On Depression and Writing | A Reprise

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A little while ago, I published the article On Depression and Writing by Derek Haines on Writer’s Blog, as I found it quite an interesting piece and thought others might like it too.

Since publishing it though it has played on my mind – how this writer has found depression so enabling with his writing process – and I have been thinking: lucky him.

Now, before I get in to this I need to say I love talking about writing, and books, stories, the writing process, etc etc, but I do not talk publicly about my own struggles. However, in order to discuss my thoughts on this topic I have to open up about myself – so here goes:

I have struggled with depression for years. I don’t talk about it, most people don’t know about it, in fact, some of my friends and acquaintances reading this will be shocked to find out about it, because when I’m out and about I plaster on a smile and be as helpful and as enthusiastic as I can possibly be. But behind closed doors I am in a lot of pain. I don’t want to burden people with it or bring them down, so I generally keep it all completely to myself. Posting this is therefore the most un-like-me thing to do. But, I want to talk about depression and writing, of which I have an awful amount of experience, so I can hardly discuss it and not mention my own experiences.

For me, depression is completely debilitating. Amongst other things, I have been writing a novel now for some time. The thing that stops me finishing it – apart from the editor living in my head who won’t allow me to just “write a crap first draft” – is depression. It’s not just “feeling a little bit low” and something I can easily “snap out-of”, like turning off a lightbulb, it is a constant everyday battle with myself.

Every writer goes through that “I’m shit and no one will want to read this trollop” stage. But with depression, that stage takes on a whole new life of its own. It becomes “I’m shit, and worthless, and useless, and maybe I should just kill myself” and “no-one is going to want to read this trollop because who am I kidding, I should just give up right now!”.

Depression has been the one biggest obstacle to my writing above anything and everything else. Money is an issue, of course, but you can always do a bit of extra work or beg and borrow it from somewhere. No one else can save you from the games your mind plays on you when you are depressed. I can sit in a room with nothing to do but write, and depression will pop up its head, and I will just sit there and cry, or procrastinate by doing anything else to distract myself from myself that I can – music, TV, social media – you name it, but can I manage to write a single word: no.

And then what happens? I feel even worse because I’ve done nothing, achieved nothing. And so the downward spiral continues. I have endless amounts of both respect and awe for the writer Matt Haig, who has famously and openly suffered with depression for a long time and still been a successful published author. I just wish I knew how he did it. I’m guessing sheer determination and resilience, because I know personally that it takes a massive amount of inner strength to battle depression everyday and still keep writing.

It is my hope that one day I will make it, both as a writer and as a happy individual. But for now, I will keep on struggling forward a day at a time. If any of you reading this are saying – yes, this is me too, she gets it – then I hope this post encourages you to keep writing too, and to know that although it feels like it, you are not alone.

Are things getting worse for women in publishing? | The Guardian

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Today on Writer’s Blog, a very interesting article from The Guardian about Women in Publishing:

When Edie and Eddie started work as junior editors in the same corporate book publisher, they had much in common: firsts from Oxbridge and career ambition. And a passion for books and ideas. When Edie saw her role model moved out of the chief executive’s office to be replaced by a man, the two joked about what it took to get to the top.

But as both observed the same thing happen at one publishing house after another, the joke wore thin. And Eddie, frustrated at the lack of promotion, changed. “He donned a suit and began to walk and talk like the men he saw getting on in the business and suddenly things changed for him,” Edie recalls. “It was as simple as that.”

To her, it seems that “all you need to get on now is to be a suited and booted man, who looks like he has an MBA. They remind me of David Cameron and George Osborne. All of them are white, middle class and presentable.” She pauses. “And male of course, which is definitely something I cannot aspire to be.” (Edie and Eddie are not real names, but like many of the people interviewed for this piece, Edie did not wish to be identified.)

This is a harsh assessment of UK publishing; an industry that had comforted itself that the one area of diversity it need not address was gender. A 2016 survey of the gender divide in US publishing found 78% of the industry is female (no UK-wide survey has yet been done). But the same survey found that, at executive or board level, 40% of respondents were men. And Edie is not alone in the frustration she feels over the split at board level: there is growing disquiet among the rank and file.

This is not to say that women have left the boardroom completely. But, as one senior female editor notes, women such as Random House’s Gail Rebuck, Penguin’s Helen Fraser, Macmillan’s Annette Thomas and Little, Brown’s Ursula Mackenzie, who had all embodied the ideal that women publishers faced no glass ceiling, have in the last five years all been replaced by men. “There is a problem, because you get the sense with the remaining women in senior management that they have gone as far as they are going to go, and in every case they are answerable to clean-cut, fortysomething men,” the editor adds.

The disquiet felt within publishing is not just about the higher echelons becoming as white, male and middle class as other industries, but that the sector looks less welcoming to outsiders, be they female, Bame (black, Asian and minority ethnic) or disabled. And, as a creative field, publishing has grown on the back of entrepreneurs and visionaries. “Publishing should be about new ideas, about difference and innovation, but these men are all about the optics,” says another female publisher, who works in the middle ranks of one of the big three houses. “They seem to be chosen because they look good on a corporate prospectus rather more than anything else. Even the great men of publishing – the Victor Gollanczes, Allen Lanes and Andre Deutsches – would not have fitted in to this world.”

Though half the boards of the big houses are comprised of women, in almost every case, they are in charge of more traditional roles: publishing, communications, human resources or educational divisions. Look at the magical “c-circle” of group chief executive, group chief operating officer and group chief finance officer – where the real power lies – and women are notably absent.

Publishers say this is simply down to a generation of women retiring and the amalgamation of publishing houses, which has left fewer c-circle jobs to compete for. It certainly does not mean women are losing ground. “In the bigger corporate publishing houses, the divisional managing directors, who are the people making the publishing decisions, many are women,” says Lis Tribe, group managing director for Hodder Education, part of the Hachette UK group. “There are five [female] divisional managing directors or chief executives at Hachette and six [divisions] are run by women at Penguin Random House (PRH).”

Tribe, who has recently taken the president’s role at the Publishers Association, is adamant there is no problem with women getting to the top. Others disagree. “Yeah, right!” laughs one woman who asked to be unnamed, having left corporate publishing to set up her own business. “There is also a tendency that we tend to recruit in our own image,” she says. “You have a lot of white, middle- and upper-class, privately educated men selecting other white, middle-class, privately educated men now. It has a chilling effect.”

There is a persistent gender pay gap in publishing, which in the last survey by Bookcareers.com was revealed to be 16% in the UK. This is regarded as evidence that men take a disproportionate number of higher paying executive roles to women. “I find it really depressing that after all these years we are still having the same conversations about pay and diversity. Nothing has changed,” says Bookcareers.com’s Suzanne Collier.

Simple sexism is not the sole cause of the problem: mergers have left most of British publishing in the hands of three large, global media companies – Hachette, Bertelsmann-owned PRH, and HarperCollins, which is part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp empire. This has not just left fewer influential jobs for women, but has led to a change in the kind of beast who does rises to the top. Kate Wilson, who set up independent children’s publisher Nosy Crow after leaving Hachette-owned Hodder seven years ago, sums it up: “In my 30 years in publishing I have seen the corporatisation of publishing and it is not helpful to women.”

But sexism is there. “There is a point in women’s careers where, if they have kids, they are sidelined,” Wilson says. Because publishers are now making it into management at a younger age, at the critical point when the top tier opens up, many women are taken out of the career loop by children, leaving men to leapfrog them. On their return, they are usually juggling childcare and work in a way that many of their male contemporaries are not. “What is a farce is that at the same point, in your 30s and early 40s, men still seem to be untrammelled by family life and that helps in their careers,” adds Wilson, who made it a central aim of Nosy Crow to encourage flexible working – and the majority of her staff are now female.

But corporate publishing’s loss has been independent publishing’s gain. Wilson is among a band of women who have started independent businesses that not only allow them to better juggle professional and home commitments, but also to exercise their creativity in a way the tiers of management in global businesses do not allow. It is one of the reasons that the most interesting and innovative books coming out are from independents – whether Juliet Mabey at Oneworld with her Booker winners Marlon James and Paul Beatty, the translated fiction choices of Meike Ziervogel’s Peirene Press or Miranda West’s Do Books Company’s publishing list, based on the Do Lectures “encouragement network”.

“It is an interesting opportunity for independents like us because we are able to take account of some of the other things that women want to do, such as working part-time or more flexibly,” Wilson says. “The number of talented women who have been wasted because they can’t find a role in corporate publishing is astonishing.”

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The Original Article can be found here: https://www.theguardian.com/are-things-getting-worse-for-women-in-publishing

T’was the Night Before Christmas | For Bibliophiles

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T’was the night before Christmas, and all through the house,

Not a kindle was stirring, nor even a mouse.

The stockings were hung by the fire with care

In hopes that books would soon appear there.

*

The bibliophiles nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of fairy-tales danced in their heads.

Stories of heroes and villains and such,

And rescuing fair maidens from a dragon’s clutch.

*

Or vampires, and fairies; witches and wizards;

The Fellowship of the Ring fighting through a blizzard.

Romantic tales of getting the girl;

Or thrillers, and bloodshed for diamonds and pearls.

*

All types of stories and genres of book,

Read for the love of an exciting hook.

Oh Santa, please, be a dear thing,

A new novel or two or three with you bring.

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And in the morning what will you find?

A new box of stationary or machine to bind;

A retro typewriter or flashy new Mac;

Some brand-new notebooks and pens in a pack.

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Some writer-themed clothing, a bookmark or two,

Any and all could be useful to you.

But the real present we all hope to see

Is something book-shaped under the tree.

*

Merry Christmas Bibliophiles xx

©Abigayle Blood

NY Resolutions: Better late than never!

In December 2015, like most people, I began thinking about what New Year’s resolutions I was going to make – and top of the list was ‘eat more healthily’ (otherwise known as ‘go on a diet!’). But as the 1st of January fell on a Friday, and it’s never a good idea to try and start a diet just before the weekend, I decided it would be more practical to move this to Monday the 4th of January.

This date came and went, as it occurred to me that I still had all the leftovers from Christmas to finish, not to mention the yummy boxes of chocolates and other delicious treats I had received over the festive period to devour. How could one possibly go on a diet whilst surrounded by all these temptations? So I reconsidered the start date and decided that a month should be long enough to consume everything in sight, and thus the diet would commence on the 1st of February.

Again, this date came and went. The problem this time was, how is one to diet when February is full of fattening events such as Pancake day, and Valentine’s Day (when you are guaranteed to polish off at least a box of chocolates and tub of ice cream, regardless of whether you are in a relationship or not!)? And then there were other events like birthday’s and fancy meals, and so on and so forth. Realistically speaking, February was not the ideal time to begin a diet either.

So here I am, almost two months into the year, and the start date for my diet has once again moved – to the 1st of March. Still, as New Year’s resolutions have a terrible reputation anyway, I suppose it’s better late than never! 

 

Not today, thank you!

Why is it that no matter how hard you try ‘life’ always seems to want to get in the way? I am a writer, I’ve told everyone that is what I am doing all day, every day. Yet somehow that never seems to mean anything to anyone but me. I don’t have a proper job so I must be doing nothing or sitting on my ass watching TV all day!

Admittedly, there are times when I watch TV to give my brain a little break whilst I’m eating lunch, but the majority of the time I am actually busy. I might be writing or editing, reading, researching something for my book or working on the plot or characterisation. I might even be interacting on social media or updating my blog. But I am certainly not ‘free’ or busy doing nothing!

So why is it that when I say ‘I’m busy’ people think that is code for ‘I’m not really busy, I’m just saying I am because I’m otherwise unemployed!’ and feel the need to invite themselves around for coffee or suggest doing lunch to give me something to do, because let’s face it – you’re just saying you’re busy aren’t you?!

I find life so frustrating sometimes. All I want is to be left in peace with my computer and my imagination, and perhaps a bottomless cup of hot coffee, so that I can allow my creativity to flow from my fingertips uninterrupted. Yet that always seems to be too much to ask. There are endless people (usually the same ones on a loop) vying for my attention. I don’t mean to be selfish, I do want to see you, honestly I do, but I just need some time to myself right now. Just for today. Please. So if it’s not too much trouble, and it won’t put you out, then no, not today, thank you!

 

© Abigayle Blood

Diana the movie: a tragedy for strong women!

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When I first heard that there was a new biographical film being made about Princess Diana’s life I expected a compelling, powerful story about a British female icon. I could not have been more wrong. Instead, we have some flimsy love story with Diana given the leading role as the typical helpless female in need of rescue. Somehow even a woman like Diana, who is well known for all the amazing things she accomplished, has been transformed into nothing more than a weak puppy-dog desperate for love.

What is it about strong women that filmmakers are so afraid of? Are we not allowed to know our own minds, have the courage of our convictions and be independent enough to accomplish our dreams without the aid of a man? We aren’t all damsels in distress desperate for a male hero to save us with happy-ever-afters. Diana was proof of that. She did charity work, helped the sick and dying, worked with the homeless, drug addicts and the elderly. She campaigned against the use of landmines and influenced the signing if the Ottawa Treaty. She did all this in spite of her divorce from Prince Charles and the way she was treated by the Royal Family, effectively becoming a single mother with two young children. She was constantly battling the press and public opinion on what she should and should not be doing, thinking, saying… and so on. Yet she died a strong independent woman that would not be told what to do or how to live by anyone.

I am so frustrated that a woman as iconic as Diana, historically known for her strength and charisma in the face of so much adversity, has been reduced to a pathetic ‘Mills and Boon’ character; that such a powerful woman of our time has been subverted into a non-threatening fiction when she could have (and should have) been so much more; this is a tragedy for both female-empowerment and for Diana’s legacy – a car-crash of a movie that should never have been made!

My quest of self-discovery

Undertaking a blog is turning out to be a real process of self-discovery. After reading many articles and blogs (such as Writer’s Digest which I wholly recommend), it is suggested that to be a great blogger (and writer for that matter) you need to first know what you are all about, essentially ‘who you are’ – a mission statement if you will.

This sounds great in principle, but then you start to think “well hang on a minute, who am I? What am I about? Do I have a mission statement…?!” I mean we all have many parts or sides to our personalities that make up ‘who we are’ but it becomes very difficult to express when you suddenly have to decide which ‘parts’ of yourself you want to promote publicly… For instance, I am many things – a graduate, a cat owner (mummy to, as I do not have any ‘actual’ children yet!), a woman, a campaigner for women’s rights and sexual equality, an LGBTQ activist, a law student, a believer in human rights, anti-abuse and equalitarian society, and of course a writer and aspiring author.  However these many things about me just make up a snippet of ‘who I am’.

There are other things that are more difficult to share that make up a person’s personality – gender, sexuality, political and religious views, past history and difficult experiences all make you ‘who you are’ and it is not easy to decide which bits to promote and which to leave out when throwing yourself open to the public for comment and review AND trying to present yourself in a cohesive and reader-friendly manner. How much do you need to say and what should you leave out? These are all questions that I have been battling with since embarking on my blogging journey, and if I’m honest I still don’t have all the answers yet. I have so many things that I want to say about the world as I see it, but again it’s putting those thoughts together into a cohesive way so as to adequately represent who I am and as such abide by whatever mission statement I choose. It seems to be a writer, and particularly writing a blog, begins with a long hard look in the mirror and an acknowledgement of who it is you really are…  as such my quest to answer those questions begins here.

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