Round Four Round Up
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I'm in the seriously good zone this morning. Brimming with health, vitality and caffeine! I've just fought off the sniffles! Sniffles to you, could mean ICU for me, and having been through the process in Round One of going to bed not knowing if I'd wake up needing an ambulance, I'm delighted that the sniffles and associated fear is receding.
Last night (10th Oct.) I submitted my BACP Accreditation and the deadline's not even until the end of the month!
It might be deferred and I'd have to redo part of it, but that's okay because they would say why, and it would be under the current accreditation process which is getting revamped after the 31st Oct.
Accreditation has been a big project for me in several ways.
I've felt a growing sense of decline throughout my travels in ChemLand. The ongoing loss of fitness both physically and mentally through tiredness and the constant attention chemo demands. Getting the paperwork done for accreditation challenged me to go beyond maintaining my mental capacity, but hit a new personal best in volume of written work.
Accreditation requires: 3000, 2000, 1400 and 900 word essays, covering: Case material; How I practise; Self Awareness; and a C.P.D. (additional training).
It doesn't mean more money, or fame, or anything other than a professional level
that offers closure after studying since 2018. This is where I'll allow things to plateau. A level where additional training is for interest and fun. Maybe if I was ten years younger I'd go full Jedi with a PHD, but now I've more exciting things to do like the Mambalsa project.
As I mentioned last month, there's always been educational issues for me, and as promised, I thought I'd take the opportunity to express and let go of them.
A great exercise I do with clients is to get them to summarise the issue in a nutshell. It's surprisingly hard as my verbosity will demonstrate, so here goes:
I was, for no apparent reason, slow at reading. Even before I was nine years old at a junior school in Shropshire, I remember being one of the last to finish reading a text and the panic that came with it. Children are awesome at workarounds, and I learnt to guess the words rather than read them fully. It speeded things up, but unfortunately I never internalised the correct spelling, especially in the latter part of the words (still the case).
The problem is this problem never self corrects. Critasmns cause stress leading to attempts to read ever faster, making the problem worse.
It was in Shropshire I first got the I red pen treatment. Red biro corrections that made my written page look like the victim of a frenzied stabbing! Then we moved to Kent. Great Chart primary school had me doing lines. I seem to remember on one occasion writing out the misspelt word 50 times very neatly, but still incorrectly spelt!
Another work around was needed. If I had really bad hand writing no-one could tell if the spelling was bad! I know, it's genius!
I went to four different schools in four years: A pencil school; A left handed italic fountain pen school, complete with a requirement for copper plate script! (W.T.F. Font shamed at the age of nine!). Just for clarification, only the left handed kids had to use the left handed italic fountain pens. Apart from the mess, it meant I had to write with the heel of my hand in a different position, so it was like relearning to write. Serves us right for using the devil's hand to wrote with.
Next up was an: 'any pen you like', school and I liked a fibre tipped pen. If memory serves me correctly it was a Tiempo? It had perfect drag and I almost became legible. Then I fell off my bike, broke my writing arm, and spent a term writing with the other hand! As you can imagine, the writing was a complete mess, but not that different from my usual handwriting!
It was at this time my Dr Who fandom was being encouraged by Aunty Peggy who brought me every Dr Who book going. She even queued up to get the then Doctor, Tom Baker, to autograph some of them (Happy to sell them at the right price). I don't think she was ever a sci fi fan? It was as if she wanted me to read more. Who knew? I understand now that there are many many middle aged men who attribute their literacy to the Dr Who books published by Target in the 70 and 80s. Thanks BBC and Aunty Peggy :)
Finally, I went to secondary school and was made to feel secondary with bic pens that raced across the page. The English teacher returned me to the red pen technique and put me in the third set for English. Meanwhile I was in the top three of my year for maths, every year for the first three years.
Each year I moved up an English group until I was in the top set and took my O-level early. And got a U meaning unclassified or as I like to think of it, U turned up and achieved sod all. It's one below F for fail and basically meant that you hadn't taken the exam.
Magically I scrapped a C (pass) the next year. It was as if the first year, the marker had a thing about handwriting, and the following year's marker didn't! I can hand on heart say I made no extra effort in between one year and the next! My guess is that the original marker had moved on to English Lit where I got another U. I let that one go (as you can tell) and didn't retake it.
By then I'd gone down the route of maths and physics A-levels as mentioned in a previous blog.
There have been several significant writing events dotted throughout my life.
At aged twenty five I brought a PC to photoshop photographs. It had a thing called a spell checker on the word processor. It was magic! It didn't solve my spelling completely but it got things to the point where it was less embarrassing to ask someone, usually Fliss or my colleague Jon Warner, to proofread, and they could because it was typed! Obviously I stole and disposed of every red pen in the vicinity first.
A few years ago when Jon died, well into his ninties, I wrote a letter to his family. It was the first time in decades that I'd hand written more than a few words for other people. I had to practise writing several drafts before the final error-ish free version.
By the end of the nineties I'd set up and appointed myself editor in chief of Email Salsa News. Basically promoters emailed me their listings for their salsa events and I compiled them into a newsletter along with my events and sent them out to a big mailing list. They got publicity, I got publicity and all was good, especially as my editorial policy was not to correct their spelling. For all I knew they had been through a similar education to me and, like me, was on the slow road to recovery! There's also a lot of misspelling in the dance world eg Bugalu or Bugalloo?
Next up was restaurant reviews courtesy of Luxury London, the .co.uk not the .com. Basically Fliss and I went to top nosh five star restaurants to eat and drink for free. I would then write up a review that was as favourable as it was flavourable. I have no regrets about the favourable-ness of the reviews, they were already five star restaurants, so it was always good and we were part of the PR industry. In Chi Wu of the fifth floor of Harrods, we chomped through wagyu steak and gold leafed sea urchin plus a few other bits and pieces that would have totted up to four hundred quid!
I'm not sure gold leafed sea urchin tasted anything other that prawn with extra bling, but the next day you have the amazing experience of having a golden poo!
At Gilray's, in the old city hall on the South Bank, the waiter brought out a large cigar box before the T-bone steak arrived. When opened, we were invited to select one of many silver steak knives ranging from: the daintiest little one, to fit the hand of a petite lady; through to a machete, fit for the ego of a self made, minted, macho, maverick; Who, I would imagine, didn't use it as he would prefer to rip it apart with his bear hands.
Researching the food, the restaurant and writing it up was interesting and fun and I think, the most frequently Fliss and I have dined out. Many thanks to Bryan, based in Canada who ran things. Bryan was a seasoned editor who was both encouraging and skilled. He inspired a huge jump in my mind set from 'I can't write to 'I can and it's fun!'
I've got to mention my comedy writing. When I started my hobbie of stand up comedy there appeared to be several main approaches: Get up there and be funny. This is usually the favoured approach of narcissists and ex drama students who quickly realise that no material means no laughs;
Then there's the 'get a tight five and stick with it' approach. It's by far the most popular, but I'd noticed some acts I'd seen at the Edinburgh Fringe, who had broken through to TV, still did the same material. Boring!
Topical comedy was my thing. Write it, perform it, rip it up, repeat! You get good at writing and performing dynamically i.e. off script, especially when I couldn't remember it. You also crash and burn often, but that's character building stuff;
Finally if all else fails, do character comedy. At least they're not judging you, just the character. I used to go out as Death, a happy chap who's not used to a live audience! Death allowed me to go to places I'd never go as me. Dark and inappropriate places. Going to hell and back was just the daily commute.
As Mark Twain said: "Only those who've gone too far, know how far they... " Ok I can't remember the quote but I got a U for English Lit! which is a good excuse even if he was American!
Internally, comedy is about delivering a point, usually one of two words within a punch line. Everything is in service of that point. The well honed set up, the timing, the space we allow for laughs etc all pay homage to the point.
Relationally, the joke serves the audience. It's about the audience and not the act's ego. They laugh and you're happy, they don't and it's dead man walking, actually it's standing still for five lonnnnnng minutes! The relationship depends on empathy. If the act genuinely cares about what the audience wants, the material will work. If the act believes the audience is there to serve them, the act will blame the audience, projecting their insecurities onto the crowd, where they can be attacked. This is the narcissistic defence called splitting as identified by Melanie Klein.
The cure is empathy. If they had ever made a Carry on Therapy, we'd have had the line 'Empathy Empathy. they've all got it empathy!' (not as good as the original infamy joke) As a therapist I'm aFreud you wouldn't like that joke!
Finally there is my therapy training. In the Certificate year there were three essays. These represented the first essays I'd ever written. I didn't have a clear idea of what an essay was. I sweated blood over the first one and got a distinction. Over the course of my four years of study I've written a lot. My natural process is to write four or five times the required amount before editing it down to size which feels like throwing away the good stuff!
In the interim year my supervisor had me doing full hour transcripts of 50 minute clients sessions. One a week! I learnt to talk slooooowly and the art of therapeutic silence. I also learnt to type a little faster.
So why am I banging on about all this? Anxiety. My lingering fear, that I'll get my accreditation posted back with every page splattered with red ink!
Today I'm feeling the void between submission and the red-penned homework. Accreditation could take up to six months to get a result! Maybe I should save time and send them a red pen!
It's two weeks before I got on a writing course at Hay Publishing. The weekend course is about the publishing and not the writing, but I'll be in a room full of writers!
Next blog: Imposter Syndrome!!!!