I have to go on record in saying 2016 has been a pretty dismal year. On a world scale we’ve got wars and terrorism all over the place. On a personal scale I’ve been made redundant (again) and the depression I’ve been dealing with seems to be gaining ground on me lately. Frankly the sooner it’s over, the better.
With all that out of the way I made a commitment to myself yesterday. I don’t care if it takes the whole of 2017 but by New Years’ Eve 2017 I will have finished my first novel. Not the first draft, the whole thing.
I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. There really has been no other goal in my life. I’ve spent years wanting it, playing with it, starting and failing to finish project after project. My desktop is filled with the digital equivalent of a story-telling grave yard. Epic fantasy, comedic fantasy, erotica, gay erotic cozy mysteries. They all lived and died here without really taking a breath of life.
I’ve reached the moment in my life where I’m over it. I’ve had enough. I’m sick of sitting here and watching others achieve goals and feeling sorry for myself when they do, and I haven’t. It’s not cute. It’s annoying. And I’m done.
I’m yet to settle on a story idea. I don’t know whether to start a new one or dust off an old one. I do know I’m not touching my epic fantasy idea. For a first novel it’s incredibly daunting and I keep screwing up the timeline.
As neighbours, family, and friends begin the preparation for tomorrow’s Christmas celebrations, I’m beginning the process of finding my voice. I’ve noticed the term ‘snowflake’ drifting around the internet lately. It’s used in a derogative sense to describe the fragile male ego. As a word to describe my commitment however, it’s perfect.
I don’t commit. When things are going well, I go to ground. When things are turning arse-up and the shit is hitting the fan, I go to ground. I run from everything and it’s time to take myself by the throat and force myself to make strides in the direction I want to go. Let’s face it, if I don’t do it, no one else is going to.
Over the past year I’ve worked hard on my depression. I made it a ‘thing’, not a burden. It was there but I just went about my day. I had a job that absorbed every waking hour. Even when I wasn’t there I was thinking about it, planning the next day, working at what I knew was going to be expected.
Since I lost my job the damn ‘thing’ is all I have. Ghostly voices from my past raise and float in my waking moments, regrets pile on top of regrets and I’m reaching the point where I can’t actually do anything other than watch TV. Even that is a chore because my brain will not slow down, won’t focus on the noise and the colour and the story.
Some people rise when they are faced with a smackdown. Me, I just lie there. As I said it’s not cute. It’s bloody annoying.
Attempting to recapture control of both my life and my brain I came, as I always do, to the knowledge the only place I am truly happy is inside my own imagination. Wandering through worlds of my own creation. Playing God with the lives, loves and hopes of character who exist only in my head. Live, die, have a drama, find love, find the killer. It’s the world inside my head that makes me happy. No matter the drama I know what’s going on and I am in control.
I used to write for the love of it. I used to write for the joy I felt when I pulled a character out of the fire. I used to write because without it I felt like a shadow, not really here, wispy and unanchored. I stopped writing for the joy, for the love, when I took a job where I would write all day for a handful of coins and annual leave.
I haven’t written anything of note for a decade. I’ve spent those 10 years writing conferences, marketing copy, sales copy. Products without meaning forgotten almost as soon as the clients walk out the door. I stopped writing for pleasure because life became a chore.
A couple of years ago, in an attempt to get my creative side restarted, I did a novel writing course. Six months dedicated to me, writing my novel, and I did okay in it. The story – which was totally raw – was met with good, high quality, feedback. I learned what an audience expects, what they want from the genre I was writing and where I had my major problems. It was a great experience. I dropped out with only a few weeks to go. The depression flared and I just couldn’t do it. I regret that, but I also use it as a truth.
When the Gods are smiling on me, and the words are flowing, my brain instinctively goes “holy shit, what if we do it this time? I mean people are actually reading my words. They can see me and they can see the inner me and no one wants that.”
Years ago I did one of those 30 CD self help programmes. It talked about fear and it was where I learnt you can be just as afraid of succeeding as you are of failing. That for some people the role of ‘dreamer’ is where they are most comfortable. Do it and the world will fall in on your head.
That fear has broken me more times than I can count. Work, friendships, writing. It doesn’t matter. Whenever I feel on top of the mountain I fall flat on my face. Usually because I push myself over, but that’s a story for later.
For the last decade I’ve carried a fear and a sense of loss which has determined everything I do, everything I see myself as. That fear is gone. That terror of ‘what if I succeed’ is gone. I’m not going to explain either the fear, the cause or the resolution. It’s personal and it’s done.
Yesterday I was sad. Yesterday I forced myself to remember, to face not only the fear, but the actions I’ve taken since. The escape clause that is automatic in every friendship and relationship that triggers without thought.
I’m a lot stronger than I give myself credit for. Sure, 10 years ago I shattered. Picking up the pieces and gluing them back together again left me a bit wobbly. There are a few pieces I don’t think I managed to find and some of the bits are a bit murky but overall I got myself up with a huge amount of help from family and friends.
Yesterday the wobbly bits were a bit steadier. Not fully healed but near enough. I put my life on hold a decade ago. Now, it’s time to do something about restarting it. Not just because I’m unemployed, 43 and live with my parents. But because I am ready.
I am never going to be who I was before the writing stopped. There’s been so much water under the bridge, so many lost nights. But what I can be is the writer I was born to be.
2016 may have been a pretty shitful year but is also the year I reclaimed my heart. It’s the year I reclaimed my right to write. It is the year I looked at myself in the mirror and didn’t completely hate what I see and that makes it an okay year.
I’ve got zero idea about 2017. I feel sort of new born. I know one thing and that is by the end of the year I will have a completed novel ready for publication. Be it independently published or ready to shipped around the publishing houses.
This commitment I make to myself. For no other reason than when my soul dreams of singing, I need to give it every chance to be heard.