I can do this

Hello? Hel-loooo?? Is anyone out there? Anyone??

Well, I’ll just leave this here and see if anyone notices.

So look, when I wrote my last post – over 15 months ago! – I had no idea it would be my last post for a while. In fact, that post was the first I’d written in some time so when I wrote it I felt like perhaps I was back. But I wasn’t. I was just making a guest appearance in a show we’ll call “The Silence of Len’s Blog”. (It doesn’t rate that well but it keeps getting renewed.)

So where have I been hiding? What have I been doing? Well, for the first time since I started freelancing back in May 2013, I worked consistently for over a year – moving from employer to employer and project to project without a break. Some months I was juggling multiple projects, even multiple employers.

Given how much sitting in front of a computer and writing I do in my professional life, I find it hard when I’m working to spend my free time doing exactly that: sitting in front of a computer and writing more.

But I have been writing. There’s been a truckload of poetry, mostly scribbled into my notebook, but also typed into my phone (and in some cases shared via Twitter).

I’ve also handwritten a lot of little micro-fiction pieces into my writer’s diary, using its weekly prompts. I’ve viewed these as small writing exercises to keep my mind fit creatively. Like doing daily sit-ups but for writing. But I also entered three of my favourite pieces in the Fish Publishing Flash Fiction Contest last year, and one piece even made it onto the long list.

So writing was on my mind a lot last year. And in fact, the whole time I was working I told myself that the moment I’d get some free time I’d start working again on a project I last worked on in 2013. It started life as an idea for a screenplay. Then I thought it was better suited to a novel, then maybe a novella. But recently I’ve realised it will be best written as a memoir.

The only problem is, I’m not working at the moment and while I’ve kept myself busy doing other things, it’s been three months and I have spent bugger-all time on my project.

It’s made me question whether I really do want to write this thing. I’m a big believer that if you want something you will take steps to get it. If instead you make excuses and create obstacles for yourself, you probably don’t want what it is you say you want.

So why this post now? Well, three recent events have conspired to motivate me.

Firstly, I attended an excellent introductory course on writing memoir, taught by the amazing Lee Kofman. I may write more about this in future, but for the moment suffice to say I had a huge epiphany about my idea as a result of her incredible skill as a teacher and mentor. I left the course that day feeling very positive about what I needed to do.

Secondly, I saw the film Hidden Figures, about three women who epitomized the “stop talking about it and just get out there and do it” ethos that fuelled much of the rights movements in the 1960s and 1970s. After seeing what these three women achieved, I came out of the cinema feeling anything was possible.

And lastly, my very talented 19-year-old niece was recently published in a magazine. Her article was about a deeply personal subject and while I very much admired how well-written it was, what really blew me away was how completely honest she was. How brave she had been to put herself out there in the way she had, acknowledging it was difficult but that she had to do it, to do her subject justice. And I realised if she can show such courage, I can, too.

These three very different experiences all left me thinking and feeling the same thing: Yes, I can do this. And, more importantly, I want to do this. So this post is to announce it to the world. Not that I’m back as a blogger. But that yes, I want to do this. And I can do this.

And I will.

 

Note: I haven’t yet sought permission from my niece to share her article but I will ask and, if granted, I’ll update this post with a link.

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Luck. It’s a relative thing.

I have a theory that if a day is meant to be bad, it’ll turn out bad. Doesn’t matter what you do to try to make it good, if fate has decreed it’s going to be a crappy day you absolutely cannot stop it from turning out crappy.

As you might expect, I also think the converse is true. Sometimes, no matter how many mistakes or errors of judgment you make, things keep turning out all right.

This morning I thought I was having the second kind of day.

Anyone who knows me will agree that, firstly, I’m not a morning person, and secondly, I’m not very good at being on time. Consequently, the whole getting to work on time thing is a battle I fight every morning. Sometimes if I’m late the universe has conspired against me (for example, train delays) but more often than not it’s my own inability to focus on what I need to do to get out of the house on time and my propensity to get distracted.

So not a huge surprise that this morning I left the house running a few minutes late, certain I’d miss the train I needed to catch to be at work on time. The universe, however, had other plans. Fate intervened in the form of a bus that turned up exactly when I needed it to and I managed to make my train.

(Yes! Thank you, Universe!)

You can understand why I thought perhaps it was going to be the kind of day that conspires for you and ensures that, despite all you do to stuff things up, it turns out okay.

I even got a seat on the train.

(Double yes!)

Twenty minutes later as we pulled into Richmond Station, however, the driver announced that the train would not be running through the City Loop because of a signalling fault. Instead, it would be going direct to Flinders Street.

I, of course, needed to go through the Loop.

(Noooooooo. No, no, no, no, no, no… Universe! What are you doing?)

I got off my train to wait for one that would take me through the Loop. As I stood on the platform contemplating my bad luck, it occurred to me that there were people who had been on the same train as me for whom this unexpected change was a good thing. Maybe they had to get off at Flinders Street and they were running late, so not going through the Loop meant they were now going to be on time. Just as half the carriage groaned with the driver’s announcement, the other half did a mental fist pump and said, Yes! Thank you Universe! Just as I had, 20 minutes earlier.

Luck, I realised, is a totally relative thing. As it turns out, I’m not at the centre of the universe. It’s not all about me. Sometimes it’s the other people’s turn to have fate conspire for them.

Realising this made me feel a lot better about my morning. I realised I don’t mind being a bit late to work if it means a whole bunch of other people feel lucky and that their day has just been made. Thinking about it totally cheered me up and turned my morning around again.

Which is quite lucky, don’t you think?

(Yes!)

When life is like a game of Tetris

Finally.

I’m sitting at my desk to write. It’s something I haven’t done in a few weeks. More accurately, it’s something I haven’t done since I started back at work.

I’ve picked up a two month contract as a technical writer which I’m enjoying immensely. Not only is the work interesting and challenging, and exactly what I want to be doing, but the people at my temporary work place are great. They’re clever, professional and passionate about what they do, and they’ve been really welcoming. I couldn’t be happier.

The only trouble is, after taking four months off, it’s been a bit of a shock to the system to go back to full time work, and not just because I’m not a morning person. The real problem is figuring out how to fit all the bits of my life into a 24 hour day and a seven day week, when there’s one thing in it that seems to take up all the time and not leave much room, or energy, for anything else.

Work takes up nearly 52 hours a week, once I’ve added my lunch break and commute to and from work. I find that I’m struggling to get to basic domestic duties like cooking or hanging out washed clothes to dry. How did I fit these things in before?

I know I did it for over a decade and I’m sure I’ll get on top of it all again but somehow I need to find time to write creatively, too. Something I only really started to focus on since finishing work in January. So I not only need to get my work/life balance back, I have to get a work/life/writing balance.

I feel like my life has suddenly become like a game of Tetris. The pieces keep falling: go to work, walk the dog, cook dinner, call Mum, go to the supermarket, vacuum the house, go to the market, go to the movies, read the paper, check Twitter, wash the dishes, wash the dog, catch up with family, catch up with friends… on and on they come. “Go to work” is such a big piece: I’m trying to remember how I used to fit in all the other pieces. The thing is, every time the “I want to write” piece drops down I can’t fit it in anywhere and the pieces pile up out of control and the game ends. I lose.

I know, from personal experience as well as observation, that the busier you are, the better you become at organising your time. Several years ago I worked full time and studied part time and somehow I managed to find an extra ten or so hours in what was already a pretty busy week to fit in lectures, tutorials, study and homework, without compromising the rest of my life very much at all. So I know it’s solvable.

I also know it’s a matter of discipline. At the moment, when I come home after sitting in front of a computer and writing all day, the last thing I want to do is sit at a computer and write some more. But if writing is important to me, and it is, then I have to prioritise it and I have to find the mental discipline – and energy – to just sit down and write.

Meanwhile, it may be a little quiet on the ol’ blog front. Please be patient and understanding. I’m stuck in a game of Tetris.

Pieces piling up in the game Tetris