In My Lap

After a brief hiatus, I’m back writing for Details, and what makes that even sweeter is the fact that I’m doing so feeling creatively rejuvenated. That’s because even before our monthly editorial meeting, I’d already had an idea that’s a great fit. It didn’t need any crafting or developing – it was just there, and it naturally suited our theme better than I could ever have imagined. Up to that point, I’d already abandoned two potential articles because they just weren’t flowing, and if something’s forced, it isn’t sincere and certainly isn’t worth publishing. With that in mind, I couldn’t offer Caitlyn material that I knew would detract from the otherwise excellent quality of her magazine, but at the same time, I didn’t like missing all the fun. Details is a vital, colourful and inclusive outlet with an enormous amount of room to grow, and I’m determined to be a part of it for a long time to come. If you’re reading this, Caitlyn, the only way you’ll get me off the team is by firing me – and that’s a promise!

But I digress. My point is that sometimes, as I must have said before, the best ideas just fall straight into your lap. That’s a very welcome feeling at the best of times, but it’s especially satisfying when you feel like you’ve lost that drive to put words to paper. Of course, not only will Details benefit from that, but Third Time Enabled will too, and I look forward to sharing what I’ve written once it’s done. As things stand, I only have one paragraph at most, but I’m fairly confident that the rest will write itself. I hope so, anyway, otherwise those might be famous last words…

Mason

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Anybody’s Guess

Sometimes, I just find myself wanting to dash off a quick post with some simple news on it. No big point to argue, no tangent to go on, just an update that I feel warrants a mention here, especially after the last few months. So here it is: I have some freelance work. And – once it’s all done – it’ll be paid! It’s only ten days in total, but even so, you have no idea how good it feels to write that. Not only because it gives me the opportunity to earn some money, but also because it genuinely feels like it might be a turning point in my year. So far I haven’t had much to smile about, but since mid-July I’ve been volunteering for a charity, and now they’ve tasked me with proofreading their annual report – something I haven’t been tackling lightly at all. As things stand, I’ve done two days, which saw around 30 double-page spreads thoroughly checked over the course of many hours. It arguably shouldn’t have taken quite as long as it did, but I’ve always liked to leave no stone unturned, and I’m hoping that when the powers that be recognise that, more commissions will follow. I didn’t have ‘unexpectedly become freelance’ on my 2022 bingo card, but I’m not complaining! The unpredictability of what might come next is, of course, scary and exciting at the same time. It’s anybody’s guess, but I’m ready for it…

Mason

Triangle Man

As any long-time Third Time Enabled readers will know, I occasionally look for new pastimes that involve spending less time staring at a screen (a book club, for instance – which has mostly consisted of me reading e-books). And yes, you’ve guessed it; the set of weights you see below form the basis of my latest endeavour not to be so much of a slave to my devices. For many years, in the run up to each Christmas and birthday, I asked for them semi-seriously, thinking in my head that they’d be a good idea, but never really pushing for them and often making jokes about my supposed inability to maintain an exercise regime.

That, however, was before my current spell of long-term unemployment set in. I’ve had no way of determining this for sure – it’s difficult to weigh someone who can’t stand up properly – but with a lack of purpose has come an abundance of food, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of it has started to show. My 25th birthday at the end of August was therefore the perfect time for the weights to arrive for real, and with them some sort of concrete workout routine. Going forward, I plan to use them twice a day in the morning and evening, although I haven’t quite managed to stick to that pattern just yet. They have still had a fair amount of use, though, and I’ve made sure to stretch in every direction. As a rule of thumb, I do 20 reps stretching downwards, 20 out to the sides, and another 20 above my head. I feel like 60 reps twice a day is a good starting point, but I just need to discipline myself so that I definitely get them in. Who knows? If I really gel with it, I could end up doing more and more. I’ve always had pretty broad shoulders because I use my arms for everything, but I remember Lara telling me once that if I really put the effort in, I could be “Triangle Man” – wide at the top and narrowing towards the bottom! We’ll see, shall we?

Mason

Live At Your Own Pace

This piece was written for the August 2022 issue of Caitlyn Raymond’s fantastic Details Magazine, which is out now – you can find out more about it by clicking here!

It all started with talk of first kisses.

“I was 16 when I had mine…”, said Caitlyn, as we discussed how we might incorporate the theme of ‘coming of age’ into this issue. Oh dear, I thought. She thinks 16 is late? I was 21! It was then that I realised it was going to be hard to relate to any of the typical teenage experiences the others were going to talk about. I often tell people that a disabled life isn’t a bad one, just a different one, and what that can mean is that it moves more slowly than everyone else’s. Admittedly, I’ve always been somewhat shy and introverted, so you could argue that that’s partly been down to choice. But there’s no doubt that I have had a sheltered upbringing, one that led me down another path, and perhaps that meant that I was never in the right places – or the right circles – for certain things.

I’ve always been lucky in that I’ve always got on pretty well with most people, and I was never really subjected to any of the bullying that some other disabled kids get at school. On the other hand, I wasn’t exactly what you’d call popular either. For a long time, I didn’t really see the few friends I had at weekends or during holidays, and I certainly wasn’t invited to any parties or other gatherings as I got older. I’d listen to the stories people would tell about getting drunk on cider in a field, or finally getting off with someone they’d been pursuing for months, or the amazing trip they’d just been on with their very best buddies, and I’d feel like those things were happening in a completely different world. Of course, at least two of them aren’t massively important, but back then they seemed huge and unattainable, and I’ve never felt less normal (whatever that is) than I did at times like that. And that was just adolescence.

Even now, in my mid-twenties, I still can’t truthfully say I really feel like an adult. Maybe it’s good to retain youthfulness, but I can’t help feeling I might have retained a little too much – and that must surely be because I missed out on many of those formative rituals that develop you to a certain extent. Whenever I’m explaining life with cerebral palsy to someone, I always emphasise how independent I am – how I get out and about in my chair, wash and dress myself, et cetera – but how independent am I really? Sometimes it feels like I should have gotten to 25 with a little more to show for those years. If I’d had more of those aforementioned experiences, maybe I’d have gone further, met more people, and been a more social creature than the generally withdrawn one I’ve come to regard myself as. But then again, I’m still only 25. As I’m continually reminded, we only get one go at this thing called life, and none of us should rush it. 

Some people pack more into ten years than others do into eighty, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to. Like a lot of people, I’m often prone to scrolling through social media, seeing people who were in my class with jobs, houses, husbands and wives, and wondering why I’m not at the same point. Given my condition and the difficulties it poses, it might take me longer to obtain all of those anyway, but I still fall into the same trap almost every time. Perhaps I ought to heed a quote I saw recently, attributed to Noel Gallagher. When asked about the meaning of life in an interview, he said:

“I enjoy the trip. Wherever you’re going is where you’ll end up. Don’t worry about that. Enjoy the scenery on the way.”

Now, a rock star may not be the best person to be taking life advice from, and I certainly don’t agree with everything Noel says, but I think those words make perfect sense. Whatever happens, I should always remember to live at my own pace and never lose hope. However long it might take, I will be less boring – and perhaps a little more grown up – eventually…

Mason

Manners Maketh Man

This piece was written for the July 2022 issue of Caitlyn Raymond’s fantastic Details Magazine, which is out now – you can find out more about it by clicking here!

When Caitlyn gave us the theme of ‘making a mental note’ for this issue of Details, I have to admit that I initially struggled a great deal when it came to finding inspiration. We all take a lot into account every day of our lives, and our brains are packed with all of the life lessons – both big and small – that we continually acquire. But as I rifled through my own mind, I slowly but surely began to panic. What could possibly be in there that was big enough to fill an entire piece, let alone be worth reading? I didn’t know what to do or where to turn, and time wasn’t on my side. I couldn’t back out this month, because I’d already done that once, and to do it again would be unprofessional…wouldn’t it? Maybe then, Caitlyn would think less of me as a writer – or even worse, as a person. What then? What then?

It was in that moment that I stopped in my tracks, because I realised I knew exactly what to do. My topic was already right there in my lap, because it’s informed almost everything I’ve done in my life since at least the age of 10. One day back in the mid-2000s, when I’d not long started at Minehead Middle School, I was sat eating my lunch in the hall when my helper came over to me looking rather straight-faced, uttering eight little words I’ve never quite been able to forget.

“Mason, you haven’t been thanking the dinner ladies.”

I can’t remember exactly how I reacted outwardly at the time, but I do know that my inner thought process was just the same as it’s always been – and from that day onward, I tried never to forget my manners again. I can’t claim to be perfect, of course, but I always try my hardest to treat others as I’d wish to be treated, which can sometimes be something of a double-edged sword, because it’s a blessing and a curse. Yes, it means your everyday life is probably more pleasant than it would be if you went out of your way to be rude and miserable towards others, but I’ve also found that – more often than I’d like to admit – it also leads to a certain amount of paranoia.

I’m willing to bet that in the last decade or so, not many days have gone by where I haven’t constantly analysed all of my own speech or body language in the presence of another person. It’s never taken much to trigger that, either – all I have to do is think about one tiny gesture, or a word inadvertently delivered in a strange tone, and my mind is working overtime for the rest of the day. In some cases, I find myself walking on eggshells around people, convinced they’re thinking about that one awkward moment just as much as I am. They never are, of course.

Over time, I’ve learned to calm myself a little more by always keeping my good intentions in mind. I never mean to rub anyone up the wrong way, and I do my utmost to avoid having that effect. If I do, I apologise straight away. It can be easy to forget that, so I make an effort to remember, and to forgive myself when I need to. It might come in pretty handy to remember that right now. Caitlyn most likely won’t have any complaints about my writing or my conduct, and I’ll definitely be back for the August issue. I hope so, anyway…

Mason

Everything And Nothing At All

I never knew my head could be so busy and so empty at the same time. Since I left my job at the end of January it’s seemed like I have so much to think of – what I’ll do and where I’ll go next – but at the same time, like my life is one very much without purpose. There is no job, social life or friendship group to consider, I have no immediate prospects, and there’s little hope of me moving anywhere anytime soon. What that means is that it can be very hard to find any kind of motivation, which doesn’t bode well at all for general creativity or this blog. The fact I’m writing this off the back of an unsuccessful interview hasn’t helped matters either!

Happily, social media – that thing I was so keen to take a break from just weeks ago – has provided me with something of a solution. I’ve had Instagram for about three years now, having finally caved after years of pressure from my brother and friends, but I can’t say that I use it for promoting any kind of serious photography. I even went as far as putting a disclaimer in my bio (“don’t expect photographic masterpieces!”). The account is for documenting the world as I see it, but that doesn’t mean that the photos are useless or disposable (even though there are an awful lot of book covers among them, just to show off what I’ve been reading). Every picture tells a story, after all, so going forward, each one will have the potential to be inspiring, however blurry or unremarkable it might seem. If you recall, November/December 2018 saw me use a photo of a parked bicycle to record a podcast – and while I might be happy for that to remain buried and far away from human ears for the rest of time, I’ll hopefully be able to get enough material for a blog post or two out of what I capture from now on. It’s still entirely possible that nothing could come of this, and I never mention it again. If recent months have taught me anything, though, it’s that all I can do is try to stay positive, however hard that might be at times.

Mason

Partly Cloudy

It’s now just over two months since I left my job, and despite my best efforts, I’m still not sure what lies in my immediate professional future. I’ve been keeping myself as busy as possible, however – a third piece for the forthcoming issue of Details could be coming very shortly, and I’m making solid progress on the next book club choice, Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. I’ve decided to go down the e-book route this time, mainly because if I keep buying physical copies, I risk quickly running out of room for them! It does have another benefit, though, as thanks to the Kindle Cloud Reader I can access the novel on my laptop, which in turn means I have another excuse to sit at my desk. And though that may not seem like much, it has a surprisingly positive psychological effect.

The difference between reading on my laptop at my desk and reading on my Kindle while lying on the floor is that the former requires me to be upright, alert, slightly less lethargic. In that respect, although I’m still perfectly relaxed, it doesn’t feel that much like a leisure activity at all. It feels a lot more important, like it has more substance than simply scrolling through Facebook does. Ultimately, I guess I could say it makes me feel like I’m actually doing something. What’s more, I’ve also used my computer to take another step closer to that – as of last Monday, I am now a fully paid-up member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (or CIEP for short).

This organisation offers those who join a number of perks, among which is the chance to complete training (at discounted prices) in proofreading and copyediting. Since the latter area seems to be broader, that’s what I’ve chosen to focus on, and I now have everything I need to start the six units of the Copyediting 1 course. It looks like all I need to do is read the featured study notes and complete the activities using Microsoft Word and its Track Changes function, something I’m more than familiar with after the last three years. Not since my early days at Haymarket have I felt this confident and excited. Although I won’t have all the knowledge required to copyedit for a living when the course is finished – the CIEP recommends doing at least two more first – this new endeavour will at least go a little way to clearing some of those rather ominous clouds hanging over me. It gives me a fresh glimmer of hope to pursue, and I can’t wait to get started!

Mason

Another Satisfied Customer

As of last Monday, I am unemployed once again – for a few reasons, the job at Classic & Sports Car was just one of those things that didn’t work out (not that that should reflect badly on them, since they’d been nothing but supportive from the start, and they were more than happy with my contributions). What that means is that I have to go back to the drawing board, and while I might normally relish the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start again from scratch, this time it feels markedly different. That job was, on paper, a perfect opportunity for me. Indeed, it would be ideal for any budding motoring journalist, and I sincerely hope my successor settles well. When it didn’t pan out as I’d hoped, though, it left me in a somewhat strange position. I feel somewhat lost, unable to trust my own judgement with my confidence knocked, and not knowing where to turn at all.

With that in mind, I’ve a lot of thinking to do, but thankfully there are a few personal projects I can throw myself into in the meantime. For starters, there’s the voiceover I’ve been writing for Abi, which I alluded to last time. I spent days bashing out and deleting just over 300 words, convinced I still wasn’t the man for the job and that they’d be much better off coming from her. When I’d finally ended up with a draft that I didn’t completely hate, I took a leap of faith and sent it to Abi, hurriedly assuring her that I’d be fine with any edits she made, or if she wanted to discard it completely! To my considerable relief, however, she loved it, saying it was as though I’d taken the jumbled ideas and words in her head and put them in perfect order. It therefore looks very likely that it will be used in her video, and the icing on the cake will be the fact that she’s actually going to credit me for it, which is always a good thing for an aspiring writer.

That’s what I’m trying to focus on in the absence of full-time employment – getting my name out there as much as I can, no matter what it’s for. In addition to Abi’s commission, I’ve spent some time browsing some websites that were recommended during my Copyediting module in Winchester, including Fiverr, Textbroker and People Per Hour. These allow freelancers in all manner of industries to advertise themselves or pitch for projects posted by others, and I’m hoping that one or more of them might help me to gain some editing or proofreading expertise, since building a portfolio makes it a lot easier for people to make a name for themselves. Besides that, I’ve got an online meeting on Wednesday for something else I might get involved in, to which I’m hoping to take some interesting ideas. I can’t say what’s going to come from that just yet, but I’m sure you’ll hear about it in due course if it develops. I’m just glad to have leads to consider and pursue, helpful ones that could help me make my mark while I search for something more permanent. These are uncertain times for me, but such things really do remind me that there may yet be a light at the end of the tunnel.

Mason

In The Words Of The T-Shirt…

“…Just Do It.”

That’s what my old GCSE English teacher used to say, usually when we had to write an essay. Given that she had to mark so many of them, she never had much time for people who went “round the houses” – in other words, those of us who took ages to get past the introduction to the crux of the matter. All she wanted was for us to make and explain our point, and to do it promptly. To get the thing tied up and finished. It could still take me a while to hit the nail on the head, and I can remember writing many a long-winded paragraph, but I got there in the end – and that small quote is advice I’d do well to remember today.

As you’ll know by now, I’ve long wanted to be the most versatile writer possible, but I’m invariably held back by the belief that I’ll never write anything worth reading or watching, or that I’m too rusty to take on a specific project (such as scriptwriting, which – Jed Mercurio video lessons aside – I haven’t done since I left Winchester in the summer). I lack a certain amount of confidence, but I also know that I won’t regain it unless I press ahead and write regardless, so sometimes it seems like a somewhat impossible situation. There is, however, a light at the end of this particular tunnel.

My friend Abi works as a photographer down in Cornwall (sometimes she doubts her own ability too, but she really doesn’t need to – as you’ll find out for yourself if you contact her via social media). Her mind is endlessly inventive, and I admire how she always tries to push herself and her business further in colourful and distinctive ways in order to stand out from the crowd. This includes utilising film and the written word as well as imagery, and for her latest endeavour she’s decided to create a video featuring herself and her camera immersed in her beloved Cornish countryside, while she explains her motivations for doing what she does via voiceover. This element of the video needs to be personal, profound and sincere, it needs to delve deep into the effect her environment has on her wellbeing and creativity – and writing such a thing is no mean feat. I should know, because it’s a task she’s entrusted to me.

I’m in two minds about whether or not I should accept it, largely because the lines are meant to convey her own perspective – so surely they should come from her? Nevertheless, I think I will, firstly because I want to help a friend, and secondly because it’s still an opportunity to show someone what I can do, even if it’s not on a massive scale. Abi doesn’t need to use any of what I’ve written once she’s seen it, but it won’t hurt me at all to carry on, even if it is only 500 words, and just do it.

Mason

January Scales

Some years ago now, when I fancied myself as a bit of a poet, I found myself scribbling down verse on every spare bit of paper I could find. For a while it was constant, like some kind of obsession or compulsion, but looking back it seems to have been something of a forerunner to this blog, in the sense that I was looking for opportunities to write as regularly as possible. You could also say it provided a window into my deepest adolescent thoughts and feelings in much the same way this does at 24, although those tended to be much more cringeworthy – as I realised when Mum found one poem lying around one day. Thankfully, I’ve forgotten most of them now, and the few that remain are safely tucked away in my personal notebooks. One, however, still revisits me now and again, and I was reminded of it just the other day. As you might have guessed, it was called ‘January Scales’.

Now that 2022 has begun, it obviously seemed an appropriate topic of discussion, particularly because a great many of us will not long have navigated the post-Christmas blues, and that poem was one that tended to dwell on them perhaps a little too much. In particular, it told of one man’s nerves as he anticipates the first weigh-in of the year in his bathroom, fully expecting the numbers not to fall in his favour. I think by writing it, I succumbed to the habit of always viewing a new year negatively, as something to be feared – and why should that be the case?

I don’t know what the next year, 18 months or beyond will bring, but I’m going to try my best to embrace it as an opportunity at all times. It can be scary going into the unknown, but exciting too. As I once said six years ago now, a new year is a blank canvas, and it’s one to which I fully intend to add a lot of colour, no matter how long that might take.

Mason