Want a more creative lifestyle? Dream of writing a book? Read on…
Work sucks. You hate your job. There’s an urgency nagging your mind that you should do something more creative with your existence. One day, you say to yourself, I’m going to quit this crap and strike out on my own doing what I want to do. But what?
Have you ever thought about writing? Dreamed about writing a book or a story? Create something out of nothing? Writing is one of the most liberating pastimes you can ever experience, and it costs little or nothing to do. Liberating because you make the rules, not someone else. You don’t have to check in with a boss to see if it’s okay to proceed. You can write whatever the hell you like.
The problem, though, is that life is hectic. Too Hectic. There’s no time, no space. I’ve met many an expat over here who felt so compelled to go ‘find’ themselves within some sort of creative endeavour, they literally upped sticks, sold everything and moved over here to France. That’s pretty drastic just to pursue a more creative lifestyle. It’s also curious as to why so many people feel it isn’t a possibility when living in the UK (and other corners of the world, too). Part of it, I’m sure, is that the cost of living doesn’t allow time spent on hobbies, plus there’s so many things to do within easy reach, vying for your time and money – eating out, leisure activities, exercise — and any spare time for many folks is precious family time, anyway.
I never moved to France for a more creative pursuit, but I’ve certainly benefited from it since I arrived.
Two of the best things to come out of living on the tip of the arse pimple of nowhere are my kids and my writing. If I hadn’t come here, I often wonder if I would still be even thinking to myself: one day, I’ll be a writer.
As much as I curse the place sometimes for being boring, so little to do on my doorstep outside of the summer holidays, I have to ask the question: If I wasn’t bored, would I have been able to imagine my stories and have the space and time to write them?
If you’re somebody who, like me, once upon a time, often thinks somewhat wistfully to yourself that one day you will be a writer, I understand how hard it can be to make that dream a reality. You’re working full-time, have kids, family commitments, homework to chase, reading to do, a plethora of evening activities to keep you busy – yoga perhaps? Xbox? Puppy training classes? Not to mention generally keeping your life in some sort of order. You barely have time to read a book, let alone write one! So how can you begin your journey towards novelist (or whatever type of writer you wish to be) when you don’t have the time to do it?
Well, I’m not going to lie — something’s got to give. For me, it was television to begin with. I chose to write instead of become involved in the latest television series. When the day came that both the kids had started school, I swapped those evening writing times to mornings (my daughter only went half a day to begin with, so this was the only time, other than late evenings, I had any quiet at the house, plus I started an evening job about the same time). Now it’s a routine and I guard that period of my day ferociously, because it is easy to let the routine slide if you don’t. Someone or something will always want to bite into your time, so it’s down to you and only you to ring fence it, no matter what (family emergencies obviously the exception!). You have to remember, no one can make your dream a reality for you. And if you shrug it off, thinking there's no point, it will never happen, so why bother trying, then it never will. What kind of person do you want to be remembered as -- someone who never tried, or someone who tried, failed, and courageously tried and tried again?
The other key decision I made was this: don’t try and do it all, even though the pressure to be perfect in everything these days is massively hard to shoulder. So what if the washing-up piles up for a day? So what if you miss an episode of Broadchurch or Taboo ? There’s always the chance to catch up while dinner is cooking, thanks to modern technology. Do you need to go to every single social engagement you're invited to? (And believe me, over here during July and August there is literally an invitation to go out every other evening.) I decided no, I don’t. Do you need to be on Facebook and Twitter all day long? Definitely NOT! I used to avoid them if I could because they are so distracting. Nowadays, I realise they are a necessity to a publishing writer, but time spent there must be limited. If you are just beginning to write, however, I highly recommend cutting social media out for a bit. Does it matter if your friends don’t see photographs of the restaurant you went to last Friday night? Or if you missed a funny joke or two on Facebook?
Long and short of it is, I cut out a lot of the crap that could easily take up time spent writing, or outlining, or researching, or even just learning the craft.
And, if you want to be a writer, you need to do the same. Books. Do. Not. Write. Themselves.
You literally need to clear some space to write. Think that’s something you can do?
Are you on board? Think you can commit? Or are you going to sigh, bookmark this article for when ‘that day’ comes when you can ‘spare’ the time and then never return to it? Are you going to continue in your dullard job that you hate and not pursue your dream, your inner voice, until the day you retire?
Many writers are retirees, and some I know are in a panic that they won’t finish the novel that they hold so dear before they pop their clogs. Half of them don’t even take into consideration that it can also take several years to sell the finished product, let alone bring it to market. And the mistake they make here is, in their panic, they put extra pressure on themselves that it must be written perfectly the first time because they do not have time to redraft and redraft and redraft again. Some of them even say they don’t have time to take a class or a workshop or even practice some writing exercises because they don’t wish to be distracted from their main body of work. And so they end up chasing their tail more than making any proper progress because without giving themselves time to learn how to write effective fiction in the first place, how can they write a perfect first draft? (Note: this is writer delusion; there is no such thing as the perfect first draft).
So, do you want to be that person? Do you want to be the old dude who’s had this idea for years for an excellent book but don’t have the skills nor the life span to complete it before you die? Or, worse, you left it so long it’s no longer relevant, or somebody else already wrote that book?
Then you need to get on with it now. Right now, yes.
I want you to do something for me. Well, no, for yourself, really. It’s nothing too hard and won’t take more than ten minutes of your day.
Each day for the next two weeks, I want you to note down your daily movements and roughly which hours you performed these tasks. This is purely for yourself to read, no one else, so you are at liberty to note down everything you do, even the embarrassing or icky stuff. It’s up to you how you take these notes — maybe at the end of the day, or maybe at lunchtime and then at bedtime, or more often if necessary. Also be sure to include when it is you take these notes.
That’s it. Not hard. And see? I said you can start right now.
We’ll move this forward some more in a few weeks, so come back to this blog!
Ciao for now.