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Creative Retreat

2012 has been a roller coaster ride for me. Lot’s a big dips and fast corners. Days of nothing with a frenzy of activity that sets my pulse racing and my brow beading with sweat. It’s not over yet, but as of Friday my working year is.

In the last few weeks I’ve been focused almost 24/7 on finalising my latest conference. It’s much bigger and more involved than anything I’ve worked on before. Given the extremely short time period I had to finalise it I’m quite proud of the end result.

It’s also taught me just what I can do when my focus is on a project of a much larger scale than I’m usually comfortable with. This program is the first for our company, and the launching point of a whole new division. Launching a division I’ve done before. I did it 18 months ago when I joined my company as their first – and only – producer.

Today I’m in charge of that division and am birthing another one. Birthing the creative vision of another person is satisfying. Having that person place their trust in you and your ability with words is satisfying. It’s also an exercise in self-awareness and trust.

If the owner of the company has that much faith in your ability to write effectively, to shape and create a vague idea into a solid, high content, product, it forces me to address the question “why don’t I?”

I have some great ideas for writing projects, some that are bit fluffy, but mostly the ideas are fairly strong. They should be. I’ve spent years thinking about them, writing down notes and dot points. I know the characters, the settings, the suggested outcomes. Yet putting finger to keyboard seems so final. What if no one likes them? I’ve come to realise that a large amount of my self-definition comes not from writing but from “wanting to write”. I’m a wannabe.

When I do put finger to keyboard, the drafting isn’t a problem. Granted, editing is a whole other story, particularly when I get lost in it and end up ripping the guts and originality out of it. But I fear rejection, and I can’t seem to allow “my voice” to be heard.

Rough as they may be, the initial drafts are in my voice. By the time I’ve edited them they sound like pale, whispy things, devoid of originality, and devoid of heart, soul or humour. For the first time in several years, I’ve taken annual leave.

My company closes down over Christmas each year, but this year I’ve taken an extra week. Next week I am at home. A chance to unwind, to relax, to get the house in shape before my annual Boxing Day Hoot’n’Nanny. It is also a chance to look towards firming up some plans for 2013.

Just supposing the world doesn’t end on the 21st of December 2012, the idea of forming some goals, some parameters to use as guidelines for 2013 is a good one. I don’t want to make the same goals I’ve made every year since time began – lose weight, quit smoking, pay off credit card – but some goals and guidelines to give my ongoing creative recovery a bit more steam.

As is well documented in here, I’m a procrastinator. I procrastinate about everything. If I can put it off until tomorrow I’ll do it on Thursday. Everything I do is an excuse to procrastinate. Even my day job. I am utterly drained at the end of the day. By the time I get home I simply lay on the bed, and watch TV. Maybe tweet a bit.

I find that work is the main excuse for not writing. Week days I’m too tired and most weekends I’m doing research or trying to come up with 3 commercially viable conference ideas for my staff for the next month. It’s a valid excuse to a degree.

But you have to wonder when someone uses work as an excuse for everything, whether or not they really are that busy or are they making themselves busy just to have an excuse not to take a risk.

I used to write when I was younger because it was all I had. I didn’t have friends at school, I had tormentors. When I got home from school I hid in my room and weekends were spent losing myself in a fantasy world, not going to parties or hanging out.

When I went to work I made friends for the first time. I went out. I socialised. There were parties and hangovers every weekend. It was a whirlwind of social activity and threw myself into it with abandon. I partied harder than everyone. I drank harder than everyone. I danced and I laughed and I spent the Sunday recovering either at home or at another party.

As I got older, the partying continued, new friends replacing old. And it’s not until recently that I’ve realised staying on the Venga Bus was another form of procrastination, another form of escaping into a fantasy world. It was an excuse to avoid writing, to be “a wannabe” rather than an am.

So much of my self-identity has been caught up in “wanting to write” that part of me wonders what will happen when I do it. When I write the novel or the screenplay or the web series and have it made into a product, what do I do then?

My main goal during my holidays is to clear that repetitive thought pattern. To work on an idea without fear. I’ve got so many. Most of which don’t really interest me, but there are a couple that do. By the time I go back to work in January, I want to be able to say

“I used my holidays well. I’m re-energised, I’m ready for another year and I’ve made some major milestones in *insert project here*”.

For now, I have to go and finish a research brief that was sprung on me at the last minute and which I didn’t have time to complete before I left work on Friday. If I don’t one of my team won’t have a product to work on.

I guess the point of this post is that sometimes the goal itself becomes the reality and if you don’t take the steps to move beyond the “dream” you end up stuck in a rut, dreaming but never doing.

Only I can take those steps to make the dream real.

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43 year old Australian writer currently working on the first of a planned three book Epic Fantasy series. When he's not writing policy discussions, or tales of swords, Gods, and magic, he can be found making a mess in the kitchen, and turning perfectly good ingredients into crimes against humanity.

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