Anger Management

I had two bad incidents happen this week. Members of the public deciding to have a go at me at work. In one of them, we had to call the police. For both of them, I came away shaking with frustration, close to tears, incredulous. And both incidents were started when I made the mildest of requests in the most polite tones I have. By the end of the week, I felt like a target. And I was sure I was going to be hauled into someone's office to face a complaint. I had a day off after the second incident, which I spent fretting, worrying and reliving the incident- something I'll bet those members of the public never did. Fortunately, the dressing down never came. In fact, both times I was proved to be in the right. Which is not to say I won't be dressed down in future.
I've been at my job for twenty five odd years now. For the first twenty, I never had anything said about my character. Then I got a particular boss who decided he was popular with the public. He would "befriend" certain people; and very often those people would turn out to be- what's the politest term?- distressed. Socially awkward. Borderline criminal. Eventually, his friendliness backfired on him. His new friends became nuisances even to himself. He had to look out of his office window carefully before he could step out, in case one of them accosted him. One or two of them even decided that they were allowed inside his office, to help themselves to whatever was there.
Until he reviewed his friendliness, though (which was very often of a Give them what they want, don't bother me about it nature), I kept running foul of whichever new friend he'd just made. The regular stuff I'd been asking people for years was suddenly offensive. I was rude, surly, officious, unfriendly, and I wouldn't wear a teddy bear costume (don't ask). It was a nightmare. I felt like I had nowhere to turn to. Friends (of mine, that is) would say things like: Don't worry, it takes ages to fire somebody. But why was I ever in danger of being fired anyway?
This boss, incidentally, was a perfectly nice man in many respects. When you had family bereavements, illness, any major problems, he would put himself out on a limb for you. But when dealing with strangers, he was desperately naive, he just couldn't see through the most obvious ruses.
Then, a couple of years ago, the building where we were working was sold off. There was a great outcry in the area, what about the local community?, etc. But I was glad. I was off to a brand new posting with a brand new boss. And whereas I'm normally sympathetic to the needs of local communities, in this case I thought: stuff the lot of you.
I've managed to get some writing practice done. A couple of times this week when I was alone with my notebook but not my laptop (on which I'm typing directly my latest short story). At first, I thought I couldn't go through with it. It's slightly different from Julia Cameron's Morning Pages, where you write about whatever's on your mind. With writing practice, you give yourself a topic, and you have to confront that topic, however you feel about it.
Other stuff comes up- other stuff always does. That's good. But like dentisty, you're going to hit something painful any minute now. I was writing about religion, and my dad kept slipping into it. I have a motto which I use on the days when I'm reluctant to start: Even one sentence can make a difference. I'm prepared to write one sentence and leave it at that. At least then, you've worked on the project, moved it forward. Give yourself a word count by all means, but make it realistic (mine's 150 words a day). Anyway, what usually happens is, the first sentence leads onto the second, the second to the third, and before you know it, you've logged in your word count and maybe even gone over it.
The painful stuff comes up, you write about it, maybe day after day. And then you leave it, until your unconscious finds a way to use it, for fiction, poems, etc. What Natalie Goldberg, who developed Morning Pages, calls composting (if you haven't already, read Writing Down The Bones, it's terrific). She recommends that, for beginners, you don't attempt any fiction or poetry until you've tried Writing Practice for seven years. For those of us who have written pieces before we've tried Writing Practice, she says to give ourselves six months, in which we don't attempt anything but writing practice.
I like the idea of taking a six month break. Not attempting to write any new fiction. Perhaps rewriting first drafts, which I keep putting off. I'll see.


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