The Slip

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One of my greatest failings in life is my own unrealistic expectations of myself and the subsequent disappointments that result from them. It sounds rather macabre to say, and perhaps even a little cliché, but I am and always will be, my own greatest enemy. For as long as I can remember I have forever been my own greatest advocate and my own greatest critic, which has led me to develop a split personality of sorts. I, Chris Nicholas, am part arrogant egotist, part emotionally despondent pessimist. And although these two duelling personalities are startlingly incongruous to one another, I’ve somehow managed to allow both to prosper within the vessel of flesh and bone that is me.

Although I often try to convince the world otherwise, the truth is that I am an extremely emotionally volatile human being. Wildly unstable with morals and emotions that seem almost foreign in the world I live in, I often wear the façade of a measured man completely in control of his own universe. I parade myself around as a strong person driven by pride and morals, and I stupidly call myself a leader, believing that just because I can inspire others I should therefore do just that. But even though there are times when I feel in control, I will never truly be. I am forever destined to be that man who stands on the brink of insanity staring back at a world he both despises, yet longs to be a part of…. And for anyone who does decide to follow in my footsteps, well, there’s an old saying that says “If you let the blind lead the blind, you fall off the cliff at the same time.”

But wait, this isn’t like me at all… I’m usually stronger than this. All that negative bullshit that you’ve just read doesn’t resonate with everything this very blog stands for. I’m usually the proud egotist who knows that he is destined for greatness, so when the fuck did the despondent pessimist return and start running his God-damn mouth again?… I can’t really be sure. But I guess that’s the thing with depression. Sometimes things seem to be going great, you’re striving towards a higher purpose and feel like your life actually has some fucking direction for a change, then all of a sudden you slip and you realise that maybe the strong and determined version of you doesn’t actually exist. Maybe it’s just a cruel joke that the darker impulses of your mind play in order to make that slip into anger and frustration seem so much greater.

Right now I’m feeling down and out. I feel as though my mind and body are exhausted and that I’ve slipped and fallen into that dreaded crevice of misery once again. It’s hard to pinpoint just where I went wrong. But somewhere along my journey I’ve placed a foot on fragile ground and tumbled down into a fissure of self-loathing and bitter hatred of my fellow man. My mind is scattered and my heart ablaze, yet no matter how hard I try to pull my shit together and start my ascent towards the stronger man within me, something keeps holding me back. Something keeps telling me that if I truly want to rise again I first need to reach inside of myself and rip the despondent pessimist from within my soul and set him alight. If I truly want to overcome the arsehole within me I must watch him burn until there is nothing left but ashes and scorched bone. Only then can I traverse my way to the top of this crevice and leave all the self-doubt manifesting in my heart behind.

In fourteen weeks I will be on the other side of the world pitching my heart out in an effort to see my writings deemed worthy of publication. But before I go I first need to finalise my editing to ensure that my manuscript is all that it can be. To do that, I need to vanquish the defeatist in me. I need to slay the misery within and return to the strong, overly-confident man that has worked his arse off for this very opportunity. I need to open up the shutters of my mind’s eye and force the bats of despair out of hiding. I need to get my shit together. And I need to do it now. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my time. I’ve let a lot of opportunities get away from me. But this time things will be different. This time the egotist will rise.

Monsters

‘We stopped checking for monsters under our beds when we realised they were inside us.’
-Sam Steven

Confession time: I’ve been on a bit of a downward spiral as of late. Ever since my last post I’ve been struggling to find the urge to even turn my laptop on each day, let alone write something worth reading. In fact I could probably count the amount of times I’ve actually written anything on one hand, and the most I ever managed to produce in one sitting was about two hundred and fifty words. That, my dear reader, is hardly the way to go about finishing one of the multitudes of manuscripts currently sitting half-finished on my hard drive.

So why this complete lack of willpower to create? Why after coming so far with my craft of the past year and a half have I suddenly taken such a momentous step backward leaving me hopelessly floundering through a period of self-loathing? The truth is that it could be any number of things; or more likely it’s a combination of a few influences that has me suddenly apathetic about pretty much everything once again. There’s the medical scare that my partner underwent recently, plus the whole Christmas/end of year wind down that sees just about everybody making excuses for their laziness. Then there’s work matters, family issues, financial deadlines, and just about anything else you can think of that is currently plaguing my mind and literally killing off my desire to write.

These issues are my monsters. They are the things that once lived under the bed and occupied but a fraction of my time as I quickly checked that they were being held at bay before I resumed my everyday life. But somehow, somewhere, the monsters managed to crawl from underneath their shadowy caves and find themselves a home anew inside of my heart and mind. At some point I stopped needing to check for the monsters underneath my bed because they were already inside my head, and they were already fucking shit up.

One of the greatest issues that I have with being a writer is the sole crushing thoughts that usually accompany an overactive mind. I can deal with the loneliness. I can deal with the ridicule of manuscripts shunned, or even the distain of the fucking mouth breathers of the world that assume you are weird or different because you have the intellectual capacity to articulate yourself. But sometimes I really struggle with the monsters of my own mind that constantly over analyse everything. Sometimes I just wish I could step back and take something at face value rather than analysing it until I am certain that understand every minute detail of it. Sometimes I just wish I didn’t feel the need to question everything.

-But this isn’t a negative post. No. This is in fact a therapeutic addition to my ever burgeoning catalogue of thoughts. For you see, one of my greatest joys as a writer is that I do question everything. I love that I’m not willing to accept the world at face value, or that I wish to see more than one horizon in my future. All I am saying is that when times get tough and those monsters that once inspired you to create decide to turn on you instead… Well, you’re kind of fucked.

Right now I’m in that place. That frame of mind where I need to distance myself from my writing and I need to seek out the monsters of my mind and drag them back into the shadows underneath my bed where they belong. It sounds easy enough on paper; and the truth is that it is. The truth is that right now there are people all around the world facing situations that make anything I have ever dealt with feel like a fucking farce. And they are doing so with more gusto and determination that I am. These people are taking to their own monsters with blades held at the ready while I’m wallowing around in self-pity as mine eat my mind from within. I know that I can overcome them. We all can. But we actually have to want to. And up until this post I just haven’t even cared to try.

So, without further ado, here’s to the ensuing battle to come. Here’s to kicking the monsters of my mind in the teeth and dragging them back to the dusty shitholes where they belong. Here’s to me standing up and taking control of my passions once more. And more importantly, here’s to you my humble reader, for finding the courage to do the same.

Great expectations and my own inevitable relapse

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I sometimes feel as though my mind has fractured into two. As though there is two very different people living inside of me who battle it out on a daily basis to see which one is allowed to control my every emotion and mood. To plagiarise the title of a famous album cover; sometimes it literally feels as though God and the Devil are raging inside me.

Since the inception of this blog and the admission of my depression to the world my life has become infinitely more wonderful, and with every day comes new and exciting prospects for myself both personally and professionally. Yet through all the positives, there are still moments when all of my demons return to haunt me. For you see, depression is like an addiction. It’s something that you can conquer, but never completely overcome. That bastard monkey will always be on my back and there will always be moments of weakness during which the devil inside me will overpower all that I have achieved and leave me feeling lost and alone. But each time my mind begins to conjure up these feelings of helplessness I am afforded the opportunity and privilege of learning from my shortcomings and growing into a more internally aware human being.

Lately I have come to understand (with the help of my beautiful girlfriend) that one of the greatest reasons for my dark days is the great expectations that I place on myself; particularly when it comes to my writing. I believe that I have what it takes to be a successful writer, and as such I push myself to my limits at every conceivable opportunity so that I can continue to develop beyond what others would believe I am capable of. In my mind, this is my greatest asset as a writer: my unrelenting drive to flourish and develop through self-assessment and reflection is what will eventually see me break into the industry as a published author. But my continued self-assessment can also be my greatest curse. Being hyper-alert of my own strengths and shortcomings causes me to reassess everything that I do, and when I feel as though my writing is falling short of my own expectations I beat myself up over my inability to achieve at the level that I know I am capable of.

When you commit yourself so completely to a task such as writing a novel, it is all too easy to overcommit and leave the rest of your life on hold why you retreat into a world populated solely by the voices inside your head. Trust me, I’ve been here before. I’ve been at that point where my entire life has suffered because of my craft and my own frustration at failing to produce just what I believed I should have. When you hit this point, everything spirals out of control and before you know it it’s 3am and you are sitting in your wardrobe crying as you try and edit your manuscript for what feels like the hundredth time, or you find yourself setting a ninety thousand word document alight in the family fireplace because you just can’t stand the sight of it anymore.

While it has been some time since I let my craft consume me to that degree, about two weeks ago I felt as though I was having a slight relapse into a depressive state. It was nothing major; I just began to notice the reappearance of the misomaniac version of myself; the man who hates everyone and everything (if you need proof take a look at my previous entry about my university lecturer). But just being able to notice this small change in my perceptions was a monumental step towards overcoming my issues once again. Being able to stop, take a deep breath and channel those small instances of hatred into my creative thought process has done wonders, both for my own sanity, and for my writing.

Right now I am writing every day. I wake up at 5am and punch out a thousand words before breakfast, and if possible I back that up with another session at night, and you know what? Between my writing, work, exercise, and enjoying the company of my beloved partner, I genuinely don’t have the time to be negative. My everyday life is so jam-packed with happiness that the misomania has vanished once again. My demons have disappeared, and while I am positive that they will live to fight another day, right now they remain out of sight and out of mind. God and the Devil will continue to rage inside me for the rest of my life, and while it does often feel as though I live a fractured existence, it is within the fractured fault lines of my two personalities that I find my inspiration to create.

For as long as I live and as long as I am a writer I will place great expectations on myself. And although at times I will falter and fail in my quest to succeed (and burn an entire manuscript out of frustration), these great expectations will inevitably be what drives me towards success.

The lonely process and the linguistic lens.

Creative writing, in any form, be that short stories, flash/micro-fiction, poetry, lyrics, novels or novellas, can be an harrowingly lonely process. Any writer worth their salt (and even some that aren’t) will tell you that spending your days staring at a lecture pad or computer screen can feel incredibly isolating. Sometimes it feels as though the world is passing you by while you stare in mild confusion at your own creation, wondering just how the fuck you managed to digress so far from your original thought process that you can’t even fathom what plot line or stanza comes next.

So why do we do it? Why do writers withdraw from a world filled with so much wondrous beauty and choose to spend their days attempting to take a crisp white page and fill it with little black letters? While every single writer will have a different answer to this question, there are a few general pigeon holes that most writers’ catalysts can be crammed into. But almost every writer (aspiring, published, or otherwise) across the globe will tell you that we do what we do because we have stories to tell; stories that we want to share with the world.

My reasoning for writing is simple: I’m a fucking terrible photographer. As much as I would like to tell myself otherwise, the truth is that when I’m handed a camera I just can’t manage to do justice to the incredible people, places or things I am trying to capture. So, rather than fail miserably at capturing moments in time that will allow the world to see itself through my eyes, I write. I create a linguistic reimagining of everything that I see, everything that I imagine, and everything that I dream of, and arrange it all into a string of tiny black letters printed across a crisp white page. I truly believe that this world is a wonderful, frightening, beautiful and hideous place all rolled into one, and if I can’t manage to capture its strength and fragility through the lens of a camera, I will create my own.

Since my last blog, which was in fact my first, I feel as though I have continued to grow as a writer. I gained an incredible amount of confidence that I never would have achieved had I not dared to post online. And although it has taken a long time to follow up on that initial post, I’ve learnt something very important; at times writing can feel as though it is an incredibly lonely process, but it also gives you the opportunity to reach out and connect with people in ways that you never imagined possible. Good writing, and by good writing I mean well structured, coherent writing (as opposed to the woefully bad shit you see clogging up newsfeeds on social media sites every day) is an art form, and really must be treated as such. There is something inherently beautiful about a piece of literature that has the power to make someone, somewhere, feel something. And as a writer constantly working towards creating something of value, that will more often than not be lost amongst the abundance of artworks created by other aspiring artists, it is such a humbling experience to have someone tell you that what you have created has touched them in some small way.

My first blog was a very personal reflection of myself and the unfortunate circumstances that would take me to the depths of depression, and leave a tarnished, battered effect on my linguistic camera’s lens. Yet in my evolutionary path of creating little black letters, this depression was an entirely necessary component of my journey towards becoming a better writer. Alan Moore once wrote that as a writer you need to immerse yourself in the least desirable element and swim. For me personally, my least desirable element was admitting my depression to the world and standing tall while it judged me for my grievances. But when I did so, when I immersed myself so completely in an element that could have swallowed me whole, I found that the positive words of my family and friends gave me the strength and courage to swim harder than I ever had before. And when I emerged from that hellacious swim, the tarnished battered effect that had skewed my linguistic camera’s lens was washed away, so that now the world resembles what it truly is: a wondrously hideous, beautifully monstrous place.

Any writer worth his salt will tell you that the process of writing can be harrowingly lonely, but they will also tell you that writing can bring you closer to your family and friends than you ever thought possible.

My First Foray Into The World Of Weblogs

A few months ago I decided that I wanted to write a blog. It wasn’t a difficult decision to make; I didn’t undertake any ground breaking epiphany during which I decided that the world would be forever enriched having received my innermost thoughts on a sporadic basis. Rather, I simply stumbled upon the idea whilst sitting at my computer staring at a horrifically blank white page pondering how on earth I was going to break through a case of writer’s block that had besieged me for what would eventually add up to almost twelve months. You see, I am a writer. Or at least I would like to be, and therefore that case of writer’s block had become the bane of my existence. As it would eventually turn out, my problems actually ran a lot deeper than mere writer’s block, and it’s only now in hindsight that I can see the where my lack of enthusiasm to create stemmed from. So after months of procrastinating to avoid following through with my plan to blog, here it is, my first ever foray into the online world of web logs. I am now one of billions of undereducated, over opinionated and outspoken bloggers clogging to internet with their bullshit. Enjoy.

The aforementioned writer’s block was the by-product of what Lemony Snicket would call a series of unfortunate events that had taken place between February 2011 to August of the same year. To summarise some of the turbulent events that shaped those six months; I relocated interstate to attend university, sending myself broke in doing so (at times skipping meals because I couldn’t afford to feed myself). I witnessed a car accident in which a young mother lost her leg, administering first aid and phoning her husband to notify him of the incident. I travelled overseas. My father suffered an aortic aneurism and almost died, being airlifted to hospital for emergency surgery; his subsequent illness and road to recovery seeing him fall into financial difficulty for a few troublesome months. My younger brother suffered from anorexia nervosa, and subsequently failed to attend school before eventually leaving to pursue a career. And through all of this and more I worked my fucking arse off just to keep myself afloat and the debt collectors at bay.

Then, in late July of 2011 a funny thing happened, I found half an hour to write a short story that I submitted to the Heading North Young Writer’s Competition, and guess what? I won.  I kid you not. Through the eye of the storm that had become my life, a small victory was afforded to me for my toils. As part of the prize for winning this competition, I was awarded a seat on a panel of young writers at the 2011 Byron Bay Writers Festival, as well as a mentorship at the Northern Rivers Writers Centre. And for the first time in a very long time, things were looking up. I attended the festival, and spoke on the panel, even getting a few words of praise for my words. Then almost as soon as the incredible elation of this small achievement subsided, the depression hit and I stopped writing completely.

I call it depression upon reflection, here is where the hindsight I have previously alluded to comes into play. At the time I called this affliction writer’s block. Because that’s what it felt like; it felt like all of the turbulent experiences of the preceding six months manifested as one and built a roadblock inside my head that was trapping all of my creative thoughts. There were no inconsolable moods or days where I thought the world was not worth living in, no, there was just an extreme lack of enthusiasm to sit at my computer and create. Here I was, a young writer on the rise, with a mentorship to prove it, and I couldn’t think of anything remotely creative, inspiring, or interesting to put onto paper. So I abandoned it. I failed to undertake the mentorship and I packed my computer in its case, let my notepads of ideas gather dust and I walked away.

That’s pretty much how my writing implements remained for nine months, save for  the occasional attempts to write something imaginative enough to earn me a pass at university. I didn’t write, I barely read (when usually I would devour novels with an insatiable lust), and somewhere along the line I managed to shed ten kilograms of bodyweight from anxiety. At the time I was stressed to the max, I was pushing myself harder and harder with work, and the gym, all while trying to solve my family’s problems from four hours’ drive away, while burying my own. My life became a relentless grind, and I was too rundown and exhausted to realise it. And all the while I was depressed and angry because I had abandoned the one thing that had always kept me level headed; writing.

Then, after nine months hovering in a bullshit limbo of confused thoughts and no creativity, I decided to write a blog; this exact blog as a matter of fact. But at the time I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t prepared to face the fact that I was miserable and depressed, so I began writing stories as a means of procrastination. I started with something short; a thousand word piece of shit in which I managed to dump all of the rust accumulated on my mind into a menagerie of poor grammar, a shonky plot, and all round terrible writing. Then I started to branch out; to take on longer projects, and before I knew it I was writing almost every day, tracking my progress in each session with word lengths, content and thoughts upon reflection. And somewhere in all this writing, in all this time huddled away from the world, away from the demons that had crawled up on my bed and wrapped their fingers round my throat, I found happiness in what I was doing. I found the ability to let go of my nightmares, cast aside the shackles of dejection that had bound me, and let those that I love the most fend for themselves.  My father took greater care of himself, my younger brother discovered a passion that would help him overcome his illness, and my zest for life that I had always known lay dormant inside of me returned with unparalleled gusto. I found myself in my writing.

That was a couple of months back now, and during that time my life has turned a lot of corners. I am writing as much as I can, whenever I can, about whatever I can, and I am loving every single moment of it. I’ve also decided that I am going to spread my wings and swan dive headfirst into the writing industry again (my last two attempts saw me land a contract that turned out to be bogus, and fall agonising short of seeing my work in print with a legitimate print company), and I’ve even decided to chase up the writer’s centre and see if they will honour my mentorship from last year. I know that the chances of this are slim, but as I have learnt over the past year, you never let an opportunity go to waste; so if hassling the shit out of a desk jockey in Byron Bay helps put my career on the right track, then that poor woman has no earthly idea what she’s in for. My mind is creating stories again; stories that I want to share with the world.

So here we are, sink or swim time. Either I make it in this industry or I don’t. If I succeed then that’s great. If I don’t, then at the very least I want to be able to say that I gave it my best shot. Ten years from now, I want to be able to say that I had what it takes to look depression and misery in the eye, and tell it to fuck off.

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