"Oh be calm, be calm.
I know you feel like you are breaking down.
Oh I know that it gets so hard sometimes,
Take it from me, I've been there a thousand times.
You hate your pulse because it still thinks you're alive
And everything's wrong
It just gets so hard sometimes
Be calm, be calm." -Be Calm by Fun.
I thought I'd start this blog off with a little bit of musical inspiration. Because I think we all need more music in our lives, do we not? I was going through my daily mix on Spotify the other day and this song came on. I've always loved this band so its brilliant to find some of their earlier stuff. So now you know some more, probably useless, information about my taste in music, let's crack on.
I think we all lose our head at one point or another in our lives. After all, we are only human. It’s a natural response to negative stimuli. Wow, listen to me getting all scientific. But the point still stands. When we are under stress, we panic. It’s as simple as that. Even if there is no real reason to panic, our heads can create imaginary scenarios where everything could go wrong and there’s no way to stop it. We think the worst, even when the worst probably won’t even occur.
For example, take Monday just gone. In my lecture, Creative Practise, we had to give a presentation to the class about our groups’ magazine. Now, let’s get one thing clear, I hate presentations. I despise them. I will do everything I can do get out of them if I can. I have always been like this, ever since secondary school (high school or whatever it’s called) I think the main reason why I hate them so much, is due to the fact I can’t see people’s faces very well, I can’t see their expressions or if they are looking at me. It’s more about the unknown. I hate not knowing, it makes me anxious.
However, during this presentation, arrangements were made beforehand. I contributed to the presentation and wrote my sections. And someone else in my group very kindly agreed to read it out. So I was the one who operated the PowerPoint and changed the slides. I was much happier with this, I was sort of hidden away as the classroom is quite large and it’s full of computers. I was only focused on what the rest of my group was saying and changing the slides at the appropriate time. I didn’t have to worry about anything else. I think that’s what helped the most only focusing on one thing instead of lots of different things and getting overwhelmed.
I know I have to get a grip on my anxiety and stress issues, but now isn’t the right time. There will be a time where I have to give presentations on my own, where I won’t have the support of friends. Where I will be with complete strangers. Somehow, I think I may be able to give presentations and take part in discussions with people I don’t know. They won’t know much about me, their first impression will be when I first meet them. It’s different with people you know and have done for a while. It’s peer pressure, plain and simple. We don’t want our friends and acquaintances to judge us because we care what they think. I think this is often why it’s difficult to give and receive criticism with our friends. We don’t want to hurt them or damage the relationship we have. So most of the time, we keep quiet.
For me, being a Creative Writing student it’s different. I have to give criticism on friends work very regularly. And I receive it too. It does hurt, when someone says they don’t like your work, don’t like your style or you should change things. It hurts because we may have spent a lot of time on that piece. We may feel very strongly about it, we may have put our soul into that piece of writing only to have it torn to shreds before our eyes. I’ve been in that situation many times and I know it’ll happen in the future. It’s inevitable, being a writer. People will criticise your work. Whatever you do, be it writing a novel or planning a wedding, someone will always pick fault. There will be that one person who isn’t happy. Personally, I like these kind of people. Because how else can we improve if we don’t have criticism. I admit that it needs to be constructive criticism as that makes it easier for us to learn without being too offended. But those people who don’t like your work, well it inspires us to try and change their mind. Show them something they have never seen before. Show them what you are really capable of. Then they may feel differently. It may not feel like it at the time, but it is possible to change a readers mind. It can be done, just as long as you don’t give up hope. Being a writer is all about fighting and determination and passion for the written word. It’s about having the confidence to stand up and present the world with your stories, be them controversial or traditional. It is hard for a new writer to get their work out there, to gain a readership. It’s hard to get your work published. But you need to keep at it every single day.
After all, it took J.K Rowling a full year to find a publisher who was interested in Harry potter and The Philosopher’s Stone.
For me, it comes down to a few things. Closing your eyes, taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly. Calming both your mind and your heartbeat at the same time. Just forget everything for a few moments and concentrate on yourself. It’s amazing how the little things make a massive difference. And you don’t just have to be a writer to do this, (obviously). Anyone who is struggling, anyone who is panicking or worrying about a meeting, an interview, results from a test. It’s a coping mechanism. We all need some outlet, a safe outlet. Problems won’t go away if you pass out from drinking too much, I see little point in using substances to remain calm and forget about our worries. It’s best to sit down, jot thoughts and feelings down in a notebook and try to get to grips with the root of the problem. You can look back and wonder why you got so upset, so worked up. You may even be able to laugh at your reaction, but you will have learnt how to deal with those feelings if it happens again in the future. There are people around you that can help, that can be that shoulder to cry on and they will pick you up if you fall down. They do this because they want to, not because they have to. And you’d do the same for them, if they were in the same position.
We all need to face our demons, take the leap of faith and do something scary. With a clear head and strong outlook on things, anything is possible. If you think the worst will happen, then it probably will as you’ve conditioned your brain into thinking so, you’ve set yourself up for a fall. And no one deserves that. I could go all psychological on you all, but I’m not going to. There’s a reason why I’ve hidden all my A-Level Psychology work, I get flashbacks (I really enjoyed it, but there is only so much Freud one person can take.)
There is s technique, I’ve used it a few times. It’s where a situation may be bothering you, so you write down the worst thing could happen in that situation and give it a score out of ten of how realistic it feels. Then, you leave it for a while to give yourself time to cool off and get your thoughts straight. When you feel ready, you read back over your notes and give it another score out of ten about how realistic it feels now. More often than not, the second score will be lower. This is due to the fact you’ve taken a step back and calmed down. You’re thinking more clearly the second time around. At the time, your emotions were running high, you were upset and stressed and everything in between. You would have been blinded by those feelings and unable to think positively. By keeping this notebook, eventually you may not stress and panic about situations, about the consequences. Of course I’m not a professional and I don’t claim to be. This is just my experience and my knowledge that I’m sharing with you. Don’t expect miracles in anything you do, because they just don’t happen in real life. But if you try hard enough, if you keep trying and don’t give up, well anything can happen.
Tom stood by the window, his hands firmed planted on the sill, fingers curling around the peeling paint. He gazed down at the street, the sea of cars and busses. The pedestrians, no bigger than ants, scurrying along the pavement. It all seemed too ordinary, far too mundane for his liking. Where was the excitement, the thrill of the chase, the adventure?
“Are you gonna open it or not?”
Tom turned his head and stared at Leah.
“Funny one, you are. Go on, I’m sure it won’t bite.”
“That’s debatable,” Tom mumbled, turning his gaze back to the street outside.
“I’ve told you to leave it, Leah.”
“She’s your mum, Tom. She’d want to know whether you got in or not.”
He crossed his arms over his chest, his fingers clutching at his shirt. He paused, he could hear Leah sighing behind him and the faint clink of a mug being set down on a table.
“She lost that right a long time ago, Leah.”
“I know. I’m not saying you have to forgive her-”
Tom span around, his back bumped against the windowsill painfully. He gritted his teeth and stalked towards the coffee table. Leah held her hands up in defence as he snatched the laptop up and walked into the kitchen.
“She told them it was my fault Joe died! That lying cow tried to ruin my life, she deserves everything she gets and more,” Tom spat, dumping the laptop on the counter. He reached for the kettle and flicked it on. Leah sighed once more as Tom clutched at the counter, digging his fingernails into the wood.
“It wasn’t your fault, it was an accident. You do know that, don’t you?”
Tom sighed, scrubbing a hand over his face as the kettle began to bubble in front of him. He turned slowly, meeting Leahs’ concerned, pixelated eyes for the first time since he Skyped her half an hour ago.
“I know it wasn’t.”
Leah beamed at him as she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.
“Go on, go and fetch it.”
Tom stared down at his grubby converse, slumping against the counter and ignored Leash’s tutting through his knackered speakers.
“Tom. The longer you leave it, the less time you’ll have before the semester starts. You need to start getting ready, get packing.”
Tom raised his head as the kettle whistled and clicked itself off. He stared at his childhood friend, his heart hammering against his chest.
“And what if I don’t? What then?”
Leah grinned at him.
“We’ll pass that bridge when we come it to. Go on or would you prefer me to come over and open it for you?”
Tom held his hands up, but smiled back. He tapped his hands against the counter twice, before pushing off and walking back into his living room, tea forgotten about. He picked up the laptop as he went, Leah remained quiet but she was grinning up at him. Gently, Tom placed the laptop back down and stared at the cream envelope that sat on the table.
“Come on, Tommy. it’s now or never.”
Tom scoffed as he reached down, sending a two fingered salute to Leah in the process. Her laughter bounced into his ears as he picked the envelope up, fingertips running along the sooth edges. His name glared up at him, bright blue ink staining the pristine paper.
Letting his eyes all close, Tom took a breath and exhaled slowly, his fingers creeping under the sealed flap. A rip filled the air as he breathed deeply, his heartbeat slowing by the second. A single sheet of paper slid out onto his hands. At last he opened his eyes.
“Well? Did you get in?”
Tom stared at the paper.
You can do anything if you take a step back and calm your nerves. The thing that’s topping you, is you. We all stand in our own way, even if sometimes we don’t know it. All you need to do is close your eyes and take a deep breath. Keep yourself calm and see where the world takes you.
I’ll leave you with this quote,
"I'm going to keep going until I succeed — or die. Don't think I don't know how this might end. I've known it for years." - Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Till the next time.