“Such is the World, such Man, such Love. What are we (I ask) but puppets in a show-box? Oh, omnipotent Destiny, pull our strings gently! Dance us mercifully off our miserable little stage!”

— Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White

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Reason #50 to Keep Living: Gratitude

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I am — we are — halfway to 101 reasons to keep living. Above you’ll see a (rather simplistic) collage I made, including some of the photos posted throughout this blog series.

Beginning with my first post, “Color,” I intended this series to be specifically about mental illness. 101 Reasons to Keep Living certainly has been about mental illness, but it has been more about mental health in all of its facets and about life in general. Because, unlike other illnesses, mental illness is intricately connected to every part of our lives. It may be genetically transferred, it may be rooted in human physiology, but it is undoubtedly shaped by our environments.

Despite experiencing my regular ups and downs over the last two years, I have found joy, inspiration, and beauty in my everyday activities precisely because of these blog posts. My “environment” has never seemed so spectacular.

So, I would like to say thank you. Thank you for clicking, reading, and showing me that you care. Thank you for discovering your own reasons to keep living.

Thank you for surviving, really. That’s all I’m trying to say. All of these posts, all of these pictures, are only to thank you for surviving. That’s the gist of it. Thank you for living and for writing about it. Thank you for following me in my own survival.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Now, only fifty-one more reasons to go! Continue reading

Reason #49 to Keep Living: Rejuvenation

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It has been a very, very long time since I have felt rested in any sense of the word. Perhaps as a consequence, all the writing I have done in the past five months or so has been forced (at worst) and usually uninspired.

I wrote the final exam of my undergraduate degree just under a month ago, and it has taken that long to rediscover my “normal” self (if there is such a thing as my normal self). Some time away from the city — see the picture above — and some time spent with my rather carefree brother helped to fight my fatigue. During the last couple of days I have experienced actual excitement and a sense of purpose with regards to my creative writing. How extraordinary! I had nearly forgotten what a difference inspiration can make. Continue reading

A Fine Farewell

UWO’s student journal, Occasus, has published one story, two poems, and one experimental piece of mine in the 2017 issue (launched today). This journal has been very, very good to me throughout my time at university. Now that I have completed my degree, this is the last publication I will have in the journal.

To bid me an especially fine farewell, Occasus granted my story, “Alyson and the Haunting of the Home Decorating Store,” first prize in its contest. This is a story inspired both by my time working at Pier 1 Imports and by an old coworker of mine. It is also a story I thought would forever go misunderstood. It deals with very subtle Marxist themes, but more significantly with the dangerous undercurrents lurking within retail. In addition, it’s slightly comedic — and, considering comedy is something I always struggle with, this story provides a nice alternative to my usual writing.

Farewell, Occasus! It’s been swell.

http://www.occasusliteraryjournal.com/issue-7.html

Reason #48 to Keep Living: Staying Offline

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Disclaimer: I did not take this photo; my brother did while climbing a tree in order to get a closer look at this long-nailed, big-lipped buddy. I was down below, on the ground, watching the magic unfold. In another, blurrier photo, the porcupine shows his orange teeth in what looks like a smile, but is probably closer to a territorial snarl.

This all happened in a forest far away from the internet. I spent a week at a camp, not going online once, and found it heavenly. I have always been a proponent of “less screen time,” but I often fail to achieve my own ideals, what with this blog and various social media outlets pulling constantly at my attention. I didn’t realize until I spent this week away from computers how much these distractions were affecting me. Recently, my creative writing has been scarce — partly because my focus was previously on academic writing for summer school, but also partly because my mind was much too scattered to produce a coherent narrative.  Continue reading

Couplets Episode 10: Catriona Wright and… Me!

Do you like poetry? Do you like experimentation? Do you like Thursday evenings of art and writing and literary surprises? Come see me and Catriona Wright give a collaborative hour-long performance on June 29 from 6-7 pm at The ARTS Project in London. For more details, follow the links below!

Also, did I mention it’s free admission?

https://coupletsreadingseries.wordpress.com/2017/05/27/episode-10-catriona-wright-erica-mckeen/

https://www.facebook.com/events/427829680923669/

New Writing, New Reading…

Finally! My creative writing has once again entered the public sphere!

The lovely literary journal, Persephone’s Daughtersfor which I am a reader, published one of my short stories today. It is called “Married Life,” and it delves into the psychological and emotional confusions of rape culture, submission, and a society entrenched in manners. The writing style differs from a lot of my other works: it is abrupt and purposefully artificial, verging on metafiction.

Have a read, tell me what you think, and feel free to check out the other amazing pieces in this issue. The journal focuses on all areas and ideas surrounding the abuse of women — it is stories of survival through art.

I think it goes without saying that communication and understanding regarding these issues are unutterably important to me.

Read my story and others like it here.

Reason #36 to Keep Living: Pain

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This winter has been the easiest for me in years. I’ve methodically incorporated wellness techniques into my schedule, including journal writing, daily gratification, a sunlamp, healthy eating (most of the time), consistent exercise, and medication. I have been efficient, productive, and social. I have been everything Western society claims one must be to achieve success.

But have I been successful? I haven’t written anything seriously my own in nearly a year. Worse than that, I haven’t wanted to write anything seriously my own. The desire to write comes sometimes, briefly, like the rank smell of cigarettes on the wind, and then drifts on by me. I write what I need to in order to get through my university courses, but my heart doesn’t settle deeply within the words like it always used to. Continue reading

Reason #32 to Keep Living: Being an Artist, Being a Woman

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I have recently embarked on the journey of being a prose reader for a literary magazine that focuses on the stories and sufferings of abused women. I at first thought (to my genuine embarrassment) that this was a paid position. On learning that it was not, and that in fact no one working for this magazine is paid, I was at first upset, and then angry, and then grateful. Continue reading