So it’s December 29th already. I can’t believe how fast this year has flown. I guess it’s true what they say “Time flies when you’re having fun.”
I’ve been on holidays now for two weeks. I’ve not done much beyond relax. Granted the unexpected bout of gout has had a lot to do with that. I don’t understand why I always get sick whenever I take holidays. It’s not like I had a massive load of plans anyway, but a week and a half of enforced rest, foot elevated and The Mentalist on TV definitely wasn’t part of the plan.
What the past two weeks has given me though is ample time to think. I’ve thought about my past. I’ve thought about my present. I’ve thought about my future. Possible futures that wander off in the direction I want to go. I’ve thought about turning 40 in August and how I’m not ready to be “old” yet.
It’s funny. When I was a kid, I thought 40 was positively ancient. My parents were 40 and they were old. Now I’m marching towards 40 with a determination I can’t stop and I can’t help but think “40’s not old at all. God I was a stupid kid.”
I guess it doesn’t seem old to me because inside – where it counts – I still feel 18. It’s only when I stumble into the bathroom first thing in the morning and see the tired wrinkled faced, the salt and pepper hair and the blessed bald spot that I realise the outer look no longer reflects the inner feelings.
A part of me still feels like it’s life is just about to begin. I suppose that stems from having ‘waited to grow up’ before I could write. I used to get told that a lot when I was younger. I know people meant well, but I can’t help half feeling that people should have kept their “advice” to themselves.
When I was younger I was a prolific writer. I wrote all the time. I wrote stories, I wrote TV show outlines, I wrote Menu’s if I had nothing else to write (the menu bit actually used to earn me money, I used to design menus for a local coffee shop of all random things).
When I was given the sage advice of “you can’t write now, no one is going to listen to what you have to say, you need to live first” it became the first in a 1000 self created bricks used to stem the flow of writing and suffocate the artist inside myself. I stopped writing in order to live first, so that I could one day write again. Daft I know, but it’s how things happened.
I am a big believer in “we create the world we live in”. I created a long list of people who reinforced in my mind that I was neither ready nor good enough to write. I began the process of trying to pull that wall down in 2007 when I enrolled in a Freelance Writers course at the Sydney Writers Centre. I got really positive feedback from the instructor of that course Valerie. The first positive feedback my writing had ever received.
That was the removal of the first brick.
I put it – the brick – back after I attempted to sell a story and was told by an editor that they weren’t interested in my article and frankly no one paid freelance writers anymore. She did offer to see if she could put the article in “somewhere” but it would be for free.
I ended up telling her not to bother and posting the article for free myself, on a blog I wrote at the time. It got a lot of hits that article and proved to be rather enduring and positively accepted. That was the removal of the first brick for the second time.
I can’t believe that course was over 5 years ago now. I can’t believe how many other courses I’ve done at the Sydney Writers Centre, now the Australian Writers Centre.
And I can’t believe how sturdy the wall is I’ve built around my creative well. I mean honestly, I’m not the handiest of people although I can build an Ikea cupboard in 18 hours which is something of a record I hear.
I failed woodwork at High School. I failed metal work and leather work too. Creativity for me is about words, not what I can do with my hands. My hands don’t get a lot of a look in really. They plant things, grow plants from cuttings and they are used to carry things and insert food into my mouth. That’s about it.
To have built such a strong wall around my creative well, one I struggle with now to remove suggests I should have been a bricklayer or something. Obviously my mental mortar is stronger than the real stuff by far.
In my real life, I am a Conference Director for a corporate events company. I also produce large scale streamed events in half the time other companies provide their staff. I work long hours, most weekends I work from home. I write. I enjoy it. My writing; be it the agenda, the marketing copy, whatever is required is the only space I write with confidence. Sometimes too much confidence I guess, but confidence none the less.
Whenever a sale comes in I think “job well done”. My words have made someone part with cold hard cash to attend the event. I like the feeling. It empowers me in a way I can’t really describe without sounding like a nut case.
The combination of education at the Sydney Writers Centre and my day job’s constant use of words has taught me that writing isn’t just creativity. It’s a business. To succeed at writing you need to be part “head in the clouds” creative and part “hard nosed business executive”.
In the world of independent artists you have to be the product creator, the sales executive, the marketing executive, the editor, the typesetter, the door knocker and the PR maven. Without knowledge of those areas you set yourself behind the eight ball.
In the past few months – after another retreat to the Sydney Writers Centre – I seem to have removed a couple more bricks from that wall. It’s harder work than it looks to believe in your words after so long. But it’s turning out to be the most satisfying experience.
I’ve written more in the past 8 months or so than I have in the past 7 years. I’ve got ideas coming out my ears – some good, some amazing, some downright stupid – and I’ve developed a sense of self confidence.
Maybe the people who told me I had to live before I could write were correct. Or maybe I just reinforced a misguided ideal in my head and now that I’ve reached the part in my life where I have lived I’m allowing myself to take a risk. I really don’t know.
What I do know is this; I don’t believe for a moment you need to live before you write. I don’t believe that you need to allow the doubts of others to cloud your own truth. I knew as a child what I was meant to do with this life. I believed it in a way that burned at my core. I believed it and began to doubt myself when those around me chorused together to tell me they were right and I was wrong.
As creativity begins to emerge, the people who are there to protect the child need to step back and allow that child to follow their own call. If they fall on their face, then they fall on their face. For years I was protected. I don’t see this as wrong, but I do see this as one of the reason I have left my run at my truth to this time period in my life.
I guess the point to this post is two-fold. Firstly, people who know what they are here to do need to just say “Fuck it” and do it. If you are here to write, then write, if you are here to take photographs and perfectly capture a frozen moment in time then do it. If you’re here to sing or dance, or paint then do that. Live the life of your own truth wherever it takes you. There are no guarantees it will take you to the Penthouse, but don’t allow the fears of others to keep you in the poorhouse.
And secondly, allow people to offer advice based on their own belief’s but remember always it is only their truth, not yours. Do not adopt their fears as your own. Trust me, you’ll develop enough fears of your own in your own time. Acknowledge their words and do your own thing.
I have plans for 2013 that I mean to achieve. I have writing projects that will take a fair while to complete and there is no promise anyone but myself will ever see them. But I will do them. I’ve already begun.
Whatever else occurs in 2013 I plan on removing those final bricks in the wall around my creative well. Wherever I end up in 2013 I’m doing it living my truth.