The other day on twitter I received a tweet from a follower asking why I’d stopped blogging. I thought about it and realised the main reason I’d stopped was that I simply forgot to sit down and do it. I’ve blogged before about being a gold medal winning procrastinator, but it wasn’t procrastination that stopped me. It was simply a case of I didn’t feel like I had anything to say, at least nothing to say worth the time it would take for anyone to read.
2014 has been a bumpy year. I got a job in February – after 9 months of unemployment – and I found out late on the day before the company went on holidays that my job won’t exist after February this year. I’ve been invited to reapply for the new position should I think I have the appropriate skills to do the new role, but to be honest I’m in two minds about.
I’ve always been an independent worker, and a collaborative leader. I don’t agree with micro-managing staff. It’s disempowering, and if not done effectively, also leaves them feeling worthless. My boss at the moment is a micro-manager. The sort of person who asks you to do things she could easily do for herself, in less time than it takes to actually ask you, and then checks within minutes if you’ve started. She has no concept of how disruptive this sort of management is.
Due to a variety of reasons, both personal and work related I’ve ended up in therapy this year. He’s a nice guy. I feel comfortable talking to him, but to feel as though therapy is the only answer to try and salvage your job is a pretty low feeling. For those of you who follow me on twitter, you’ll already be aware I’ve been having panic attacks on the train and am generally having some major struggles shaking off my inner need to hide in a cocoon. Going to therapy was about the panic attacks and the general sense of worthlessness that was pervading my life.
In an attempt to shake off the feeling of being caged, I returned to a place I felt safe and began a novel writing workshop course. I had originally completed the course about 2 years ago, just before I ended up being made redundant. I had started working on an idea I thought had merit. When I got made redundant however, the writing well dried up, I stopped even trying to figure out the story.
One of my safest places is my imagination. The world inside my head I access when I start writing a piece of fiction. I’d been so scared of shitting all over it, I hadn’t gone near it in too long. I feared I’d left it too late, and I’d never be able to get back to it. So, doing the course was my way of gently trying to pry the door open again.
Two things happened when I did the course. One of course, was I started writing again. The second, which I was at the the time less impressed with, was the fact the entire storyline flew out the window and the story began to reshape itself into something I didn’t know.
I’m writing my novel now, an epic fantasy I’m calling Darkened North. It’s a pretty formulaic epic fantasy. Good v evil, saving the world, that sort of thing. I rather enjoy the time I’m investing while I immerse myself in the new world. A new character suggestion by the workshop leader has opened up a whole new level of story line and one that I think has some major strength.
In part, the feedback I got from that course encouraged me to sign up to a 6 month novel writing group at the Australian Writers’ Centre. It’s pretty much 6 months of workshopping and discussions and I think it’s exactly what I need to gain some confidence that has been dripping away for quite some time.
I had a couple of years ago been working on a gay romance novel. It was never meant to be anything other than writing practice, but I started posting bits of it on a forum I’m a member of. I realised recently, that those posts are still getting read, and they’re attracting people to reply to the thread to discuss the characters and ask if there’s anymore coming. I have wanted to write all my life. I never believed I would be able to connect with an audience, and for all the talk about “writing for joy, not readers” that I’ve read, the reality for me is I write to be read.
To know that a story idea is still attracting requests for more 9 months or so after I last wrote anything on it is really important to me.
I recently read a quote about writing the first draft of anything. I can’t remember it exactly but the gist of it is “Writing a first draft is basically shovelling sand into a sandpit, you build the sandcastles when you’re editing.”
I quite liked it. That quote has given me back the joy I had in writing. While I still write for an audience – and any writer who says they don’t is a liar – by taking away the pressure to turn out brilliance immediately, I’ve given myself the opportunity to play again. It’s been a long time, and at 41, there are a lot of reasons you can come up with as to why playing is not appropriate.
So that’s where I’ve been. Running around a world inside my head, shovelling sand into the pit and hoping one day to make sandcastles. I guess it’s that time of year, where people decide next year won’t be about the daily grind, where people make themselves promises that it will be better, or different.
There are only 2 promises I’m making for next year. That I find a new job fast, and that I finish the first draft of Darkened North. Nothing else matters to me as yet, beyond those two goals.