About the about page

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Hello guys, I’m Hadley. Hadley is not my real name, I made it up.

I’ve already talked about why I blog anonymously in the Info page and summarized my present situation in About me, but it’s all gibberish, you know. Moreover, my taking part in various WordPress writing courses has brought along a number of followers, and it feels just right now to tell people something more about the person behind this ugly anatomy logo.

Some random facts about me:

I love comedy. There’s nothing better than a silly videoclip to stimulate you brain and put it under the illusion that it’s still alive after many years of sitting at a terminal. I’m not a cheerful person, but in spite of that – and maybe, because of this – I appreciate humour. “Send in the clowns” is the epitaph I want to be carved on my tombstone.

I read a lot. A former literature student, I used to have a huge collection of books, which I read avidly and uninterruptedly since age 2 and a half. Yes, I was a precocious child: but being born in a house where paper was mainly used for wrapping groceries, and newspaper for cleaning windows without leaving a halo, I soon found myself with nothing to read and turned to the dictionary. I started with encyclopedias and ended with children’s books. Tastes change overtime, and even nerdiness becomes boring after a while.

Now, the ridiculous mass of hundreds of volumes has collapsed into the black hole of an e-reader. Sadly, stories and thoughts can’t escape from it because of the immense gravitational pull. Survivors camp in a double row on the remaining shelves, swearing at the God of Decluttering that made orphans out of them.

I’m fascinated by epiphanies. I’m not sure if this is the right word. I tend to see connections that seem so obvious to me, but others have no clue what I’m talking about. Like, a poet who finds the right word. Meeting the right person for that specific project. Discovering a new band/place/hobby at the right time in your life. Hearing one particular song when you are in the mood for it. Seeing faces in a landscape. And book spine poetry, it’s so me.

And now, if it was Blogging 101 that brought you here, you might want to know what to expect before you even consider following This Hideous Heart.

What you might find in this blog:

  • Poems and short stories
  • Rants about the place I live in, which I dislike and where I’m forced to stay due to family ties and responsibility.
  • Rants about random people
  • Alternative life plans that I keep making in spite of the fact that I’ll never, ever get away from here. One has to have a plan B. And C, D,E…
  • Memories. But it’s not a journal.

What you are not likely to find:

  • Kittens
  • How-to’s and information that you can actually use in real life
  • Dieting and fashion
  • Parenting. I have no clue about these things.

Basically, I set up this blog as a “test site” for assignments of the courses of WordPress Blogging University courses. Then, it became a place for everything that is not hiking related, and therefore doesn’t fit in my main blog. In the other blog I write about what I do in the great outdoors. The other blog is for the healthy, sporty person who tries to squeeze every second out of the few hours a week she can truly be herself; this one is for the frustrated office clerk who lives 5/7 of her life nailed to a desk, staring at a screen. The other is informative, this one is creative; the other is about content, this one is (also) about the process. From the other one, a reader can gather from photos and pieces of information where I live, and there’s even a picture (shot from behind) and my forename in the about page; here, everything has to be incognito, so I can feel free to write without restrictions.

The other story happens outside, disconnected and unplugged. This is a blog for what happens inside.

Where Stories Come From

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Stories revolve in my head for a long time until they naturally fall like a ripe fruit from a tree. Other times it feels like they’re writing themselves, like they’re coming out of nowhere. But they aren’t. They stem from life, experience, travel, observation of reality and people.

As a child, I used to see them as films, or even songs. Sometimes as both, looking like music videos. They started automatically in my head. What a pity they normally “aired” during rides in my parents’ car, and never when pen and paper where at hand. At the time, every journey seemed long, due to a child’s different perception of time. Lack of distraction from digital gadgets (blessed be the Eighties!) was what unleashed the mind. Today we have forgotten what real boredom is: the useful, productive dullness that eventually triggered great ideas. Cavemen knew exactly what I’m talking about.

I could read to kill time, but gazing at a page while everything else around me was twirling made me car sick. So, I often found myself roaming. I would end up in strange places, while some captivating adventure went by my window. What is inspiration? For me, it’s seeing a detail in everyday life that makes you say: “This is something I could build a story around”. Because reality can be dull, and I want it to veer off, so that it will look more like the films, books, or songs that entertain me when I’m bored.

Sure you got it by now: stories come from boredom.

Crushing Potential

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As a child, I didn’t know what to answer to the question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. I knew one thing for sure, though: at a very early age, somewhere between 4 and 7, I set up my mind to becoming an intellectual. My first serious attempt to write dates back to elementary school. One day during lunch break my friend and I sat in an empty classroom and started typing the first chapter of what was going to be a novel. I can’t remember what the story was about, but it had to be something adventurous. The teacher saw us from the transparent door, stepped in and, instead of being delighted to witness our spontaneous committment to creativity, scolded us, hinting that any writing that wasn’t included in mandatory homework was only a waste of time. Why did she react that way?

Since the beginning she had been told I was a child with a high IQ. And I probably wasn’t the only one in our class. It was questioned if I should skip the first year, but I said no. I didn’t want to be different from the other kids, and lose my friends from kindergarten, so I chose to do what everybody else was doing. I embraced mediocrity, but my curious mind strived to come out. When the assignment consisted in writing down numbers for 1 to 10, I would go on to 100. Then the teacher would tear the page off my notebook. Whenever she asked a question to the class, it was always me or two other pupils answering, so she sealed our mouths with her hands so that we wouldn’t speak, giving the other kids the time to reply. Did she see our precocity as a challenge to her authority? Did she lack training in dealing with gifted children? I guess so. However, I don’t blame her too much. After all, she was the one to teach me flawless grammar and spelling (in my mother tongue), and the value of history.

At about he same age, I took up music. The maestro said I was talented at it, but soon my mother started saying my practice was subtracting time to my homework. So that was the end of the music school. I started playing again in my mid-twenties, but it didn’t work. This time I really didn’t have the time. I don’t want to dwell too much on my parents’ attitude to every extracurricular activity I’ve ever undertaken, be it sport, or even my first serious job, telling me to give up whenever the first difficulties arose instead of encouraging me to hold on, and how this has probably made me an inconclusive adult and basically a quitter. Getting good grades was the only important thing, all the rest had to move to the background because school was the one thing that would make me find a Good Job.

At the end of 2008 I realized I had not found the Good Job. I held a position that could be covered by anyone with a basic literacy. It wasn’t related to my degree in any way and I had no hopes of a career whatsoever. I was stuck. Looking for something else was, and still is, a mirage in this country’s paralysed job market where employers don’t take education in any consideration – when it’s not seen as a shortcoming. The economic crisis crushed what was left of my expectations. I had not perfected the things I liked to do and it was too late to start again. I had sacrificed everything to school and what did I gain? I had bet on education, but education had let me down.

Then I decided I no longer cared about being an intellectual. Culture had forsaken me, so I would turn to nature. I spent the following years spending as much time as I could in the outdoors. I stopped reading books, something I had been doing all the time since when I learned to read by age three. I considered becoming a qualified hiking guide, but the course had logistic problems and it turned out it’s very difficult to earn a living by it. However, I spit on culture, and moved over it.

It wasn’t until lately that I went back to enjoying books, following the discovery of a well-known fantasy saga and receiving an e-reader for Christmas. Literature is second nature to me, I just can’t get rid of it. After years wasted in a place that is not letting me evolve professionally, I am starting to wonder whether there is anything at all that I’m good at. I’m not specializing in any particular task, and I don’t have any expertise outside work either. There must be something I’m better than doing than other people, or else I’m failing. This job is eating away at my time and physical health, and I’ve reached an age at which you start asking yourself: “Am I doing what I want?”, and the answer is: “Certainly not”.

It is now official: I didn’t have success in life. Being gifted as a child obviously didn’t mean anything and served only to inflate my parents’ expectations, and enforcing their naive assumption that education makes you rich. I wasn’t going to go further than the others: I would only get there faster. I was not more intelligent: just more curious. They all catched up later on, and with better social skills than me.

Work is dull, but I have to pay the bills. I’m sitting bored at my office desk, just as I used to sit bored in class during lessons targeted to slow pupils who were still learning their ABC when I was reading the encyclopedia because I had run out of books. What do I need to do in order to be fulfilled? Something I enjoy doing, and I’m also good at doing. Is it too late for catching up?

Somewhere, in an empty classroom, there is a typewriter; it has been waiting for us for thirty years. In a reasonable time I want to go to my childhood friend and show her the manuscript. She has no idea. Then I am going to that teacher, now old and retired, throw the manuscript to her and tell her: “Do you remember that novel? I’ve finished it, so there!”. That would be priceless.

What I Got from Writing 101

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June was hectic. I took part in the Writing 101 Blogging.U challenge, an online creative writing course provided by WordPress. It’s been a hell of a month, but now that it’s finished, I’m more sorry than relieved. It has been a useful experience, and an opportunity to exchange ideas with fellow bloggers. Also, it helped me reconnect with the act of writing for the sake of it. I’ve learned these 5 things:

1) I can actually write every day, something I would never have thought myself capable of. I can’t keep this rhythm for long, though: working full-time and spending all spare time writing means I’ll soon fall short of things to write, because writing springs from lived life. If I didn’t go out and do different things, I’d have the same thoughts revolving in my head again and again. And of course, I have to take a shower, sleep and buy groceries from time to time.

2) Brevity is key. Looking at the stats, I get more views and likes on shorter posts, which is good because I get maximum result at a minimum effort (which is not entirely true, because a short piece doesn’t necessary mean less time spent in editing). I’ve always known it’s better to go straight to the point and cut the superfluous: it was school that hijacked me into verbosity. That’s why this and this are my favourite posts so far.

3) I haven’t figured out what my voice sounds like yet, but I think it has something to do with sarcasm and rant. After all, that’s the one thing I’m good at: complaining.

4) It is true that writing is therapeutic. There’s nothing more cathartic than destroying your adversaries by turning them into pathetic, ridiculous semi-fictional characters. And I didn’t even have to make up anything: the villains in my life were just naturally horrible. I guess this has spared me a lot of work.

5) I want to be a writer. The funny thing is, I think I’ve always been aware of it. I knew it in kindergarten when I folded and scribbled colored sheets to make it look like a magazine. I knew it at elementary school, when I secretly drew comics during lessons which were too boring and slow progressing for my avid brain. Even when I was about to start University, totally clueless on which field I was going to choose and the future appeared as a blank fog wall, a deep part of me knew that. I had chosen to forget it, because everyone was telling me I was so good at it, but no one ever really directed me towards cultivating it. Instead, they hinted that writing was just a waste of time, and that the gift of gab was the only thing worth being perfected. It is not: in the age of communication, writing well is a priceless skill.

The Power of Creation

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Dear Aspiring Novelist,

please remember you were made by God in His likeness. As an artist, you have also received as a bonus the power of crafting not just stories, but entire worlds. Let me compare this to the miracle of Creation, only at a much smaller scale; a humble, homemade Genesis.

Don’t waste this invaluable power you’ve been given free of charge, writing mainstream young adult fiction. The world doesn’t need another teenage vampire. Celebrate life instead. Do it to the glory of the Ultimate Writer who once outlined you and put a pen in your hand.

Thanks in advance,

a Reader.