I made some big changes earlier this year, so I could spend more time on all things poetry. I don’t regret it for a moment, but changes come with difficulties, some expected and some not. I thought I’d write about how I’ve learnt from the mistakes I’ve made and the problems I’ve had, on the off chance it can help anyone else.
Having some time is amazing, but there’s often no-one to prod me if I’m not making use of it. I’ve learnt to treat my free time like a 9 to 5 job. It forces me to get up early and do something, whether it’s writing, practising, learning, organising events or whatever, because at first I wasted far too much time being lazy. It’s amazing what difference some discipline can make to your poems.
I also spent way too long doing things I thought would allow me to do what I should be doing. The attitude that you’ll just get this done first only leaves you with more random stuff to do first. I try to make time for poetry every day now, even if it’s just fifteen minutes to do a writing exercise. There will always be faff to do, but it can often wait more than your poems can or even combine with them. Why not learn your lines while cleaning the bathroom? Some people can do a lot more than I’m doing in much less time, because they’re much better than me at getting on with it. Thankfully, I’m finally getting better at this!
What am I doing?
It can be a shock when you first break out of your comfort zone. I went from knowing what I was doing, or at least thinking I did, to processing loads of things I didn’t understand, tax codes, extremely blunt feedback, events going wrong, lots more rejections, feeling way out of my depth. They can make you lose confidence in what you’re doing and I did for a while, but I got it back. Things not going to plan are just things to consider for next time. Poems or manuscripts being negatively judged can help you see the flaws in your own work. Someone giving advice on how to improve your delivery can make you a better performer. Nobody improves without making mistakes and sometimes feeling like they’re not good enough. It’s a rite of passage, but only if you stay confident and keep going for it.
I’m not achieving anything
It’s a very parasitic thought I sometimes have. I had the perfect excuse when I was pacing home from the office bleary eyed at stupid o’clock. I had no time. If I had more time then I’d get to that show, take that opportunity, finish that collection, right? Wrong. Suddenly, I had more time and still wasn’t getting anywhere, because it’s easier to hide behind excuses than confront the reasons why you make them. Things only happen if you make them happen, and initially I wasn’t. In some ways, I’m still not, but then in the last six months I’ve won my first slam, taken part in a couple of big shows, made some videos I’m proud of, made a website, started writing a theatre show, raised some money and food for local charities, gigged in quite a few different cities, met loads of really nice and successful poets and learnt so much about writing and performing. Most of all, I’ve had a lot of support and hope I’ve been able to give some back. I hope I’ve also earnt the respect of some people I really admire. Achievements just takes more time than you think they will, so the bits of positivity can easily get lost in the gaps between them. Soon, I hope to find my way into writing jobs that help other people, instead of make ends meet stuff, but it’ll happen when I’ve made it happen. I encourage anyone reading this to make a list of all the stuff you’ve achieved this year, big and small. It’ll probably be longer than you think.
Working all day and night doesn’t help me achieve stuff any faster. It just takes away my head space and makes me inefficient and stressed. Nobody does their best performance or writes well when they’re exhausted or can’t think straight. I’ve learnt to mix up my writing with decent mental breaks, to exercise a lot, to make healthy meals, to drink enough water and to try and sleep properly each night. I don’t want to ruin myself for something I enjoy, it’s much better to work efficiently than work all the time.
I should give up
Another very parasitic thought I sometimes have, but no, I shouldn’t. True, I have a lot of poetry things to achieve, but I’m chipping away at them bit by bit. I choose to build myself up with what went well and learn from what didn’t. It’s self reflection, which is more powerful than self criticism. Our minds are often our own worst enemies, especially with what we really value. Mine is, anyway. I’ve spent a long time learning how to coach mine, to recognise its trigger points and learn how to overcome them. Knowing your trigger points really helps you manage the destructive emotions that can creep in, poetry or otherwise.
If you’ve read this far then I hope it you got something out of it. I don’t know if any of this was inciteful or not, or whether I’m just really late to the party. I just wanted to write it, so I did. Maybe it’s just another form of procrastination. Either way, good luck with whatever it is you’re trying to achieve.
Well, August has been a goodun. I’m a bit knackered, if I’m honest, but also full of ideas for new poems. After a July that was mostly spent setting stuff up, learning a lot about writing and finally losing my dealing with editors cherry, it was nice to spend a month really getting on with writing and performing.
Me and Julian have been busy writing our From the Word Go stage show, which is really good fun to make, coming together slowly and will be revealed when it’s ready.
Chapter and Verse, our monthly open mic, is taking shape nicely. Our second event was like Terminator 2 to the the first Terminator, with great headline sets from Martin Dean and Two Seda, but we’re hoping that our next event on 1st September will be way better than Terminator 3. Head down to Jam Cafe, Nottingham on 1st September, 4:30pm to 7pm, for the next one. If you have a project or book launch you think we’d be interested in then feel free to drop us a message too, as we like all that stuff.
After a quick trip down South to see Avebury Ring, the largest stone circle in the world (it’s way better than Stonehenge, by the way), I spent a week up at the Edinburgh Fringe. I met lots of lovely and successful poets, wrote and recorded a poem from Arthur’s Seat (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzRvse5C8G0), performed at the most excellent Other Voices and managed to get into heat 3 of the BBC Edinburgh Slam. I was promoted from reserve poet at about ten minutes notice and knocked out in the first round of the heat, but it was fantastic to be part of it. I definitely didn’t take the no-show guy to a dodgy chicken shop. Definitely not. Watching the final in the big BBC tent in front of nearly 400 people, that was other worldly good. One day I’ll be on that stage. This year was all about getting myself out there and seeing as many shows as possible, next year I hope to have my own show and have a bunch of feature slots at other people’s events.
I’ll be out and about around the East Midlands over the next few weeks, with at least three feature slots confirmed. Have a look at my Live page if you fancy popping down. I’ll also be working hard to untangle the mess that is the massively conflicting feedback on my book manuscript, trying to write some new pieces and working more on our stage show. Exciting times.
You can find all my projects by clicking on the Links tab. Feel free to give any of it a like or a follow if you like what I do.
Take care all 🙂
Brand new on YouTube is my second video from The Revolution Sessions, a series of videos from poems in my forthcoming book. If you want to follow my channel then just head to www.youtube.com/martingreypoet.
“I Should Have Said Something” is about a couple I overheard on a train and the internal conflict it can give you when you hear nasty and incoherent things, but aren’t sure how to confront them in the moment.
Their conversation got a lot worse than the stuff referenced in the poem, but I chose not to quote the really bad bits, even though it’s from a critical perspective. We’re all entitled to our views, but ignorance and malice get us nowhere.
I hope you enjoy it. As always, constructive feedback is always welcome.
Video filmed and edited by the most excellent Roseanna Escobar-Byrne.
The Tumblr blog Mal’s Web Party interviewed me a couple of months back. You can follow his blog at http://malswebparty.tumblr.com and find his original post at http://malswebparty.tumblr.com/post/174088995507/interview-with-martin-grey.
Thanks to Mal for taking the time to chat with me.
Martin (formerly known as towelintherain) is becoming increasingly well known in his adopted city of Nottingham. He is also a founder member of From the Word Go, but this interview concentrates on his solo activity as a poet. There’s more information on www.facebook.com/martingreypoet
Mal: Please tell us about when you started writing poetry.
Martin: I’ve written poetry since I was a teenager, mostly dreadful angsty stuff in the early years. I’d written a lot when I was a kid, mostly little stories, but I had an appalling English teacher who destroyed my willingness to write. I guess those early poems were my inate love of writing sticking its head above the parapit again and, even though I’d never show them to anyone, I’m very glad they exist.
Mal: What was behind your move from Guildford in Surrey to Nottingham?
Martin: Most people want to flee the nest for a while when they grow up and I was no different. Also I was very into rock music at the time and Nottingham had a really good rock scene, Rock City etc. To be honest, it was pretty impulsive and, although I really wanted to go to uni, the uni course was more of a secondary thought. It just seemed like a good idea, so I went for it.
Mal: How and when did you bridge the gap between writing poetry and performing to a live audience?
Martin: Good question: I’d wanted to for a while, but I’d never really had the confidence in my own work or seen any good opportunities to do it. Then I was writing in a cafe one day, I think in late 2012, and I saw the diypoets free magazine in the flyers and pamphlets section of the cafe. There was a submissions e-mail on the back and, to my surprise, the poem I submitted made the next magazine. From there, I joined the group and a few months later took the plunge at one of their events. It was a terrifying but great experience.
Mal: I’m told you have a book due for publication soon.
Martin: Yes, that’s the plan. I’m hoping it will be out this summer. It’s a very people focussed book. All the poems are about people, some real, some not, with a lot of sub themes like peace, tolerance, hope and anti austerity thrown in. It’ll be the very best book I can make and I hope that people will get something from it.
Mal: And finally, when are you hoping to publish the novel “Too Late for a Daydream”? The early chapters look really promising and I do want to know what happens next.
Martin: I’d love to finish it, but I’ve absolutely no idea. I appreciate your praise about the early chapters though. I can tell you definitely that either my second or third book will be my first novel because, when I was a kid, I wanted to be an author and it would be great to be a novelist as well as a poet, although the finished book might be completely different; I’ve no idea!
Mal: Many thanks for speaking to us.
Hello, I finally have a website. I’ll be updating it with all the stuff I’m getting up to in due course. Please feel free to have a look around and tell me if you think any of it needs improvement.