Returning to Our Past Selves

I was going to post a very angry blog about gratitude and how ingratitude is perhaps one of the deepest sins imaginable, and, as you can probably guess, I’ve been experiencing lots of it at the moment.

But that probably wouldn’t be a very nice blog to read. In fact, it would be rather ungrateful of me to reward the time you have devoted to reading my blogs with something that leaves a sour taste in the mouth. A lot of content on the internet leaves this unpleasant taste: criticising religion (or lack of), criticising political viewpoints, criticising lifestyle and body shape and perspective.

So let’s get away from that and talk about something rewarding.

If you’ve been following/are added to me on Facebook at all you will know that recently I’ve been posting lots of pictures of wargaming miniatures I’ve been painting to collect hobby points for a Journeyman League. The league is nothing serious, just a but of fun at my local gaming store, but participating in it has had a profound effect on my mental wellbeing.

When I was younger, I did LOTS of wargaming. Every Sunday I went down to worship at the warhammer shop. This continued right through until I was about 18 at which point I left Bournemouth for University and couldn’t take the droves of models with me. I’d also been slowing down with my collecting because Games Workshop had started to hike the prices up extortionately, and for a number of other reasons I was starting to fall out of love with them.

For the next four years I did not touch a wargaming model again although I kept up with Dungeons and Dragons and videogames and always thought that one day I might get back into it.

Eventually, I did. I found this amazing place just down my road called Lvl Up which introduced me to a new system that was (1) far easier on the wallet as it was a skirmish game in which only a few models were required and (2) had a rules system which was much better thought out and crafted than Warhammer (sorry folks just my opinion).  The backstory was also B-E-Autiful!

A “Void Spirit”, the colour scheme inspired by Nashandra from the Dark Souls universe

So, once I’d restocked my paints, brushes and modelling putty I went on a painting spree. It took me a while to remember the tips and tricks I’d learned but when they came flooding back I found myself painting more than ever. It was so therapeutic. I became so much more relaxed at work and level headed when it came to problem solving. I looked forward to Mondays rather than dreading them because Monday night was wargaming night.

A conversion – this one is meant to be a Skorne willbreaker who controls warriors with his mind and breaks the fighting spirit of his opponents (hence the severed heads hanging from his belt on the other side of him)

And, even more wonderfully, this immersion in wargaming has re-sparked my desire to write poetry. When I left Uni I’d had three solid years of poetry and I was starting to become disillusioned with the whole thing. Every poem I wrote started to feel forced and I felt like a broken record saying the same things over and over again. Performance Poetry had lost its buzz and felt pretentious. My classical poetry was rejected by most people as outdated and irrelevant.

So I stopped and decided to focus on my prose where I still felt I could make waves and was still feeling creatively rewarded. I had four years of prose writing and produced something like ten novels.

In the last four moths I finished two very large novels and was frankly worn out. I took a break and started writing short stories every now and then just to keep it ticking over, but I started to get nervous the next novel idea wasn’t coming. Normally with me there’s always an idea in the back of my mind as to what the next story will be. Was I running out of steam already at 21?

No, I was just over-saturated.

After a few weeks of germination, an idea for a longer story suddenly popped into my head. Its roots lay in the ending of Dark Souls 2 combined with some of the backstory I’d been reading for my new wargaming army ‘Skorne’. There was also a large chunk of the Icelandic epic ‘Njal’s Saga’ somewhere in there. I knew straight away this story couldn’t work as a novel: this was the one thing I was sure about.

No, this was an epic poem.

Another conversion, this one was a favourite to paint. He is meant to represent a lesser warlock who has a sword called Deathsong…

When the first few lines poured out I felt a rush of joy and I felt like I was suddenly rushing towards some sort of creative apex. I could put up with the ingratitude at work and the berating coming from all sides now; I was once again doing what I should be doing: playing with language and telling a dark fantasy story.

So, what’s the point of this story? Well, it applies to you. Don’t be afraid to return to something you used to do. Don’t box up your life and compartmentalise it: “Oh, the old me used to do that not the new.” Sometimes it’s good to move on and other times it’s good to get back to your roots. In my case it was gaming and poetry but in your case it might be a sport or lifestyle choice (you used to have croissants every Friday as a kid – whatever!). It could even be a place: somewhere where you felt truly yourself.

Go back to that place and you’ll feel a hell of a lot better.

Follow Joseph on twitter @josephwordsmith or start following this blog for more updates.

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3 thoughts on “Returning to Our Past Selves

  1. Can’t wait to read your epic poem, Joe! It sounds fantastic. And thanks for the inspiration – in addition to writing a show with a pile of songs, I’m toying with the idea of starting a novel this summer. I have this idea that just won’t go away…

    1. Thank you very much! That’s fantastic news! You should definitely go for it. Your writing is so crisp and soulful it deserves the higher word count! I’m going to be doing some ink illustrations to go with the poem as well – strange how an idea can spring fully formed sometimes isn’t it? Like Athena from the temple of Zeus! I’d be honoured to read a draft/sample of your book once you’re happy to share, only if that’s ok by you as I undertsand some secrets must be guarded! Alternatively I can do a review on here once it hits the shelves?

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