Finding Everyday Inspiration: Humans Have It the Worst

Finding Everyday Inspiration: Humans Have It the Worst

Part of WordPress’s writing course Finding Everyday Inspiration.

In case you didn’t know, I’m a serious overachiever. I usually apply myself to overachieve in areas where overachieving is worthless. In keeping with this admirable principle, I’m currently publishing my n-th post in a 20-day writing challenge series, where n equals a lot and certainly more than 20.

As I’m talking about equations, I’m sooo sorely tempted to throw in some JavaScript. Not to do something useful (see my overachieving principle above), but to practise and pleasure myself (please myself? I’m looking for a word which suggests a pleasure practically perverse.)

A JavaScript Digression

I’m learning coding for the kick out of it. While I do hope to use what I learn, I can hardly hope for it. So, third time the charm, we’re back to my twisted overachieving principle. I’ve done HTML and CSS and am now tackling JavaScript. So far the best high. Let me quickly state in code that I’m an idiot.

let overachieve = true;
overachieve ? console.log('Mara sucks.') : console.log('Not happening.');

Don’t be alarmed. The above is pretty straightforward. It says that if the overachieve principle is true, then Mara sucks, but if it’s not true, then I don’t know what because it’s not happening. What’s the practical purpose of this? Absolutely none. See what I mean?

Why Humans Have It the Worst

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
          Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
          For promis’d joy!
—Rabbie Burns (obviously)

Before succumbing to the dubious delirious delights of JavaScript, I was about to respond to a blogging challenge. You’d never have guessed, right? My overachieving here lies in my ambition to tackle every single suggestion what to blog about that I received from my readers (who are apparently also overachieving).

The prompt by Brett of the oh awesome O’ Canada blog is pretty poetic and tickles my literary strings (if strings can be tickled. Also: I just used an if conditional, are you terrified that I’m going to write in code again? Ha! Gotcha. I won’t. But I have to be literally restraining myself. With strings.) Here’s the prompt:

The way ants and other wild creatures go about their daily activities to survive . . . the light breeze causing a wind chime to tinkle . . . a peculiar word . . . the intricacies exhibited by a simple tree leaf . . .

A relevant photo of a leaf!

Ants and mice and lice have it pretty good. They go about their business and have no clue. Humans, sadly, have feeeelings (misspelling deliberate for a dramatic effect). Even worse, they have awareness (not to be confused with mindfulness, which effectively blunts awareness and tones downs feeeelings, hence it’s a good thing).

To circle back to Burns’s poem from which I quoted above: the speaker, careless bastard, ruins a mouses’s nest as he is ploughing a field and instead of saying sorry to the poor rodent (and supplying a replacement nest), he concludes that the mouse has it bad but he has it worse because the mouse doesn’t have awareness while he does.

Now I want to cry (which, ultimately, might be better for you than when I wanted to code). Which brings us to the question of the leaf (don’t ask me how, it just does because I say so). I’m gradually becoming wrinkly, crinkly and creased like said leaf. And like said leaf, I’ll soon drop dead (especially if I’m not going to quit smoking). What a prospect.

The trouble is not being dead, obviously, the trouble is the process. While I have no first-hand previous experience of it that I’d remember, judging from the state of the leaf, it’s not going to be nice. Plus, we need to add in the Burns factor: the leaf doesn’t know it’s about to drop dead from the tree, but the human does.

Are you depressed yet? I am for one. I should’ve just copied and pasted good old (and dead) Burns in response to this prompt, which had so much potential for loveliness before I ruined it. To unruin it a little, here’s the classic conclusion of Burns’s poem. You can’t go wrong with quoting someone better.

Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
          On prospects drear!
An’ forward tho’ I canna see,
          I guess an’ fear!
Finding Everyday Inspiration: BBC Poem

Finding Everyday Inspiration: BBC Poem

Part of WordPress’s writing course Finding Everyday Inspiration.

Today’s writing task doesn’t involve writing. Just as well. The instructions are to mine what’s mine. One suggestion is to look at your own tweets and use them to create something. Another suggestion is to look at your tweets and use an automatic tweets-to-poems generator. I’m game. Or rather, I’m algorithm.

The Poetweet linked above didn’t generate anything remotely readable from my tweets, so I resorted to plagiarising the produce of another Twitter account. I turned to the authority of BBC. BBC as the news publisher—I beg you not to look up the definition of BBC in the Urban Dictionary. I’m serious.

An inexplicable packet of crisps found in the supermarket

I swear I have nothing to do with the half-open packet of crisps pictured above. I found it like this. Also, I know, you probably call them chips, be my guest. And, if you disregarded my advice and did look up BBC in the Urban Dictionary, serve you right.

Back to the BBC poem: I used the Poetweet but edited the result. It’s a recipe. Please don’t try it at home. Remember what happened the last time when you didn’t take me seriously and looked up the BBC…


Maligned insect…

based on a true story by BBC

Recipes for every student. 🍽️🙌😋…
Made from seriously weird things 👉…
That makes it contagious? 😮💤…
You need to watch this September. 👉

Take the quiz & find out!

Finding Everyday Inspiration: Ten-Hour-Story

Finding Everyday Inspiration: Ten-Hour-Story

Part of WordPress’s writing course Finding Everyday Inspiration.

Today’s writing challenge suggests that we rewrite James Joyce’s Ulysses. I’m on it, so see you in seven years. Wait.




Wait, I don’t mean that you wait seven years! The prompt is actually to write a story set within a single day, like Ulysses. Fine.

I will rework the book, base it on my day and will style it to convey the same impression that attempting to read a few pages of Ulysses gave me. My impression was that of a self-indulgent, neurotic and pretentious piece of text(s) that was never intended to be read by anyone but its author.

Why, no, I have no default reverence for classics only because they are classics. If you’re up to reading a strenuously detailed chronicle of what I’ve been up to today rather than what Joyce’s Leopold Bloom was up to on 16 June 1914, grab a mug like the one (two) below and let’s get down to it.

Redefining double coffee

Slept without sleeping pill. That is, didn’t sleep. Woke up 11:15. Too early. Went back to not sleeping.

Alarm at 12:00 | Cuddle the cat. Feed the cat, give her water, clean the litter. Coffee brewing while bathroom.

Then | Coffee and cigarette no. 1. Yoga. Feels great. Then feels boring. The corpse pose. I can’t even.

Then | Saturday, so vacuuming. Take rubbish to the bin. Check mailbox. Avoid neighbours.

Then | Yogurt drink and cigarette no. 2. Out at the balcony. Fucking freezing.

1:55–2:37 | Personal project Code a Day: teach myself JavaScript. Declare variables. Add methods. Return results.

Then | Reply emails. Cigarette no. 3.

3:14–4:45 | Copywriting. New banknotes in India. Again. Country is a mess. I’m wiped. Cigarette no. 4.

5:00 | Cook. Eat. Try not to sleep. Message beep: Movie tonight @ 8Hell no. Ok then. Cigarette no. 5.

6:00 | Reply blog comments. Remove chipped nail polish. File nails. Have shower. Lost track of cigarette nos.

8:00 | Movie. Fun. Then boring. Dozing off. When will this end? Oh there’s a cat!

10:11 | Home. Fuck that. Work ahead. Miles to go before I sleep. Robert Frost.

I’m done. Now imagine that someone writes an entire bulky book like this. I mean, incomprehensible to anyone but himself. In this case herself. I’m tempted to annotate the above text for you but that would lose the Joycean charm.

What I Hated the Least Today 262/365: Concrete Poetry

What I Hated the Least Today 262/365: Concrete Poetry

Be warned. This is extremely dumb.

I’ve been thinking about concrete poetry. Not concretely, just generally. It happened after I snapped a snap of concrete. I thought I’d produce a concrete concrete poem.

Concrete poetry

               c  o
                     n  c  r
                              e  t  e  ___

Yeah. I know. Shoot me and pour me with concrete.

All the Same, All the Time

All the Same, All the Time

Loosely inspired by a recent somewhat heart-breaking post by Cardinal Guzman, I decided that the world needs more bad poetry.

At peace,
At home.
Quiet, but not quite.
The kettle boiling,
Coffee brewing—
Another day, another night.

Finding Everyday Inspiration: Literally Just a Bunch of Random Quotes

Finding Everyday Inspiration: Literally Just a Bunch of Random Quotes

Part of WordPress’s writing course Finding Everyday Inspiration.

Today’s (un)inspiring task inspires the worst in me. I’m kidding only in part. That is, in part one of the statement: I do in fact appreciate the prompts, inspiring or not. Part two of the claim is no kidding. Expect the worst from me.

Today’s task is to preface your post with an epigraph in the form of a block quote. Inadvertently, I’ve been doing the very same a lot in my recent posts. Quotes are nice and all that, but I favour the bleakest kind of them. So, when I’m asked to elaborate on a quote of my choice, what can possibly go wrong? Everything.

A random bleak photo to go with random bleak quotes

Let’s get the shitstorm started. If you pardon my language. I promise I won’t choose any more quotes that contain heavy slang and four-letter words. Such as the four-letter word word, for example. Also, my promise only extends to this particular post. I’ll start niceish.

Literature: Transcendence, Epiphanies and Poor Choices

If literature matters today, it is chiefly because it seems to many conventional critics one of the few remaining places where, in a divided, fragmented world, a sense of universal value may still be incarnate; and where, in a sordidly material world, a rare glimpse of transcendence can still be attained.
—Terry Eagleton

Terry Eagleton, a foremost literary critic, is often quoted but this quote of his isn’t drawn attention to too often. It’s a shame because it attempts to answer the ultimate question of literature: What is it even good for? I hand-picked this quotation directly from one of Eagleton’s books I’ve read and enjoyed.

I’ve had transcendental experiences with literature of my own. I even had an epiphany. Ages ago, I was sitting on a bench somewhere in Edinburgh, during my literature summer school, and it was manifested to me that what I wanted to do in life was Scottish literature. True story.

Cute, right? I did go on to get a doctorate in ScotLit—in case I don’t mention it often enough, but you know, bragging rights. And then I had another epiphany. It was manifested to me that I needed to do something for a living. So, cheers, literature, RIP.

WYWI(N)WYG: What You Want Is (Not) What You Get

What each individual wills is obstructed by everyone else, and what emerges is something that no one willed.
—Friedrich Engels

My last triumphant achievement in the literature field was smuggling Marx and Engels into my dissertation and getting away with it. So, be not surprised that I seamlessly integrated randomly threw in some Engels in here too, for a good measure.

I happen to be a theoretical socialist. It means I think the idea of economic equality is cool, but it quickly becomes a mess when someone tries to apply it in real life. And why, no, I don’t have a better suggestion; if I had, I’d have written The Capital Revis(it)ed.

Freud: That’s What Everything Boils Down To

When one doesn’t have what one wants, one must want what one has.
—Sigmund Freud

Engels and Freud implicitly agree on that you’re not going to get what you want. I also agree, though no one is quoting me on it—you can be the first. Freud is my favourite and I find him extremely fascinating. That’s not hugely surprising, given that I’m a psychiatric patient, hence I have the unique opportunity to test Freud’s psychiatric hypotheses on myself.

This quote by Freud, you must admit, is however very sensible and universally acceptable. He might have been the first positive psychologist with this positive affirmation—they are conventionally called positive affirmations, aren’t they, because I just noticed that this naming is a prime example of tautology. That’s probably the idea.

Finding Everyday Inspiration: Woods

Finding Everyday Inspiration: Woods

Part of WordPress’s writing course Finding Everyday Inspiration.

Today’s prompt combines the textual and the visual. Four stock photos are set to choose from and use as a launchpad for telling a story. I’m not a great storyteller, that won’t do. I’m great at decision paralysis, which isn’t really great either because I devote more time to deciding than writing. After emerging from my paralysis like a phoenix with bird-flu, I picked the picture which I hated the least.

The present-day Red Riding Hood is blue (in colour and mood)

Frost and Woods

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Robert Frost

I quote Robert Frost in general and his “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” in particular on this blog. I’m exaggerating, obviously. Frost (the poet, not the weather) is one of my favourites for a number of reasons, some of them wrong. (Yes, there are wrong reasons for liking poetry, including when you’re depressed and deliberately seek out relentlessly pessimistic poetry so you could feel even worse.)

Among the less contestable reasons why Frost is enduring for me are his deceptive simplicity, amazing universality and easy memorability. No kidding, I can be found wandering around my home reciting Frost’s poems for myself aloud. Some of his lines are so chilling that they never cease to creep me out. (Yes, I am easily scared.) Sometimes I may give a threatening stare to my reflection in the mirror and enunciate balefully, And that has made all the difference. (Are you terrified yet? Read on, it gets worse!)

Me and Woods


Looking at the photo, I have several free associations. What I can see is a girl getting lost, never to be found, to be eaten by a wolf and becoming a werewolf (that’s how it works, right?). The modern Red Riding Hood is no more red but blue because red is too cheerful (and doesn’t contrast with blood that well) and also blue is perfect to reflect her blue mood.

The werewolf-to-be girl is apparently a misled Zennist (as of Zen, different from Zen Buddhist in that it removes Buddha to make it less complicated; also, you’ll never believe me, but I am one [not Buddha, Zennist {also, are you wondering how many parentheses within parentheses can I use? <many>}]). The blue girl wandered into the woods to hug trees but instead, she’ll be hugged by ticks and attacked by allergies (besides wolves). That’s how it goes. At least, that’s what happens always when I dare to enter woods.

Finding Everyday Inspiration: Hope Is a Duck

Finding Everyday Inspiration: Hope Is a Duck

Part of WordPress’s writing course Finding Everyday Inspiration.

Today’s inspiration is a one-word prompt, which I honestly find highly uninspiring. The words offered couldn’t have been cheesier: hope, love and world peace. Kidding. It’s in fact: hope, regret, home, choice, secret, abundance. How I regret my choice of signing up for this nonsense, now I’m sitting at home, nourishing a secret hope that I shall create something sensible out of the nonsense, and being depressed in abundance. Well, that would be it. Kidding. I’ll write about hope.

I wish I was a duck on Alexandra Pond

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul…
—Emily Dickinson

I’ve always appreciated Dickinson’s metaphor in this poem, but I never quite got it. It’s not that it troubles me—poetry isn’t necessarily to be “got”. But Hope is the thing with feathers, what? Such as a down coat? (Because you put on a coat in hope you won’t freeze to death?) Or a duck? (Because you eat a Peking duck and hope it’s still socially acceptable not to be a vegan?)

In the mental ward, we (We the Patients) would comfort one another with Let’s hope it gets better. It wasn’t very comforting and it never got better. (No wonder, when hope is a duck.) Hope is an optimistic faith in the future. It does me little good, yet I’m convinced that optimism is the privilege of the young and naive, and that experience shows otherwise. Here’s a story to that effect, whose source I’ve tragically forgotten, but it was absolutely a Scottish writer. It’s Scots who do the ultimate bleak humour.

It’s a short story illustrating the growing up of a boy on the incident when the father hoists the kid on the mantelpiece and encourages him to jump into his arms. Guess what happens? Yep, the father deliberately steps aside, the kid faceplants and is taught a lesson: Trust nae cunt. (Aside one, the quote is accurate, I have a memory for them; aside two, it occurred to me to search for the quote and, alas, it’s a story by Janice Galloway from the 1991 collection Blood.)

Should there be more literary evidence needed that Joy is joyless, love is loveless and everything is just as bad as you’d always suspected (this is another half-remembered paraphrase from a not-remembered Scottish source), I provide a quote from the best-loved book of the Scottish (obviously) genius, Alasdair Gray, and his Lanark.

I wish I was a duck on Alexandra Pond. I could swim, and fly, and walk, and have three wives, and everything I wanted. But I’m a man. I have a mind, and three library tickets, and everything I want is impossible.

That makes it official. Hope is a duck.

What I Hated the Least Today 154/365: Papers

What I Hated the Least Today 154/365: Papers


I spent the last few days doing what existentialists who aren’t nihilists (yet) do: persisting in so-called meaningful activities which they know to be meaningless. In other words, I’ve been pursuing my academic pursuits. (Or, oops, I did it again.) In a matter of four or five days, I churned out two abstracts (as in conference presentation proposals) and two full-length papers (as in literature analyses for publication).

As a result of these pointless accomplishments I feel pointless and accomplished. I’m perversely proud of myself for having met the deadlines and completed what I set out to complete. I’m also plagued by a sense of purposelessness now that I’ve done my purposeless task, which was nevertheless successfully distracting me from getting depressed. (Oh, of course, I’m also depressed.)

Doesn’t this post read as though I’ve recently spent a prolonged period of time writing something literary and academic? It does, doesn’t it. Apart from the contractions. (Not contractions as in labour, though labouring is indeed involved, but contractions as in contracted forms—like I’m). Academics don’t contract their papers—because word count. Also, apart from the sentence fragments (← like this one).

The fragmented feel of this post is however deliberate. So is the monotonous style. And the play on words. This is to draw attention to the language. My field of research, literature, reduces to language. My work, by extension, also reduces to language. (Guess what this post reduces to.) I should probably go write something normal for a change. Like a shopping list.

Update: Today’s Daily Post prompt just popped up in my Reader, offering the keyword purposewhich is what I accidentally blogged about above. That illustrates that I’m not only mental, I’m also psychic.

What I Hated the Least Today 151/365: Trainspotting

What I Hated the Least Today 151/365: Trainspotting

I spot a train
I spot a train

Whenever I don’t know what to blog about, I blog about Trainspotting. It’s my favourite childhood film (sic) and one of my favourite books. The book is better than the movie, but the movie is good enough to have achieved a cult status in my book (see what I did here?).

Trainspotting still matters. A sequel to the film is currently being shot, which is bound to fall short of the original, yet I’m so much of a fan that I’d be actually willing to see it in the cinema.

While I don’t teach either literature or film, I managed to sneak the showing of the Trainspotting trailer in one of my classes after I found that my students were completely oblivious of this masterpiece. Of course they would be, they were not even born when it was made.

I imagined the trailer would be a largely useless though interesting experience with no relevance to my English class, but there was a funny follow-up. For the final test, there was a listening exercise I lifted from one of the teachers’ books I use, and the tape contained a dialogue concerning the trainspotting hobby.

It was in fact an excruciatingly artificial mock radio programme featuring an agony aunt tackling teenagers’ dramas. A kid complained that his friends laughed at him because he was a trainspotter. The good soul advised to the kid that he might try to find fellow trainspotter friends. Problem solved.

I had a hard time trying not to crack up while playing the tape to the students (I know, I have a weird sense of humour). I was however pleased that my trainspotting lesson proved to have a practical use, provided that test writing is practical. After all, it turns out that nothing is irrelevant. (Which is an alternative to the equally valid opposite claim that everything is irrelevant.)