Monthly Archives: July 2010

What’s in a name?

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. What is in a name, for me? Having recently got married, I have started to change my surname on some personal documents and have been considering what this means for me. I have found that, while it does give me more of a sense of my husband and I as a family, it doesn’t feel like that much of a stretch. It’s just new name, not a whole new identity, and we were pretty much in that emotional space anyway before we got married. My first name, on the other hand, is a whole different story.

Up until I was eight years old, I was known by my middle name. Why this came to be the case is not important here. The point is, when I reached eight, I decided, for various reasons, to reclaim my identity as my own, by insisting on being called by my first name. I figured I had a strong argument, after all, this was the name on my birth certificate and therefore my legal name. My strategy was pretty basic – for a few months, I refused to respond to anyone unless addressed by my ‘proper’ name, and eventually, almost everyone began to know me as Rachael.

Having fought so hard to claim this identity as my own, years later, when I started performing poetry at open mic nights, I decided not to use it. At gigs I would always introduce myself as ‘Honest,’ a stage name suggested by a friend on hearing some of my poems. I never revealed my actual name unless asked outright. One day I was introduced by someone who knew me well as Rachael, instead of ‘Honest,’ and I froze. It was fine to be honest and open with my words as ‘Honest,’ but as Rachael, it felt different. Somehow, I had separated the part of me that performed, that put my emotions out there in front of an audience, from the rest of me. I did pull myself together in the end, but afterwards I made a point of asking to be introduced as ‘Honest’ in future.

That was five years ago, and of course I have changed since then. Those separate ‘parts’ of me no longer need to act in isolation but I have continued go by the name ‘Honest,’ as, over time, this name has also become part of my identity.

So, if we go back to the original question:

‘What’s in a name?’

My answer would be: ‘That depends…’

However, if we change the question to:

‘What’s in your name?

Then the answer, quite simply, is ‘Me.’

How would you answer the same question?

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It’s on the tip of my tongue…

…except it isn’t though, is it?  There I am chatting away, when I find I have to stop suddenly, to try and recall the word I need to use.  It’s a word I use all the time, a simple word, and I know that I know the word, but it completely escapes me.  I try tapping the tip of my tongue against the roof of my mouth, in case the word is there, and can be transferred upwards to my brain my osmosis, but that doesn’t work.  Then my friend, who has been listening carefully, asks ‘…um, is the word you’re searching for… ‘appointment’ or something similar…?’  Yes.  Yes it is, and I feel like a fool.  It would have come to me eventually, I know this, and yet I find these moments immensely frustrating.

Take yesterday, I was discussing the plot of Inception with someone, and trying to explain why the sedative was necessary (I would do into more detail here, but I’m mindful of including spoilers for those who haven’t seen the film), only I couldn’t remember the word ‘sedative.’  I tried to explain ‘…you know, it’s that thing, the thing makes them stay asleep!’  I tried to explain it a number of different ways, getting more and more frustrated the more I tried.  I gave up in the end, and the word came to me in the middle of the night.  I woke up, said ‘Oh yes, it’s sedative,’ to no-one in particular, and promptly went back to sleep.  Later, I found I had written it down too, but I don’t remember doing that.

I just wanted to share my frustration with this phenomenon, which for me, has always been a fairly regular occurrence, and I am hoping that I’m not the only one!  Do you ever find yourself forgetting simple words when talking or writing, even though you know that you know them…?

Through a child’s eyes

I love the way children make you look at the world in different ways.  This weekend, my husband and I were asked to babysit his nieces at short notice (are they my nieces too now that we’re married..?  I am still not sure how it all works….) and although tired after my first full week back at work, I was looking forward to seeing them.  Also, if I’m honest, I had planned to do some writing that day and as I was still lacking motivation, I was secretly pleased to have a valid reason not to.

So, on the way home, I picked up a paddling pool and some bubbles, and when the girls arrived we had a few hours of fun in the garden, followed by story time (I was hoping this would make them sleepy).  This was when I rediscovered my passion for poetry.  I read the girls one of Roald Dahl’s revolting rhymes, having as much fun as they did, as, through their giggles and squeals of delight, I re-lived the first time I had heard when Little Red Riding Hood ‘…whips a pistol from her knickers.’  Their excitement was contagious, and ‘story-time’ quickly turned into ‘poetry hour,’ as the girls demanded to hear more poems, and asked whether I had written anything for children (I have.  They liked it).

After this, they had planned to draw pictures about the stories we’d read, but Olivia, the eldest (8yrs) looked at me thoughtfully.   ‘I might write a poem,’ she said.  I told her I would love to read anything she wrote but still she sat quietly, a frown forming on her face. ‘Hey, what’s going on up here?’ I asked, gently touching her frown.  ‘Well, I have an idea, but it doesn’t make sense and it’s a bit silly so I don’t think it will work.’  Without even thinking, I told her that there are no rules when it comes to poetry, and she should go ahead and write whatever she was thinking of.  I showed her a couple of nonsense poems, just to prove my point.  She then happily sat down and wrote a funny nonsense poem, ‘Rub ‘a’ Dub,’ about three men in a tub (naturally), eating grubs and turning into mugs.  You can see her finished work below.

While she was busily writing and illustrating her poetic efforts, it dawned on me that the very question she had asked me, goes on in my head all the time:  ‘I have an idea but…  It won’t work/it doesn’t make sense/you’re not supposed to…’  Where did I learn all these rules that I so easily dismissed when trying to nuture a child’s creativity?  Who did all these ‘shoulds’ come from..?  And do I want to continue to hold myself back, or do I want to keep moving?  These thoughts flashed by as I settled the girls in front of a movie and they gradually fell asleep.

The next morning I wrote two poems on my phone’s memo function before I even got out of bed.  Simply changing my perspective had released the creativity I had been struggling to find, and I was eager to get to my laptop and start writing.

So, dear Readers – is it just me, or do you also find that this kind of unhelpful self-talk can hold you back?  If so, how?  And whose perspective could you ‘try on’ to release yourself from the ‘shoulds’ in your creative life?

Back to life

So, I am back from my month off, refreshed and ready to dive back into life.

Well, I would like that to be the truth but it’s not, not really.  I have been back a good few days now, and have spent most of these days procrastinating.  I don’t go back to work until next week, having given myself these extra days on returning from my honeymoon to spend some time writing.  However, there is always something more pressing that needs doing.  Like the washing, or cleaning the bathroom, or going for another walk to ‘clear my head.’  Seriously, I appear to have lost my motivation.  Or is it really that simple?

My wedding day was perfect, and I had a wonderful honeymoon. For the first time in the five years we’ve been together, it was just my husband and I, spending some quality time together with no interruptions.  I was completely offline for a month.  No blog, no emails, no twitter, no facebook…  I even turned off my mobile phone.  I did write a little, but put no pressure on myself to do so and instead focused on the present moment, and enjoyed every minute.

So…  What’s my point?  Well, now that am back online, time seems to be disappearing with alarming speed.  I have a ‘to do’ list as long as my arm; stories and poems to write, a website to update, a collection to publish and other projects that I really must get started on.  And of course I also have friends and family to catch up with.  While I am looking forward to all this, at the same time I find myself suddenly wondering how I have managed to do it all around a full-time job and still keep my energy levels up.  Could I still be suffering from jet lag…? Or is this a sign I need to maybe slow down a little and re-think my priorities?

I am sure when I get back into the swing of things, I will see how I managed and start to enjoy all these aspects of my life as much as I did before, however, the question remains (for now), am I ‘back to life’ now that I am home and filling every spare minute, or was my month offline getting back to life?  Perhaps it’s finding the balance somewhere between the two.  As soon as I do that, I’ll be sure to let you know.