In Defence of Mental Weakness

…inspired by reading a ridiculous article originally posted in Lifehacker and then in Forbes Magazine entitled 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do. Triskadekophobic behaviour is presumably not on the list.

What is on the list is the usual bullshit – excuse me, but there is no polite word for it – I’ve made it my business to fight. On that site you can see an excellent article by Patricia Casey about the harm that can be done by using the wrong kind of language. This article pretty much hits the jackpot. I got into a discussion with fellow writers Niamh Boyce and Arlene Hunt about it over on the tweet machine and we were all, to a woman, unimpressed.

Firstly, its concept of “strength” appears irritatingly vague – is this the strength of tempered steel, or of the inexorable erosion of the sea; is it the strength required to lift 200lb of weights above one’s head, or the strength to give birth to a child? Does it consider this – oh no, wait, it’s not really interested in the nature of strength. It’s interested in the usual stigmatising nonsense. It’s full of bromides such as “Don’t dwell on the past” and “Don’t believe the world owes you a living / raise yourself by the bootstraps”. Don’t complain, don’t give up, keep going. Do you know what?

Mental strength is sounding a lot like corporate servitude from where I’m sitting. And I’ll tell you something else.

I’ll tell you what real mental strength is. It’s when you open up the blank page and the blank page is waiting back at you, infinitely patient and white. It’s when you drop every single artificial tactic of self-deception and “character-building” this article advocates, it’s when you unveil your naked, emotional, unresilient self, unattractively, embarrassingly open – as open the book as you’re about to write.

And start writing it.

Go on, I dare you to have the courage.

I Am Good Enough, And So Are You

This heading is so important, I need to repeat it. I am good enough. And you are good enough too.

And anyone in your life who undermines that belief is someone you need to put space between.

Listen: if you seriously want to be a writer, or are pursuing that dream right now, you will face adversity enough. Its a profession/vocation which simultaneously requires the sensitivity to detect a fly’s wing quiver and the reinforced hide of a rhinoceros to deal with all the rejection and the long lead-in time.

The novel for which I signed my publication agreement in September took three years of hard work. I don’t know how it is for others, but I know that for me it took tremendous willpower. You will need, excuse the crudity, balls of iron and turbo-powered ovaries to shut everything else out and keep going. What you don’t need is people attacking you and undermining you. Continue reading “I Am Good Enough, And So Are You”

The Box is Unequal to the Task of Containing Them

Sinead O’Hart has written a beautiful, powerful post promoting the short story competition I’m running, Walking on Thin Ice. I’ve fully funded it, with some help from donations, but we’re in need of lots of subs, so I’ve extended the deadline to November 15. Here is a quote:

I wish we existed in a society where those who battle with a heavy mind could feel that help was at hand whenever they needed it. Instead, people are slotted into ‘boxes’, made to believe they are faulty when the box into which they’re put is unequal to the task of containing them, and forced to conform, under threat of shame. 

Walking on  Thin Ice aims to start the process of correcting that. I’ll be doing my bit to help, and I hope you will, too.

I also came across a wonderful piece of art by Susie Cambell here (link contains strong language.) It makes a great point about how we stigmatise mental health issues. I can think of several very recent, high-profile examples of this, which remain unatoned-for by the stigmatisers.


Looking forward to getting more subs 🙂

Walking on Thin Ice contest submissions now open!


I’m very excited to announce that submissions are open for the Walking on Thin Ice contest. Please go here for more information.

I’d like to add a special thank-you to James, who has been working behind the scenes to set up the submission board. Thanks a mil James, much appreciated!

This, for me, is truly a work coming from the heart. I want true, fierce writing. (Or gently barbed is fine too.) Fight the powers that be. Fight the stigma.

Have a good evening and weekend!

Walking On Thin Ice Short Story Contest

Ooooh I’m so excited! Remember the short story competition I blogged earlier about wanting to set up? Well I’ve gone and done most of the preparatory work and sent an application off to so that I can fundraise for prize money. I’m still waiting on them to write back and say, “Yes, we believe you are going to use the funds for the purpose stated and not flee to the Cayman Islands with the swag” and then hopefully we are good to go.

So consider this post as advance publicity, if you will.

I feel so very very strongly about this. Mental health campaigning has been a lot about encouragement and charity, which is great – but less about advocacy, which is just as important. And as I say on the website, writers are in the vanguard of making sure such advocacy gets damn well…um, advocated!

So here is the video below that I will hopefully have on I’ve never made a video like that before so it was quite a challenge 🙂 And for more info, see the main page of the website. Fingers crossed everything will go well.