It’s very easy for me to find that, once I begin to open up to someone, they are faced with the awful predicament of trying to fathom out a way of shutting me up. Of course, as a rule, they don’t tend to actually tell me to shut up (with one notable exception who will remain nameless!), although I’m surprised, sometimes. Stuff just starts to tumble out, jumbled and a bit like an express train that hasn’t a clue where it’s going. Doing the job I do, it’s perfectly likely and often frequent that I don’t hear another voice all day (and anyone who has experienced teenagers will know that you don’t always get a huge amount of change out of their evening conversation sometimes, either!).
The other terribly embarrassing, uncomfortable thing (probably for my captive listener, anyway) is that I may well tumble forth with various subjects that have been bothering me. These are usually the things that have been frustrating or upsetting me for quite some time. I’ve made no secret on my blog that I live with a fluctuating level of depression, as do many writers, because I don’t see it as something any of us should hide away. How many other writers have also been told on Christmas Day that they’re being divorced, I don’t know. Oh yes, my personal life is developing another level of “interesting”, as I continue to act as professionally as always in my writing, editing and publishing. Work is one of the most important things in my life and I have accomplished a number of things over the last year or so that I should be extremely proud of.
But there’s the rub. I very rarely am satisfied with anything I achieve. Also, I often feel as if I have pigeonholed and confined myself into certain types of work while doing way too much, and frustrating myself when I don’t complete the immense list of ‘things to do’, most of which I’m not even sure I wanted to do in the first place. And then I start to question what exactly it is that I want to do. The question invariably has been left hanging.
“Hold up, you crazy woman. If you write, and spend a lot of time working with and helping other writers, and you work for yourself — and are therefore answerable only to yourself — why on earth aren’t you choosing to do more of what makes you happy, what really interests you, and what drives your desires? Why don’t you figure out what that is, because people change, their passions change, and the forces that drive them can alter dramatically.” I say this kind of thing to myself all the time. Do I listen? Nah. I just start the next ‘to do’ list.
Until very recently. Without a doubt, events of recent weeks have forced me to take various actions which I would never have done otherwise — decisions relating to my mental health, the practicalities of my short-term situation and my emotional stability, little of which would have been achieved without the love and support of some extremely special people in my life (they know who they are). And I have given myself some time and space to think very carefully about the future direction of my work. I haven’t done with this yet, though, because I know there’s much more to be dealt with here if I am to continue with as much passion and drive over every aspect of my work as I feel when I edit or publish someone else’s.
Enter Carol Lloyd and Creating a Life Worth Living. Carol’s book has been sitting on my shelf for a number of years and I enjoyed it immensely the first time I read it. But it’s only now that it has shown how relevant to me it has really become. The is “a practical, inspiring and irreverent crash course in career survival” for creatives, lasting over twelve weeks. It takes the reader on a journey, identifying the dreams that could become reality, figuring out exactly what it is that inspires and fires the passion in the creative person, guiding the reader through a planning process in order to give life to the creative dreams and finally creating bridges to jump off, in order to create and manage a whole set of long-term projects.
You might throw that back at me, saying, “Well, you do all that, anyway.” That’s true; I juggle a lot of long-term projects. But are they the right ones for me?
The biggest advice the author gives as she introduces this process during the introduction, is to work on the ideas that are generated consistently, to give yourself weeks to breaks old habits and try new things, and to cast your imagination forwards to get to a new and exciting creative future. Right now, I am prepared to plunge headlong into creating something exciting and long-term for myself, above and beyond the elements of my work that I already love. Over the next twelve weeks, I am going to work through a chapter at a time, and finally, see where I’m at when I reach the end of the journey with the book. If you’re already struggling to keep your eyes open with all this talk of self improvement, I don’t expect you to suffer my posts on the subject. Just ignore them! But if you want to see how I’m faring, and maybe have a think about how the topics I discuss each week affect you and your creative self, please do feel free to read and comment. Discussions on developing and channelling creativity may be helpful to more people than we know.