Battle Scars

This is a very personal post for me. It doesn’t relate to writing, or any creative endeavour, but rather the battle I have with my demons on a day to day basis.

The sadness and despair has been creeping up on me for a little while now. I usually describe depression as feeling like I’m standing on a beach, where the tide meets the sand, my back to the sea. There is a huge wave about to come down and engulf me. Most of the time, I keep the tsunami at bay, but it’s always there, waiting.

This week, the tsunami won. The sadness I feel all the time welled up inside me, and overflowed. The trigger was minor, (it always is); but it was enough for me to let the floodgates open. I just sat on the bed, sobbing. Lamenting the failure of my life, how I’ve not achieved anything of significance, how no one knows me, how I feel I’ve missed out on so many opportunities, how dreams have been crushed, how ugly I feel, how I just plod along, rootless; no sense of belonging anywhere or being part of something.

Obviously, it felt good to let it all out. Afterwards, I felt spent, exhausted. Boyfriend took me to the pub for a couple of hours, we came back, had dinner; but by 9.30, I had to go to bed. The mental and emotional toll depression takes on the body’s physicality is significant. The anxious butterflies in my stomach have been a constant reminder that something bigger was on its way.

I’m halfway through a week off, a week in which I should be focusing on my writing. Horizon Skies has suffered for my lack of motivation, and I have other works needing my attention. I’m full of good intentions, until that tsunami sweeps them all away; then I lose myself in gaming or reading, my only forms of escape. I become lazy, demotivated and uncaring.

I should exercise, it makes me feel good. I managed to lose half a stone this year, then hit a plateau, and haven’t lost any since. Just another hurdle to get over. I like how exercise makes me feel energised, it’s true that it does wonders for one’s state of mind. Those happiness hormones should be bottled.

Of course, I will fight back. I always do. I’m battle scarred and weary, but I am a fighter, and I always remember what a former therapist once told me of how I’m “psychologically strong”. I arm myself with this knowledge as I go to war.

The Deepest Cut

Maybe that’s a bit melodramatic, but for a long time, I’ve resisted making major cuts to Horizon Skies. It’s my baby, why would I want to hurt it?

With, what I hope, are the final round of edits and revisions, I took a look at one of the opening chapters. A piece of critique I’d received from a literary agency a couple of years ago came back to me. They suggested the first chapter weakened the main protagonist as she’s just a baby with her first appearance. At the time, I resisted the idea, the readers need to know how she came into her family’s life, don’t they? Nope. Their idea was to weave her origin story throughout the book. With my level of inexperience at the time, all I could think was “how on Earth am I going to do that?” I had a finished book, wasn’t it perfect enough as it was?

Actually, no.

With the benefit of hindsight, time away from the manuscript, I look at some of the earlier chapters, and my inexperience shows. I wrote it with a very linear storyline, there are a couple of flashbacks, and every character has their own chapter; telling their individual stories until their destinies begin to merge in the latter third. I’m still happy with the structure, that doesn’t need to change.

But, the literary agency critique was right. Ava’s first chapter really just amounts to padding. I realised, her origin story can be told through snippets of conversation. I also concluded, it takes away some of the mystery as to her connection to another character. This really is an example of telling instead of showing, which writers are always told to avoid.

If you’re unsure what show don’t tell, means, it’s simply a way of allowing the reader to immerse themselves in the story through the actions and expression of the character. For example:

Angry – balled fists, red faced, growled responses.

Scared – rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms, the hairs standing up on the back of the neck.

This allows the reader to fully conjure the image of that character in their mind, thus creating engagement with the story, and empathy.

That being said, it won’t serve the story very well to show every aspect. Some elements do benefit from telling. For example, if your character is getting ready for bed, it’s not necessary to describe them having a bath or shower, towelling off, dressing in pyjamas, brushing their teeth, drying their hair, and then getting into bed. It’s a mundane activity that doesn’t need a deep level of commitment. The reader will simply get bored. In this instance, telling is preferable to showing.

After her usual night-time rituals, Bethany settled into bed, a book propped open on her knees.

By telling in this case, we’ve established the character’s actions in a single, succinct statement. The reader knows what’s happened, without getting bored, and the story can move on without slowing the pace.

After reading chapter two again, it became apparent to me, there was too much telling, and not enough showing. It had to go. I’ve already worked part of it back in to later chapters, and feel that works better. My character’s origin story still gets told, but in a more natural way that doesn’t do a disservice to her character arc. I’m hoping, it will enhance it.

Whilst cutting isn’t a fun prospect for writers, we know it’s a necessary evil. It helps tighten up the narrative, gets rid of clunky paragraphs that might be slowing the story down, and keeps the reader engaged to the final page.

 

 

It’s All A Bit Woolly.

Having been vegan for more than three years now, I consider myself, if not an expert, at least well informed on the subject.

What amazes me though, is how many vegans are still ok with wearing wool. I use wool as an example due to a recent post I made on Facebook that sparked a debate amongst some members of the group about wool.

Citing wool then, why is it not ok for humans to use this product?

1 – This goes against the very first rule of veganism as defined by The Vegan Society: Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose

2 – Sheep are being raised in ways to produce more wool, their coats end up causing them pain, their skin can get infected so they “need” shearing. This is a direct link to the farming industry, if sheep weren’t being raised this way, the “need” for shearing wouldn’t be there. And why do humans keep sheep? So we can eat their babies.

3 – To ensure a high turnover of wool, sheep are not treated gently, they are thrown about, manhandled, pinned down, cut and hurt throughout the shearing process. If a farmer can shear 10 sheep in 10 minutes , why would he take time being gentle with just one sheep for 10 minutes? (I don’t know how long the shearing process takes, I’m using these for illustrative purposes). This would impact directly on any profits to be made.

4 – Supply and demand. Keeping up the demand for wool for clothing perpetuates the supply chain. Sheep will continue to be farmed, their babies will continue to be taken from them, murdered at just a few months old for humans to eat.

5 – Alternatives. There are lots of great alternatives to wool out there, it’s wrong to assume that just because something is natural, it doesn’t have some kind of environmental impact. In fact, wool is pretty bad for the planet according to The Ecologist.

I guess it boils down to your reasons for going vegan. For me, it was always about the animals. I love animals more than people, they have more right to live on this Earth than we do. For one thing, animals don’t destroy their environment in the name of progress, and they don’t exploit and enslave others in horrific conditions for food or entertainment. Only humans commit those sorts of acts.

If you eat a vegan diet, but wear any animal byproduct such as wool, silk or leather, you cannot call yourself a vegan. This is not my opinion, but a simple fact. You are plant based because your clothing choice still links to the very industries veganism is against. Like vegetarianism, going plant based is a step in the right direction, but as I realised a few years ago, it’s not enough. If you are comfortable with your choices, good for you, some contribution is better than none at all.

I see a lot of new vegans cropping up, which is fantastic. Lots of questions being asked, and guidance sought. What strikes me about some (not all) new vegans is the lack of research undertaken into what veganism is about. There is a bit of a misconception that it is simply about the diet, when it is so much more than that. To be a true vegan is to adhere to the guidelines as set out by The Vegan Society. This is a lifestyle, and a commitment.

Of course, we all make mistakes, none of us are perfect and occasionally, you’ll fall off the wagon. I did. I bought Kellogg’s Cornflakes a while back, and completely forgot that the Vitamin D in the ingredients comes from sheep’s wool. The packet was already open when my boyfriend said “are you sure they’re vegan? I thought we’d stopped buying them?” That was a proper Homer d’oh! moment right there. Should I flagellate myself with a bunch of asparagus as penance? Of course not, it was a little blip, not done on purpose. I haven’t made the same mistake since though. One of the benefits of veganism is the opportunity for education.

I’ve used wool as an example in this post, just to maybe make you think about or question your current choices. There are so many more examples I could use. Are you a new vegan, still finding your way or are you more plant based, comfortable with your choices? If you’re looking for guidance, feel free to comment with any questions, I’ll be happy to reply to the best of my knowledge. 🌱

 

Keep Reading

The header is a quote, all writers should be familiar with.

Stephen King may not have been the first to coin such a phrase, but it’s the one I come across most often.

Understanding the importance of reading to be used as a tool when writing is absolutely vital, particularly for any budding writer.

Aside from the obvious pleasure reading brings, the education a good book provides is invaluable:

  • World building – excellent examples of this can be found in Brandon Sanderson’s work; he even invented an entire universe, named the Cosmere.
  • Magic systems – from the simplistic tropes of elemental magic to more complex practises, creating a unique type of magic will help your writing to stand out.
  • Structure – is there a clear beginning, middle and end? Are loose ends neatly tied up or left open for a sequel?
  • Pacing – do the chapters flow or jar? Does the momentum continue at a steady pace or do you find yourself struggling to read past the first few chapters?
  • Characterisation – there’s nothing worse than one dimensional characters. This maybe fiction, but characters should have personality, quirks and foibles. Can you empathise with the mc?
  • Vocabulary – seriously, I make a note of any words I come across in a book, look up its meaning, and look for a way to work it into my own writing. Better than any thesaurus.

These are just a few examples of what you can learn from reading in order to make a better writer.

Other things to consider:

  • Who, or what, inspired you to write?
  • Has a particular writer or book grabbed you in such a way, that it lit that fire inside?

I can remember clearly, the first time I thought about writing. It was after reading a book titled The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by the late Joan Aiken. An alternate history set in the mid-19th century in which England has been overrun with wolves, and two young cousins fall into the clutches of an evil older cousin. I loved it, and my first attempt at writing was to completely plagiarise the story. I was still in junior school then, and didn’t know you couldn’t pass off someone else’s story as your own…Obviously, it’s never seen the light of day.

Nowadays, inspiration comes to me from all sorts of sources. The books I read, films, TV shows or the voices in my head. Honestly, sometimes they just don’t shut up!

Horizon Skies, my debut, currently languishing in the “please finish these final edits!” area of my head space, has been doing the rounds in my head since my early 20’s. It was a story I simply had to tell. I don’t know if it will ever be published, it may forever be consigned to the rejection pile, but at least – I did it. I wrote a book. 

If it hadn’t been for all those stories of my childhood, including books by Noel Streatfield and Monica Hughes, I may never have discovered the passion for writing I have now. Reading remains my number one pastime, my books have always been a constant in my life. When the crap has really hit the fan, diving into a Terry Pratchett or James Herbert has rescued me, allowed me to live a different life for a few hours.

So, if you’re wondering how to be a writer, make sure you’re a reader first. The knowledge and experience will enrich your world.

 

 

Not Another Post-Apocalyptic Zombie Dystopia Novel!

I’ve always had an idea in my head for a film about the rage outbreak, as depicted in 28 Days Later. I’ve imagined the opening scenes, time and time again. This idea has been germinating for years.

Like Tina in Bob’s Burgers, I have a complicated relationship with zombies. My favourite zombie film is Dawn of the Dead; The Walking Dead Tina Belcherand Fear The Walking Dead have been part of my life for years (although, I do think TWD has really had its day) as well as another great TV show, Black Summer (visceral and brutal). That’s not to say I like all zombie films and shows, for every good one, there are probably at least ten that are utterly dreadful (Zombie Nation, take a bow.)

Recently, I read an interesting trilogy of books called Plague Land, Plague Nation and Plague World which isn’t really a tale of zombies but a strange infection that physically assimilates humans into its invading mass. How the infection starts, spreads, and how the dwindling humans desperately try to escape made for a curious read. I’ve simplified the story as there is so much more to it, but I’m not a reviewer.

 

There’s also the usual dystopia novels I’ve read over the years. The most devastating being The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It’s a bleak, heart rending story of one man and his son trekking across a devastated US to reach the coast where the father believes they can find safety. The book, like it’s film adaptation, packs an emotional punch to the gut, but is so subtle, the tears did not flow until I’d finished the last page. I’m not sure I want to write something that emotionally wrenching.

The next paragraph contains spoilers for The Last of Us Part 2.

As a gamer, I’ve really enjoyed The Last of Us parts 1&2. Like all good RPG’s, the stories are wholly immersive, gripping, and invoke all sorts of reactions. Part 2 in particular, with its character swap part way through in which the player HAS to play the antagonist plays with your feelings as their personal story unfolds. I may have been #teamellie all the way, but for the hours I played as Abby provided an alternative perspective to the story. Her tale of vengeance becomes clear, you understand why Ellie and Joel are the bad guys in HER world. Whilst I may not have rooted for her entirely, I was able to empathise, and this puts a big question mark over the morality at play.

They say to write what you know. 

As a fantasy writer, I have been well prepared for writing Horizon Skies (my current nemesis) and Sanctuary of Stone (stalled WIP) as most of my library is fantasy fiction. From a young age, when I first read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, fantasy novels have fuelled my imagination more than any other genre. 

I do read other genres though; I have horror (James Herbert) dystopia, science fiction and a few contemporary novels. I’ve read classics (Jane Austen and Charles Dickens), and I love Kathy Lette. It’s important not to restrict one’s reading material, particularly when the goal is to be a writer. I’ve currently got it into my head that I want to read Dante’s Inferno.

All of this, the TV shows, the movies, and the books; all have given me the tools to write this new story. Ok, it’s not an original idea, I’m well aware of that. But, maybe I can add my voice, my take on it, and write something that will appeal. I’d love to join the ranks of female authors who have written successful novels in this genre. 

In less than a month, I’ve written eight chapters, the story continually plays out in my head. I know where it’s going, how it’s going end, who survives, who doesn’t, and a lot of awful stuff in-between. Aside from writing a good story, this is also an opportunity to explore my darker side, a place in my imagination not populated by myth and magic, but with fear and anxiety.

What Is Happiness?

The Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of “happiness”: “The state of being happy.”

Seems a bit of a lame definition. Let’s try happy instead:  “Feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.” Much better.

However, it’s possible for someone to express happiness when they feel anything but. Someone suffering crippling depression or anxiety can still laugh at a joke or sitcom whilst on the inside, they are crumbling.

I seem to exist in a perpetuate state of melancholy. No matter how much I can laugh at things, the deep rooted sadness within me is always there, ready to pop up and remind me that what I’m feeling isn’t true happiness. I’m simply able to express amusement at certain times.

I am definitely not happy though.

Sometimes, I feel geared up ready to go, and I spend productive time on my writing. Whether it’s editing and revising Horizon Skies or trying to get past the block with Sanctuary of Stone or exploring new ideas, those are the times I feel a modicum of something approaching joy. I’ve always retreated into a fantasy world to escape reality. It’s a defence mechanism, something I’ve been rather adept at since I was a child. My books have always been my sanctuary, through the stories told, I am transported to other worlds, other realities. If I didn’t have such a love for reading, I don’t know what sort of state my mental health would be in now.

I feel the weight of the world, heavy on my shoulders. Veganism has done so much for me, but I have to close myself off to the realities of WHY I became vegan in the first place. This doesn’t mean I stop fighting for animals, I never will. I just don’t need to be exposed to farm footage, lab footage or any kind of media depicting the abuse, torture and murder of any animal. ALL animals are innocent, and undeserving of cruelty. You may love your cat or dog, but how are they different to a cow or a pig?

I’ve had a great idea for a story, which I am now working on. I’m up to eight chapters already, and I’ve only been working on it for the past few weeks. This is unprecedented where I’m concerned! The genre has been done to death (post-apocalyptic, zombie invasion), but I’m hoping I’ll be able to lend a new voice to it. There’s no point having an idea in your head and not doing anything with it. 

Maybe this whole happiness concept is what holds me back sometimes. Maybe I don’t feel capable of finishing my work because I’m scared of the response I’ll get. When I first sent out to agents, I submitted without the weight of expectation, I knew it was highly unlikely I’d get picked up straight away, but I didn’t let it put me off. I received some lovely feedback which was definitely more than I could have hoped for. I’ve kept those e-mails as they’ll be the agents I approach on the second round.

Maybe I’m not deserving of happiness? Maybe I came into this existence to experience  the desire for it instead?

I don’t know. What I do know is that when I am melancholy, I know who I am. It’s like my natural state, and quite possibly, true happiness would be a strange experience.

 

Baby Steps

I’m not even going to blog about what a crap blogger I am. Not in terms of how good (or bad) my posts are as that’s for you, dear reader, to decide. I’ve always been sporadic with my blogging and I marvel at those who find things to blog about on a weekly basis. Clearly, I don’t find many things in life that inspiring to write about or, maybe the monotony of daily life kills inspiration?

I go to work, I come home, eat dinner, watch TV, go to bed, read. Rinse and repeat, five days a week. Weekends have become about recharging, lounging about, watching movies, gaming (I love my PS4) drinking wine, cooking and other than going out for a food shop or the occasional drink in my local pub, I’ve become something of a hermit. This is dangerous territory. I’m a homebody, I love my home comforts. Other than my bed, the sofa is probably my second favourite place.

Obviously, I need to get out of this funk.

2019 was about being a little selfish. My mental health was suffering, work was awful in the first half of the year. I was so exhausted and numb that I barely did any writing, put AmDram on hold and put myself first.

This was all well and good but the lazy part of my nature took over. I stopped exercising, put on weight and towards the end of the year started feeling crap about myself again. For someone with anxiety and depression, this is not good. I ended up living in my rut, desperate to get out of it, not knowing how to and unable to motivate myself.

Christmas was great, no travelling to see family, it was just me, my boyfriend and my cat. Lots of food, lots of drink, nice pressies and for a good week or so I was totally relaxed.

Almost three weeks into the New Year and it was already looking like 2020 would pan out to be another 2019. Ugh.

For weeks, I’ve been telling myself to reopen Horizon Skies and go through the notes from the last beta read. For weeks, I’ve been putting it off. I really am one of the world’s best procrastinators.

Today however, I actually did it. As soul destroying as it is to work on something I technically finished in 2018, I am fully aware of how, NOT working on it means no one else will ever get to read it. Therefore,  that I am cheating myself out of the opportunity of getting it back out there to an agent.

A few niggling edits aside, it seems the story just needs a few more elements added to it to strengthen aspects that haven’t been elaborated on. I have given myself until the end of February to get them done which means setting a little time aside in the evening each day and doing the work. I won’t be getting it beta read again, it’s had five people read it now and I think that’s enough outside opinion 🙂

As for other aspects of my life. Work is better, my new role which I’ve now been doing for 7 months is VERY busy and challenging but for my mental health, has made a massive difference. I’ve been getting back on the exercise bike and making more of an effort to eat properly during the day instead of wasting money on expensive ready meals and shop bought sandwiches.

These are baby steps, I’ve never been on to rush headlong into something but I think I’m heading in the right direction. I’m keeping an eye on AmDram news and if something comes up this year that piques my interest, I hope I’ll be in the right frame of mind to take part.

I still read every day, that hasn’t changed. Books have always been my one constant in life and I still need that escapism.

Creativity Doldrums

Oh dear, four months since I last made a blog entry.

I changed jobs at the end of May which has been great, I’m really enjoying the new role but I am busier than ever. Life is flashing before my eyes.

I still had some crap to deal with from the previous role which is yet to be concluded so that has been a frustrating experience, to say the least.

Mental health has been a bit up and down. I was exercising for a little while but then lost the motivation to do it every day and my weight has started creeping back up again. I’ve become lazy and complacent which is hard to deal with, especially on those days when I feel the tidal wave of sadness looming behind me. I feel sad every day but try and occupy my thoughts with other things as best I can. I treated myself to my first tattoo in June and had my next one Saturday just gone.

So, of course, the writing suffered. Horizon Skies was left to gather dust as the editing process dragged on. I think it’s on it’s 5th or 6th draft now and if it hadn’t been for one of my lovely Twitter crowd asking about a beta reader for her own book, I don’t know if I’d have got someone to take another look at mine. I decided to stop where I’d got to and we did a beta swap. I am so glad I did because it’s taken away some of the stress I was feeling  and I’ve been able to turn my attention back to other WIPs that have been languishing in the dark.

I last picked up Sanctuary of Stone in March this year and whilst I’ve looked at it from time to time, I couldn’t work out the story arc. I’m very much a writer who lets the plot unfold as I write. The danger with that is my stories either wither and die or go off on a wild tangent.

The trouble with Sanctuary is that it started out as a story within a very contained environment with just one character. I soon realised, this wouldn’t be enough to sustain a story of novel length so introduced other characters as I worked out the story in my head. As the environment in which these characters occupy is a place they can’t/won’t/don’t leave it became apparent that I would have to conclude the story quite quickly, thus, reducing the length to that of a novella. I don’t want to do that though.

Yesterday, I picked up were I left off and added another 1,000 words to chapter 10 which has now clocked in at approx. 1,700 total. I’d like to add another 500 or so as I always try to aim for a minimum chapter length of 2,000.

Today, I printed off all completed chapters and I then had a light bulb moment, something I’ve not had in a long time. A story arc came to mind and I felt inspired once again. For someone who wants to be a professional writer, the last few months of floating in the creativity doldrums had me worried. Is Horizon Skies the only book I’ll ever write?

Hopefully not, I’ve got so many more stories I want to tell.

 

Be Who You Are

Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of inspirational videos produced by Prince Ea. It was his video entitled 3 Seconds that introduced me to his philosophies and powerful messages. Through the mediums of imagery and poetry, his speeches are thought provoking and heartfelt. My mental health struggles make it difficult for me to fully connect with messages of empowerment or self-enlightenment, but their meaning isn’t totally lost on me. I’m a great believer in the Golden Rule, for example and think more people should live by it.

Six months into the year, my writing has suffered from my stress and anxiety levels spiking due to various issues at my work. Issues which are now being addressed but for the most part, I tried to manage by myself. The negative effect of all this would be that I would sit in front of Horizon Skies, skim through all the notes my editor had made and either work on the bare minimum or not at all. The result? Horizon Skies still needs work. The little, niggly updates are quick and easy to do but there are two major factors in my story that need an overhaul. Better world building and my magic system. Ugh.

My other book, Sanctuary of Stone, has also suffered. I quickly realised that the story wouldn’t hold up with just one character to carry it through. Not only would it get boring for the reader but with a word count target of around 80k, she’d run out of things to do! I have introduced other characters and an element of mystery so she now has more than one puzzle to solve and people around her who aren’t necessarily there to guide but to give some dimension to the story.

How does this relate to Prince Ea and the title of this post?

It doesn’t, not really.

Prince Ea’s 3 Seconds video had me sobbing my heart out. You can watch it here. I defy anyone not to be even a little bit moved by it.

His other videos on love, depression and other kinds of mental anguish ring so true and are so beautifully told that I now follow his posts because they’re the first content I’ve come across that I find truly uplifting. They have helped me reconcile my feelings of inadequacy as a writer. I feel more empowered ow to do the work on Horizon Skies that needs doing.

In terms of being who you are? This is actually quite simple.

There is so much trash on the internet, particularly on social media, that the good stuff is getting drowned out. People aspire to the likes of reality show contestants or “stars” without realising that the only talent these people have is one of self-promotion. Take the cameras away and what do they actually offer the world? Their crass displays of wealth, Instagram lifestyle, luxury holidays show a detachment from reality, but their fans don’t realise that these people really didn’t work their arses off to achieve that level of fame. From “leaked” sex-tapes to pimping themselves on TV or having affairs with ageing has-beens, this desperation for fame speaks more of their selfish needs and insecurity than it does about any discernible talent (always lacking!).

There are so many people in this world who do nothing but good. Whether it’s protesting climate change, campaigning for our environment, rescuing animals, volunteering in drought-stricken countries or helping those in need. These are the people who don’t get the recognition and accolades showered upon those whose only contribution to society is a constant stream of Instagram updates.

This is why it’s important to be who you are. What is your talent? What is your passion in life? Is it photography, writing, acting, singing, playing an instrument? Are you academically gifted? Do you want to stand up and fight for what’s right? Take on the corrupt politicians, climate change deniers, bigots and those who spew hate on a daily basis?

Or, do you want to bury your head in the sand and dream of a vacuous, selfish and unfulfilling existence?

I want to be a published writer. I want to see my book on the shelves. I’m not doing it for fame or money but because I enjoy it. To receive praise from someone after they’ve read my work is a wonderful feeling. To be told I’m a good writer means the world to me. I may not reach the echelons of writing like my literary heroes but I’m fine with that. I’d like to make a living out of it for sure, but I know in my heart, that I will always remain true to myself.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a pop star (didn’t we all?) As I grew up, I wanted to be an actress and go to Hollywood. I have sung on a record and I have acted. Ok, so not on the sort of levels I had once dreamed of, but I did it and it’s better than sitting at home dreaming about it. I want to be a writer so I’m doing it. It’s hard work, more than I realised but, this is who I am. I don’t care about having an Instagram lifestyle, in fact, that particular platform is feeding people a fantasy very few can achieve. It’s dangerous. I used it for all of about two weeks but have now deleted it.

Fame and fortune are by-products of one of two things: hard work or luck. Admittedly, there are people who have worked hard to get where they are but don’t necessarily have the talent or squander it and there are those for whom luck was on their side and they’ve gone on to prove that they do have the talent so of course, there is a grey area.

But there are those, who you can distinguish from each camp. Which one do you want to be?

Kick Back and Relax…It’s Really OK!

I’m often very self-critical when it comes to fitting in writing time. Because it’s the job I want to do, I hate not being able to fit it in every day; as I see so many other writers managing to do.

I currently work in I.T. and have been for the last thirteen years. All the jobs I’ve had in this industry are busy in the extreme. I’ve worked evenings, weekends, gone into the office early, worked through lunch – you get the idea.

The past couple years have been particularly difficult for one reason or another and I’ve reached the point where my stress levels are high and I suffer mild anxiety. For someone with existing mental health issues, this is not an ideal situation.

I made a decision after a crazy January that I wouldn’t again get sucked into the vicious circle of working long hours to try and stay on top of things. I don’t get any thanks or recognition for it and I’m only hurting myself in the process.

As a conscientious person, this is actually quite difficult for me to do. I’m a natural helper, I’m good at my job, I have years of knowledge and experience but these attributes have definitely been taken for granted. I’m stepping back. I get into the office around 8.45am instead of 8.00am. I take an hour for lunch away from my desk, I leave at 5.30pm and I do not log on or check my phone before or after those times.

Sadly however, I have had to drop out of the AmDram production I was due to appear in, in June. My mental state, the exhaustion and lack of energy meant I wasn’t enjoying rehearsals, I couldn’t engage with the material, therefore, was unable to devote 100% which was really unfair on the cast and director.

On a positive note, my evenings and weekends are free. I’m worrying a bit less and hopefully, my stress and anxiety will level out to something more manageable. I don’t have much energy in the evenings so writing time is reserved for the weekend and I’m happy with that. It’s better to be doing something than nothing.

Horizon Skies took six years to complete, it’s been almost a year since I first hawked it out to agents so I do need to get my arse in gear to really polish it and get back out there again.

So, if you’re in a similar position to me and are beating yourself up about your progress – don’t. It’s counterproductive, you’ll feel like crap and lose motivation.

It’s ok to re-evaluate where you are, make those changes and get yourself into a more positive frame of mind. I’m a lot happier now for doing so and it means

My weekends writing are something I enjoy and look forward to as opposed to something I have to get done.

Kick Back, Relax and Enjoy!