The Occasional DiaristPosted by El Grande de JB de Forth Mon, July 06, 2009 17:18:21
During another sleepless night last night (this morning) I heard an interview on Radio 5 live with the author Andrew Martin. (The Last Train to Scarborough) He and the interviewer were talking as they took in the scenery of the Bluebell Railway line in Sussex, whilst travelling on one of its trains. Whilst I found the whole interview quite absorbing, one remark of Andrew's stuck in my mind. While discussing the construction of The Last Train To Scarborough he said that: "I got to know the inmates of the Bed & Breakfast very well." (or words to that effect) Now although he had spent one night in a B&B in Scarbororough for real, to soak up the atmosphere, he wasn't referring to this - but the characters he had created in the story.
I have been scribbling furiously on and off for the last few weeks and have to confess that I too have been starting to regard some of the created characters as living entities - a feeling I had tried to dissuade myself from because it struck me as yet another path to madness. I have found thoughts of actions and dialogue by these characters popping in and out of my consciousness, even when doing something totally different e.g. assembling stepper-motor driver boards.
Another thought had struck me earlier today, that even people who you would consider should know better can be guilty of making sweeping generalisations and stereotyping the actions of others. One eminent psychiatrist has said that 'Writers sometimes don't know where the next sentence is coming from, they just sit down and out it pops.' (again: words to that effect)
This is plain dumb, and ignores completely accepted facts about cognition - and the progress of a person from beginner to expert. I'm not sure on what basis she makes this assertion, but it is probably accepting verbatim the answers given to her by her interviewee when asked 'where does this stuff come from?' It is disheartening to read these naive remarks by 'eminent' authorities of topics so serious as Bipolar Disorder, because if her reasoning falls over at what is really beginners stuff - what worth can we put on her other opinions? Putting these two things together has made me realise that far from going mad, I am simply beginning to enter the 'Unconscious Competence' phase of composition.
The Occasional DiaristPosted by El Grande de JB de Forth Mon, July 06, 2009 03:16:02
I've briefly touched on this subject before, but as it remains a strong feature of what I do, I'm strongly drawn to analyse what is happening and try to make some sense of it. I refer to Deja Vu - yes I know - we've been there before! (Sorry about that, I couldn't resist it) More seriously, this phenomenon has cost me no little time and effort because of the nature and frequency of it's occurences. Whether it's writing a short essay, article or even lines of code, I sometimes have to stop myself and ask the question: "Haven't I already done this?" If I shrug the 'feeling' off, and carry on with writing, I'm again later interrupted by an even stronger conviction that I've already completed or near-completed the work already. At this point I usually have to check the relevant directories on the hard disk for evidence of this conviction, but have never (yet) found any. This is most frustrating, and I suppose it's a little like an OCD-sufferer returning to his door over and over again to ensure that he locked it.
Now what I do know is that the problem is closely allied to the way I work, or have worked in the past. Usually, when I sit down to write anything (this for example) I've already made up my mind exactly what to say, and the writing is a fairly obvious (and mundane) repetition of stuff I have already gone over several times mentally. I suppose the root cause of the problem is that my brain refuses to believe the plain truth that no amount of mental effort will actually put the words on paper. A lot of what I do is considered/concocted during sleepless nights and/or affected by severe mood-swings, so reality gets somewhat bent on occasions.
The obsessive part I believe comes from my background in programming. Early on, I was taught several bitter lessons about 'losing' code. The unhappy events meant re-writing everything that had taken maybe several weeks of effort. One such occasion made an important 'fact' (or more honestly 'belief') become apparent - I never was able to write the replacement code exactly the way I had done it the first time, and I know this because on that specific occasion only, I came across my 'lost' code on a cassette (ah happy days!) that had fallen behind the desk I used. When I compared this with my latter effort, it was significantly different - not in it's function, but in its implementation. I examined both sets of code, and decided that the 1st (lost) version was definitely better than its replacement. So it seems that this one event has coloured my cognitive processes, and it is simple paranoia that makes me search in vain for work I imagine I've already done, as of course, my 'lost' work will naturally be 'better'.
This is almost laughable looking at it in retrospect, and the simple recollection of the original event that possibly caused the paranoia will make it a lot easier to deal with in future.
There is a lesson here for those that would accuse others of 'dwelling' on the past, as if it were a 'bad' thing. What we are now is because of what we did or what was done to us then. An understanding of the relevant triggers, and correcting our emotional responses to these, may necessitate a rigorous examination of our past. Unfortunately, a large part of the 'programming' in our heads remains hidden - like orphaned files on a crashed hard disk, and requires expert help and guidance, and a large amount of effort on our part also, to reveal its structure and content.
CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) is the current 'buzz' and apparently a solution to almost everything, if we believed it's pundits. My opinion is that it barely scrapes the surface, and in truth the quality of so-called CBT therapists, despite their fancy certificates, mandates that they are incapable of giving real help to someone who badly needs it. For an understanding of how your mind works, and what you can do about re-programming some of it's gliches, I recommend you to buy a good book on NLP. (Neuro-Linguistic Programming)
The Occasional DiaristPosted by El Grande de JB de Forth Tue, May 26, 2009 15:55:46
The last few days have been difficult, I have to drive myself very hard to get things done at times like these. It is made especially so, when some projects that looked so attractive before, and had been set about with vigour and enthusiasm, now appear pointless, ill-considered and at best naive. With the benefit of hindsight however, I’ve learned not to abandon these, but rather to set them aside for ‘review’, because I’ve found that there’s usually some part of a project that either has merit in itself, or can be converted (morphed) into something that has.
Way back when I was at school, I was very keen on books. I was encouraged to read at a very early age by my father, and could read most things when I started school. This gave me a tremendous ‘boost’, and for most of the rest of my time at school, I was a year ahead of the children of my own age. Language fascinated me, and books given out to last a term were usually read within a matter of days, which made me very popular with at least one English Language teacher. I also found I could write essays and stories in a way that others would enjoy - A big fan was my father, who normally pounced on my english homework when it was finished, and spend 10 minutes or so, reading it and laughing to himself.
For a large part of my adult life, I’ve written - mostly technical work, but always had a hankering to re-visit earlier days and write short stories. To complete the circle then, I’ve tried putting down some of the stories going around in my head, but whilst I thought this was worthwhile when writing these - it is now apparent to me, that most of what I wanted to say has been said already, and a number of these works will probably never see the light of day. I should probably stick to documenting my technical projects - that is a field where I know just exactly what to say, and what to leave out. Putting it more bluntly - the stories are mostly a collection of cliches - sad ones at that.
First published on http://joebrown.org.uk 26th May 2009
The Occasional DiaristPosted by El Grande de JB de Forth Thu, May 21, 2009 18:05:30
Thursday 21st May 2009 17:26
Just finished a lovely meal - main course stewed shin beef, new potatoes and peas followed by (forbidden) rhubarb pie. AND two big glasses of good french red wine. I’ve thought of a TLA for times like this: BBS - Brittle Behaviour Syndrome. This very accurately describes the rest of my afternoon. I needed to shop so jumped in the car, sat at the roundabout at the top of the road and cursed/fumed/shouted abuse at those people who, although have been driving for years, still don’t know how to use a roundabout. In the supermarket, I managed to upset the guy in front of me in the checkout, when he dropped some of his change - he didn’t even look at me when I remarked that he obviously had too much money, and would he give some of it to me. Then, on the way home, was pulled over by a snot-nosed policeman in a jam sandwich who proceeded to lecture me on the correct behaviour at traffic lights on RED. Followed that up by dispensing unwelcome advice to my friendly electronics shop proprietor on how to stop malicious propaganda about them on the web. All-in-all I suppose I should be glad that I arrived back home in one piece, but couldn’t resist attacking the wine. It has made me feel a little better, but sadly, the effects are only transitory.
So, while everyone is still in the mood, take a listen to this very lovely version of ‘Boots of Spanish Leather’ by Cathy Jordan: Boots of Spanish Leather
- her rendition of this feels like someone tenderly caressing my heart.
The Occasional DiaristPosted by El Grande de JB de Forth Thu, May 21, 2009 15:37:49
It seems like only yesterday, instead of January, when I put all projects on hold, because of the need to sort out the long-endured problems with my main development PC. Those of you who had followed that saga will know that I was so pleased with the resulting home-built PC, I built another. This was quickly followed by non-too subtle alterations in my working environment, including new shelves, changing of rooms for my musical instruments etc. Add to this the launch of another website, and the collation/re-arrangement of material for that, plus numerous visits to the hospital, and the whole lot totals up to a fairly busy time since Christmas - then today arrived.
I’ve been sleeping better in the last week or so - until last night. I’d had about 2 hours and woke up to lie awake for what seemed like another 2, when I must have dozed off again - until 11:30am! This scares me, as when I dragged myself from the bed, understandably stiff and aching, I still felt very tired. When I went downstairs I was shocked at the mess - it’s as if in the last 2 days a whole family of gibbons have been living in my kitchen. I breakfasted and spent nearly an hour washing up almost all the crockery that usually lives untouched in the cupboard. As usual I switched on the mp3 player/photo case while I worked, but had to turn it off because the music was upsetting me.
Strange then, that it was only yesterday that I was ready to pick up halted projects, starting with documenting the DRO, (finally) and had set up the camera on stilts over it’s LCD display, ready to start this morning. Instead, since tidying up I’ve wandered around the house seeking diversion and finding none that I wanted to do. I’ve never sat down and documented severe mood transitions before, and thinking that the downside is never going to happen again is part of the euphoric state. Writing this today, I realise that the actual swing down took place a couple of days ago - evidenced by the mess in the kitchen. At the moment, all of what I was doing seems pretty pointless, and I feel isolated and lonely.
A quick look back over the last week or so dosn’t shed much light on any particular trigger - a letter regarding another appointment about my knees - on August 13 (no it’s a Thursday) just annoyed me at yet another delay - something I usually take in my stride. So I’ll just blame it on my brain chemistry and keep plodding on.
Also published at: http://www.joebrown.org.uk/wp/?p=500