My first post New Year, New Writing debuted a year ago today. I sound a bit despondent in the post about ever finding inspiration or finishing the book I am writing. Despite not being where I thought I would be I recently reviewed my year and did better than expected. And this blog has been such a part of that journey for me. My blog birthday is the perfect time to decide what’s next…
My most popular posts have been Reviews like this one of great historical drama: The Mermaid and The Bear. I aim to do more reviewing this year and to highlight my favourite genres like gothic novels and intriguing first person novels. I have also set myself the task of “reading up” all the books on my shelves (Kindle/or real) as my to be read pile is so huge.
I love sharing real life updates and try to be inspiring to others like me. I have a new Instagram.com/mumwritenow for inspiring quotes and things that take my fancy. I also plan to write more about my Artist Date experiences. I love this list of Cheap and Easy Artist’s Dates but really want to add some ideas to this and commit to the practice. Julia Cameron – whose book The Artist Way has been so instrumental in my creative recovery – recommends that Artists (and may be everyone) take out two hours a week to explore and enchant with something new so that we can reinvigorate our inner Artist.
Finally the biggest commitment I want to make is not to this blog at all, but to my writing. I want to reassert my right to the time to write. I want to make writing much more than a hobby. And I want to plod on, day-by-day, towards the finish line of not one, but two different projects I am working on.
Any fans of the Gretchen Rubin Happier Podcast know Elizabeth and Gretchen reset every year with a list of goal. But instead of over-arching vague ideas, they get you to be specifoc. In 2019 I did it all: I set a word of the year, I set new goals 19 for 2019 and I started a Happiness Project. Habits were changed: more time was spent reading, blogging and cleaning. But despite that I am struggling to feel the sense of achievement I ought to. So I thought it was time to review what I had achieved.
Writing goals: I plotted the first three chapters of my comedic novel and I blogged almost every week but did I complete my first draft of my novel? Reader, I think you may know by now I did not. I am 24 days off my first post on this blog: could I get it in on time for my Blogeversary?
Work Goals: Within months of starting the year, I started a new job. Thank you Universe for finding me flexible, interesting work. I have a lot to learn but I just found out I passed probation and I am a permanent staff member. There’s lots of training coming up in the New Year so this is one thing I can tick off my 19 for 2019.
Blog Goals: It was part way through the year before I started to get a hang of this blogging stuff. I have set up a Pinterest page and I am planning to develop in this area to make my content more. professional in future. This one will go to next year’s list.
HEALTH AND WELLBEING GOALS
Selfcare Goals: Are yoga and swimming part of my weekly life? No, they are not. Upholding these goals have been a very long term struggle. The few hours I have to do it, I do not get up and go. Lets be honest, this one will always have to be on my list but I am working on how to make it a habit.
Friendship Goals: I have completed some of my goals to see people more though scraping them in at the last minute by seeing Movies the last couple of weekends of the year. We are yet to have people for dinner but I know we had friends for brunch once, so that counts. I think I need to combine the exercise and friends goals probably to fit it all in.
Activity Goals: I didn’t manage to see three musicals but I did see two and the Tutankhamun exhibit so I am putting this down as a win. I know expensive activities can’t be everyday, but I am glad that the practice of Artist’s Dates is opening me up to a more creative life.
Education Goals: I am still stuck in the quagmire or applying for the right support for my son. This is a difficult one to have as a goal because I am at the mercy of other people. Despite not being through with this part of the process, I can say I have given this my all, dedicating a lot of time and often too much of my energy to a broken system. So, a win for me if not yet for him.
RelationshipGoals: I can’t really tick off these goals but I can move them to the next list as aspirations. My husband’s work has been all-consuming but, just maybe, the light is coming at the end of the tunnel. I think we will see a lot more of each other in 2020.
Phone time: Maybe because these goals were concrete and achievable. I have halved my time of social media. I have been better at saving my photos to the cloud though I need to share them more often with family members still.
Eat lunch at home: The past few months, I have been buying lunch out again but one plus of my new job is a I have a coffee machine at work which reduced my eating out costs. This one is to reestablish habits of earlier in the year.
So overall, I completed 10/19 goals and made some good new habits along the way. My housework goals were separate so I think I will give myself some extra points.
What I have learned is to be specific where I can to help me get that sense of achievement. I also need to review goals more frequently- some I had forgotten I had set! I must order them by priority so that I make time for crucial things like exercise or big things, like finishing the damn draft.
Seems like it’s finally time. Now I need more than goals, going to make my 2020 vision…!
I tried to demand “alone-time” this weekend, but realised life and fiction doesn’t work like that…
If I manage to write at the weekend, I am lucky. Sometimes I barricade myself in the bedroom to get in maybe thirty minutes to myself. My computer is a constant temptation to my son, he also is rarely satisfied to ask his Daddy for something. So, I get left alone for very little time. Sometimes it’s because the noises from downstairs are too distracting, sometimes it’s because he barges in to ask me for a drink or a snack because obviously he thinks I will say yes. This is my reality right now.
I think there are many benefits of being alone with my work, apart from the practical specifics of liking to work in the quiet. Although a deadline and a spurt of inspiration can be very productive, I find clear space, and quiet is a great combination for creativity.
Even as I write this blog post, a shout comes for me to help my little one. I feel very needed. I also feel frustration at times. Look, we all get sent those poems by kind folks who remind us that this phase will soon be over. But what if I needed to be absorbed in the life of my main character? Will anyone leave me alone with her long enough to get to know what drives her?
When my writing stalls because I have been distracted, I start to think:
Why does she want to be left alone? Who won’t leave her alone and why?
I find that by prompting myself to think about these questions, I am building both the character and the world around her. Because central to her motivation may be to escape but, you know what, if my life doesn’t happen like that so she can’t have that luxury in fiction!
Plotting has been hard at times because I have played around the chronology of this story. What has become apparent though is that it is the people who insist on interrupting her life are drawing me in more and more. It seems so clear now she has been forced to change her ideas from the start to the beginning of the novel by the reality she faces and the people she meets. So, the central question becomes, can you ever really escape?
As I write this, I am amused because I am not sure this is where the story started. The impetus of the story, which was a dream I had as a child as I have shared before, speaks to me more now. As I mature, I find I am inundated with responsibilities. “You’ve got to serve somebody”, Bob Dylan said. Well that is true for me and for my poor main character too.
In using the prompt to make notes, I notice things that have developed in my tediously long drafting process. It is more than a quirk of her character that has made her want to be alone, and it is more than a plotting device that her neighbours interfere and adopt her into their fold. Although I didn’t write a scene this weekend, the time I spent pondering these questions over the was productive. And it only came with a few interruptions about buses (a current interest of my son.)
If you are stuck with your writing, you might try and think about what you crave most and ask why your character craves the same. I found the question about alone time but maybe yours might be around success, attention, love, sex…and well all the things we need in our life. Our characters probably need them even more.
Some weeks I don’t get to be me, I don’t get to write, I am just Mum…
The last few weeks have been tough. We are applying for funding for support for my son and out of the blue the paperwork turned up. If you have ever received a document that goes into depth not just about your child’s strengths but all their difficulties too, you know this is a very emotional and difficult thing to read.
The way it has set me back most though is having to rely on others, whether trying to get hold of staff, getting an advocate to respond to the laughable offer we received from the local authority. And in the mean time trying to entertain little one over half term, deal with sickness, deal with household things. Sometimes the motherload comes crashing down upon you.
This has been very hard to handle. I made mistakes at work, I didn’t get things done I needed to, I have spent the week feeling ill physically and having aches and pains. Stress does this to you. It also robs you of the chance to be you, to write, to be creative.
Your circumstances may be different from mine, in terms of the difficulties I am currently facing I hope for you they are. But I know too that I have many things that make my life so much easier than others. So if you do get a week, two or three when the weight of the world tries to crush you what can you do?
Still go on Artist’s Dates. A couple hours a week to indulge in something that makes life a little more interesting. This was lucky because my birthday treat came in the middle of this mess so I had one already booked. I hope to share more about seeing the treasures of Tutankhamen soon, it was wonderful. Doing something for you but particularly for your creativity is a real lift at a tough time. I have written about some cheap and easy date ideas I would also recommend.
Use your journal. As you may know I use morning pages, and have written about how I try and fit in a few pages of journaling each morning. Boy did I have a lot to moan about in the last few weeks! It does help me to get down my worries, my fears and sometimes inspiration strikes.
Re-evaluate what you can achieve in a short time. I had half an hour this week where little one was entertained and I sat down and wrote. I surprised myself by revisiting the ending of the dreaded draft. I have been struggling with this ending for months! Something about the urgency of the little burst of time, a self-imposed deadline, helped me start to fit some pieces together I have been puzzling on for a while.
Cleaning up around my space has helped me. I find having a quick sort, doing a job I had been putting off like dusting the light shades, they gave me a small sense of control when I have very little over anything else. The burst of writing only happened after I finally cleared through some paperwork that had been cluttering up my dining table. It helps.
This month won’t go down as my most successful writing month, which is ironic given the #WritingCommunity are ensconced in #NaNoWriMo. But for me, if I just get through all the things I am being asked to do as my darling boy’s Mum, then I will chalk it up as a win.
I have always enjoyed swimming and then a few years ago I got an injury that ruled out running so it had to become my main form of exercise. Add to that my current gym has a spa pool, I am motivated to go for a swim most weeks. Because I am lucky enough to go in the week when the pool is quieter, I can find I am all alone; I consider it my pool to be honest. Which means when I find others in the pool I become very wary of the right etiquette and rules to suddenly share my space.
Much like with walking, I find swimming laps inspires my brain to clear and I work through problems in whatever I am working on. There is one disadvantage of course, no pen. The other day though instead of trying to memorise a bright idea for a new scene, I was thinking about how my swimming is so much like my writing life.
Firstly, inspiration strikes but it is not the right time or place and you can’t write it down immediately. This is true as I swim under water as sitting at my desk trying to grasp and idea or being on the edge of a dream. The problem I find in the water is that I really want to count lengths, but I get distracted and lose count. Please tell me I am not the only one who likes to leave the water after an even number, preferably in the tens. It disturbs my balance the rest of the day if I stop at 28 lengths as much as it disturbs me if I have an idea but didn’t write it down. Like a buzz that irritates your ear that you can’t place.
In the water I am constantly assessing the other swimmers, not so much to see if I am in competition but to check I am in the right lane. It feels risky to go into the slow lane because I am a medium person and I may get stuck behind someone using a float or feel like I am holding someone else up. I think that this is how I often feel following the #writingcommunity. You see, really in my writing I am just plodding on at a gentle speed. I only discovered recently I may be considered a turtle writer. I find people are talking about their finishing their drafts or making their edits and I thought we were swimming at the same pace.
I often lose direction when I am swimming, whether because I am quite distracted by an idea whirring through my head or just because I am not a great swimmer; it’s hard to tell. I love the sensation of swimming underwater which makes me a liability if the pool is busier. This strikes me as like my butterfly approach to writing. I have to make myself sit to one thing but often my mind has floated off to other thoughts and I have snippets and snatches of ideas on my phone, in my files and in my journal. I don’t think my brain was made to swim in a straight line.
What I need more than anything from swimming is time to relax. It may sound like an expensive luxury to use a gym with a spa attached but it has become an essential indulgence for me that I justify. Well making time to write has been something I know now I need as much as anything else I do for myself. Bubble baths are all very well, but expressing in my inner creativity is the best self-care there is.
So, yes the swimming metaphor is spent now but I think it reminds me that I spend a little too much time comparing my writing to others and I just need to focus instead on where I want to go.