Weds poetry prompt: ‘Refresh and Try Again’


This week’s prompt: Write a ‘refresh’ poem.

Refresh and Try Again

Tired eyes taint out minds
Into thinking all we write
Is a pitiful waste of time.
As the black cloud above drizzles,
Our head tells us it’s all drivel,
Ideas cruelly left to die
With one swift cross and strike
Of our suddenly critical pens,
Condemning all as rubbish and nonsense.
It takes a good hard slap
Or failing that, a cold watery splash
To the face, to finally convince us
To keep going, past the cloud of doubt,
And once weary writers are refreshed,
We stand up to the craft once again
Allowing timid ideas and themes to breathe
In a now cleared and open air
That wakes us from the fog of despair.

Like this poem? Read more in my first poetry collection, ‘The Awakening’, avaliable NOW!

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Writing with the Black Dog on Your Back


As a writer, one of the worst things about depression hitting you is when it paralyses you creatively as well; so many evenings I have sat in front of my laptop, trying to will the words to come, only to either find myself numb and defeated, or berating myself in tears that I have no business calling myself a writer if I can’t even turn my inner pain into something creative. You could argue that perhaps I have set myself up for failure, after an entire day of being in the black dog’s grip, trying to convince myself that it will be all better in the evening once I’ve sat down with a cup of tea and do some writing – that will make everything better, of course it will! But no, either I end up going to bed after staring at a blank page for two hours, or else there are frenzied scribblings in my notebook, with portions angrily crossed out in frustration, starting again, barely getting five lines in before I decide that incarnation is utter rubbish as well. I curse myself as I think of all those other writers out there, who obviously strike gold first time and are completely flawless, and can immediately give birth to words that actually mean something, artfully arranged and dripping with effortless rhythm. I tell myself that I am a fraud – that I only claim to be a writer when in actuality I am a pretender, a liar – I’m merely someone who wishes they were a writer, and feels the poems within his own published collection sitting right there on the table beside him are actually utterly worthless tosh, and that no one would get or feel anything out of them. I convince myself this is the truth, that everything I’m doing (or not doing) is wrong, and that I may as well call it quits here and there.

As I look back over the crossings out in my notebook with a more stable frame of mind, I see the harshness of my own inner critic, many of the attempts reading exactly the same, but I have seemingly told myself each time that I need to start again, not even allowing myself the luxury of seeing where the words take me:

Down here, deep below
The senseless noise of the ‘surface’
Lies the darkness

Down here, deep below
The senseless noise of the surface
Lies the deeper and darker purpose

Down here, deep below
The senseless noise of the surface
Lies the darkness in the heart of man,
The deep, burning burden

Down here, deep below
The senseless noise of the surface
Lies the darker and deeper words
All dripping with intent and purpose
And spoken with utmost precision,
Each breath

Down here, deep below
The senseless noise of the surface
Lies the deeper and darker words
All dripping with intent and purpose
Each breathed with careful precision

Until, finally – the next day, I permit myself to just ‘go with the flow’, my mind’s fog lifted, things feeling a lot clearer – and allow myself to just write the damn thing:

Down here, deep below
The senseless noise of the surface
Lies the deeper and darker words
All dripping with intent and purpose
And laced with sensual rhythm;
The smoky, sultry voice of the poet
Heard in secret spots such as these
For those bold enough to seek it.

The lower floor of the bar or lounge
Is the ideal poetical domain,
An alluring lyrical dungeon
Where touch is not used to entice,
They’ll seduce you with words instead,
Tongues twisting with tremouring rhyme,
Leaving an audience on its back, begging for more.

So, there you go! A vaguely suggestive poem about just what dark horses us literary types can be, rife for expansion and modification at a later date. The point is, I wrote something. It’s all too easy to put that pressure on yourself and expect a masterpiece to come flowing forth right from the first attempt, but of course it is not as simple as that. I would not suggest that you force yourself to write by any means, if you are really not in the right frame of mind, but it’s interesting to see how you can improve and adjust things once you come back to it with a more steady head and hand. I suppose it’s interesting as well that I found myself writing about ‘the darkness in the heart of man’ and ‘the darker and deeper words’, and everything being ‘deep below’ – what started as sounding dangerously close to something you’d expect to see in a disillusioned teenager’s diary morphed into a mildly humorous concept of the poet sharing their scintillating wares in a brothel-like environment (inspired by an actual movement which has now become a semi-regular event in my own town).

And at the end of the day, aren’t the constant crossings-out and startings-again the marks of a real writer? The marks that at the time I condemned myself so harshly for, are probably seen in the notebooks of any self-respecting writer, famous, published or otherwise. These will rarely be shared with the outside world of course; the rough first drafts, the experimentation, the half-finished or abandoned ideas – and of course we are not completely privy to their emotional state at the time of writing either, unless it somehow comes through in the words and themes. Even then, we are left to attempt to decipher this. The writer would not share themselves raw and naked to the world; they are wrapped in their words, where any of their emotions (good or bad) are presented in a carefully considered way, with a rhythm that is pleasing both aesthetically and audibly. This is what gives the words their power – a poet can still express their deepest emotional torment and weaknesses, but it is the way their pen or voice has expressed this that stirs and intrigues us so. The words are scars that, while still not healed, are absolved of their ugliness.

A poem that touches on the mysterious, often intangible relationship between author and reader is Charles Baudelaire’s ‘To the Reader’ (Au lecteur)*, and begins with a stirring description of these mental and physical scars (‘Folly and error, stinginess and sin / Possess our spirits and fatigue our flesh. / And like a pet we feed our tame remorse / As beggars take to nourishing their lice’.) It goes on to describe a creature/devil who ‘pulls all of our strings’, not unlike what we have come to know as the ‘black dog’. (‘A demon nation riots in our brains’ is a particularly delicious line, but also an all too apt and relatable description of just what depression can do to us). And indeed, as the poem ends, its name is declared – that familiar and numb non-feeling known as:

He is Ennui! – with tear-filled eye he dreams
Of scaffolds, as he puffs his water-pipe.
Reader, you know this dainty monster too;
-Hypocrite reader,-fellowman,-my twin!

I feel Baudelaire, in this poem, has done as I have previously described – turned his own anguish and turmoil into something rhythmic, something beautiful – proving that sometimes it can be worth the effort to express those feelings onto paper, even if it does end up needing some refinement later. I hope anyone who feels the black dog descending as they attempt to write finds some comfort and inspiration in this post – our pen is our sword, our weapon against the fearsome and dreaded beast – and writers should do everything in their power to fight back against it, and provide comforting and relatable words to those also fighting the same battle.

*’Baudelaire, Charles – ‘To the Reader’ from The Flowers of Evil (1857) – translated from the original French by James McGowan, Oxford World’s Classics edition


Read my previous posts around mental health, including my potential poetry chapbook themed around mental health, ‘The Dance of Dark and Light’ (hopefully to see publication soon!)

‘A Letter to Those in Low Spirits’ (World Mental Health Day 2017)

‘The Dance of Dark and Light’ (possible poetry compilation)

‘The Darkness Within Writing’

Weds Poetry Prompt: ‘Versus Yourself”

‘The Power of Music and Rain (A Moment of Reflection)’

2017 April Pad Challenge Day 8: ‘A Mind Under Attack’

2017 April PAD Challenge Day 9: ‘So What Now?’


Soundtrack of my Life (Writing / ‘Feel Good’ Playlist (Vol. 4)


So if my previous post was about the songs I was listening to when just starting university and dealing with being away from home for the first time, the tracks I am detailing this time very much defined the end of my student days, and my transition to the ‘real world’ of working and responsibilities. (Oh, the horror!) An equally confusing and testing time, as I’m sure many can attest. I had finally accepted myself as being gay as I left university as well, so once again it was a period of major change and facing the unknown.

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Weds poetry prompt: ‘Between Lives’


This week’s prompt: Write a ‘direction’ poem

(This one was somewhat inspired by the weather conditions we’ve been enjoying/enduring in the UK today!)

Between Lives

Walking home in bitter snow,
Feet firmly trudging through
In a predetermined direction
While my head is swimming
In another one altogether,
Wading back to warmer times
When body and mind still complied
For a common, simple goal
Before the years brought a flurry
Of confused desires and feelings;
So the blind now leads the blind
In a blizzard of confused purpose
Trying to desperately find
The focused child inside.

Like this poem? Read more in my first poetry collection, ‘The Awakening’, avaliable NOW!

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Weds poetry prompt: ‘Another Way’


This week’s prompt: Take the phrase “Another (blank),” replace the blank with a new word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write your poem.

Another Way

Sometimes I wonder
If we’re living life correctly
Or if there’s another way
To achieve the balance and serenity
That supposedly awaits
The eternally anxious among us.
Are we worrying and fretting sufficiently?
Or are we relaxing with enough regularity?
These are the questions eternally burning
In our aching and frazzled brains;
Fuelled by dubious and draining fears
Of what one thinks of the other
And the oncoming ruin our human flaws
Are surely to send hurtling on top of us;
But perhaps the fabled other way
Is to simply stop a second and reflect
That even the highest-flyers and triers
Are a far cry from being perfect
And that it should hardly even matter
If we stumble a few times along the way.

Like this poem? Read more in my first poetry collection, ‘The Awakening’, avaliable NOW!

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Writing at Night; or, does the time of day affect your productivity?


So, a couple of years ago I mused in this post about what makes a writing space, and what my own personal set-up is. I notice that in that post, I alluded to the work taking place ‘whenever I could find a few spare hours in the day‘. Funnily enough, lately I seem to have stumbled upon the benefits of doing the opposite – i.e. writing at night. Take last night in particular – it was a Sunday evening, just after 9pm; my partner had already gone to bed because of having work the next day – I did not, so I thought, well, why don’t I go and sit in that spare room and try and get some writing done now – then in the morning I’d actually be able to enjoy my day off and relax a little bit. Because this seems to be the trap I have fallen into as of late – waking up so determined to get as much work done as possible, and then feeling guilty later as I have either managed to get very little done, or nothing at all – the lure of video games and other distractions just proving far too tempting for me. However, after waiting until the quiet calm of the night, I suddenly found myself being so much more productive. I finally made a start on writing a draft for a blog post, for a separate blog I intend to set up soon that is centered around an all-time favourite game series of mine,(so I was writing about a video game, rather than being distracted by one – I mean, that’s ok, right?) managing to bash out a good 1,500 words. And then I even began planning a future blog post! I really was amazed at how much more productive I was being, simply because of the time of day.

I did notice that in that previous post I also made reference to a ‘Writing Timetable’ that I had stuck on the wall – which I must admit, I have since abandoned. But perhaps that was putting too much pressure and stress on me, therefore leading to a lot of disappointment and self-chastising if I didn’t keep to that rigid schedule. I completely understand that for other writers out there, it may well work splendidly – and obviously I assume that if you have made it big and produce works certain to be published then it’s something of a necessity – but at the moment, I feel a lot more freedom without it, simply choosing to dedicate any evenings where I don’t have work or other engagements in the morning to sit down at that keyboard and see what comes out.

I posted about this on both Facebook and Twitter, to which a fellow WordPress poster and writer suggested the night breeds productivity because the day is now behind you – allowing for more concentration, and I do think there is something to that. I find during the day if I attempt to write, I am constantly looking at the clock, thinking, oh bloody hell, it’s already almost noon and I’ve barely done anything…you just feel more like you’re under a time limit, or you end up using lunch and dinner as excuses to stop even if you’ve spent most of your time procrastinating or looking out the window. It sounds crazy, but I find the weather something of a distraction too – if it is raining or miserable outside, I’m fine, but if the sun is out I keep thinking, oh dear, I should be outside getting some exercise or going for a walk, and suddenly feel like an antisocial hermit for daring to stay inside hunched over a computer screen when it’s such a beautiful day outside (not to mention the glare, which guilts you even further!)

A work colleague, who also went to university as I did, posited that those late nights doing coursework and frantically trying to finish essays before the deadline may have something to do with your future writing habits as well – something I hadn’t considered, but again, it does make a lot of sense. While I don’t continually have deadlines to deal with now (except my own self-imposed ones, and ones for submitting for competitions..), the quiet calm of night does seem to more beneficial for writing. Curious to see if there were any online discussion about this matter, I did find this post, which likens writing to a ‘long immersion in a hot tub, or a relaxing meditation’ – making night the ideal time to let it loose, as after all, isn’t it the daytime that you experience the things that then influence your writing? Wouldn’t it make more sense to just be during the day, and then write down any feelings you had about it when it’s over and done with, after you’ve had a chance to truly soak it all in? The post also offers some handy tips about the art of writing at night – including making a plan, and stressing that it’s okay to take breaks. Thank God for that – my anxious and overly self-critical mind had assured me that it wasn’t okay at all. I realise that may sound like sarcasm, but it honestly isn’t – I really am that hard on myself (working on it, honest…)

So, what do you other writers think out there? Am I talking complete rubbish? Do you have the mettle and self-discipline to effortlessly thrash out several thousand words during the harsh daylight? Or are you a night owl like me, who would rather sit down and do it once he’s in his pyjamas and everything has just goddamn calmed down a little bit? Anyway, must dash – it’s already 10:40pm and I need to get back to my rambling thesis about what a masterpiece a nearly 20-year old video game is…

See you on the other side, writers of the night,

Stu x

Check out my debut poetry collection, ‘The Awakening’, avaliable NOW!

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I won a poetry slam! (with videos)


So this week I competed in a poetry slam that took place in my hometown (and hope to take part in any future ones too) – I’m only just starting out with the whole public performance thing, but think I’m slowly gaining more confidence with it. What I wasn’t expecting was to win! There were two votes for best poet, one from the audience and one from the poets themselves. I was somewhat taken aback when I was announced as the winner of the audience choice! (Netting me a voucher to use for the local theatre, where the slam took place). I mainly tried out some of my more light-hearted, comedy stuff, which as you can see from the performance of ‘MARINA’S Magical Fingers’ above, seemed to get a pretty good reception (originally posted as last week’s Wednesday poetry prompt) As someone who’s never had a lot of confidence in himself (and very nearly didn’t go at all due to this self-doubt), this was a pretty big deal to me and has made me a lot more motivated to keep performing at events like this and really make a go of getting on the ‘spoken word circuit’. I have also been trying to put together a collection of more light-hearted, comedic poems, so again the positive reception here has given me more motivation too.

Anyway, please check out these videos of the other poems I performed – hope they entertain you too 🙂

‘Sticky Notes’ (originally posted as Day 8’s poem for the 2017 NOV PAD Challenge – as ‘Post-it Notes – this was before I thought of the more obvious, filthier title 😉 )

‘A Swing for All Seasons’ (originally posted here)

‘Remembered by the Words’ (originally posted as Day 24’s poem for the 2017 Nov PAD Challenge – ending on a more serious note…)

I’m also due to perform at another poetry slam in March – so I’ll let you know how that one goes!

Like these poems? Read more in my first poetry collection, ‘The Awakening’, avaliable NOW!

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