So I’m back from a two week holiday away with my husband and the pusses. Sometimes you need to take a break from something in order to realise how much its taking out of you. This has absolutely been the case with me and my recent splurge of writing efforts.
I love to write and part of my problem (which is also part of my blessing) is that I get inspired by a hundred things a day. By movies and TV. By books. By advertisements. By current feminist debates. By the current developments in lifelong learning. By cooking and food and recipes. By the natural world around me. By the people I know and the choices they make and what they are doing with their lives. I get inspired by everything and sometimes it is overwhelming.
Before I took my break, I had a hefty list of writing commitments.
* I wrote blogs about cookery, poetry, reviews of media and fashion.
* I also wrote an irregular blog about anything which took my fancy over on Tumblr.
* I follow 500 accounts on twitter, I wrote and shared tweets, including #vss.
* I wrote articles about education, mental health and writing, some for publication and some for my own interest.
* I wrote short stories for submission to magazines and competitions, which was a new direction for me.
* I also had new ideas for novels at a rate of one per week
* I was developing an idea about a teaching text books and stories about my experiences as a tutor.
Away from writing I had a whole host of other commitments too. These included:
* Working a full time job, 9-5, teaching adults across the North West of England
* Privately tutoring several people a week in the evenings and at weekends
* Acting as an editor/reviewer of my husband’s writing
* Taking care of my husband and kitties
* Taking the lead on housework
* Completing my own CPD research for my job
* Working on craft work projects such as knitting and sewing
* Reading books in preparation for writing reviews
In the middle of all of this, I also had a medication review and had my dose doubled, which acted as a powerful sedative. Oh, and on top of THAT I was getting ready to go on an extended holiday! It turned out to be more than I could handle while keeping my own health together.
Something had to give and I decided to let it be the writing rather than myself. Coming back now I’m ready to start thinking about picking up the pieces and looking for a way forwards. I don’t want to drop any of my projects, but I need to take a step back and think about how to organise them a bit more effectively without running myself into the ground.
My husband’s previous therapist told him that an avalanche of ideas was the sign of a genuinely creative mind, and this resonates with me very strongly. I don’t love any of my creative foci the less for taking a break from them now and then. I tend to come back stronger.
I learned from Champagne Style on a Shandy Budget that writing blog posts on a daily basis was only sustainable over a short period of time. In the first flush of creativity when I had a wardrobe full of clothes and a drawer set full of products to talk about, this was more than easy to do. However, as my supplies ran dry and my self esteem took a battering through feeling tired and ill, it became very difficult to write with any authority about how to be stylish or look good at all. In order to maintain my creative output, I clearly need to take several things into account, including the following:
* I don’t write well on a schedule. My anxiety, when it spikes, causes me to shut down when faced with deadlines which I don’t feel I can meet. Writing on this sort of schedule stifles my creativity and makes me feel guilty for focusing my efforts in a different direction.
* I need to be able to switch between subjects according to what grabs my attention. I write my best and most passionate articles when seized by the heat of the moment and I need to allow myself the freedom to respond to those inspirations without shutting them down in negativity.
* I clearly needed a central home for my writing endeavors and this is now in effect with the launch and existence of Project Shandy. This will give me one thing to focus on rather than the spread out efforts across the web.
* I need to accept that writing anything is better than writing nothing and not beat myself up for not meeting ‘targets’ which I hold myself accountable to and nobody else.
* I need to have patience and wait until my current round of submissions have been responded to, either positively or negatively, before submitting anything else. I need to have a plan and a list of potentially interested parties for different projects and work on taking second passes and editing my work before submitting it in a tidal wave of enthusiasm.
I’ve been a lucky new writer, I’ve experienced a small but significant amount of success and managed to get the attention of some influential people, including agents, magazines, publications, other writers, journalists, presses and publishers. I need to make sure I steady myself and don’t burn out that goodwill.
For me, writing isn’t something I’ll ever ‘retire’ from and there isn’t a deadline in place past which I won’t consider trying for publication and success. This is the long haul for me, and while yes I’ve put a lot of effort into new ideas recently and received something of a rush of recognition in a short space of time, I don’t want to drain myself dry.
My impetus to pull all of this effort together came from a rather dark place. There’s nothing like a good old fashioned spurt of jealousy and bitterness to make you pull your finger out and show the world what you’re capable of, lest you find yourself being viewed as lesser than someone you personally consider beneath you. My moment of ‘why can’t I have that’ spurred me forwards into ‘why aren’t I DOING that?’ and then suddenly I was, and it has felt like coming home. I have no intention of leaving either. I just need to rearrange the furniture a bit so that I can get a bit more comfortable in here.
So… let’s back up a bit. Put the house in order and mend the stairs. Give the gate a new coat of colour and work on walking forwards one step at a time. Running comes later. As does flying. I’m in no rush. If you hear less from me for a little while, it’s not because I’ve run out of things to say. It’s just because I’m picking the best words and getting them pinned down in the right order first. Which is what every writer should aim for.
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