When I was asked to talk about the writer’s journey at the Writers Unleashed Festival, I was in a bit of a conundrum: where to start, how much to share, and what could I add to the conversation that hadn't been heard before. A writer's journey isn't a straight line from point A to Point B, its round about, up and down, stopping and starting. So I thought I'd share instead the three things I like to do each day and in that way also share my journey and my approach to writing.
Being a writer enables me to read, explore and discover the world as I see fit every single day and quite often during the night time hours as well. I'm not much of a sleeper. My brain fills the quiet moments with thought, ideas, stories, characters; and sometimes utter nonsense. But during daylight, that's when I get to read and if I can thank writing for anything it's the chance to read more. I leave for work early so I can sit in a cafe and research or write usually both at the same time. I might spend my lunch break looking up websites or planning walks: research on the hoof so to speak.
But it's not all about writing, well it is, but sometimes it's bigger picture than that. It’s about learning to face fear head on: battling frustration because something is taking too long (I hate waiting). Some days I don't even realise I've learned something because the thing I'm learning is a tiny component of a bigger picture. Like learning that rejection slips aren't really rejections of you personally but only an indication that somebody is not ready or able to read your work, take you on as a client or publish your book. In the five years it took me to get a contract for my first novel, 2007 to 2012, I learned patience and persistence.
Frustrating as hell at the time but now I look back and realise I needed that. It allowed me the time to polish the story some more, write other stories and finally find the publisher I was waiting for. I then spent every day learning how to grapple the sheer panic of realising my dream and getting what I've always wanted.
I love the feeling I get from being in a creative flow of ideas so much that I'm prepared to seek it out in other areas of my life. Making someone happy or proud, making the world’s best list at work. I'm an event organiser by day: we live for a good list to keep us organised and on track. Create a new story or article. I really enjoy is graphic design and photography. I can easily spend hours working in Photoshop, creating bookmarks and postcards, improving my website, updating my social media imagery.
And then there is photography. Check out my Instagram account. If you're not on Insta, just go visit my photo gallery on this website. I've set up a direct link to my Instagram feed. I take photos of flowers, bushwalks, buildings (preferably heritage) and pretty much whatever takes my fancy. I look for colour, light, lines, and composition. Like writing (and everything else) I enjoy the making process of photography.
I start with making my bed. And I mention this because I listened to some American navy bigwig on YouTube giving a motivational talk and he said if the first thing you do every day is make your bed then even if your day has gone totally to hell in a hand basket you've at least got that one thing you achieved to lay down in at the end of it all. Or words to that effect. I figure most people make their bed and I do too but thinking about it like that gives the mundane task new meaning. The meaning behind it though is to recognise the insignificant things you achieve because they make up the bigger things. After I achieved my big goal I needed to take that further and find more goals, I had to realise that writing another book was certainly achievable but I had to sit down and get on with it. I wrote A Single Light in 2010 and finished it a week before it was published in 2015. I kid you not, I decided to make changes (that didn't affect the overall already edited work) and my lovely publisher slipped it in and pressed send on the print order the next day.
Achieving those goals comes from constantly achieving the smaller ones: finding better ways of writing a sentence or paragraph, editing out redundant scenes no matter how much you loved writing them, playing the social media game to build up an audience (I'm on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook btw - who isn't! And am attempting Google+), writing articles, short stories, researching, planning, wrestling with computer programs and apps. Sometimes at the end of the day beside having a made bed to sink into I count not throwing my iPad across the room or my computer out the window a major achievement!
Learning, making, achieving are the three things shape my outlook on life and keep my creativity flowing. They keep me focussed on the small things going on around me, and remind me that I need to participate in life, not just sit back and watch it go by if I want my dreams to become reality.
This is where I quote, "from little things, big things grow..."
Images sourced from Wix Freebies (thanks Wix)
The American Navy Bigwig guy is Admiral William H. McRaven . University of Texas at Austin 2014 Commencement Address. Watch and Listen for yourself here: https://youtu.be/pxBQLFLei70
The "make your bed" part is at 4:37, but go ahead and listen to the whole thing.