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maxbantleman

Writing

Welcome

Hello there!

Here are some thoughts on varied topics, i hope some of them will be of interest and will prompt a response.

I’m going to be putting stuff out via Kindle Direct, which you can find by searching Amazon.com / .co.uk  for – ‘Max Bantleman’.

Thanks for reading.

Featured post

Contagious

I’m sure we have all heard the saying, ‘anger is an energy.’

All emotions are.

With anger though the feeling of it being an energy is very immediate. Feeling it can cause us to do stuff, it energises us to action.

A lot of the time this action is not very well thought through. We just ‘do it’, driven by the anger, spur of the moment stuff. Thought comes later.

Being angry is a natural reaction to many things. The thing that angers us may move on, perhaps immediately or perhaps sometimes later, but we carry that anger with us and a quick way to diminish it, to escape from some if not all of it, is to pass it on.

We react angrily and we let some of it go.

Some people can be angry and not behave like this, they can absorb the anger, internalise it and then get it to evaporate through their deeper-nature. These people are scarce. I’m certainly not one of them.

Or rather I’m not most of the time.

As we get older we become more aware of the controls we have on our thoughts and behaviour.

We can take some control through that awareness. In my finer moments I can simply acknowledge things that make me feel angry or other negative emotions, and absorb them to be melted away in the subconscious and applied reasoning of my accumulated wisdom.

Smart eh!?

Sometimes. But not always. OK, it’s rare.

If there is an emotion that I want to spread in the world it certainly isn’t anger. To control my own thoughts and actions to reflect this is the goal. It’s not always the reality. And there are good ways to get angry, like reacting to a threat that can harm us or the ones we love.

Thinking about what energy I do want to be contagious, what I do want to spread in the world, is a tough one.

I’m not a woolly-minded hippy with visions of world-peace and love spreading from one simple act of kindness. But I do believe that every action that increases the happiness in the world also goes some way to reducing all negative emotions.

That’s actually pretty happyish, yeah, you got me there.

But none-the-less, that’s what I think and how I want to act.

At the end of any given year, thoughts turn to the coming year. We think about change. We reflect on the past. We have a focus on change and our part in it.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all understand each other a bit better? If we could show a desire to increase understanding of difference as a positive thing? Wouldn’t it be great if we could all show less anger?

We all know it would.

We all know it’s a challenge that will sometimes defeat us.

But we all also know that shouldn’t stop us from trying.

Be happy. Make others happy.

Future Past

Heraclitus said, “You cannot step into the same river twice, for other waters are continually flowing on.”

Yeah, he was a smarty pants.

But once upon a time I found a river and got what he meant…

 

Future Past

 

Standing in the river,

Close my eyes in the sunshine,

Feel the water rushing by my legs,

Outstretched arms,

Head held back,

Sun on my face,

It all goes flashing by me,

Washing past me,

Washing the past from me.

 

Upstream coming at me,

Waters clear and cool,

Feel the waters coming down from the mountain,

Oblivious of me,

Nothing holds them back,

They rush on their way,

Sliding past me,

Washing away into the future,

Leaving me behind.

 

Downstream lost to me,

See it sparkling as it dances,

Watch the endless rippling surface,

Onwards towards the sea,

Feeling calm and rested,

Breathing easy,

Nothing stopping, moving on,

Leaving me standing still,

Feeling the river washing me clean.

 

Turn one way, past behind me,

Pushing past me,

Turn the other, look back and see,

The past coming at me,

Runs by and leaves me alone.

Stand still, feel it all, see it all,

Clear and cool,

Water washes me,

Leaves me free to feel it all again.

We Are Teachers

Most of us can think of a favourite Teacher we’ve had.

It might have been at school, at college or Uni. It might have been a mentor at work or a tutor on a course we’ve taken.

We liked them because they were knowledgeable, able to help us learn and were keen about getting us involved.

There were other reasons, maybe one, maybe many, but I suspect the core of why we liked them was that they engaged us and made us feel empowered.

They made us feel like we could do it, we could learn stuff, that it was a pleasure to learn, that we were being enriched.

We came away feeling empowered and enthused.

At the time we may not have thought about it like that. We probably just enjoyed it, felt that we were doing well and enjoyed that feeling.

There is a lot of stuff that goes to give someone credibility. And good teachers always have it.

It’s hard to analyse why they were successful in making us feel good about ourselves and what we were learning. We just felt it. When we look back on the experience, we feel it.

They engaged with us, made us feel empowered, made us feel their enthusiasm and commitment to sharing their knowledge.

Well here’s the thing… We are all teachers to someone.

Sometimes it’s a formal setting, or if not formal then at least a setting where there is an expectation, where we know we have a chance to help others learn.

Sometimes it sneaks up on us, we realise in the moment that we are teaching someone something. And sometimes it comes back to us in a flash of memory, we see what we did, realise that we were acting as a teacher.

Do we enjoy teaching things? Do we have the confidence to do it? The desire?

Can we acknowledge that sometimes we are asked to be a teacher and we need to step-up?

Credibility can only come from our honesty. We cannot decide we are credible for someone else, they decide that for themselves, so if they have decided it, don’t question and over-analyse – step one is done.

What we can do is make sure we are engaging with people who look to us as a teacher, that we think about what they need and want, what we can offer and give. We have to listen and engage.

We have to be enthusiastic.

Most importantly we have to empower people. We have to encourage them, allow them to grow for themselves with what they know and want to learn. We have to be positive, supporting and encouraging. We have to be.

So when there is an opportunity to be the teacher – embrace it!

Be prepared for it and embrace it.

The Pressure of Time

We all have limited time.

In so many ways and in one ultimate sense.

I read once that all art, all creativity, is a response to the understanding that we are all going to die.

If we were immortal, there would be no art, creativity would die.

The thinking behind it being that we would always have time to do it. There would always be more time. We could always put it off, do it tomorrow, or whenever.

Simplistic and perhaps total BS, but it does convey the idea that we all feel the pressure of time in some way and we all react to it differently.

We all live our lives as if we are going to live forever.

We all realise we are not.

We all have a desire to make the most of the time we have, in every sense.

We all do that in different ways.

Being creative to a deadline is fantastic.

The most important thing it teaches us is that things will have to be as good as they are when the deadline hits, then we have to let them be, let them go.

With no deadline, we are tempted to tinker, to make it better, to chase perfection rather than let something be as perfect as it can be when it’s time to let it go.

Can we ever be aware of the greater deadline?

Is this something that we can use to drive us in our creative endeavours?

Can we turn the pressure of time to our advantage?

Yes. Yes we can.

Our energy for each thing we create has a natural cut-off point. That point where we feel we are just tinkering, adding the whistles and bells to make it more than it was ever meant to be.

Most creativity uses a craft as well as artistic inspiration, and of course we want to use all our skill and experience to make sure we have something that is as good as it can be in the sense of the craft.

Artistically, we can realise the idea and then it’s done.

The challenge of the pressure of time often defeats me. And it’s usually because I don’t want something I’ve created to be perceived as anything less than the best it could be.

But the best it could be at the time is what I should be focusing on.

I’m rubbish at self-imposed deadlines.

I need to work on my awareness of the pressure of time.

With the things you create, how can you turn the pressure of time in to a positive thing?

F.U.P.

I wrote this about the Black Dog.

Kind of tumbled out, bit angry but also hopeful.

F.U.P.

I turned around and there it was,

Lurking in the shadows behind me,

Awaiting its chance to suck me dry,

This fucking useless parasite.

 

Only it never does,

It won’t kill the host.

That’s not how it works,

Won’t fulfil its need,

Take enough,

But never too much,

Reap and sow,

Plant the seed.

 

I turned my back and on it came,

From out of the darkness within me,

Been waiting for a chance to watch me die,

This fucking useless parasite.

 

Only I never do,

And it never can,

That’s not how it works,

Don’t feel the need,

Given enough,

At times too much,

Reaped what I sowed,

Planted the seed.

 

I turned a corner and found it there,

Waiting in ambush for me,

A chance for me to immortalise,

This fucking useless parasite.

 

Only I know it now,

It’s not what it seems,

That’s not how it works,

I don’t have a need,

Bled out too much,

Nothing to show,

No place for the seed,

To hide and grow.

 

I turned it over and watched it die,

Helpless in the open,

Destroyed by the light,

This fucking useless parasite.

Change

Spiderman-head BalloonWhere I sit and type my ramblings looks out across a wide gravelly-drive area on to a nice bit of greenery, with trees and a view of the countryside.

A Spiderman-head kids’ helium balloon, partially deflated, is currently caught in a windy vortex which is blowing it round on the ground in a wide circle. It is dashing about in the company of some crinkly brown leaves.

It seems like it is doomed to remain here forever.

It has been whirling around for about an hour now and shows no signs of stopping.

On it goes, tumbling across gravel and grass, coming close then veering off only to come back round again.

Endless turmoil but no real change.

But wait, I thinks.

It wasn’t always here.

So something has changed.

And it won’t (of course) always be here – the wind will change. Eventually. And off it will go, to destinations anew.

My whimsical observations that it could be trapped here forever are a nonsense.

Thanks nature!

Change is like that. One minute it wasn’t here, then it was, then it seems it could be here forever, but of course it won’t be.

Change is like that.

Change is inevitable. Life is change. Stagnation is death.

We are programmed by evolution to accept change, to go with it, to adapt.

But not changing can create a wonderful comfort-zone.

But then… change… inevitable.

Thank you Spiderman-head balloon for reminding me of something I already knew, but, ironically, had momentarily forgotten as I sit here comfortably contemplating your nonsensical future.

Not About Golf

About ten years ago I decided I’d like to take up playing golf.

I needed exercise, had the time and liked the idea of playing against myself.

I got some clubs, not cheap but not silly-expensive.

I went to the local driving range and talked to some people in the shop there.

I met a guy at work who played and offered to go round with me so I could get the hang of playing a course.

I was all set.

Went to the range, hit some balls. It was really easy to hit the balls.

They didn’t go very far and the direction was a bit random, but that would change with practice.

I read some books, checked out some videos, watched people play golf on TV and went to the range some more.

More balls were hit and it did indeed get a bit better.

Then I went round with the guy from work.

He was great. Very encouraging but also very quiet about what I ‘should’ do.

I really liked golf. I wasn’t very good at it, but I was sure I’d get better. And when I say ‘wasn’t very good’, I do of course mean I was comically awful. But it felt great to play, to try my best and to know I’d get better if I applied what I was learning.

I went to the range, played a round now and again and kept getting the tiniest bit better.

Then I had a lesson with a pro.

He was very encouraging and very good. His summary was that I could indeed hit a golf ball, and depending how ‘good’ I wanted to get, he could help and suggest stuff.

My aim was to understand golf. To know enough to be able to play with someone and enjoy it. To get better each time I went out and to start applying the rules so that I was measuring myself against the game, not a vague notion of what the game was.

I still really enjoy golf. I don’t play enough to improve, but am at a level where I can play a round and not completely suck. Not completely.

Golf is a very physically driven thing. The technique used with the tools are to achieve a physically tangible aim. The great thing about golf is that you really do play to improve. You are measuring your own improvement and can see results on the score card.

Creating things is not like golf.

Except it is.

But it isn’t.

But really it is.

And there’s the nub of why creative people find it hard to develop, to improve and to accept measuring themselves.

We sometimes need a ‘pro’, we sometimes need someone to tell us where we can improve in solid, doable terms that we can apply.

But being creative we keep applying the ‘it’s all so esoteric and subjective!’ argument. It’s a good one to stop us realising how much we can learn from others and how much we can improve if we just practice and do the thing!

We need to accept that we need feedback. We sometimes need help. We can always learn from others who do our thing. And most importantly of all, we must actually do the thing. A lot. Do it over and over again and apply what we learn to get better.

It’s not golf.

But it’s not rocket-science either.

Brave

Being brave is an age-old topic for discussion and reflection.

What is ‘being brave’?

Lots of definitions right?

As we grow as a species we come to realise it’s not just physical bravery that is to be admired.

Poets are brave.

Writers are brave.

Creative people who share are brave.

They open themselves up to judgement. They share aspects of themselves that reveal their inner thoughts and emotions.

If creating something doesn’t reveal something about the creator, it can still be good, but it will never be great.

But what about revealing a universal truth, doesn’t that make it great.

I guess… I’m a tough crowd…

If it speaks to me of the thoughts and emotions of another person, shows me they are opening up their spirit and their heart, then I’m far more likely to be moved.

And being moved is what creating stuff is all about.

Being brave enough to say, ‘here, look at this, listen to this, *feel* this. This is a bit of me,’ that’s where the courageous go.

I’ve read some poems recently that have moved me, made me think. They have made me see something in another person, helped me view the world through another’s eyes. The language and execution has not always impressed me, sometimes it does but that’s rare. But the courage and insight always do.

When I experience something that entertains me I appreciate it and the energy it took to create it. I’m mostly impressed that someone has hit all the right spots in getting me to smile or think, or both!

But yeah… when something moves me, makes me feel… that I find amazing and brave and all kinds of special.

So to all the creatives out there I’d say this: show us something about yourself. Share a deeper part of you than you might be thinking of sharing. Give us a glimpse of who you are. Help us see things through your thoughts and feelings. You will not always get a positive response, but you should know that there will always be someone who experiences your creation and goes, ‘wow! That moved me.’

Who Is The Narrator?

Who is the narrator?

Are they a character?

Are they a specific viewpoint?

Are we using their senses to get information on the current scene?

Can they see and report beyond that?

Are they telling us things from one character’s perspective but not ‘theirs’?

The narrator is telling the story. They have access to whatever information we need them to have to tell the story in the voice we want.

We can use the story-teller to highlight a character, give us information as that character would see and know it. Give us a glimpse in to that character’s thought-process.

We can hop about, skip from character to character as the scene and story needs it.

We can be the aloof story-teller, relating detail and incidents in a voice separate from the story. We can have all the information, tell what we want in any scene as we see fit to serve the story.

Who is the narrator?

We talk a lot about our ‘voice’ as a writer.

Depending upon the story or the piece, we use the narrator to reflect that don’t we?

I never write in a straight-forward ‘reporting’ style. There is always some character view-point, some stress to the narration, a point of view for the scene.

It depends on the piece.

Do you have a preference?

Is the narrator ultimately just you talking to the reader, telling them the story as if you were cosied up by a fire?

With poetry it seems like a question that never gets asked. And I think it should.

Poetry is telling us things, showing us things, asking questions, offering ideas. Poetry is not just about the words and images. There is more. Who is telling us this ‘more’? Who are we listening to?

The first thing that jars me out of being immersed in a piece is a wonky narrator.

There may be other things, but the first that I notice is the narration going off.

It’s usually the second or third edit of my own stuff where it hits me how bad I am at sticking to the ‘rules’ I like to see observed in other writing.

So that’s my focus on the next few pieces.

Make sure I know who the narrator is. What is their voice, their perspective, how much do they know and can they reveal to make the story better? Focus!

It’s #NaNoWriMo and I’m using it as a kick in the butt to get a novel moving, so maybe focus on the shorter pieces for the writing group… always an excuse!

But I am determined to pay more attention to the narrator.

Maybe in the fourth edit…

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