The Final 100 Days of Writing

My writing year hasn’t gone to plan.

At the back end of 2021, I put in for an Arts Council England, Developing Your Creative Practice grant. I didn’t get one but I made a promise to myself to follow the project plan I had to submit with this application for the first 6 months of 2022.

Things just didn’t go to plan from the very beginning of the year, with family illness and myself getting ill etc. I was knocked off course and never got back on during the year.

Until now. London Writer’s Salon ran a 100 Days of Writing Workshop last night. Then there was 100 days left of 2022. Where has the time gone?

I attended along with over 300 other people, working through the workbook to get recommitted to my Mixmoir. And it worked.

I’ve set myself some goals and targets for the final 100 days of writing for 2022. I figure, I can turn it out for others when I have to or need to, the recent BALTIC commission being a prime example. Well now I want to use this commitment to others and their demands to my own advantage and complete something that is important to me instead.

My goal is to complete the Mixmoir in the final 100 days of 2022. I figure it’s about 3 essays and about 15 poems I need to get it into a completed state by the end of 2022. And I might even place in the word ‘shitty’ first draft of the whole thing there too in order to ease the pressure off for perfection.

My guiding words for this process are fun and play and experimentation. I want to enjoy the process and I figure these values with help me a lot with this task.

I’ve been wanting to write this Mixmoir now for about 5 years and I think I’ve just been taking it and myself far too seriously. So I’m inviting in the fun and joy and excitement about the project again.

And I’ve got the last 100 days of 2022 to crack on with it. And these final days of the year are not empty. I’ve got plenty of outside commitments, family responsibilities and travel plans to keep me busy. But this might be the kick up the arse I need to just finish the damn thing.

This Mixmoir is an important step in establishing myself as an expert in the field of Black Nature. I want to use this text as the basis of the Earth Sea Live CIC business. As a speaker and facilitator and expedition leader. But it’s doing nothing to further the cause if it’s not finished or published yet.

So here I am biting the bullet, getting my head down and ploughing on through.

No hold up! I said fun and play and experimentation in order to enjoy the process.

So my shoulders are back, my head is facing the light and I’m skipping off into writing pleasureland for the final 100 days of 2022.

Let’s see what I create.

The Art of Slow Writing

Collaborative anti-racism broadsides collaborative project with Theresa Easton

I started my Patreon Page in April 2018 with the focus on Slow Writing.

I stated:

The Art of Slow Writing

“When our lives change, when the world changes, we must reinvent ourselves as writers.” – Louise DeSalvo.

Taking inspiration from Louise DeSalvo’s book, The Art of Slow Writing, I’m choosing to create fine writing; writing of quality and writing of worth. I believe in order for this to happen, I need to find my way back to slow writing.

Slow writing is a meditative practice, creating time and space for understanding my relationship to my writing, the writing process and working towards my best work.

I envisioned it as the space where I wrote the memoir ( memoir then, Mixmoir now).

I said through a facelift of my Patreon Page that:

I’ve been writing a creative non-fiction memoir which includes personal essays, poetry, quotes, paintings, photography etc and this continues as this piece of creation centres the black woman’s body with/in nature. What I envision now is this piece taking on a more critical and political perspective with climate / environmental justice taking up space as this is my reality, our reality, even if there are systems in place which would lead us to believe otherwise.

Using my art is my resistance, is my activism and I just see it as time to start owning it. Blatantly so.

All that I’ve been wanting to achieve and working towards has morphed into one – this idea of black / brown bodies with/in nature. This is my full-time obsession and I’ve been making big changes in my personal life to reflect and accommodate this. This includes Patreon.

It was within this space that I created the term Mixmoir to describe what I’m trying to create. There, here, everywhere.

When you take on a project, a writing project that is arduous and long and messy, there’s a tendency to get lost along the way. Get tangled up in the details, get into your own head and manipulate your own weaknesses and doubts to the point of stop writing and just spending your time and energy just wishing.

I’ve got to the point of feeling sick and tired about feeling/acting/behaving this way. This inactivity within a writing project I feel so deeply about. Which is so vital to my being.

So this is me attempting to change the story and get the damn book complete on my own terms by any means necessary by glueing my arse down to the seat and just writing.

Welcome to my practice.

The Long Journey To Claiming Books

I was brought up to treat books as sacred. They were a source of knowledge. You get your education and you’d have choices in life. You’d move on in the world. Have a better life than your parents before you.

Books were the gateway into this Paradise.

Each week, we would walk into town from our maisonette, along the busy dual carriageway. Once in town, we’d go to the market, to the one book stall and pick out a book. They were the tradition fairy tales with pictures and text.

If not them, then Enid Blyton books. For some reason, I felt the importance of books and the connection of them to my dad. He’d read us bedtime stories and I’d just love to be in his presence then. As he was softer and loving. Different from the angry man he was at all other times.

For some reason, who knows what goes through a child’s mind, I took to doodling in one of these fairy tale books. I want to say it was Snow White, but I could wrong.

A whole heap of scribbles and doodles took over the pages of this book. Why use the book when I had plenty of blank white paper? As I said who knows what goes through a child’s mind.

I just know that my father found the book and shouted at me with rage. And beat me. I’d done something wrong. I’d ruined the book. I’d ruined my chances of getting on in the world. I’d gone against the unwritten rule( or was a spoken one?) around how to respect books.

Older now, I hunt for books. I buy my own books. I read then. Some I don’t. Some I keep or give away. And some I purposefully, consciously make the decision to repurpose. Reclaim them.

I tear out pages and I cut these up. I smear paint on the pages left in the book. I stick images in them, tape, stickers. And yes I write in them. I write out my hopes and fears. My desires and dreams. My memories and traumas.

I think I was brought up right. To treat books as sacred. But it’s what you do with those books that count, I think. And a book has multiple uses/ purposes. I think. Multiple ways and means of instilling knowledge and opportunities and freedom.

It’s been a long journey for me to get to this point of choices. But I claim them all.

Let’s Go Outside

Visual journaling 04/05

At the moment, I’m using an altered (romance) book as my visual journal. I go with my moods when it comes to deciding what to use next for my visual journal. I listen to my gut and what she’s calling for in terms of size, shape, texture of page, of journal she needs in order to show up daily for the next month or so.

So with an altered book as my journal I was calling for space to explore colours but also layering, composition and found text.

There will be pages that are heavy with colour and my handwriting while others I’ll crave colour with space and some text cut ups applied.

I’m using Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye at the moment to create found poetry for double page spreads. The Bluest Eye was the first book I read in which I found someone who looked like me and who felt the same self-hate I was experiencing around growing up in a predominately white society being within a Black body. It was revolutionary for me and my personal development to find this book when I did.

I suppose using a copy of the book now to cut up and repurpose is saying something about how I’m feeling at the moment and how I want to see myself on the page. How I want to take back the space, take up space and be validated. But on my own terms.

I love how powerful visual journaling is to my psyche and how I move my body through this world but does so through such a simple process. It never ceases to amaze me what comes to light and fruition through this practice.

Photo walk : Come with me to Marden Quarry, Cullercoats.

After Covid in February, I committed to moving my body more in March. I felt tired and sluggish and beat. So I needed to shift my energy. Fast.

One way I committed to this journey was to set myself the task of walking every day. And for some reason it had to be 4 miles a day. I think this roughly worked out as my 10,000 steps a day. Now this is moving from 0 miles to 4 miles overnight. My body wasn’t happy.

What I found soon enough was how much more energy and joy I was experiencing in my day once I got out the door and walked. I walked every where for every conceivable errand and then some days I just walked because I promised myself to do it.

March came and went into April, and I continued the walking. Some days not quite reaching 4 miles while other days far out passing it. I noticed I was walking faster and at first this worried me. I used to think the faster you walked the less you would notice. Not the case.

I noticed the faster I walked the more in tune with my body and surrounding I became. My senses were more alert, colours were brighter, scents were sharper. I was more present. I felt amazing in my body and moment.

When I think I’m not in the moment, not in my body, in my walk then I slow down and start taking photos. I’ve performed photowalks for years now and I’m so pleased to be bringing them back into my practice now.

A Photowalk is just as it says on the tin; you walk and take photos of whatever takes your interest a long the way. I see something first and then stop and then see it again as I take a photo of it. Sharing it here with you, not only brings you along on my walk but also allows me to see whatever it is again and relive the moment, re-engage with my body and memory of the time. It’s a gift that just keeps on giving.

Today, I’ve upped my mileage to 5 miles a day moving forward. Of course I ended up doing far more, over 8 miles, but that won’t happen every day. If someone had told me back in February that you’ll be out every day walking just for the hell of it, I would have laughed as I was feeling pretty rough with and after Covid. But here as I up my time outdoors, living in and through my body, I’m so pleased I made this commitment to myself.

Look out for more Photowalks as the year progresses. I just love the beauty that can be found when I’m open.

Late Night/ Early Morning

Visual journal 03/05

I couldn’t sleep last night. Not sure why but sleep evaded me.

I read. I surfed the net and then I just gave in, got up brewed fresh coffee (yes I know not conducive to sleep) and broke out my visual journaling supplies.

I was no longer tired or annoyed or frustrated about the lack of sleep. I was wired and alert. My energy has shifted up a gear and I was in the flow.

Outside was dark and silent. Inside was just as silent but the lights were on and I was dreaming with my eyes wide open.

I felt as if I was stealing back time from my day. Getting a head start on the day ahead by already connecting with myself before the sun was even up.

I felt I’d been given a gift to be at my journal at this time of night/day. This totally shifted my mood into gratitude and joy.

Try it next time you can’t sleep. See how you feel afterwards. Something would have shifted in the process. Guaranteed!

Hopping Mad Today

visual journaling 02/05

Morning pages: visual journaling/ journaling done for now.

I like to get to the page first thing, the first thing I do each day after going for a pee and brewing some coffee. This is the ritual that is in place. Not every day can I fulfil this ritual, but most days, yes.

I find when I come to the page in this state, my night dreams are still hanging around me. I can still grasp onto them and explore them on the page. What do they mean? What is causing friction in my subconscious mind?

Today’s ramblings where not difficult to decipher as they relate to an email I received yesterday evening. I must bring back the ‘no email checking after a certain time’ rule. It just disrupts my calm flow state of mind when I do read an email late at night and allow it to work it’s way into my brain just before bed.

Anyway, I dreamt on it and was trying to find people who were in agreement with me about it. Hence waking this morning hopping mad as I’m not sure anyone did eventually agree with me. But I stand my ground this morning and go with my gut as she’s never seen me wrong.

It’s just tired really, having to point out yet again how the way someone is treating someone else is not okay. Maybe it’s okay to them and maybe no one has mentioned this to them before and so they continue to treat people this way. But common decency man, it costs nothing but goes a long way.

And maybe I’m taking it personally, maybe they act this way with everybody and not just with me and not because I’m a Black woman and viewed as less than. Maybe maybe maybe. This is how I’ve spent years making allowances for other people’s behaviour and treatment of me. Giving them the benefit of the doubt at the detriment to my sanity and my treatment of myself.

But no more. No one owes me nothing and no one owns me. I do not have to pussy foot around worried about causing offence because they’ve already caused offence to me so that shows me that they do not respect me and they do not see me. Therefore, you do not deserve my allowances, my excuses for your behaviour, or me trying to make you feel/ remain comfortable.

I’m not going to be rude or disrespect them but I will be speaking plainly to them. It will be interesting how they respond when I tell them my truth.

But all in good time, as another one of my practices is ::SLOW:: . Just because it suits someone to send an email at such and such a time, it doesn’t mean that it suits my timeframe and mind set to reply immediately and engage with their requests now. On their timetable, at their sense of urgency.

All in good time means all in good time for ME. Which isn’t at the exact moment as I think it’s another coffee for me and another few pages of visual journaling as I’ve got some shit to work out still.

Ah the beauty of visual journaling. Welcome to my world! See you tomorrow!

Close up of visual journaling 02/05

The Terzanelle – The Gaze

Too often we refuse to gaze
on something unpleasant to see.
Rubs against us all the wrong ways.

I don’t like to see an oak tree,
feel my neck snap. And my heart breaks
when there ‘s something unpleasant to see.

My words, a soundtrack for those taken;
blackmen whipped, flesh-eating scars, pain,
felt my neck snap and my heart broken.

Dead eyes and flashbulb smiles at the slain.
Who wants to look at these photographs?
Black guys, whipped, flesh-eating scars, pain.

Who has to deal with the aftermath
of bodies reshaped by tragedy?
Who wants to look at these photographs?

Callous grins surround,
too often we refuse to look.
Their bodies reshaped by tragedy
rubs us up the wrong way.

The Black Man

Go West Young Man, Keith Piper, 1987


After Keith Piper

The Black Man (body) projected with fears and fantasies never owning it’s presence

The Black Man (body) an object a commodity  to be possessed and used and abused 

The Black Man (body) traded for trinkets and spoons and guns then for sugar and cotton and rum

The Black Man (body) black mountain conquered claimed and reduced

The Black Man (body) once a boy breed as stud broken in like horse