Instagram under #100daysofmyfavouritewords. It's a bit unwieldy but it's unique to me. My words. My favourite words.

I'm doing it. I'm in.

Some people might think it's cheating to already have my list, but I think the creative commitment is choosing and focusing on a specific word each day, and part of the challenge is being experimental with capture, presentation and display. I want my words to shine.

Day 1: Oxymoron. White on black.

And so it begins...! Day 1: 'Oxymoron' @elleluna #100days #the100dayproject #100daysofmyfavouritewords #words #oxymoron

A photo posted by Rebecca Johnstone (@daintydora) on

Day 2: Gypsy. A fragrant herb-word.

Day 3: Yoyo. Coloured pins on a corkboard.

Day 3: 'Yoyo' #100daysofmyfavouritewords #the100dayproject #100days #100 #words #pins #pinboard #corkboard #yoyo #yoyos

A photo posted by Rebecca Johnstone (@daintydora) on

I'm giving myself these 100 days to get my Haiku eBook completed too, because sometimes you need a new challenge, a different deadline, the creative pressure to just get shit done.


There's over 800 here already...

'Heartbreaker' - TubeFlash Fiction *Published* by daintydora

Today is perfect timing for my Flash Fiction piece to be published on the TubeFlash site - it's a real 'anti-Valentine'. Read my story 'Heartbreaker', inspired by the London Underground station of Pinner (on the Metropolitan Line) and a beautiful vintage brooch with scissors, threads and a heart-shaped pin cushion.

Here's a little extract:Pinner

It had to be perfect of course.  A seamless, symmetrical curve over the mountain summit; two peaks beating as one.
She pressed the seams together, the iron burning into every stitch right-side and wrong. Some might have called it love, others revenge, others still, obsession.

This story will be professionally voice-recorded and published as an audio download on iTunes on 23rd March 2016. Subscribe to the TubeFlash podcast.

Also published on TubeFlash and iTunes, my story 'The Pact'.


Midweek Poetry: Letters to Other Mothers by daintydora

I'm reading a moving anthology at the moment by Bashabi Fraser titled Letters to My Mother and Other Mothers. In the first section of the book Bashabi's poems describe memories and conversations with her mother as 'a conversation that would have flowed', from the time before her mother had a series of strokes and subsequently died.

In the second book the poems take on different voices, 'a natural stream that flows in the same strain.'

Her words are careful and evocative and you can feel and taste all the vivid sensations of love, pain, hope, distress and wonder at this magical being that is 'ma'.

I find human relationships infinitely interesting, and as a daughter myself, I can relate to her words (not least because my own mother experienced a sudden and debilitating condition a few years ago).

I know what it is to have thoughts that flow in a stream of conversation; blossoming in that unique and intimate manner between a mother a daughter.

White Flower
White Flower

There is a reference to 'Sheuli' (a single petal white flower with an orange stem, which blooms in autumn), in the poem 'She was my mother':

She was the Sheuli in my wonderlandDiscreetly tender, fragrantly appealing.

I love this melding of language and culture as Indian and Scots influences pepper the work.

These lines from 'I am your daughter' are particularly striking when considering the cultural expectations of what it means to be 'a good Indian mother':

You invested thousandsto make that one journeyto clear the pathfor your dreamt-of son.

The poem that has particular resonance for me (so far) is called 'Urban Gothic: London during World War II'.

Here's an extract of my favourite lines:

...In this stone forest of silhouettesthe wan moon swoons in pirouettes...And girls from factories' smart retreatsWill click red shoes in rhythmic styleA ghost army marching in, to a soundless Doric tuneWill partner each dancing dream, unfolding beneath the moon.

I'm delighted I discovered this beautiful collection.

(And it seems a bit 'serendipity' that while writing this post I had an alert about a local photography exhibition titled 'Girls and their Mothers'.)

Friday Diary: Spoken Word Poetry at Jupiter Artland by daintydora

I didn't post a poem on Wednesday of this week because I knew all my thoughts of poetry would be centred around reading my poem Set in Stone at Jupiter Artland last night, as part of their Inspired to Write competition.

When I found out I'd been shortlisted and invited to read my poem, I felt very honoured, if a little nervous. (A lot nervous...)

The event was held in the ballroom of Bonnington House, which is not usually open to visitors of the art park, but was made available by the owner, Nicky Wilson, who was also a judge in the competition alongside current Poet in Residence, Marjorie Lofti Gill.

Jupiter Artland Inspired to Write Competition

Marjorie read some of the poems for shortlisted entrants who were unable to attend (some entries came from as far away as Egypt, Bolivia and America!), while refreshments of chocolate brownies and hot, spiced mulled wine were the perfect accompaniment to the evening.

My poem didn't 'win', but that in no way detracted from my excitement and enjoyment of the evening. In fact, some of the other poems that I heard really resonated with me and moved me and would have been deserving winners in my opinion, ahead of my own poem.

The named winners were Jonathan Bay, Rafael Torrubia and Jean Taylor.

As Marjorie suggested last night, poetry is a very personal, intimate medium in which to convey thoughts, ideas and visions, and so we all left with our own 'winner', or few, in mind.

My poem was inspired by Laura Ford's Weeping Girls,which inspired a number of other entries too. Their haunting lair under the trees is just so evocative.

Weeping Girls at Jupiter Artland

I particularly enjoyed seeing Nathan Coley's installation 'You Imagine What You Desire' lit up at night, which was in full view from the ballroom during the event.

I tried to get a photograph but only had my phone camera to work with so the illumination of all the bulbs resulted in a flood-lit blur against the black sky. It was just magical to enjoy it while I was there.

Nicky suggested some of the poems would be added to the Jupiter Artland website next to the images and descriptions of the works, and the recording of the evening is apparently going to be broadcast on Australian radio - how fabulous!

With it being a permanent art collection, the different tangents and interpretations of each piece that inspired a story or a poem have created a whole new buzz, and I can't wait to return and experience the wonder of it all again once it reopens in the Spring.


Let your life be a poem by daintydora

Wednesday slipped by without a poem, yet it's OK, because, you know, life. It wasn't so much that there was nothing to share, more that the holidays have jangled up days and dates and routines.

Yesterday I saw this beautiful quote and I thought it was a good vibe to start the year on:

When I say be creative, I don’t mean you should all go and become great painters and great poets. I simply mean let your life be a painting, let your life be a poem. —Osho

Let your life be a poem. I just LOVE it.

Those few words feel magical. Simple, but magical.

A distillation of thoughts into a single focus of flow. Just let your life be a poem, and see where it takes you on a sea of simile, metaphor, imagery...

I'm currently reading The Siege by Helen Dunmore (Leningrad is surrounded and food rations are dwindling. I've had this book for over a year but I've never been able to get by the first few pages - because the right time to read it was not then, but now).

'Let your life be a poem', Osho

This short extract from page 143 is the protagonist's father recalling poetic verse from Puskin's Eugene Onegin:

...Tatyana is lost in her dream. The plains, the fir trees, the ghostly light and the creak of her footsteps in the snow: all these come to me so powerfully that it's as if I'd never really read about them or thought about them before. I almost say aloud that I'm sorry I didn't understand until now. My eyes fill with tears, and I don't know why. But I know that it's by these things, and nothing else, that we survive. Poetry doesn't exist to make life beautiful. Poetry is life itself."

I can almost hear 'the creak of her footsteps in the snow', and that indeed is poetry.