Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Create because you want to, not to impress others.

A few things have happened lately:

  1. I stopped blogging. This wasn’t intentional, I just did. I was tired, I was stressed, one thing led to another...yadayadayada.
  2. I started comparing myself to other ‘good’ writers.
  3. I started feeling that I’m not a good writer.

I think that counts as ‘a few’ things.

So I had a bit of a creative meltdown. But then I had an epiphany:


What I mean is I’d begun to try and write stories that other people would like. It had become my primary focus: writing to impress my friends/my colleagues/my tutor/potential publishers etc. I ended up tying myself in knots about how it wasn’t going to be good enough for them and I lost the joy of writing. I sat at the screen, unable to type through fear of writing ‘rubbish’. A form of writer’s-block, I guess.

Having realised this, the very same day I sat down to work on something, and just wrote to please me. I wrote what I wanted to write,  switching off that harshest of critics – the one in my head – who tells me my work is no good. Sure, my attempts might not be as good as those of my idols, or others in a similar field (I discovered one Jane Flett the other day, and was perturbed by the similarities) but, who cares? I like writing. Besides, that’s what editors are for, right?

Whatever you want to do in life, do it because you want to, not because someone else might like it. That’d be selling out, and no one likes a sell-out.

Except maybe concert hall managers.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Thinking about things.

Inside my brain!

Taking my lead from Jo Swinney, as I so often seem to do, this blog post is an insight into some of the things on my mind. You can read about the things on Jo’s mind here.

I am waiting to hear about a million jobs I’ve applied for, most interestingly one I just sent off today. Am really excited about that one – watch this space!

I am (very) happy about being in a relationship with Steph. She’s awesome in many ways. Hopefully you’ll meet her one day, or maybe I’ll get her to write a guest post sometime...

I am grateful for having time and ability to pursue many different interests, such as this blog, my uni course, music and Dr Who! And I am very grateful for my family and those friends who are just always...there, no matter what. Thank you.

I am working on my final assignment for my latest Open Uni module, as well as job applications, a couple of short stories and my non-fiction project (which I really should explain a little more about sometime!). I am also working on worrying less about silly things, and not stressing as much!

I am enjoying simply being alive, to be honest, most of the time anyway. (Crap. I’ve become one of those people, haven’t I?!) And I’m definitely enjoying getting to know S and spending time with her.

I think this is a good exercise – invariably I spend too much time considering the negative things on my mind, so it’s nice to stop and deliberately remember there’s a lot of positive stuff in there too.

What kind of things are filling your brian (sic)?

Monday, 12 September 2011

Life at break-neck speed.

Just a few of the things I need to do...

A good mate just told me: ‘You need to take some time to chill, otherwise, it’ll kill you – perhaps even literally if you end up so tired you drive into a tree on your way home one Sunday evening!’

I worked out today that I’ve not had a weekend at home since the 6th August. Add to that coursework, day-work, housework, job applications, redundancy-fears, new-relationship-excitement, this blog, short story projects, a novel in the back of my mind, a non-fiction book on the go, music to play/write...and you get the picture.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, not at all. Life is good at the moment, very good. I’m just aware that I could burn out if I don’t...well...’chill’. (Though for anyone who might worry, I won’t be driving into any trees, I promise!)

So, I’m trying to find ways I can relax in amongst doing things. For example, I like a good cup of tea when I’m writing/working at home, and usually I’ll put the kettle on and go back to the computer while it boils. But I’m trying to just stop. Wait, just for the five minutes for the tea to be ready. The (few) times I’ve managed it, it’s helped my brain to re-focus, and, occasionally, even helped the creative process.

Now I’m trying to find other little ways I can just slow down.

And, I’m remembering I don’t have to do everything today; there’s always tomorrow. What’s more, I’ll probably do a better job if I don’t panic and try and squeeze everything in to one evening.

Relax. Take an hour to read even! (Shocking!) The tasks on that list will still be there, and we’ll probably be better equipped to do them after a little break...

Either that, or it’s a good excuse for procrastination. (Now that sounds like a great title for a song...)

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Dealing with stress.

I’m not particularly stressed today, but I have been – what with not yet finding a job, uni work on my mind, creative projects being pushed out etc etc. And I know a few other people who are feeling pretty pressured at the moment. Sometimes it’s difficult to deal with.

I am grateful to have learned a little about Mindfulness, as I’ve mentioned before on this blog, and it’s been a help during some of my more fraught moments over the last few weeks.

Just to expand a little, so often we’re focussed on something else: our destination, what we’re going to do tomorrow, the jobs that we’re not getting done right now. I guess I sound a little like Yoda: ‘Never his mind on where he was, what he was doing.’

We can miss out on so much of life in this way. Earlier this year, I got stuck in traffic at rush hour near Heathrow airport and I was pretty vexed about it, until I remembered about Mindfulness. I started thinking about where I was, navigating London rush hour, something I’d heard a lot about but never done. Suddenly, it was actually quite exciting.

Eventually I made it out of London and onto the M40, where I still kept focussing on the job in hand – driving my car. What did it feel like? The steering wheel; the sound of my tyres on the tarmac; the other cars nearby me. What was the weather like? And as I looked to the sky, to the horizon, I was treated to a beautiful sunset. I felt privileged to be there.

If I hadn’t been stuck in traffic, I’d never have seen that. If I hadn’t stopped to consider the now, but remained frustrated, stressing about something I could essentially do nothing about, I’d probably never have noticed the warm orange sun melting into the distance, leaving purple clouds behind...

And the very act of stopping, remembering to just breathe, taking in my surroundings, was in itself calming. I enjoyed my journey in the end, and perhaps these techniques can help us all when we start to feel things are getting on top of us.

Though I still won’t be rushing to plough through London’s tea-time traffic again...

Monday, 5 September 2011

Learn to laugh (at yourself).

I think buying matching 'laugh' plaques
 is a good way to start any relationship!

Recently I began a relationship with a wonderful girl. (Hurrah!) But that’s not what this is about...

A good friend of mine offered me some advice prior to the beginning of said relationship. He said: ‘Take her out, go for coffee, laugh.’ For some reason, it was the final piece of advice that stuck the most.

Laughter is the best medicine. It can diffuse many tensions, let people know you’re not upset, and, more importantly, it’s fun!

But there’s something else: Rob Bell (again!) at Greenbelt said we really need to learn to laugh at ourselves, because, if we don’t, we’re just going to take everything to heart and end up hurt a lot more than we need to be (or something like that anyway).

I know I’m a bit unusual in some ways, and I take pride in that – ‘It’s all about the quirk’, I say. And I make stupid mistakes, like taking a load of large cardboard boxes to the recycling centre right before going to collect something packaged...in a large cardboard box. (Doh!) I could have gotten annoyed at the waste of time, but, actually, it’s quite funny – better I laugh at it, than someone else does when I’m feeling frustrated and annoyed!

The final thing I think about laughter is: we shouldn’t take life too seriously. We’re not here that long, let’s have fun while we are! Do silly things, just for the hell of it: sing Christmas songs in July; wear daft glasses – or a fez – on family occasions; play the wash-board at jam nights.

Take photos of it all and then, in years to come, laugh at it again.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Some days the world can get you down. But...

Don't despair!
Some days the world just gets you down. It might be some bad personal news, or a tragedy reported in the media, or, as it was for me today, just a simple line bringing to mind some of the flaws in the world.

There are so many things that can bring pain, upset or difficulty in life. Sometimes it’s really easy to let them drag you down into a pit of despair – what’s the point in trying in the face of such problems?

But, in this short post, I just want to say that, whilst there are many ‘bad’ things going on, don’t let them drown out the good. The line in the email I received today was about a church (and the very mention of that ‘c’ word in itself will conjure up negativity for some of you!), and, though it depressed me, it also reminded me of why I’m working on a particular writing project at the moment, spurring me on all the more to make progress.

That’s pretty positive, for a ‘bad’ thing.

And, even if we can’t turn something round like that, there’s still no cause to throw in the towel completely. Yes, things go wrong, but look at the good work done by aid organisations and individuals across the globe. Or consider the friends we have, or the partners, pets, housemates – whatever – those people who are there, who have shared times, made memories, laughed, cried...just lived alongside us through everything. I believe there is always some good to be found, if we only look for it.

As Martyn Joseph – and 6,000 or so fans – sang at Greenbelt: ‘There’s still a lot of love around here...’

I wholeheartedly agree.