I am now just over the half way point in my ‘year of change’. I also turned 44 last Sunday. This has put me in a reflective mood (i.e. ‘oh god, where has my life gone?!’) and I have been mulling over what I have achieved so far this year.
For those of you who have been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that my dad passed away on January 21st. It was the culmination of a truly stressful period in my life when I watched my dad slowly wither away from cancer and I split from my boyfriend of 4.5 years. For several weeks I felt numb and was on the verge of pulling the plug on my writing and blogging altogether (it was all too much). But I had a strong urge to try to create something positive from such a horrible experience. So I made the decision to continue writing my blog but with a new focus; to change my life by January 21st 2014.
‘Change my life’ is obviously a pretty big statement. I didn’t know what I was going to do. All I knew was I was single. I was skint. I was living in a place that didn’t inspire me. And I was about as blocked creatively as it’s possible to be. Things had to change.
Here’s what’s happened over the last 7 months:
30 Day Challenge
In March I signed up for a 30 Day ‘Do What You Love’ Challenge. My ‘Play Project’ for the month was to interview people who truly, madly, deeply love what they do for a living (I was searching for what I wanted to do with my life; why not go and ask the experts?). I had grand visions of photographing people and becoming the next David Bailey…only it didn’t quite turn out like that.
Creating Spark Stories
Over the next month I videoed, photographed and interviewed two hugely inspiring people (a jazz musician and an entrepreneur). I also learned a really valuable thing: I enjoyed photography but I couldn’t be arsed to fiddle about with f-stop do-dahs and thingamajigs and actually, the thing I most loved doing was chatting to extraordinary people and telling their stories. So I’ve done this ever since. I’ve just finished another interview with a very lovely (and honest) children’s author and I’ve lined up more juicy interviews for the future.
My first scary video
During the 30 days we were encouraged to post videos of ourselves updating fellow Challengers on how our projects were going. At first I refused point blank to do this (I HATE having my photo taken and the thought of appearing on screen is enough to bring me out in a cold sweat). But the point of the 30DC is to push boundaries and try new things. So I took a deep breath and did a very nervous, self-conscious and slightly excruciating-to-watch video… Lesson 2: I really enjoy doing videos! Who knew?! In fact, I enjoyed the first one so much, I created two more. (I had plans to post them on this blog but my there’s only so much pushing boundaries I can cope with in one year.)
It’s interesting to reflect on who you envy in life, isn’t it? I soon noticed that other people’s Play Projects sometimes triggered a bad case of Project Envy in me. Lesson 3: what you can learn from who you envy. I realised the people I envied were all illustrating or designing things. So I designed my own postcards (something I have wanted to do for years) and had them printed. I even approached some shops with a view to selling them but I soon realised this wasn’t where my energies should be going; I had a bigger dream I needed to achieve (more on this later).
So that’s the 30 Day Challenge, what about other things?
Writing & blogging
I was so inspired by the 30DC that I started blogging more frequently and received my very first blog awards (a proud moment, sniff). I exceeded 100 subscribers for the first time (something I never thought would happen when I first started this blog). And I wrote my third picture book and sent it to agents (sadly, no takers). But at least the creative block that had been frustrating me for years was beginning to give!
Of all the changes that have occurred, the next two are the most important to me:
Moving to the sea
I have always wanted to live by the sea. I’ve talked/visualised/researched this for years, but fear has always stopped me from taking the plunge and I’ve stayed here, where it’s familiar and safe. But if there’s one thing I’ve learnt this year, it’s that life is too short to postpone your dreams. So a few weeks ago I made the decision to move to the south coast….and just to show the universe I meant business, the second I made the decision, I signed up with local recruitment agencies and estate agents. I can’t tell you how good it feels to FINALLY be doing this! It puts a smile on my face whenever I think about it (which is every day). I can’t quite believe it’s finally happening. But it most definitely is. I should be moving in the next month or two. I’ll keep you posted.
Figuring out what I truly, madly, deeply want to do with my life!
Recently I have realised some pretty fundamental things:
- There are only so many hours in the day
- I only have so much energy and mental capacity to deal with things
- Therefore I need to prioritise and focus on the thing I really want to do
- There is one thing I’ve always wanted to do but I’ve never taken it seriously and committed to it (because I’m scared)
- Have my various projects been distractions to keep me from doing the one thing I am TERRIFIED of doing?
- Answer: Yes! (Oh shit)
Looking back over my life I can see that I have pursued virtually every career/business idea I can think of, apart from writing my children’s books. I think there’s a damn good reason for this: it has been easier (i.e. less scary) for me to put my energy into other projects/dreams/plans than sit down at the computer and write what is in my heart (apologies; cheesy but true).
Hideous self-doubt wallops every time. What if I’m a deluded nutcase? What if my writing is crap? What if I’m never published? What if I live in poverty for the rest of my life (cue vision of me dining on Pot Noodles in a dank studio apartment)? With all these negative comments running round in my head, it’s no wonder it has taken my 20+ years to write three picture books (and they were written under a certain degree of strain).
But last month a truly momentous thing occurred. I was so utterly pissed off with not being able to write freely that I decided to do something I have never done before; write whatever my fingers wanted to write, with no censoring or judgement on my part at all (i.e. tap into my subconscious and see what’s lurking there).
Turns out what was lurking was a weird and wonderful book for 7-8 year olds, which I have been working on ever since!
It’s totally different to anything I have ever written before. (It’s got chapters for a start.) And it is the most difficult and scary thing I have ever done, by far… But (and it’s a big BUT), it has made me the happiest and most content I have been for a long, looooong time. Hoorah!!
So that’s my round up of the last 7 months. Who knows what the next 5 months will bring?! After all the chaos and uncertainty, things suddenly seem very clear. I’m going to do two things that are so much a part of me, they’re probably embedded somewhere in my DNA. I’m going to live a more simple life by the sea. And I’m going to finish this book, no matter how many times fear wallops me over the head.
I’ll report back on progress on January 21st 2014.