A lot can change in a month. This is especially true when that month includes a retreat that gives you the head-space and time to really look at your life and decide what you want to keep, what you think has outlived its usefulness, and what you want to bring in fresh. Which means there are lot of changes ahead of me in the next twelve to eighteen months. I’m not going to share all my decisions on here – my private life is, after all, private – but I will talk about the ones that affect my presence on my blog and on social media and my writing, since that is primarily how I know you all.
I cannot overstate how much I enjoyed having a period of time where I was beholden to no one but myself. Three weeks where I had no plans, no deadlines, nothing required of me by any outside forces. The only requirement I gave myself for the time was to face the areas of my past that I’d been repressing and allow myself to feel whatever that made me feel. I spent the days walking, meditating, drawing tarot cards on the situations I was trying to work through, and reading stacks of books about all sorts of different things (but with a significant amount of Celtic Spirituality). It was a genuine release for me and hadn’t realise just how exhausted and worn down I was, both by the things I’d try to repress and the treadmill my life had become.
It took less than a week for my spark to return to me, the pages of my journal filling up with notes in handwriting that, without the stress and time pressure, was once again legible, firm, and true. I wrote almost 46,000 words by hand in those three weeks and my love of writing, of creating, of making something new from things already known, re-blossomed. I was reminded of why I had started writing in the first place, and what had inspired me to start on the original fiction that was pushed aside in favour of writing fan fiction. Whilst there is absolutely nothing wrong with fan fiction at all – I’m a huge believer in both writing it and reading it – the immediacy of a (mostly) positive response from those kind enough to read and leave comments on each offering had seduced me completely, luring me away from all my original creations.
That immediacy is one of the wonderful thing about fan fiction, the bond between the author and the readers, friendships created and fostered on the back of stories about the books, shows and films we share a love for. It’s also, for me at least, its downfall. And that is for the simple reason that my personal wish to make those I care about happy meant that I started to try and produce the stories I thought everyone wanted to read, rather than create the ones I wanted to write. When you spend your days working in a high pressure, inherently reactive environment trying to spend your evening attempting to create something that your that your heart isn’t truly in … well let’s just say it’s the opposite of relaxing.
The sense of relief when I cut loose the last few WIPs from my AO3 profile at the start of the year – the lifting of the sense that I just wasn’t good enough because I couldn’t complete the projects that I’d taken on because I thought I should, rather than because I was desperate to share them – just confirmed that I’d been treading the wrong path for a while. So now I have managed to coax a spark of creativity back into my life and with it kindled a tiny flame of writing mojo I’m going to guard it carefully, feed it with the fuel of imagination and the freedom to writing anything that takes my fancy, and protecting it from winds of fear and rains self-doubt that sharing it with others sometimes creates and which could extinguish it in a moment.
And that is a rather lyrical way of saying that I won’t be creating any more fan-fiction for the foreseeable future. Instead I’m going to work on my original stuff. I may post some of what I create on here in the fullness of time but nothing I’m working on is being written with the intent of sharing it. The stories I want to tell are mystories and they need my characters in order to be told in just the right way. I want to work with the world I have carried around in my head for years, build on it, extend it, and let the characters I feel like I know as well as I know myself shape it. I want them to grow and learn and become under my hands, just for me.
Which sounds somewhat selfish, written down like that, but in all honesty I do not care. Writing is supposed to be an escape, a pleasure, a way of renewing myself from the stresses of the daily grind. I am writing for me, first and foremost, telling the tales I want to read. If, once they’re told, I think they might be something other people might like too then that is when I’ll look to share them … after I’ve given them a damn good polish up first!
The other thing my retreat showed me was just how much more time I have, and how much less distressed I am at the state of the world, when I’m not using social media, which I realise will be a surprise to absolutely no one. I would the first person to defend social media and its use – it has brought me friends, new interests, new perspectives and information that I would not have seen otherwise, and means that when I’m feeling a bit low and a bit isolated, I can reach out and find someone to talk to. It’s absolutely brilliant in all those respects. But all good things have a downside and the sense that you’ll miss something if you’re not monitoring it 24/7, the fact that it offers opportunities for strangers to metaphorically batter you over the head if you’ve said something they don’t agree with, and the way it can become an echo chamber, reinforcing your own views and limiting your outlook if you’re not careful all combine to make it something that needs to be viewed with a healthy measure of common sense and caution as well. You need to know your own limits where the internet is concerned. And to that end, I’ve made some decisions about mine.
I’m not going to become a hermit, I’m not going to stop posting on my blog, or tweeting, or sharing things on facebook and tumblr; I’m not going to disappear off the face of the virtual earth. I’m going to keep musing on a monthly basis and I’m going to try and get back in the habit of posting short reviews of the theatre and films I watch and the books I read and also going back to having chats with people on LJ and tumblr and catching up on what everyone has been doing whilst I’ve been studying.
However what I am going to do (now the referendum is almost done) is limit the time I spend wandering t’interwebs; you know, like when you were a child and your mum said you could only watch TV for a certain length of time each day. I’m going to try to only allow myself half an hour at lunch time and half an hour in the evening to catch up on social media and all that sort of stuff. To that end I’ve not switched any of my notifications back on since I returned from my retreat. I’m also going to introduce a “Social Media Sabbath” to my week and thus on Sundays I will be pretty much off grid (although I’ll still be text-able for those of you who have my number). Hopefully this will mean I can keep up with all you lovely people but prevent me from getting sucked into the
argumentsdiscussions and random scrolling that can eat so much precious time and yield little to no reward.
I shall also be continuing my work on the house and garden (with any luck this will not aided and abetted by any more things going wrong) and also giving my parents a hand with their house too. I’m expecting that to take up most of my weekends (those which aren’t already allocated to fun things) for the rest of the year. This isn’t going to help me save any money – DIY is really rather expensive – but it will mean that I have some peace of mind for the next few years and will hopefully ensure that I have a spare room that people can actually stay in without having to fight through boxes or getting nightmares from the WWI & Afghan conflict research that is currently plastered to the walls!
I have much to do in the next twelve months, much to write and much to look forward to. I just hope I haven’t disappointed any of you too much with the decisions I’ve made.
And now, last but never, ever, least …
THE DOINGS OF DOG
As Madam is still recovering (rather slowly, but mostly because I think she’s enjoying the attention) from a sprained paw sustained last Monday, she is not feeling up to dictating her thoughts. Instead she has instructed me to provide a photographic record of her month, so that you may all benefit from her beauty and grace.
For the first part of the month, whilst I was away, she was looked after by my parents and then by my neighbour and was therefore spoil rotten and had friends to play with:
But this is the most accurate representation of what she’s been doing (yes, the snore-o-meter has been off the charts):
I suspect when she sees this she will regret not picking the photos herself!
PS – I know I’ve barely mentioned that the UK has a referendum today. I’ve voted (to remain in the EU) and I’ve been quite active on Twitter and Facebook in respect of the vote during the past week. Now all I can do is cross my fingers and hope that when I wake up tomorrow, we’re not cut adrift and at the mercy of Johnson and Farage.
PPS – I popped down to London the other week to see the Kenneth Brannagh Theatre Company’s staging of Romeo and Juliet. It was wonderful and I have posted a small review here!