Friday, 16 January 2009

A goal of my own

Here's the headache post. Is it the post that's been giving me headaches...or is it that laptop and low energy light bulb cocktail that I'm sure I've been indulging in too often? Hmmm, not sure. Anyway I've worked on this a bit and I've tried to stop the whole thing getting too whiney but I'm not sure I've managed that completely. This is very much one of those 'should I really post this?' moments but so far, when I've had similar doubts, things have all worked out well in the end. Fingers crossed this is another one of those times. Most of you know me by now...I'm never whiney on purpose. And I love you all. You don't believe me...but I do.

In a recent post about Steve Martin's book 'Born Standing Up' I mentioned how Martin had worked really hard to get where he wanted in his career. Martin had one thing that comes in handy in this regard – he had a very clear career goal. From quite young he wanted to be successful as a comedy performer and, from his own account, whilst he developed his ideas and methods over time, his goal pretty much stayed the same until he achieved it (that is...if you can achieve a's all sounding a bit management speak all of a sudden). Anyway, once Martin had achieved this sought-after success he then moved sideways into other related fields (comedy acting, writing, movie directing...) but thinking about this 'career goal' aspect of the book made me think about the whole business of goals and ambitions (especially when applied to work) and some of the, let's say, issues that I have had in this area over the years. I think I'm a bit envious of people who have such a clear goal in sight – I don't think I've ever really had anything quite like that. Have you? Is life easier (or more straightforward) if you do? Or is it worse if you then continually fail to score where it matters? I really have no idea.

So to think this through I'm going to start at the beginning...well, my beginning anyway (didn't Julie Andrews once sing that we should?). When I was, let's say, a pre-adult I didn't have a clue what I would do when I grew up - although I did always assume that I would grow up (maybe that was my first mistake...). I had vague ideas about journalism and writing from fairly early on but they were so vague that they were something approaching faded watercolours in an art gallery that's closed up for a very long holiday on a street that you know used to be here somewhere (see – just thinking about clear goals brings on a vagueness attack!). In some ways part of my career goal problem was that I got the impression from very early on that I didn't need to worry about it – something would just occur to me when the time was right. There is another possibility too – maybe I just peaked too soon. What? Well, the thing is I found schoolwork really easy and came top in class...a lot...and when this happens people assume that of course you will go on to something marvellous (details to be filled later). People also assume that as you're 'so clever' you'll be able to sort this all out for yourself (and I suppose some people can). I was aware that these assumptions were going on around me when I was a kid but at the time I had no idea what it meant. I think I expected to be carried along forever on some kind of giant wave of success or something - silver cups falling into my lap on a regular basis. I didn't really think about it much but when I did that's probably what I thought. Not so clever, see?

It didn't quite work out that way of course. In fact when I used the Friends Reunited website a few years back I lost count of the number of old school acquaintances and friends who wrote 'bloody hell, I thought you'd be some high-powered business woman or something'. I never wrote anything on my FR profile about what I had done since school but just the fact that I didn't have the big show-off 'great career, mob of perfect kids' CV online really surprised people (and made them think I must have really messed up somehow, I suppose...I'm sure some of them were thrilled...). I found that all really odd when it happened though. I was only good at schoolwork, for heaven's sake! Anyone who thinks passing school exams prepares you for life outside school is...a Careers Officer, obviously. And as for Irvine Welsh and his 'If you liked school, you'll love work'...well, Irvine, with all respect...that's just bollocks, dear, and I am living proof. Catchy title for a book though I suppose.

After school I took the usual next step for kids who do well at exams (and whose parents think there is no alternative...) – I went to university in 1986...all the time waiting for the big career idea, goal or inspiration to appear. What would I do next? I had absolutely no idea. In the end I did very little studying (aimless, you see), got involved in some student politics, had a few crap boyfriends, did a few tiny bits of (I suppose you'd call it humorous )writing and waited...still no goal. It got to the end of year three and all the other arts students were heading off for law and academia and the media and...stuff and I got all the brochures and all the information (no websites then...) and just really didn't know what to do next. The opportunities a lot of the brochures promised sounded more like barriers to me - I didn't want to follow one path...I wanted all the paths! At one point I remember seeing a Careers Officer (or two) and I remember crying a lot at one of the interviews. I can't even remember why now (maybe I was tired...I always did like a lot of late nights) but I've tried and I can't recall one word of the conversation. I have always been a good crier though (a skill not often mentioned in job requirement specifications...fascists!).

A couple of months after uni I ended up working at an advertising agency. Looking back (again) I'm not completely sure how that happened or why on earth I thought it would be something I would be able to do. I had to get a job (obviously) but advertising...was that the best I could do? I hated it. The only jobs I have ever been able to bear are the ones where I feel I am being of some use to somebody (and in advertising...well, a person is about as useless and surplus to requirements as ever a person can be!). But I had read or heard about writers who had started in advertising and so somewhere the vague writing idea persisted and led me into this job. Plus the pay was quite good and I had discovered serious nightclubbing by this point so I went out every weekend and most of the week and got really very good at avoiding thinking about anything at all. I think I thought I was doing important research for a novel (and who knows, I might have been but for the fact that Irvine Welsh and various others were doing the same research but...crucial difference...they were managing to write down some of it down as well...kind of important for a writer, you know...the writing...). I always remember a Chilean musician friend I knew in Spain when I was 19. He used to say to me very seriously 'if you are going to be a writer you must practise every day.' I suppose I do that now (some way or another) but I'm not sure I did back then. I always have been very easily distracted...and not many jobs ask for that in the specifications either (double fascists!).

Somewhere in this whole post-uni/pre-baby section of life I did produce some journalism (but nothing very well paid) and I think I managed OK but I also did enough to know that I didn't really want to pursue it as a career. You've really got to be very ambitious to go and hunt down journalistic work and whilst I enjoyed it I wasn't desperate to do it (and plenty of others were) and it wasn't the kind of writing that felt like what I should be doing. So instead I wandered about and did some bits of teaching, spent long periods 'unable to work due to general uselessness' and also, as I've mentioned here and there, DJed in nightclubs with a friend for a couple of years seemed like a good idea at the time. We used to meet a lot of very ambitious DJs out and about – people who wanted to be record label bosses or record producers or just rich, old, fat DJs – but although I managed to act like one sometimes I never was anything like a DJ with a goal! It was a bit like an acting role I think looking back...I tried it, talked the talk, walked the walk (hard with the heavy record boxes...this was before bloody laptop DJs!) but it really wasn't me. Nothing like. Partly I just wasn't a big enough arsehole (have you met any successful DJs? There are a couple of friendly ones but really...the rest are unbearable...). Probably the most fun I had during this period was the daft job we had in a big Leeds city centre bar on a Wednesday night. We did a night called Maxi where we ran alternative 'Never mind the Buzzcocks' style quiz nights (before the TV show, I would add) and also, now and again, put on cool karaoke (don't laugh - it is possible!). We got paid quite a lot of money too! We even talked about a new take on Bruce Forsyth's 'Play your cards right' but I don't think we ever actually got that one together. What was that about life and cabaret..?

But then things changed (too many to list), one of us had a baby (not me, at that point) and so there I was again jobless with no career road leading anywhere. I got an office job (too dull to even detail) but I ended up sitting at my desk crying for days at a time so that didn't really work out. Then I found myself coming back to writing (well to writing and nervous collapses...but you can't really make a career out of those, can you? Answer – only if 'Heat' magazine takes your picture while you have them...and I've never fancied that...). It was at this point (about 1997) that I started writing poems regularly and this then (eventually) turned into 'the thing that I do' now (as well as bringing up baby and all that). But I'm still not sure if I have any goals in this area (poetry). Is poetry an area where a person can have goals anyway? Sometimes I can pretend (to others and myself) that I do. Sometimes I even feel like I do. But do I really? I'm not sure. It's interesting. I enjoy it. I get my share of good feedback but then also I am in this 'not in the literary/not in the performance' middle place ('polymorphous', a wise man said) and I'm not sure where the goals are in this weird bit in between. I can aim to write as well as I can (and I do try to do that...of course...what other kind of writing is there?) but beyond that where do I head exactly? And how? And why? I'm still trundling along the poetry road at the moment but unlike some of you more fanatical poetry devotees, I am aware that I might change my tack at any point. For a start there is quite a lot about the world of poetry that really doesn't make it feel like home to me (the reams of rules and all their fans, the so-often-focussing-on-competition element, the sneering and snobbishness that creeps about). I hate snobbishness, more than almost anything, and it turns out that poetry has some of the world's worst snobs (common knowledge apparently – I never knew). I know, I get arseholes (or people who seem that way to you!) anywhere and not just in nightclubs. There is no perfect employment, no promised land...but I'm an idealist, always have been (again not something you'll be reading on lists of 'essentials' for many jobs!) and I can only take so many arseholes in my life. So is poetry really the best place for me? I don't know, I don't know...I float on...and on and on....and a lot of the time I don't think about how and why and I just get on with it...whatever it is. I'm only one little soul, rambling away in a blog corner after all.

Well, as you can see this just goes round and round (hence the headache)! I wonder so many things - could I have done something much better with my life so far (workwise at least)? Could I still? Are my goals my own or are they really bits of nonsense passed on from my parents (past and present)? Can a person have other goals when their main job is looking after small children anyway...or is that (in my case at least) more of an excuse or a cover-up for failure? I don't worry about all this too much...well, not all the time... after all I'm healthy, I'm not in constant danger from some kind of military or other attack, I'm not forced to do a job I hate, Small Girl is healthy, my lovely man is healthy, I look after my Mum (and vice versa some of the time) and maybe success in all those areas is more than enough...but I don't know. What is success anyway? What do you do when you have it? Everyone looks at young Jen Hadfield winning that big poetry prize this week and says 'look there's success' but does she feel that way about it (probably not...she'll be thinking about her next book or her next trip or the fact that her carpets need cleaning or something....OK, maybe the carpets is more me...). She sounded just lovely on a Radio 4 interview I listened to via Andrew Philip's Tonguefire, by the way, so gentle, so thoughtful, so long may she do well! Maybe, for me, I won all my prizes in school and now I'm destined to be more 'Jack who tries lots of trades and does OK at them' than 'mistress of one'. Maybe that's not such a bad thing. Maybe I'm just the goal-less type and therefore I've already achieved my goal. Oh, now that just sounds like nonsense. What do you reckon? Any thoughts, any stories, any goals of your own? (Because, bloody hell, that's quite enough about me...)


Dave King said...

Strange how often this synchronicity thing appears. Nancy at Everypicturetellsastory has aked me to submit two pieces of work and a bio, as a result of which my thoughts have been running overa track pretty much parallel to yours. I didn't find it easy, but this is what I have offered her - I'm sure she will not mind me spilling it on your blog:
Somewhere between the ages of 7 and 8 I had my future life mapped out. I was going to be an artist; I would have a caravan and live on nuts and berries in The New Forest. (Years later, of course Hancock was to steal my script for his "Hancock's Half Hour".) Before I was 10, however, reality had set in: I knew by then that The New Forest would not do. It would have to be The Forest of dean.

I never did get that caravan. I did start out on the anticipated journey, went to art school, but then decided that teaching art would be a better bet than nuts and berries. Somewhere along the line, though the children became more interesting than the subject and I ended up teaching pupils having special needs.

I took up with my art again in a semi-serious way when I retired, but have put as much effort into my attempts to write poetry as my art-making activities.

I don't know if it helps, all I can say of myself is that I am very much enjoying writing and making art with no goals. And of your post, that I see nothing whiney in it at all.
(Whether no goals would have been a good career choice is another matter> I think I would recommend flexible goals.

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks, Dave, for your words and excerpts.

Interestingly one of the best jobs I've ever done was working as a Special Needs Learning Assistant at an FE college. Small Girl was a baby and I wanted to get out a little but not too much so I did that job for about six months till we moved. I loved it. It as certainly never dull.


Rachel Fox said...

missed a 'w' on that 'was'

Marion McCready said...

I never knew what I wanted to do either and I still haven't worked out what I'm going to do when I grow up, lol. I've stopped worrying about the future, I spent too long doing that and now I'm living very much in the present and and joying it. Goals can be good to work towards but achieving one's goals isn't the same as happiness. I'm sure we can all think of 'successful' people who aren't necessarily happy.

Marion McCready said...

I did have a big long reply to this post but the boy deleted it before I could post it so you got the abbreviated version, which probably not a bad thing, lol.

Rachel Fox said...

That boy is a bit young to be editing you already Sorlil!

Yes to all that about living in the present...I am a lot better at that than I used to be. I don't worry about the future as such but then at the same time I am that bit older than you (I think) and if I am going to, for example, start a whole new career path then I need to get going a little sooner than you! Plus SG is that bit older than your won't be long before she doesn't need me as much and I will have time to devote to something else. At the moment I devote a lot of non-childcaring time to poetry and writing (in one way or another) and my question to myself is always 'is this really the best thing for me to be doing with this time?' Mostly I think 'yes' but I'm not without doubt in this area! There are a lot of other factors of course (some not really suitable for public declaration)and really it's just stuff I'm thinking about. Sometimes I can't move on till I get it all out somehow or other! Then the next step will be clear. I think.


Thank God! Finally! Solid proof that there are others like me!

Rachel Fox said...

Twins separated at birth? Or is that too Danielle Steele?

hope said...

I'm thinking we have the makings of a club. ;)

I grew up thinking I wanted to be a teacher because I was so good with kids. The joke in my family is that I'm a kid and dog magnet...they see me, they come to slobber on me. :) By the time I got to college, I wanted to go into journalism, writing being my first love and even easier than kids/dogs. Sadly, ever the "good girl" I let my parents talk me back onto the "teacher track" with their argument that it was a respected profession which would always need people.

The year I graduated, there were no teaching jobs.

Like you, I've had several jobs: state police radio dispatcher, paralegal for a "poor people" law office, director of elections and now the seniors. My "problem" is I learn a job, try to improve upon it...then get bored. I joke that every 5 years I get restless. The job I have now I've had for over 21 years...I'm past restless.

I read the other day that today people will have 5 major job changes in their lifetime. I'm itching for #5 because my usefulness is winding down and I hate that!

Sorry, didn't mean to write a book. Hmmm, wonder if that's a hint? :)

Kat Mortensen said...

Rachel, My God I'm not sure where to start.
I always thought I was meant to be a teacher, of English. I was a very good student in Grade School - ahead of the class. In high school, I held my own, but excelled in English studies. Naturally, my path seemed set out for me and I was headed to university to study English Lit and become a teacher. All well and good (barring a few indiscretions with drink and debauchery *kidding*).
So. What next? Teacher's College. Great, except I didn't get accepted to the big Universities to study - only the less-reputable, far-distant schools in the north. I did not want to move away up north.
So, what to do? I did the next best thing: I got jobs as teaching assistants with special needs children and even did a stint as a supply teacher (but found myself hiding the phone in a drawer so they couldn't reach me).
The problem was not the kids; it was the teachers. I just did not fit. (This is the story of my life, really - fish out of water, nothing in common with most people - particularly other women.) I'm not a gossipy, shoe-shopping, man-slamming woman. Wait! That's not the teacher-bit - that's all my other jobs.)

I digress. I gave up on working in the teaching field and ventured into office-work where I gained some skills that held me up for years in various capacities. All of them were a means to bring in some cash, but I was ever mindful of the fact that I hated what I was doing and longed for the day when I could stop. No matter what job I had, I always wanted it to end. A stint with a well-known Canadian publisher was excruciating - the people were brutal!
Long story short - when my dad took ill and my parents moved nearby, I quit work to take care of them and my real world opened up. I write the poetry because I love it, it hits me when I least expect it and I want to share it. I don't know where I'm going with it either. I have the same moments as you where I wonder what's next?
I envy you though - your readings, your published book and your ability to put yourself out there. (It's not a "green with envy" thing - more admiration than jealousy.)

We love YOU too!


Dave King - I think your life in the New Forest would have been lovely. I wanted to be a naturalist when I was a little girl.

Rachel Fox said...

Look at these great comments! Phew...the post wasn't a terrible mistake after all. I envisaged a few 'oh for god's sake pull yourself together' responses but I don't know why...I say that to myself quite often enough anyway!

Hope - 21 years! I don't think I've ever done anything that long! Time for a change indeed. You do have some great of the pluses of our wandering 'all the paths' lives...lots to tell...

And Kat. I love that story about you hiding the phone! Like you I know I could teach (and I have done a bit) but to survive in a school with the routines and the domineering characters and the saying the right thing (I'm REALLY bad at that) - I know I wouldn't last a week. The parents would make me cry at parents' night (not the other way round!).Like you family circumstances have kind of allowed me to cover over the cracks of employment history (for now). But I know they're still there...a lot of the time I couldn't care less but now and creeps up and says to me 'well, what happened to you? Not so clever now are you?' I suppose the answer is that I am and I'm depends what you're talking about. It must be nice in some ways to be one of those full-of-it people who are always so confident about what they think. I was like that as a child but I grew out of it...some people do it all the other way round, I think.

It's my birthday next week...42...and birthdays tend to bring on some of this 'what the hell have you done/will you do?' type stuff. It's a bit draining and annoying but it's how we move along. Isn't it?

Anonymous said...

'Phew...the post wasn't a terrible mistake after all'. Absolutely not - look at all those kindred spirits you've flushed out of cover! Your story is absolutely your own, Rachel, but its coordinates are ours too. But if one thing alone is clear from your account, heart has ruled head to thoroughly positive effect so that now there are areas of happiness and fulfillment in your life that would have eluded you had you taken the 'sensible' route. So rejoice!

For my part, I drifted into teaching. I pissed my time away at boarding school being a troubled poet and heartsick lover when others were committing solemnly to GCSEs and 'A' levels. So when I left I had three feeble just-passes and no prospects. I worked for a year in a glasses factory and - amongst those who had not had my advantages - managed a little bit of long-overdue growing up. Then I went to Goldsmith's College and cast all good intentions to the wind by forming a band just as the 1960s became The Sixties. Much time and energy was invested in herbal and chemical research whilst driving up and down A-roads and B-roads in a knackered Dormobile to and from crap gigs. Eventually bourgeois values leaked through the haze and I wandered into my first school as a primary teacher. And then, several decades later, I retired. And as I drove away from my last school back in July, I said to myself, 'Right. Now what?'

'Now what' has turned out to be looking after Maisie, collecting Reuben and Rosie from school, doing the housework, thinking and talking to myself a lot, talking to other people a lot, writing prose, writing poetry and stopping and staring. Which is probably about as good as it's going to get and that's okay by me.

Rachel Fox said...

You're right about the heart and head, Dick. The head may not have found a great career but the heart (eventually) worked out what it was doing in other areas! I have a huge amount of love in my life - good quality love too. It's easy to take it for granted once it's there.

I love your glasses factory chapter (cue 'I can see clearly now' for your soundtrack) and the herbal and chemical research...I did more chemical than herbal. Longer lasting side effects...still got them!

And yes, the stopping and staring. I do an awful lot of that. I see other people with their specialist subjects and am very aware of my lack of anything obvious. I think I'm whatever the opposite of a specialist is. Is there an obvious word that's staring me in the face? (No rude answers please)


Anonymous said...

It's no wonder the post would touch people and cause them to emphatise. I see a lot of myself in it too but I'd be surprised to find many who didn't.

My hackneyed guess would be that, while you might not have had too many overt 'goals' in the first section of your life, you may well be growing some now. The trick would be to ruthlessly and fearlessly try to identify exactly what they are and then go after then like Steve Martin did.

I'm probably way off. I'm like a stopped-clock, usually right twice a day. :)

Good post.

Rachel Fox said...

Ken - growing goals...I like that...kind of poetic. I think your suggestions are very astue...but ruthless and fearless are not exactly my middle names of late. Maybe my goal is to be more of both (and in fact one is so close to my new year's resolution that you almost win a prize...).
What about you - screenplay or novel, oscar or space travel? Are you keeping your goals quiet?


Rachel Fox said...

Very astue? What IS she talking about? I meant astute of course. But you all knew that...

The Weaver of Grass said...

I though Jen Hadfield had her philosophy well worked out when I heard her - she said the £15000 will keep her on Shetland for another year.
I have found in life Rachel - that thinking too hard about it is often counter-productive. Here in my seventies I feel I no longer have to prove myself and can live from day to day enjoying doing what I like doing most and also enjoying the love and companionship of family and friends. Sometimes things fall into place and your future becomes mapped out when you least expect it. Best wishes for your future - enjoy it as it is.

Rachel Fox said...

I look forward to my 70s then make them sound very enticing!
You're right of course that we don't control our futures and that we can overponder...but at the same time we do have decisions to make and paths to choose or we can end up stuck, trapped, static. If I want to do certain jobs I'd need to train, for example, and if I want to do others I might need to work on my non-existent driving. I think I'm having a crossroads period right now...or maybe I always am! Thanks for your good wishes though - they all help.And I do enjoy my family and friends...I really do. Partly talking about this here with all of you is saving their ears! Plus not many of my friends are writers and so they face different decisions and different dead-ends. Most people who read here are interested and/or working in writing in some way or other I think.


Liz said...

Hi Rachel,

I can totally relate to what you are saying - I drifted into Teaching because that's what the convent school always geared their
smart girls to do - before I knew it, I was a primary school teacher and actually loving it...for a while! I had had all kinds of summer jobs en route to teaching from loft insulation seller to waitress and chambermaid in London!

I'm the type who cannot stick something out once the thrill has gone so once the fun left teaching children, I moved on - went on a career break with the intention of travelling the world, really wanted to go to Thailand and when I came to the Canaries, it was just for a year's teaching job...I met Vladi and within a few weeks packed in my pensionable job in Ireland and stayed here....I never got to do that world trip but have been in Asia a few times on mini-trips! I have still that hankering to live there for a while....maybe in the future.

A few years back, I decided to study a Computer Science degree with the OU with the intention of becoming a whizz-kid computery person who could work from home while living in a bamboo hut in Thailand.... : ) I finished the degree but lost the enthusiasm to look for a job in I stayed with teaching adults English which I do enjoy but there was/is still the whole 'something missing' feeling....
Around about this time (4 years ago), I decided to stop studying formally - we had a tragedy in our family, my sister's baby girl was stillborn and this affected us all deeply - I set up a sort of remembrance Blog for her and this began my venture into writing....I joined a poetry forum and have been going-like-the-proverbial-dickens ever yes, I think that long term goals never came into it for me, one thing led to another and I love the surprise element of where it will take me....I only look ahead a few months - maybe I'll keep up with writing or maybe not -I know that once the excitement and the-sheer-lovely-rush-of-it feeling goes...I'll probably have to move on....
Gosh, Rachel, I've just checked over my virtual shoulder at the length of this ....sorry, didn't mean to go on....I had always meant to write about what landed me here in the Canaries (you asked me one time too!)at some stage and maybe this is the springboard comment that will do see, Rachel, that's what I love about not overly-planning - going with the flow is just too good to give up! : )

Thanks for your great post - so inspiring! xx

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks for your brilliant comment, Liz. You write about your adventures with such gusto...very exciting. I could do with a bit more of your positivity sometimes I think (I do have some...always room for more though...). You have a very healthy attitude to writing too...again I have some of that but a bit more can always come in handy.

Looking forward to the full Canaries chapter!

hope said...

Liz made a most interesting point of one thing leading to another. I realize that's how my "career life" has gone so far...each job somehow led to the next.

Perhaps venting here with you will help me find the next step. If not...well, I STILL enjoy the pleasure of your company.

The Solitary Walker said...

I would really like to write something long & meaningful, but haven't the energy right now. Suffice to say, great post and it obviously touched a chord with lots of your readers.

I have never really known what I should do with my life career-wise - always thinking rather idealistically I just wanted to write and to travel and be creative etc. But of course you have to have a day job! Which I had for 30 years. Until I had a kind of crisis a few years ago - a publishing sales job involving driving 40,000 miles a year just became too much (must sound like a nightmare to you nervous drivers!) Working again now though.

"Life is sad/Life is a bust/
All you can do/Is do what you must", as Dylan said somewhere...

Rachel Fox said...

Hey SW. Nice to hear from you. Hope you're OK.

I haven't always been a nervous driver. I had a few good driving years...but went a bit too far, too some ways stopping has been good for me - made me walk for a start, made me think, made me start again.

Do you know every Dylan lyric off by heart?


Anonymous said...

"... you do what you must do and you do it well..." Solitary Walker and I could do a little duet if you like (you wouldn't) :)

If you kick a football and you don't tell anyone where the goalposts are, you can always say you scored. This is one reason I keep my own goals quiet... that plus fear of failure.

I like being astue tho'.

The Solitary Walker said...

"How far y'all going?" Ruby asked us with a sigh.
"We're going all the way 'til the wheels fall off and burn..."

BOB DYLAN Brownsville Girl

The Solitary Walker said...

Since Ken and I have rather spookily posted at exactly the same time, I suppose we'll have to do that duet now - it's probably written in the stars or something.

Ready? One, two, three...

"Buckets of rain/Buckets of tears/Got all those buckets/Coming out of my ears..."

Note again the relevance to your post, Rachel!

Rachel Fox said...

Ken - interesting cards-close-to-chest philosophy. I have always been more a cards-laid-out-flat-on-the-table kind of a girl. I say 'girl'...not sure how long I'll be getting away with that one.

On that note there is young poet (who I like) who had something on her myspace about hating middle-aged women who refer to themselves as girls. I thought...wait till you're middle-aged my dear and then judge us!

And SW - I guess I'd better go and listen to some Dylan then. 'Freewheelin' is my favourite (though I can't say I've listened to them all - nothing like probably). What would you recommend I try next?


deemikay said...

Very interesting!

I've had a similar wandering life (but in a static way). I also had "great things" expected of me at school just because I was a bit clever. But I threw it all away in 5th year by intentionally (and, obviously, irrationally) failing lots of exams. Somehow I wandered into a maths degree (as litereature lovers do, ahem) and then somehow wandered into 10 years of short-term contracts, boring but well-paid jobs and teacher training (primary school, who'd want to be a maths teacher?!).

My current job is however, enjoyable and socially-beneficial. I was promoted last month and in the interview for the promotion I was asked "Where do you see yourself in 3 years time?" EEK! What a question... Of course, I lied.

Have I ever had goals? Not ones that most of the world care about. Writing has been important to me for years and years and the most focussed moment of my life was probably when I realised that I couldn't write prose fiction. A massive weight off my shoulders as it allowed me to concentrate on poetry.

My "goals" now are to write poetry, be in a stable environment that will allow me to write poetry. Oh, and to travel the world.

I have no publishing goals at all - I'd rather write something new, than publish something old. (I have similar feelings to you about the poetry world and "the reams of rules and all their fans, the so-often-focussing-on-competition element, the sneering and snobbishness that creeps about")

Ohhh... I've written a lot here. I must calm down. I may flounce off and have a poetic swoon from the mental trauma of all these words...


Rachel Fox said...

David - what a perfect comment (I'm calling you David because it says that on your blog..if you'd rather be called Deemikay you'll have to let me sounds a bit hip hop mc...). I love the idea of failing exams on purpose...I was a bad girl at school but it never even occurred to me to be bad in that way (I was too drunk mostly). Passing exams was what enabled me to get away with all the other bad behaviour, I think. And I had a vague idea that the exams might come in handy and that being clever was my one saving grace (at that point) so I'd better not let go of it. You were braver perhaps! Disappointing my very loving educationally-minded mother has always been one of my worst fears too (though I have done it of doubt...intense relationships with single mothers!).

Like Liz and Ken and others, you write about writing in a very sensible way. Last year I did get to a better place with writing poetry (finally...after years of waffling about) - where I accepted it was what I did, where I did it just because, where I just got on with it. Recently I haven't felt that way...lots of reasons I suppose - people being ill, birthday approaching, thinking about putting out my book last year (cost, time, effort etc.), wondering what next, feeling so far away from what so many other poets seem to value, not having read in public for a while because folk club closes over Xmas. I am a bit of a spotlight baby, I will admit. Once I'm back on that stool feeling like Dave Allen for ten minutes a fortnight...I'll probably feel better again. Then I might write some more poems (I've been taking a lot of notes but I haven't written one for a little while - I do always feel better when I let some out and get to work).

It's nice to meet another poet with a sense of life and humour that I can recognise.

And SW/Ken duo - I went and listened to 'Buckets of rain'. Mark listens to that album a lot but I've often wandered off to do something else by the last track and that's why I didn't know which it was till I heard it. It is a beautiful track - a beautiful album in many ways. We always like to sing along with the faintly ridiculous 'Idiot wind'. I love the 'lonesome' one too. Coming from a family of many widows I suppose that's a title that's going to grab me first.


deemikay said...

Pssst... I'll let you into a secret: "deemikay" is just DMcK which are my initials and which some people call me in Real Life. But David is fine as well. :)

It never occurred to me that exams might come in handy... I was a "good" boy and I just wanted to piss people off by failing them. Particularly Mr Grey the geography teacher. :)

I'm the very opposite of a spotlight baby... the idea of giving a reading doesn't, well, float my boat. But that's because I hate my voice (spending the years 6-11 in another country messed it up slightly). So I'm a writer who just writes and nothing more. Which is an ok place to be, because it means I don't have to conform to anyone's idea of what *should* be done.

"It's nice to meet another poet with a sense of life and humour that I can recognise."

Likewise. :)

Too many of these potes take their potery too seriously. (Or is that "pottery?")

Rachel Fox said...

Now I want to hear what your voice sounds like!

As for's not them taking their poetry too seriously that bothers me...I can be guilty of that now and's when they can't see any way but their own that they drive me...potty! Now, blinkers on and full steam ahead till morning...


deemikay said...

Oh, my voice is odd and annoying. Ignore it. :)

I take my poems seriously as well. Very seriously. But I don't take my "being a poet" or my poetry-collective seriously. I think we're both sort of saying the same thing. :)

Rachel Fox said...


Kat Mortensen said...

Rachel - re:"astue" You're getting like me - always having to make that correction. Funny thing is, the readers probably don't even notice, BUT we do ourselves, when we make those tiny errors, don't we? Why do we feel the need, I wonder?

Ken - that clock thing, takes me back to a scene in "Withnail and I".


Rachel Fox said...

Yes, Kat, I may have my own bizarre punctuation rules but I do like to spell words correctly!

Unknown said...

Such a fulsom post my dear - happy birthday. I like the Ger-man poem ;) and happy birthday to your bruvva, and good to hear he's on the mend.

I'm still growing up, like Sorlil says, and have no idea what's around the corner, and that's the way I like it ;)

Unknown said...

Last count, I've had a lot of different jobs... hey, maybe I'll blog about that ;)

Rachel Fox said...

Look forward to that post Barbara. I love finding out about other people's crazy lives!
Your other comment hit the wrong post I think. I've pasted it up with the Burns one.

Anonymous said...

Hi Rachel. Great post and one, I'm sure, that'll chime with so many people - whether in the arts or not.

I was wondering, though, if lives and achievements are things we put a structure to after they happen. I remember a few years ago feeling I'd achieved nothing for my age (whatever that was supposed to mean) and then writing down all my experience and work for a CV and realising how much I had done. It's just that it's not a very straight line, if you know what I mean.

I think we are lead to believe that we will have this upward trajectory. But life is usually a series of blips and starts and moments. Some people have enormous luck young and often they find that hard afterwards. It is rare to have the dream-come-true package, after all!

I suppose the other point is that careers are something that involve life and time devoted to them - the nasty sides of them too. Like the dream of the artist in the caravan Dave is talking about here - that's a romantic dream, really, isn't it? And success never really looks like that. And the nuts and berries thing gets pretty tedious in reality. ;)

But it's an interesting question what our goals are and why, isn't it? I tend to set myself projects about which I get rather obsessive and then feel very lost at the end of them. And when I emerge I look around blinkingly and think - Where am I? I suspect a lot of people feel like this too.

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks Rosy. It is a complicated all the big subjects in life (love, home, family etc.). I agree with you about the straight line...those lines exist for our parents, for our critics, for journalists when they are summing up people's lives...but when anybody looks at their own life (including parents, critics and journalists) they never see their own story in that way. I don't think it's ever that simple for anyone.

It gets more complicated with arts folk because specific types of public success are so essential for validation (if you are a writer and don't have an outwardly successful project are you still a 'writer' in the eyes of onlookers...or are you a 'failed writer'...and what a lovely thing that is!). No, you must get a 'proper' publisher, win prizes, be interviewed in the right newspapers...and until that point you are, on one level, a failure and therefore (possibly) wasting your time. But then all of a sudden, if you do get the required signs of success...hey was all worth it and your failure status vanishes (or is put in storage).

As I say I don't worry about this too much. Just now and again! Then I just get on with the writing again...