The Subtle Art of the Request.

For those of you who don’t know, I have a fanfiction account. It was neglected for a long time, and then I got this idea, and I had to write it, and then one thing led to another and now I am in the middle of another story, which is over 50k long and shows no sign of winding to a close any time soon (I mean, in terms of story, we’re about to get into the real plotty part).

But anyway. I digress.

Fanfiction.net has been an experience. Mostly a good one, I have to say, although that could be because I’m hanging out in a fandom which seems to have a core of really good writers, and not so many of the sort of fic where you read it and then go grab the eyebleach. While reading (too many) fics recently, I have noticed that some are written as commissions, or as requests, or in response to prompts. I though it was interesting, but ultimately didn’t really pay it that much attention.

And then last night, someone sent me a PM requesting that I write a fic. And I was hugely flattered, because I literally have three fics on the site and two of them are 5k and under, and holy shit SOMEONE IS PAYING ME ATTENTION! FEED MY WRITERLY EGO, PEON! So I replied, and said, well, depending on what it is, I don’t see why not. And I asked what they wanted me to write, including the disclaimer that hey, I will readily agree that I don’t have so much writing time at the moment.

What did they request, you ask? An AU version of the first series of Digimon Adventure. Now. This made me pause a moment. A very “what the fuck?” moment. But, you know, I’m new to all this requesting stuff, and maybe I just misunderstood, right? So I tap out a message asking if they mean the whole series, or just, say, a specific part of it.

They want the WHOLE DAMN SERIES.

Here’s the thing.

This person has not been rude. They’ve not been especially polite either (we’re talking a bare minimum of words in the PMs), but they’re just asking. They’re not demanding or anything like that. It’s a question, not “urh, you have to do this or you suck”.

But.

It really makes me think about how much people take for granted. I mean, this person who knows nothing about me save for the little bio on my about page, has requested that I spend I don’t even know how long writing a fic about an entire, 54-episode anime series. Based on, presumably, one (unfinished!) fic that I’ve been writing.

Sure, you can argue that it’s a great compliment. That hey, I enjoy writing anyway and it’s not like I have to say yes. The fact is, as it happened I had an idea lurking in the back of my mind that the prompt sparked a little anyway, so you could even make the argument that it’s something I would probably have written at some point even without the request.

But really, if I write that fic. If I write an AU version of the entire first series of Digimon, that’s the work of hundreds of hours. For a fanfiction which I can’t really benefit from save for a “yay me” if people leave positive feedback.

Don’t get me wrong here, I am currently writing a hella long fic for the fun of it, which I have never expected to get anything for. I don’t mind writing for no gain. I love writing. But I remain very uncomfortable with the attitude that allows someone to ask a person they don’t even know – with no preamble – to make that kind of commitment to something. For nothing.

I mean, just… this is the commissioning/fic request equivalent of bumping into someone on the street and going down on one knee there and then. There’s nothing wrong with proposing. There’s nothing wrong with requesting a fic. But you know, there’s a teensy bit of interaction which reeeeally should happen first. With the proper context, everything is hunky dory.

Without it, at best you come off as a bit of a twat. At worst, you’re going to make people feel really awkward and uncomfortable. Either way, it’s fucking rude, peeps. Let’s not do this thing, yeah? CONTEXT. CONTEXT IS GOOD.

The Tea is Taking Over

I sometimes joke that I “live on tea”. It’s an obvious exaggeration, something I jest about as I make cup number six of the morning. Still, it has the ring of truth about it.

I know from past experience that if I don’t drink at least one cup of everyday tea in the morning, by the afternoon a bit of caffeine withdrawal has begun to kick in, and I’ll have a headache. I’m happy to stand up and admit my caffeine addiction – at present and for the foreseeable future it’s a relatively benign one.

For me though, tea goes beyond just a caffeine hit in the morning to wake me up, or to stretch out a long evening. I did a mini-stocktake earlier and discovered that in my cupboards I have twenty-one different varieties of tea, four of which I have in both teabag and loose-leaf form.

I even made a handy (and totally not-weird) list which I stuck to my kitchen wall. 

If you deciphered my handwriting, or if you don’t care, you can skip this next paragraph, because I’m going to list them all:

Everyday (+L); Rosehip; Breakfast (L); Cardamom; Earl Grey (+L); Rooibos, Green (+L); Morocco (Mint + Spice); Peppermint (+L); Cinnamon; Chamomile; Lemon; Lemon + Ginger; Jasmine (L); Apple + Cinnamon; Gunpowder (L); White tea with Elderflower; Green tea with mango and lychee; Blackberry blueberry + and acai; Cranberry Raspberry + Echinacea; Strawberry + Loganberry. The “L” stands for loose leaf.

I also keep a jar of instant coffee for visitors to drink, along with sugar and sweeteners. None of these three things are used by myself.

After totting it all up and writing it down, I got to thinking. Why do I keep so many varieties? Why do I drink so much tea, too? It’s not just the caffeine hit, because most of the listed blends don’t contain any particularly measurable quantity of the stuff.

When I was a girl, I can remember knowing that children had squash or water, and grown ups had tea. It was How Things Were. My family were not great consumers of alcohol, so I didn’t see them with a glass in hand. No, it was a mug. It was: “Oh, I’m gasping, put the kettle on!” When my mum (dash of milk, no sugar) visits, often first thing she does after the hello-and-hug is to ask for a cuppa.

To this day I consider it a matter of genuine embarrassment if I fail to remember how people take their tea (or if they prefer coffee), or worse, if I forget to offer to put the kettle on at all. It’s a social conditioning, a habit which I inherited, and which already the Boy and the Girl are mimicking, holding tea parties for their teddies.

It’s a comfort too; a ritual which precedes writing sessions. Do I make a pot, or use a bag in a cup? Do I need the caffeine in the evening, or do I want to relax with chamomile? I have two teapots, a selection of large mugs, and a set of Cath Kidson teacups which are a treasured present from my Dad (milk, one sugar).

If I really want to get into writing, and I have the time, I make a point of getting out my little teapot and making tea with leaves. I set out the pot and strainer at a safe distance from my laptop, and refill when necessary. It breaks up the writing, allowing me to collect my thoughts now and then. I’ve gotten to the point where I associate certain flavours of tea with certain times of day, or occasions.

Everyday tea is for general drinking. A cup (or preferably two) to wake up with in the morning, and then a steadyish stream throughout the day. Early Grey is for a change, or when I run out of milk. Lemon and Ginger is for when I have a cold, and my various flavoured teas are for the evenings mostly, when the children are in bed and I can sit back and drink without the danger of it going cold without my noticing.

As for why I have so many? Well, if the fact that I located another flavour while writing this (Lemongrass and Ginger, if you’re interested) is anything to go by, it could be that I enjoy a wide range of flavours to suit my moods. It could be that I keep a wide range out of habit, to account for visitors and their preference. Or, more simply, it could be that as much as I am addicted to tea, I am also very good at buying it and then losing track of where I’ve put the boxes afterwards.

As a writer though, I think I’m going to keep telling people it’s because I’m creative and eccentric. We all need our little oddities, don’t we?

The Day Off…

Well, yesterday W and I had our “day off” – his parents had O and M to stay overnight. W’s dad picked them up at around 10am. I was both happy and sad. Happy because we had the house to ourselves, and sad because I missed them both, and because I was worried that M would scream constantly and have to be brought back early.

I had planned to go over to the house of a friend of my mum’s, who is helping me make my wedding dress because I’m an idiot – the last time I sewed anything significant I was fifteen. Maybe fourteen. And that was a t-shirt. In essence, I need all the help I can get because I have a tendency to jump in at the deep end with things. In the end, to save a little time, she came to me, and we made the most of the empty house to cut out the panels for the bodice on the living room floor. It took a while longer than it perhaps should have because I was somewhat terrified by the fact that I had chosen a fabric that had been discontinued, so if I screwed up there wouldn’t be enough to finish. Again, I know: idiot. Words cannot express how stupid I can be at times, and picking a fabric I would barely have enough of to make my first major garment which happens to be my wedding dress is up there with the daftest things I’ve ever attempted. Still, later projects will be a breeze by comparison, eh?

Anyway. That wasn’t actually the point of this post. After cutting out the fabric, deciding “to hell with it” with my plans to tidy, and spending the rest of the afternoon wandering around town and marking the panels of my bodice with what felt like hundreds of fiddly little tacking knots to match them together properly, W and I decided to go out to the pub, and then get something nice for dinner. Only, the second part didn’t end up happening, because while we were sat in the pub trying to decide on a place to go, I suddenly had a burning need to get home. For once I actually realised in time that I was going to have a seizure at some imminent point.

So of course we walked, fairly briskly, back home, and I robotically removed my shoes and slumped onto the sofa. Sure enough, I had a seizure – fortunately not a long one. But afterwards, when I felt the sensation of “weird” leaving me in about as much time as it takes to count to, say, five, I realised that I felt a lot better – more relaxed, and content – than I had all afternoon. I’d started feeling stressed while working on my dress, but hadn’t made that connection, probably because I never realise until after it’s over. It made me think though.

So many time I’ll find myself getting worked up over trivial things (which I was with the dress), and just get on with it, wondering later what I was so worried about. Or I’ll soldier on despite feeling dog tired, or cold, or hot, or tense, or lethargic. So much of my time I seem to be battling to focus on what I should be doing, because there’s this background hum of something being not right. If even half of the time that’s resulting from seizure activity, that’s one heck of a lot more seizures than I’ve been tallying.

Oh, and I got a letter yesterday telling me that the epilepsy nurse is still sick, and all of her clinics have been cancelled until further notice. Perfect timing. Did I commit some atrocity in a past life or something, or pick up the bad-luck lurgy? Because it just seems right now that every time I take a step forward, something pushes me back again. Right when I really need my specialists the most, they are all falling ill. And while the irony of that isn’t lost on me, I really would like to see someone who can help me not have seizures all the freaking time. Preferably before I die of old age.

After a Seizure

Well, I meant to write this one yesterday, but to be honest, my head was a little all over the place for the rest of the day. I seem to spend a lot of time in bed at the moment, having that “coming round” sensation. I’m sure W must be sick of me asking him how long I’ve been upstairs when I stagger back down in search of tea.

The trouble is, I really hate losing track of time, and I’m not usually in the right state of mind to check a clock or my watch before having a seizure to make it easier for me to calculate later. And a lot of the time, I really want to know how long I was “out”. It’s a control thing, I think. I have no control over how long I will be having an aura or seizure, or how long it will take me to sleep one off. But I feel as though if I know how long it all took, I can account for that time, and it isn’t lost to me. Instead of yesterday being a haze, it becomes something I could plot on a graph. So, from time A-B, I was fine, then C-D I was having a seizure, E marks the time I was sleeping it all off, and suddenly the day makes sense, rather than just being this fog. Suddenly I am in charge again. The fog lifts, and with it the feeling that I am not in charge of my own life.

I don’t know why this matters to me to the degree it does – for some seizures I will literally sit down and try and account for it all, blow by blow: “Well, first I fell over, and then my eyes started to roll, and then I felt my arm twitching…” and throughout that my mind adds in “Oh, and at that point I heard W say something to me and I felt him move me”, or “And then I heard O talking in the background”. I’ve written accounts of my seizures before in their immediate aftermath in a desperate attempt to claw back the time that I’ve lost. I will not let the seizure take that memory away, even if the memory is me falling off a chair and really hurting my head, or of going loopy and scratching my face or pulling my hair. Good memories, bad memories, they are all facets of myself, and I lose enough of them as it is. Sometimes I need prompting to remember things, sometimes I don’t remember events even after being told, flat out, what happened. Those are the bad times.

I think the problem stems from the fact that I have a pretty good long term memory, but my short term memory is, well, crap. If I can file things neatly away into the long term storage, so much the better. Forgetting things is something that terrifies me. I have notebook after notebook detailing the events in books I am writing, and countless documents stored on my computer, my email account, other people’s computers. Data loss is a potent threat to me. Somewhere, hopefully still in a readable condition, I have a folder containing stories I wrote when I was twelve. They all last about a paragraph, and most of them contain…well, nothing of note. But I still wrote them, and I hold onto that chance that I may look back at them and get a spark of inspiration that will spur me on to write a new story, a new character rising from the old. I haven’t really gone into the other aspects of my life, but writing is something that I find really important. And it’s something else that happens to be mostly centred around the activities of my brain.  So maybe it isn’t so strange. After all ,when I write, I am in charge of everything. Nothing happens without my say so. There are no power outages, no short circuits. Everything happens for a reason, and it happens at its allotted time in the plot. I don’t have that kind of control in real life any more.

Okay, so no one has that amount of control in real life. But I think the point still stands. I cling to my obsessive desire to know what happened and when because it represents my attempt to have the one thing I lack the most at the moment. Control.