The process of learning – embracing and accepting the confusion.
There are certain feelings that I don’t like. I’m not talking about the extremes such as grief or panic, which are universally dreadful, but something, which to me is quite unpleasant. That is the feeling of confusion.
This happens when I am set a task, or, more likely, I set myself a task, and find that I haven’t sufficient knowledge or ‘know how’ to complete it. I know where the finishing line should be, I know the starting point, but the steps along the way are strewn with broken images, scattered words, and areas of what can only be describer as ‘ frustrating emptiness’. In order to try to sort this chaos, my brain will wake me in the night with an idea or strategy which can be useful - or not, and is always inconvenient when I would rather sleep. But I ‘listen’ to my inner self, maybe make a note, have a word of acknowledgement or thanks and then tell myself to go back to sleep. But, initially, it is like wandering in a maze of high hedges and blocked tunnels, and thoughts mingle chaotically, from one thing that may be relevant to something else, to give a feeling of discomfort. It’s not a headache, more like having a nest of bees buzzing around in my head.
I have just passed through one such time. I can now speak of it in the past, as though the task is ongoing the confusion and chaos in my mind of the last two weeks has vanished, all is calm again and the road ahead, though quite long, is fully visible, divided into sections with rest places and I can’t wait to continue the journey.
‘What have you been doing’, you may ask, ‘to cause this mental mayhem?’ I am well into my seventh decade, retired and have nothing that needs doing – or so you would think. I have had a long career as a psychiatrist and shouldn’t I be resting instead of embarking on confusing issues?
Theoretically – yes. Practically – no.
Some of you who read my articles, poems, books will know that, having retired from work – due to physical ill health which lasted several years, I now use the medium of the written word to continue my work. I
I have always liked gadgets – not just gadgets for the sake of gadgets, but as helpers in whatever I have to do. Consequently, I am computer literate – having had to write many reports and letters in my work. Such is my love of technology that my first computer didn’t have a hard drive (about 30 years ago) – so my knowledge has grown as the home computer has developed.
Our youngest child went to University the day after my Dad’s funeral. I felt totally grief stricken – not only as a daughter losing her beloved father, but, at the same time going into the stage of, while being a Mum with all the care and love as before, it was now to be at a distance and that past ‘family at home’ time would never return. What was I going to do in the space of time which loomed ahead other than cry?
So, I bought a rather tatty electric typewriter and gave myself the task of learning to type. I knew it would be useful in my work, but I never realised just how useful it would turn out to be. I was too busy then to be able or even to know I could write all my poems and books!
So, I now come to the cause of my recent confusion.
Having read about ebooks, I know that this is at least one way forward to save the forests from annihilation and allow their stalwart effect on the world’s CO2.to continue. Communication is global and so, soon, will the e- distribution of books. Then, I read about and had a present given of the Kindle.I am so impressed. It is awesome – with 3G and Wifi.
I decided that my books should be converted into ‘ebooks for the Kindle. But, having self published the paper books, for various reasons, I couldn’t spend money having these converted. Why not do it myself. I had managed to make my own websites through an online website company. I had managed to get my last five books ready for printing without help. So, why not?
There are many things written on the web about preparing ebooks - tutorials, articles, books, downloads etc to help the wanderer on this particular path, but all seemed to miss out on a tiny bit of information which was crucial me, who is self taught. Self teaching only teaches what you need at the time. So, in thirty years of typing, I had never heard of bookmarks and it took me some time, once I knew its purpose, to find out that the place to enter the information would not accept gaps between words! How was I supposed to know that? I had never heard of hyperlinks other than connecting to the internet type of link so how could I learn to make a TOC ?(I later found out that this is not some strange ingredient needing in this pudding mix, it simply means Table of Contents). How thick was the fog?
Then there are attributes (which in the end I didn’t need to understand and still don’t), and custom made headings and styles. I found out the way to create these and it really quickens up the pace of progress through the book. Why do I not know all this already – simply, it wasn’t necessary when either writing reports or my book, which, I have to add, I always did with meticulous care.
However, the confusion had a positive aspect, as, not liking that particular feeling in my mind, I was spurred on to resolve the matter with all haste, as, once embarked on this project, it would not go away. Eventually, the images match up and the straggling words have found their place. Peace at last. Now I can say that I have prepared my book, Beyond Mercy, for the Kindle and it is now on Amazon Kindle Store.
I did all my learning preparing a book for children,’The girl who knew everything – and more.’ This was ideal, as it was long enough to have a proper Table of Contents to prepare but not to get lost in, before I found a ‘method’.. It had prose but it also had poems. Seven of my books are poetry books.
The Kindle has a ‘text to speech’ facility which is great, but, unless there is adequate punctuation to tell the ‘voice’ to pause, the words are continuous – not needing lungs and air to breathe, it, amusingly, just gabbled on until switched off .
There are many articles and responses on the web which indicate that many poets do not like their work put onto the Kindle, as the formatting/small pages etc ‘ruins the meaning of the poem’. This is apparently when the words may be moved from the exact line or the look of the poem is changed etc from the way it was intended.
I have no problem in this respect – none at all.
In my poems, I do not insert much punctuation, particularly at the ends of lines and I seldom use a full- stop, other than occasionally and if relevant in the middle of a line.. But then, as I said in the foreword of my book, Daily Life, despite having written and published many hundreds of poems, I do not consider myself a poet. I am simply a retired doctor who can write relevant, rhyming, metaphorical verse. Having had a long career as a psychiatrist, and studied how people think, then I know the power that words can have. Towards the end of my career, as I started to write poems, I used my knowledge and ‘poetic ability’ to compose ‘a poem for a particular patient’, if necessary, to enable them to reach within their unconsciousness to their hidden hurt, particularly if they were e.g. too scared to allow this access. In fact, all my poems are written for a particular purpose. I could, by the words, and the order of the words of a poem, rather than by direct intervention/questions etc, allow emotional release and could enable a patient to laugh or cry as was necessary.
So, in the case of preparing a poem for the Kindle, as the order of the words is not altered, I can do what is necessary using extra punctuation, without affecting the purpose to allow the ‘text to speech’ to be relevant I had to do it or the poems were simply fairly continuous and gabbled strings of words. .
I started on this exciting journey and in the process I climbed mountains of confusion before crossing bridges of understanding. Finally I reached my goal and felt the joy of success.
I still feel a sense of almost exhilaration when something that seemed, initially and amid the confusion, impossible, works. I have now downloaded ‘Poems for 3-7 years’, and ‘A girl who had everything – and more’, and my long book, ‘BEYOND MERCY’, onto the Amazon Kindle site and I have dared to look YES, there they are!
I am reliably informed by Amazon Kindle that “by default all Kindle books can be read on Kindle device/applications; Kindle for PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone 7. There is a link which allows customers to download Kindle applications at free of cost at
http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/ref=kcp_ipad_mkt_lnd?docId=1000493771”, and as that is useful information I am including the link address here.
I’m on a ‘roll’ now, and expect to see little else but type, paragraphs, commas, headings, style, bookmarks and hyperlinks for a few weeks. Beyond Mercy was a long book, but the poetry books will need the extra work of punctuation – and there are a lot of poems in six books!
I have to comment that it is impossible to commit time and effort to a project, even when well, without help in the daily running of a home. My husband, who has looked after me with unstinting care during the years I was very ill, took over the cooking when he retired and I haven’t asked for it to be returned to any part of my weekly schedule now that I am well again. He daily presents me, happily, with very tasty food. He is ‘one in a million’ and I wrote my poem ‘An example’ in ‘Daily Life’ as a lasting tribute to him.
On the Amazon Kindle Store, amazon.com or amazon.co.uk just enter ebooks, and write Audrey Coatesworth into the ‘search.
When you read Beyond Mercy, I hope you will enjoy the book and its ‘different’ message. It has links from the fifteenth century to the present. It is in two distinctly different style of writing – again for a purpose. You can read the first chapter and about how and why I wrote it on my Beyond Mercy site( see resources). For the Kindle readers, and the smaller screen, I have made a webpage from which to download and print out the map and family tree in A4 – details are in the Kindle Edition. These are very useful in following the characters and place in the book
An added bonus of this task - I have enjoyed revisiting every page.
Finally, I know, even in my seventies, that it is not too late to have confusion and to conquer technology – if the mind is able and the spirit is willing. Despite years of ill health and pain, those two criteria as still, fortunately, possible.
This may sound like an advertisement for the Kindle, and, in a way, I suppose it is – but how else do I write about this topic? I assure you, I receive no payment for this mention and am not connected with Amazon – other that by submitting my books and ebooks for sale!
Now the confusion has settled, new knowledge has been gained. I have many more books to write and hope I shall have the time left in which to do that, and, eventually, one day in the future, to see my books fly around the world on this new technology, which, if used with honesty and integrity, is wonderful.
Copyright A Coatesworth May 2011