The Bi-Annual Clean Shave

There comes a time, which by the title is usually once every two years, where I have to shave. I HAVE to. I must completely rid my face of all trace of brown, ginger and grey colours and reset myself to default. I must allow my cheeks to breathe and just remind myself that I have skin around the lower part of my face. Some people could see it as a euphemism, a visual receptor to my willingness to begin a new, refresh my current state of affairs. Well I suppose it can be at times, but mostly… I just get bored.

I’ve been able to grow facial hair to a fairly decent capacity since I was 18 and I’m 31 now. I can’t develop it to the size and length that hipsters do, mostly because I get bored waiting, and I’m pretty sure that most of those guys go to the various hair and beauty shops around East London and get their face-weave done. I honestly have never seen a transitional hipster, that phase between lumberjack anti-establishment beard and nicely presentable facial hair. It’s like they’re clean shaven and suddenly BOOM! Beard.

Here is a stereotypical hipster, waiting around a generic East London estate area, presumably waiting for his Dad to invest in his Crisp Sandwich Pop-Up business.

Here is a stereotypical hipster, waiting around a generic East London estate area, presumably waiting for his Dad to invest in his Crisp Sandwich Pop-Up business.

I haven’t clean shaved for nearly two years and that is with good reason. It has nothing to do with laziness, fashion or my weight… Ok maybe a little bit about my weight but it’s more to do with self-confidence and more precisely, fear. The last time I clean shaved was in August 2013. I did it for a job interview at a theatre in London. I got myself sorted for this swelteringly hot summers day, which was already made uncomfortable by me having to dress appropriately for the interview. I decided, slightly on a whim and slightly because I felt my beard wasn’t looking the best, to trim my beard. As normally happens whenever I need precision trimming, this ended with me trimming a bit too much and ending up with uneven beard. So it had to go. No question.

The problem is that I’ve always had terrible fickle skin. If it was an alibi it’d be OJ Simpson’s glove. Through bouts of Acne and dry skin, my face has always been quick to betray me. This interview was no exception. Everyone gets stubble rash and a few nicks here and there and I thought, for once, that I’d got away with it. From the morning at home, the commute to London, the few hours work I put in where I was working before I went to the interview AND THE SECOND I LEFT…

Here's a completely realistic job interview with a trainee psychopath.

Here’s a completely realistic job interview with a trainee psychopath.

I started bleeding. Underneath my chin. I had to have a a piece of tissue on it during the entire tube journey to Leicester Square. It didn’t stop. I went and got some more tissue and made my way to the interview to be suitably early. It didn’t stop. I talked to my friend in the theatre lobby for a while as they were running behind on the interviews. It didn’t stop. I got taken to be interviewed in an upstairs bar, while a performance was on, nervous, stressed, looking like a lobster from the heat outside and inside the theatre.

It didn’t stop.

There is literally nothing you can do. The interview is already fucked before it’s even begun. You look like a twat because you’re holding several different tissues to your neck which come back with spots of blood from the SMALLEST LITTLE CUT that took six hours before it decided to bleed. So I did the only thing I could. “I’m really sorry,” I said, “I normally have a beard and I decided to shave for the interview and on the way here a cut just started bleeding.”

“Oh, ok,” they said.

The elephant was out of the room and the awkwardness was averted but the interview was long lost. It will go down as one of the worst moments of my life and is one of the direct contributors to me trying to forge my career over the past 18 months. If you’re keeping score, I have still had only three proper job interviews since graduating and that was one of them.

Future beards may occur with sufficient gains in arm ballast.

Future beards may occur with sufficient gains in arm ballast.

So put simply, I don’t shave until I can get in to a position where my utter boredom, or my skin, dictates that I must. Therefore, today I decided was my bi-annual shave. I should be starting some part time work soon to supplement my non-existent income. I’ve had a few entry level career jobs opportunities that didn’t give me a look in and I recently turned 31. So it’s time to shave and to stop hiding behind the beard.

Maybe it is a bit of a “turn a new leaf” kind of thing. Trying to persuade myself that general life and career attempts aren’t just futile exercises in send many emails to no avail. I go in to year two of career forging with a literal fresh face and a few realistic promises that I need to make to myself, which I shall list here.

1) Stop getting pissed at the world, it doesn’t hate you it hates everyone equally.

2) Get your flabby ass to the gym, son!

3) Never grow a beard until you get a job interview, or can look like Triple H.

There’s more but I think they’ll be blog posts for another time.

Knowing When to Quit – A Writers Tale

In what is becoming a monthly blog, apparently, I’ve decided to write something.

The reason why I’ve decided to write something comes as a bit of a shock to me and possibly a few others. It is partially a response to a BBC Writersroom blog by Sally Stott on how and when you decide if you should quit writing, if you even do at all. In a completely coincidental irony, before reading the blog, I was reading George Orwell’s “Down and Out in Paris and London” which follows the now famous writer in a time he was at most his most impoverished.

Money of course rules the world. According to the BBC I am unable to live where I currently live. In fact I’m about 30 miles closer to London than I can afford to be. The eternal debate between whether or not a writer should stop in order to earn money so that they can buy rice and canned tuna fish is something that runs through all of our heads. In fact I should change ‘writer’ in that to ‘artist’ as this affects pretty much anybody starting a creative industry endeavour.

Of course the issue is that I should work full time and write in my spare time. Which is right, in theory. Before life gets in the way and everything else comes before writing, like personal hygiene, effective nutrition and sewing those work trousers back together in the butt seam (as you refuse to buy new clothes for something you only see as temporary) thanks to ineffective nutrition.

Then of course there’s the bullish attitude that you should never quit and suffer the indignities of poor income, lack of any social standing and of sewing those jeans back together in the butt seam as your non-existent nutrition has rendered them well worn.

The trick though is getting a job writing, or in the same industry, right? Well… Not exactly, which is where my current experience comes in.

I have spent the past year after graduating University trying to get a job in the industry, to getting a semi related job in an industry followed by any job at all. This cycle has repeated several times and if you know me personally then this story is more worn than my jeans. However something has changed mentally in my approach to this.

I have worked actual jobs during my time out of University. Three in fact. Two of them temporary and one of them currently part-time semi freelance work writing. That’s right, I’ve actually achieved the dream of being paid for writing. I also offer my services to a gaming website where I thoroughly enjoy my work and what I write. Whether or not you consider it a portfolio builder or a hobby, whatever. I love the video gaming industry, I always have and it’s full of exciting and interesting people and propositions.

However, that hasn’t stopped me needing that demonic invention of the Mesopotamians and the Babylonians. And I realise that the pursuit of economic stability has become a very important, and practically unachieved, goal of my life to date.

Then I turned 30. Actually turned 30, three weeks ago. 30 didn’t even exist as a potential age before I was 25. Maybe it was immaturity on my part, or a weird reluctance to accept that my life was going nowhere when I was 25. But now, it’s here, it’s happened and a revelation or two made themselves known.

Firstly: That I was actually pretty good at this writing thing and I should realise that I have a paid and unpaid job doing it. However, I haven’t done enough of it. Along with my quite frankly pathetic and chemically influenced self-esteem (which all writers seem to have), I have found many distractions to avoid doing that, those being playing video games, diving into YouTube (something I still want to do more of and think I could do well with), and spending an entire year constantly applying for jobs that seem to be impossible to get.

The applying for jobs part of that is the most self destructive thing I’ve ever done. I’m no stranger to unemployment. I’ve been unemployed three times in my life, all voluntarily or due to study, which is technically voluntarily. But this past twelve months, especially riding on the crest of a wave of productivity and of self confidence in my ability, has destroyed every bit of positivity I’ve had. It saps all energy you have and you don’t want to write anything at all if you spend so long on individual things, only for them to amount to nothing. You just want to drink beer.

Secondly: The one thing I did write and ran with, a sitcom pilot, was well received by people who helped me work on it. It got through the first round of the last BBC Writersroom submissions of 2013 (see the earlier BBC blog link again). Of course there’s no feedback this way so I know nothing. But, I also sent it to Red Productions Company in Manchester, a company I have a lot of time for who created one of my favourite dramas, Casanova.

They did give me feedback with the rejection letter. They had read my script. I know the BBC did too but to have a physical letter in my hand that says they read it and enjoyed it (regardless of the ‘but’) is an incredible feeling for a new writer. The feedback was so incredibly positive that my confidence in my ability was reassured and my remembrance that I always need to learn was further instilled. So I applied to go on a playwriting course at RADA which I hope will tackle some of the issues I had and help in developing future projects.

The summary of these revelations, and I suppose a response to the BBC Writersroom blog, is that you need to know when to quit. Sanity is secondary to money and family support but all are essential. Get out of the fire for a bit if its burning. But there’s a more important and secondary proposition which is: knowing WHAT to quit. I’m in a lucky enough position that I’m able to live where I do, even though I can’t personally afford it. I am a good writer (don’t mistake that for ego, I’ll hate myself tomorrow no doubt). But more importantly, I should have the confidence in myself, and so should anyone else in this position, that I should just do what I’m good at … Writing.

All the jobs in the world will pay my bills and leave me no time doing what I wanted to do. How can I ever progress as a writer if I’m too busy concentrating on other things to actually produce any writing?

So, I’m quitting. I’m quitting what I’ve spent the past twelve months doing until I can’t ignore it anymore, which is basically economic procrastination. I’m with Aristotle on this one. My words are my barter… Remember that next time you think you should quit.

Atychiphobia

I haven’t written a blog in a while. This is because of (un)employment, distractions and me being trapped in a self inflicted mental bubble. If you want the big life update, go and follow me on twitter.

I’m here to write about something else. Mostly because a few people, including myself, haven’t had the most encouraging time lately. I’ve spent the past weekend thinking about it and trying to figure out why.

If I’m honest, I’ve applied for a few jobs over the course of the past couple of months. Literally a few. This is because I’ve grown accustomed to the inventible rejection and failure that I can’t bring myself to do it. I cannot drum up enough enthusiasm to rework my CV, create a cover letter tailored to whichever area I’m trying to get in to and see it receive no reply, a stock reply after a month or just get to nowhere.

It is actually quite crippling how the rejection of jobs, not even interviews but the preliminary applications, affects you. I’m not talking one or two, I’m talking dozens. I’m nearly up to the magic century of jobs within a year. Of course most of the work I want to do involves working for free for a completely unknown amount of time (which is something I or any family sponsoring me cannot afford) or mass networking. The latter I can and have done but I don’t feel it to the shameless enough degree that I could ask anyone something. It’s a hard thankless and cutthroat world I’m trying to enter and the more you try, the harder it will resist you.

I think I sit in this room in front of my computer every day of every week. I have little physical socialisation and, apart from the times where I’m working a night shift here, I rarely accomplish anything. At least that’s how it feels. I’ve had two recent rejections for screenwriting submissions and these were encouraging. Mostly because I heard something back and it was actually proof that someone had read it. I’ll be honest, this was my first time out for a script and I was over the moon that at least I had got as far as I had. I should have been bummed out or angry and persistent to carry on. But I was happy and encouraged and this pleased me.

Then I realised I couldn’t share that enjoyment with anyone. I also realised I haven’t shared anything about my anxiety and fear with my friends. Not only do I worry that they don’t understand and that I’m a bit of a bum and a failure in their eyes (which I guess I am at the time of writing) but they can’t relate to what I’m experiencing or the work I’m attempting to do. And why should they? They don’t know anything really about what I’m attempting to achieve other than it’s quite hard. They don’t understand exactly how much my insecurity and, for lack of a better word, fear grips me and keeps me awake for hours, stops me moving when I wake up and how much I feel imprisoned.

I am lucky in my current situation but I am aware it’s stopping me from being forced to do things. With the last year, I had such a run of productivity that I genuinely yearn for now. The only post-uni blues I have is based around that sense of confidence, encouragement and excitement at the work I was yet to do, coupled with my location. I’ve always tried to move away. Not because I hate the place or anything, my friends have chosen to settle here and I respect that. But for me it’s like a weight. It’s hard to explain and maybe my words aren’t formed enough to do it justice. There’s a pressure on your body that you get when you suddenly brake your car from a high speed. It forces you into a position and makes you immobile. Not just your body but your mind as well. The adrenaline and sudden rush almost paralyses your brain of any thought and you live for a moment completely thoughtless and absent apart from your own body and what you see in front of you. That’s how I feel here.

This isn’t intended to be a whiney post to cultivate sympathy or support, although the latter is always welcome especially as I’m a needy twat sometimes. But it’s intended to speak to the people I know that also have problems, feel like dropping it all and giving in. Those of you who read this and recognise a bit of yourself in it. Whether or not a job you wanted hasn’t materialised or you just feel a bit lost and unsure where you’re heading, just read the following:

You aren’t alone. We are all in this together. It sounds silly but we are but young and naive creatures in a vicious environment. Regardless of what we’ve been prepared for, our age, our experiences, nothing could have exactly prepared us for how things have turned out. But they will get better if they believe they will. Because if we believe, then we will work at making our beliefs reality. As hypocritical as I probably sound saying this, there will be a time for us, all of us, and it will come when we least expect it because we are so busy trying to make it happen. But we all need to support each other and prop each other up. It’s hard and you need to pick and choose what you listen to and who you seek counsel in. Sometimes, people seem different and distant but that’s more because you have done the same to achieve your goals. Once you get there, they’ll understand. You need to find the people now who will completely support you and remind you that carrying on is better than giving in. Things will come together.

The title of this post means fear of failure in the sense that is is persistent and uncontrollable. Everybody will say they are optimistic but deep down, we all have this rooted in our psyche. Sometimes things happen in our lives that bring this to the surface much more predominantly, and that’s OK. We fear that we are wasting ourselves because we believe in ourselves that we should be achieving something. We are hungry for it, desperate maybe, and certainly willing to sacrifice for it. I’ve found that my fear of failure isn’t the fear of me failing, but the fear that if I do fail, I’m not sure where I would turn to be picked up again. Once I find that which picks me up, and you find that as well, then we all shall never fear again.

Great at starting, awful at finishing.

I have a lot of good starts as a writer. But it’s getting past those good starts that annoys me greatly. Where my enthusiasm for a story either dies or I find I’m writing it in the wrong medium. I have one great moment of ‘YES, THIS IS AWESOME!’ This is then followed by an ‘Ah, bugger.’ I’m sure we all have them but I seem to be a slave to them at present. Which, as you can imagine for a writer, is highly frustrating.

There’s a good first line I have for a story (which I will not post here yet). But I’ve just written (literally just written) the beginning of a ghost story. In my mind, this is the beginning of an audio drama, maybe just a ghost story, maybe something like a Doctor Who audio (Big Finish dramas are bloody awesome, check them out). But I get so far and just crunch to a halt. I have only just finished a novella and several essays, applied for jobs and started a book already so I should probably give myself a little break. Anyway. Here it is. Please tell me if you think I should carry on, because I’m not sure. I’m never sure. Maybe I’ll just bank it for future use. But yeah, let me know.

There were knocks on the door. Tap. Tap. Tap. She was silent, laid still in her bed, the light off and home alone. Enough time passed for the echoes to fade before the knocks started again. Tap. Tap. Tap. ‘Who’s there?’ She asked.

There was no answer.

‘Who is it?’

No answer.

‘Hello?’ She said. But in her mind she really said help.

There’s no one here, she told herself. It’s just in your mind, she lied.

Tap. Tap…

‘GO AWAY!’

… Tap.

The Dissertation Diary – Untitled With No Title In Sight

It’s been a month and a bit since I’ve posted about the dissertation. Most of that has been spent writing… Well, 50% of it has been spent on the dissertation compared to other uni work… Well, maybe of that 50%, 20% has been actually writing it and the rest has been researching… Well, maybe I mean procrastinating, playing SimCity and stuff.

But I digress.

I have actually completed the first draft, well most of it. I’m just under 7000 words into it (10000 being the target) and I’ve written some absolute crap. But that’s ok, I’m supposed to. At least I have the idea and I’m not even going anywhere near it during the Easter break. In fact my tutor now has it so I can be suitably demolished down to size ready for draft number two. If this has taught me anything, this experience, it’s that I really a shit for procrastinating.

To write, you need a routine. And when I last updated the DD, I had one. Now however that’s gone to shit a bit for various reasons, all of which are so painfully boring that they don’t even interest me. But none the less, gone to the wall they have. Now other written work needs to take a little priority jump ready for when I go back to uni (for the final time *sob*) so I’m a bit worried I will lose my way a bit. Hence why I’m actually still researching. Yes, still! You can never stop really. From my random thoughts, I have a book idea to concentrate on after this project is done and whilst collecting these thoughts, I’m reading and investigating the areas where my story is set. Thankfully, the good thing about having parents that accumulate random 80s-90s books on nature and science is that they have a bloody huge library of things that aren’t useful until they are useful.

Anyway, things to do:

  • Change the names (at the moment the character names aren’t their names. I just used them to get me typing so I didn’t spend ages deliberating their names. I’m pretty crap at names)
  • Find a title. Yup, I don’t even have a title. Which is beginning to worry me. I mean, it’s not the most important thing is it? It can’t be something wanky, but it can’t be overly simple either. Or spoil the story/plot or be laden with cliche. It’s a pickle.
  • Apply for Jobs. Actually this is priority number one before the Easter weekend hits. Guess what I should be doing now? Uh-huh.

And on that note of procrastinating, I need to increase the health coverage of my city, Sloppy Joe’s, in the region of Hairy Shopping… Don’t ask.

Word Count: 6,936

Currently Reading: Toni Morrison – A Mercy

Read: Nick Hornby – About A Boy, Bret Easton Ellis – American Psycho

The Goddess of Dawn and the Northern Wind – The Dissertation Diary

Dissertation Diary, I have neglected you. I apologise. *Apology accepted* Good! Let’s carry on.

I’ve not actually detailed much of my dissertation and what it is about so it’s time to do that and to allow some closely guarded information to slip through the net. I have had this idea since the summer and starting back at university. Four months on, I’ve stuck to it. I’ve had my doubts and I’ve had to do some very morbid reading about leukaemia and cancer. But I’ve also been able to do some rather joyous reading and researching about this beautiful thing:

Aurora BorealisYes this is the wonderful beauty of nature that is the Aurora Borealis. Set in 2012, the story is about a young man, who is just about to lose his battle with illness, and wants to see this wonderful sight before his time is up. He enlists the help of his elder sister and his best friend to drive him up to the farthest reaches of Scotland where the event is uniquely visible at this time. Capers along the way, drama, races against time; all ensue. Along with a secret agenda of the young mans, involving his friends, that will affect the rest of their lives.

Out of the 300 or so odd words I had previously, none remain. But I’m currently up to nearly 2000 new words. Which is 1/5th of the entire 10,000 I have to do. Hopefully by the end of the month I’ll have that all written and I can leave it for a week before some serious re-writing. One of the hardest things (other than names, I’m terrible at naming characters) is deciding on a style for the piece. The stories I’ve written have very much defined my voice now and I think I can quite confidently write and create a piece that is me. But by style I mean this: how should it look? This isn’t a very long novella, so should I break it up into chapters? Smaller pieces of an overall arc? Or should I just go for it as one dense piece. I’ve decided at the moment to go for chapters, which can always change (thank you word processors). I also need to work out how to write something without giving it away too much but also without spoiling everything. I can’t say it yet, because I don’t want to spoil the enjoyment should you get to read it. But everyone that does know the secondary plot line likes it.  Also I must attempt to avoid anything completely cliche. Which, I’m sure you’ll all appreciate, is a complete arse to do.

I have to present this story to my creative writing colleagues and tutors on Thursday in the form of a presentation. Of course this shouldn’t be too much of an issue. In fact I may well take my earlier blurb on my story in with me, that looks pretty succinct. I’d already completed this plan where I had suggested certain books I’d read. My tutor met with me, obviously completely aware of my style of writing and ambition, and told me to read two books, neither of which I’d thought of. Those being Northern Lights by Philip Pullman (a natural choice I suppose given the setting) and a book that exemplifies the quest genre with my satirical British wit. That being The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy books by Douglas Adams. At that point in our meeting that I pull out my iPhone to show that  I was re-listening to the radio show at that very moment. Clever timing.

So maybe I’ll update you again when the presentation is over. In the mean time I’ve lots of other things to read, write, panic about, think about and watch. Here’s a link to the above picture from the BBC website and here’s some audio that I’ll be listening to whilst writing. You can listen too, thanks to the magic of the internet!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-19881645

Writing Playlist

Words: 1875

Read: White Noise – Don DeLillo, The Thin Man – Dashiell Hammett

Reading: Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy

A Great Big Spiffing Update

Yes, I haven’t updated in exactly one month, one day, and seventeen hours-ish. Bite me. At least I’ve updated the website. Doesn’t it look pretty and slightly less functional now? Less like a Dignitas brochure.

So I’m not going to update you on the dissertation as there’s not really any update to be had. University has been providing me with enough procrastination devices, reading, essays and general rubbish to keep me from making some progress on the one thing it needs me to do. But here’s some things that have been happening!

For one, I completed my dryathlon for charity so donate to me you tight gits. PINT84 £1 to 70070. Cancer Research UK will benefit greatly from it. I’m not exactly adonis yet in the body stakes but it’s slowly happening. Here’s hoping by May, I’ll look like the uglier version of (flavour of the month), the guy who (random celebrity status). The dawn is approaching where I need to seek some kind of gainful employment, working experience (I know I have seven years already), and the like. So if you know, can point in a direction or can help, tweet me! (@cleaverslips) I can write pretty things (flowers), gaming or nerdy things (kapowww! – 404 error), sporty things (FORE!), opinionated things (Uggh that bloke looks a bit rubbish on that news programme. Who does he think he is, the Prime Minister?) and funny things (makes fart noises). I can also use the steamy thingy on the coffee machine, which is probably more what you’re after in an employee anyway.

Writing wise, I’ve spent a lot of time rewriting a piece I did for a uni class. Normally, I’d post it once I’ve got my grade, but this I won’t. It’s autobiographical and to be honest, it became a bit of a labor of love for me. Literally, it’s about dating so, correct usage of the word literally there… Literally. Maybe you’ll see it when I have enough money to be happy and enough ego to warrant writing such a piece. However, my excursions into radio will bring something cool to your ears!

Hopefully starting in the next two months, me and a few friends are going to record a radio sketch show pilot. Just because we can really, and we only have the technology for another few months. The working titled “Hang The DJ” will be a pilot podcast, recorded in front of a live audience and performed by the friends and myself. So far, four pages out of a maximum 30 have been written as has some music for a comedy song. I’m quite excited about it (especially as my friends are funnier performers than me) and hope it will pave the way for a series available in podcast form. At least it’ll give me some writing confidence and a chance to hone my craft rather than the rejections from BBC’s Newsjack.

I have written a short story which I am letting stew for a while before editing. I can tell you it’s called The Taxers and is about a post-apocalyptic farming colony. Hopefully I can find a way to get it published. There’s also a few other ideas flying around, including a Valentines Day piece about a mystery Valentine who leaves random clues over their workplace to woo their prospective interest. I will publish it on here when I get around to it. PURELY OUT OF SPITE TO WRITING MAGAZINE! Yes, I ask you, as a magazine that offers short story competitions (which another friend got shortlisted for but a far inferior story got the nod), and also that offers internet/iPad subscriptions, in this 21st Century mobile world, how can they refuse a submission from me? I’ll tell you. I don’t count as a subscriber as I do so via my iPad, so they won’t let me submit anything. To do so, I have to subscribe by filling a form in the physical magazine and sending it off with a cheque with my story. I’m feeling myself rambling here but UP YOURS writing mag! Come see me when you decide to crawl into the future. Maybe I’ll fax you the directions on how to get there.

Also, Superbash, NFL, fun nights had, Dodge Brothers ticket sorted, lots of board games and geek T-Shirts purchased, lots of books, stuff, etc, yada yada. Just follow on twitter, instagram, all that kind of thing. I’m there.

Currently Reading: Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy, Tales From Development Hell: The Greatest Movies Never Made? – David Hughes.

The Dissertation Diary – Christmas (Or How To Avoid Work)

Yes, the traditional holiday season of putting on weight and celebrating the change of year numbers has meant I’ve done absolutely nothing. Shit all. Bugger.

All I’ve actually HAD to do was read and I failed miserably. Being distracted by Halo, beard growing and eating.
So the plans for this year are as follows:

1) Finish University without leaving everything to the last minute.
2) Get really buff in January.
3) See if I can go on my friends stag do in May (during dissertation hand in time)
4) Maybe get another Radio Show on the go.
5) Write that Radio sitcom I’ve had planned for ages.
6) Write that Movie script I’ve had planned for ages.
7) See if I can go to see the Northern Lights.
8) Get some work experience.
9) Look in to a Masters Degree.
10) Don’t drink.

That last one isn’t just an idle resolution, for I am a Dryathlete. I’m raising money for Cancer Research UK by not drinking for a month. I’ll try and go further too. But if you wish to donate, visit www.justgiving.com/dryathlete-sean-cleaver or if you’re in the UK text PINT84 to 70070 to donate £5.

But the rest, all pie in the sky thinking really… Except maybe the get buff. Need to get back on the gym wagon. I also need to stop being distracted by video games. I thought Halo 4 was going to destroy my life, but NO. It’s not even my now ridiculous obsession with getting all the available achievements for all the Halo games, NO! It’s this game I picked up on sale called Tropico 4. You get to be a dictator running your own Banana Republic. A bit of a jokey city builder but it’s fun, easy pick up and play and just cool. I’m trying to find a citizen called Januito so I can have him executed… Ok maybe only certain people would get the humour.

So I hope my next update is more productive, but until then please sponsor me. You have no idea how hard not drinking is when you have a delicious 21 year old Johnnie Walker XR (google it) sat on the shelf. Also, if you don’t follow me on twitter you can (@cleaverslips) and even instagram now (seancleaver)! Here’s a selection of alright photos.

Lost In Whisky Translation
Tailgate To Heaven
Charity Shop Extreme Shopping
Some Local Winter Sight Seeing
Why I Write Rather Than Draw

Currently Reading: Tailgate To Heaven – Adam Goldstein, Ingenious Pain – Andrew Miller.

The Dissertation Diary – Easily Distracted

Well. What a week.

It’s always hard to do anything at all in life when life gets in the way. Last week, life majorly got in the way of all dissertation related endeavours. I do now have a supervisor for my project and the few people that have asked really like the story idea so hopefully, this will come off well. So I flew in to this week with commitment and confidence that only life could ruin… Well life and whatever tawdry low-budget tosh my friends have cared to tape from the Horror channel and play over take-out and friendly banter. Which is where this weeks journey began. Shortly followed by finishing some sketches and one lines for BBC Radio 4 that didn’t get used. Sad face.

Fast forward to Monday. 5am. Awake. I’ve never got up that early on purpose unless to catch a flight. But this time it was to meet one of the heroes of my, and my friends, life. The actor, bodybuilder, writer, businessman, politician and Austrian (that counts), Arnold Schwarzenegger. Early morning rises are not fun at the best of times, even less so when having to stand outside Waterstones in Piccadilly from 7:30am and only just make it into the queue. The man at the front had been there since 7pm the night before. 12 HOURS! I can’t imagine that, as the one thing I would not want to do when getting Arnie to sign my book is smell like I’ve slept on a London street overnight. But we got in, were rushed along with hardly a hello or a handshake, got our book signed, ate a burger and left. But it was totally worth it. Here’s my good friend Charlie (@brownsell) getting his book increased in value.

Later that day, via the medium of twitter and random contacts, I had a small open spot doing stand-up at UCL for Tuesday. Obviously whenever I do any comedy I always feel completely nervous, way out of my depth and a complete phoney. But that’s half the fun. It went quite well, the other acts were astounding (Tony Law a particular highlight) and I survived. However I was doomed to get the last train home (1:30am). Bearing in mind I had to be back at LMU (which I’d just spent half the night criticising) for 10am, I was one sleepy Sean. Panda eyes in full effect.

So, lets be honest. Going out drinking with friends after lectures, watching the England game and being out until 10:30, really isn’t a great idea. Especially when you have so much reading to do and writing to think about and after I’d just started a new gym regime. So I spoilt that with Nando’s and alcohol. But I still felt pretty good going in to Thursday. Back to the gym and then to a hospital appointment was the plan. I’ve recently been in hospital for an operation so I had to have a check up. Positive: Got to read a crap load of a book whilst waiting to be seen. Negative: I had to wait for an hour only to get crappy news and have nothing except the crappy book I had to read. This completely ruined my day and brought back a lot of other problems. Life yet again throws a curveball (baseball reference – see I’m learning).

Friday however was fairly ordinary and life did nothing but plod along taking me in its wing for lectures, a lot of reading, meetings, home and gym. Which led to Saturday where gym also occurred as well as some reading. But in the end, it led to many friends on my bed, lots of drinking, a terrible hangover and yet more sobering realisations that I probably, and very dangerously, vomited in my sleep. Not cool. Fast forward to Monday (now) where I am documenting the week’s distractions, which in itself is a distraction from reading more university stuff and researching. I’ll catch up this week before an AWESOME NFL WEEKEND!

I guess I’m easily distracted.

Word Count: 312

Reading: Lucky Man. A memoir – Michael J. Fox

The Dissertation Diary – 32,500 verbs and adjectives

Thirty two thousand, five hundred words. Over the course of the next year, that’s how much I have to write – minimum. The bulk of that will be my dissertation, but the rest is all the little essays, presentations and commentaries.

If you want to put that in to perspective, that’s around 16 average sized essays over a year. Or half an average novel. Or 31,750 more sensical words than the average Ultimate Warrior WWF promo. I must admit that it’s a bit daunting. It’s a bit daunting to do the entire 10,000 word short story, even though I mostly have it sussed. I have to research several elements of this to get it right. First I have to find the right affliction (which I think I have). Then I have to map the route this journey will take. Then I have to think practically how these people in their situation can get to the even they are meant to get to so that I can navigate them to the end of the story. In between that I have to create some dramatic tension, a sense of relation with the reader and I have to right confidently enough and strongly enough that I can hook a reader with the first paragraph and keep them there for the next 9,600 words.

Thats the last thing of course. Before then, I have lots of smaller tasks, at least 15 books to read, analyse, discuss and critique. Oh woe is me (sarcasm). You know, I chose this path for my life. I was aware, although somewhat less informed at the time, of the gravity of my choice. What I would have to do, the level of maturity and commitment it would take to develop not only my skills but my mind and my attitude towards this career of writing.

Writing is solitary confinement for the emotionally crippled and the socially self-masochistic. Over the past two years, I’ve desperately tried, as I probably did for the years previous to that, to hang on to the last strands of youth. To find what I always craved in love and muse and to actually be happy and productive. I now know that can’t happen. I don’t mean that in a defeatist depressing way at all. Lots of people can find happiness in life and work. I however am not one of them, at least not at this stage in my life.

What’s with all this emotional baggage, Sean? Well, it’s precisely this: I need to forget all of that. Everything. I need to exist in the bubble of reading, writing and creating. I need to forget the late nights boozing with people years my junior. I need to leave the baggage I’ve created for myself with love. I need to forgo any commitments for the most part that detract from the pursuit of writing. There’s a picture next to my desk on the wall of one of my favourite movies, Casablanca. Champagne is being poured in glasses on a piano that Sam is playing. Rick Blaine is pouring it whilst looking directly as Ilsa Lund who is looking away and down, unable to meet his eye. Because she knows deep down the truth of the matter that this around her, her wish, cannot be. Rick realises this and starts the process of sacrificing for their benefit.

In the same way, I must sacrifice all of this for the attitude of writing. If I don’t, then how can I call myself a writer or continue as one post-university? I need to get this frame of mind practiced and the year long task of producing as many words as half a novel serves no better purpose than to do that. If I can do this then I can do anything. Some things, as I’ve come to learn the hard way, are harder to let go than others. Some I don’t think ever truly leave you. But as I tweeted recently I know when I publish that first book what the dedication will be. It might lay some ghosts to rest, or it might excise them. Either way, then is the time for reflection and for life. Until then I must carry on with this plane of thought because if I don’t, to paraphrase Rick, I’ll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But someday and for the rest of my life.

Sean sits in front of his computer and starts typing the end of his story in full. This final paragraph will serve as his goal to reach. Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap.

Sean

Word Count: 312

Reading: Waterland – Graham Swift; Japanese Phrases for Dummies – Eriko Sato PhD.