Thursday, 25 October 2012

Great Blog Post on BPD

This comes under the 'waffling' portion of my blog, since it's obviously not related to reading or writing, but it is an important issue. I have written about my experiences with mental illness (particularly in this post), in part because I believe that the stigma aurrounding mental illness will never end unless sufferers speak out.

So I was both gratified and disappointedto read the post Borderline personality disorder and institutionalised discrimination on the Time to Change blog. It's a fantastic post that highlights one of the problems faced by many people with BPD. As someone with BPD, it saddened me but made me glad that the author has spoken out about mental health professionals who discriminate against BPD.

I've never faced BPD-specific discrimination from NHS workers - everyone I've dealt with in recent years has been fantastic - but the misinformation and discriminatory attitudes on the internet (and in other media) do upset me. There is a tendency to label people with BPD as attention seekers who cause trouble because they are selfish and spiteful. This isn't true. I hope lots of people read the Time to Change blog and realise that experiencing BPD is difficult and people with BPD don't deserve to be discriminated against.

By the way, I love the comment from crochetkid75, titled 'Great blog post' (the third one down) - they sound like an awesome person!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Fighting Perfectionism

I'm the type of person who could get 99% in an exam and say 'why didn't I get 100%?' Regular readers of this blog know this already: I think I've mentioned, about seventy-two times, how I regard anything less than the top grade as failure. Or used to. Nowadays, I'm striving to be less of a perfectionist.

I've also 'talked' openly about my struggles with mental illness (recap: I have Borderline Personality Disorder with depression and anxiety) and perfection feeds into - and feeds upon - this struggle. In simple terms, trying to be perfect aggravates my anxiety and my inevitable failure to be perfect exacerbates my depression. I've always tried to kid myself that perfectionism has its benefits. I would claim that I wouldn't have achieved good results if I hadn't been aiming for excellent results; that perfectionism was a motivator and I'd otherwise sit on my arse watching TV all day... Total BS.

The truth I had been ignoring all along is perfectionism gets you nowhere. I haven't achieved stuff because of my perfectionism - I've achieved them in spite of perfectionism.

Perfectionism paralyzes you. It causes you to stare at a blank computer screen because you're terrified what you write won't be perfect. And the most ridiculous part of all this? You know it won't be perfect.

I'm not aware of any story or novel that everyone in the world agrees is perfect. I know plenty that I think are pretty much perfect. I know a few that many people say are close to perfect. Perfection doesn't exist.

Even if I had gotten top marks all through my educational adventures, it wouldn't mean my work was perfect. It would mean my work had merited the maximum marks available: nothing more. Even if I manage, one day, to write a story critics hail as perfect and that wins me many prizes and admirers (dream on!), it doesn't mean the story would be perfect.

So I'm trying to give up perfectionism. Instead, I'm aiming for gradual improvement.

This struck me when I was on the treadmill today. I'm very unfit and obese. I can't go very far or fast on the treadmill, so I just aim to go farther each time. Even 0.1 mile farther. 0.2 on a good day. It's been a couple of weeks since I resumed walking/jogging on the treadmill (my MA got in the way, so I hadn't been on it for the best part of a year) and today I went nearly a mile farther than the first time I got back on it. I hope to be able to walk/jog 4 miles by the end of 2012.

It would be ridiculous to tell myself 'I'm going to do 10 miles today' before I get on the treadmill. Yet I've been doing the equivalent of this in other areas of my life - especially learning and writing. And, indeed, learning to write.

I'm not going to write brilliant prose anytime soon - and certainly not in a first draft - but that's fine. My aim is to get a little better each time I write something. Who knows, maybe one day I'll achieve the literary equivalent of a sub-three hour marathon!


Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Life After a Creative Writing MA

6 weeks after submitting my dissertation, I'm beginning to get back to 'normal' as I fight off cold number 3. So what do you do when you finish one of the most intense years of your life? Here's my advice...

1. Recharge.
You're exhausted, so don't try to continue at the same pace and intensity. A break from writing might help, but don't force it if you feel like writing. In fact, don't force anything - sleep, read for pleasure, eat cake, have fun and relax. Note: recharging might take longer than expected.

2. Plot a roadmap.
Consider what you want in the future; how you'd like you career to progress in the long-term. Then work out short-term goals based on your ambitions. You'll end up changing them, but that's life. It's important to feel you're heading in a specific direction when you finish a Creative Writing MA, otherwise you'll feel lost without deadlines and reading lists as your guide.

3. Follow any leads.
During the course of your MA you will have come across writers you're never heard of, genres you wish to explore, publishing opportunites, possible contacts, courses you might want to do in future... A plethora of information you haven't had the time to investigate. Now is the time. If you can't take action straightaway, make notes somewhere you won't forget about them (i.e. in a notebook rather than on the back of an envelope).

4. Keep writing.
Doing a Creative Writing MA can leave you overwhelmed, intimidated and convinced you have no talent. This is normal - don't let these feelings dissuade you. Underneath these negative feelings, you will be inspired, motivated and excited. So try writing in new genres or formats; work on those crazy ideas that scare and excite you. Take a break from writing if you think it'll be beneficial, but don't stop altogether.

5. Review.
Review what you've learnt during the course of the MA - and keep reviewing regularly. A lot of what you've learnt might not resonate with you right now, but could help immensely in future. However, you will recognise that much of what you've learnt can help you straightaway - whether it's a fruitful writing exercise, a technical aspect, or the value of feedback - so work out how to build these things into your writing life post-MA.