On accidental six-month hibernations
This isn’t what I wanted to write about, by the way. What I wanted to write about is how there is an inherently external part to writing, and how as writers our instinct is to turn inward instead of outward (maybe that’s just me). This happened instead. Maybe next time.
I have been quiet here for quite a while. That’s because I haven’t been writing, and therefore I have nothing to write about.
In June I quit my job of just over two-and-a-half years. It had been making me unhappy for a long time and I decided it was time to do things on my own terms. I’ve gone back to freelancing, and it’s good. I’ve tried to organise myself, and I’ve dusted off the longer piece of work that has been on mothballs and I’m finding myself again.
While I haven’t been writing, I have been, in my own way, trying to make other things happen. I’m involved with my local writing community and I try to be around to see what people need. I’m involved with Writers Victoria as well as IPEd (the editing body here in Australia and New Zealand) because #professional, but also because it’s important.
On finding ourselves as confident professionals
I’m currently in the process of working out where I am in the world of experience and practise. You would think that with the internet around it would be easy, but I think it might be harder.
What online culture, particularly post-2005, has taught me is that most of us don’t have enough attention to be able to push through all the bullshit. It’s much easier to find other people who have managed to do it and to try to hang on to what they have to say, try and make it work for you. They’ve had more time to think about it so they must be right, right?
But, more and more, I’m seeing people’s lives and thought patterns disrupted and co-opted into these other ways of thinking, because people don’t trust themselves enough. They’ll find four people to follow and watch rather than working on their own way of doing it. Worse than that, they look at the finished product (in the form of an influencer) and feel like that’s an unattainable goal.
So they just stop trying.
Which is stupid, because what they don’t realise is that what they see of this other person isn’t everything that they’re doing. They’re doing tons of other stuff in the background as well, things that they could be doing to get ahead. But because the person presents as a finished idea, that doesn’t need improvement, no one thinks about the work they do in the background. They don’t see that the illusion of perfection is created by consistent, persistent practice. And they let it get them down.
They let it stop them from trying.
Why it’s okay to take your time
At work, I thought I felt bad because I spent time trying to act like other people act instead of acting like a better version of me. Not that the work I did was bad or boring, but because I realised that there there is a way for me to live and interact with the world that involves me building skills that I care about. Not learning different ways to sell things.
And those guys are the same, right? Marketers. They sell you the promise of being able to succeed like they’ve done, but really they’re just hijacking your brain with their message. How many of those people really care if you succeed? How many of them are just trying to sell their services to you?
The irony of me posting all of this as a blog post is not lost, by the way.
But that’s not really why I feel bad. I feel bad because I stopped the background work.
I am no stranger to writing about not writing. I did that for all of 2021. But when I stop writing anything for myself at all, even just fluff… there’s a problem.
Whenever anyone locally tries to get something going, I tell them they need two things: someone else to turn up with them, and two years. People want to know that it’s going to be there when they decide to give it go, and they want to know that it won’t just be you and them sat in a room awkwardly.
My argument there would be that if you can’t commit to the idea of two years, then there’s no way you’ll just get there. And maybe that’s not right. My experience is that time passes whether you’re using it well or not, so you might as well try some things and you might as well commit to the ones you care about.
There have been a few times in my life where I have seen books from my favourite authors just appear in the stores. I grabbed them with both hands and I tore through them and then put them on the shelf (yes, even Lestat Goes to the Moon and the depressing Terry Pratchett book). Those things only existed because somewhere else on planet Earth, those authors were writing. While I was sleeping in they were writing. While I was applying for jobs I didn’t really want and didn’t get anyway, they were writing. When I was at the pub trying to forget how unhappy I was, they were writing. And there is nothing, really, that stopped me from writing then as well. Just the fact that I didn’t. And then there is the fact that it’s July already and I’ve barely written anything.
I feel bad that I stopped making time for it.
Since leaving my job in early June this year, I have:
- Sorted out my professional level membership with IPEd
- Set up a professional website for my freelance writing and editing work
- Been involved with a regional networking event for Writers Victoria. Hopefully there will be more!
- Written 13k words on my novel
- Put together a clean 7k word writing sample to be rejected by Varuna
- Organised a group of four writers (including me) to commit to and help each other write a novel over the next year
- Written this blog post.
It’s all coming back to me now.