Learning to Breathe Again

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November’s Jukepop Reading Party is over.

As usual I prepared this month’s reading list with gusto.  My plan was to start on J.A Waters Lyncia.  Unfortunately, this month has been a little tumultuous so I only managed the first fifteen chapters.  I say ‘only’, the JRP isn’t about quantity – it’s about Jukepop authors coming together and reading what they can together in order to support other Jukepop authors in time for the JP30.  It doesn’t matter if you read one chapter or a hundred.  That said, there was a reason I read so little over the weekend.

Some of you may be aware that I have been wrestling with a difficult decision these past few months about whether to defer my home study course for a year to focus on my writing.  What prompted this …?

Well … let me start by saying that I have been a writer since before I can remember.  I’m sure it’s the same for most writers.  More often than not, it feels less like I’m an architect of imaginary worlds and characters and more like I’m the conduit for a thousand different voices, each with a tale to tell.

At the risk of sounding arrogant, I will admit that I have never considered my ability to write as something ‘special’.  It was just something I did and always had.  Do you consider breathing ‘special’ …?  True, at its most fundamental level, breathing is important; without it you would die, but it is in no way special.  I have also never experienced writers block.  I’d heard authors and friends talk about the dreaded writers block and had always been somewhat confused.  How could one just not write?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not gloating nor am I saying I’m an unparalleled prodigy or anything.  There is no doubt in my mind that I have much to learn.  Quite simply, what I am saying is that for me, writing might as well be part of my DNA – like my eye colour.  It’s just one more building block that makes me ‘me’ and I have never given it a second thought.

Fast forward a little to the summer just gone.  I made the decision to give my writing an overhaul.  I dubbed it my ‘Creative Summer’.  I dedicated every spare moment I had to it.  I entered into three competitions – The SWP2015 being one of them.  I didn’t win but I learned so much and that, to me, was the best prize.  Ideas buzzed around my head and I had plans to write more – to self publish, to start a new serial on Jukepop and to continue writing at least one short story a month.  As the month of September rolled by though, there came a distant knell: my home study degree started early October.

Once I started the course, I began to push my writing away.  I had essays to write, chapters to read, tutorials to attend.  After completing the first essay, I sat down to give myself time to write and  … nothing.  I figured I was just tired and would try again the next day.  My husband took our daughter out for a few hours to give me some time and space to harness my craft.  Again nothing.  All of a sudden I was, figuratively speaking, suffocating.  There was no creative air in my lungs.

For the first time in my life I was suffering writers block.  There is no simile or adjective that could possibly begin to describe how unpleasant it felt.

Throughout my life I had always balanced my need to write with work and other responsibilities.  Even during the years when I earned minimum wage and had to work 70 hours a week to pay the bills or after my daughter was born and I was sleep deprived, hormonal and exhausted.  What went wrong …?

I realised then that perhaps I had prematurely pulled the plug on my creative development and I was paying the price.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m learning a lot on my course but it pales in comparison to the personal growth I had made during my Creative Summer.

This left me standing at a crossroad:

The left turn will keep me on my home study degree.  The course will take six years to complete part time.  Putting it off by a year will obviously add another year.  There is the possibility that once my daughter starts school in a few years I will be free to shift to full time and complete it quicker.  There is also the possibility that I can apply to the local university to undertake the course full time and complete it in three to four years but there is no guarantee I will be accepted.

The right turn will take me down a path where I defer my course for a year so I can go back to dedicating all my free time to writing.

Some of you may have seen me reach out on twitter for some advice (special thanks to M. Howalt and Allison Spector by the way!).

After weeks of wrestling and fretting and running countless plans and scenarios through my mind, I have decided that I will take the right turn and defer my course.

There are several reasons for this.  First, it will make me happy.  Second, if I want to be accepted into the Literature and Creative Writing course at the local university, I will stand a better chance if I actually have some work published and the best way to do that is to keep writing and submitting stories be they serials or short stories.  Finally, I feel that neglecting my craft would squander all the hard work I did over the summer.

It’s fair to say that I didn’t appreciate the gift of writing as much as I should have until now.  I suppose people don’t appreciate the air in their lungs until they find themselves unable to breathe.  That changes now.

Writing has opened so many doors in my life.  For example, my love of writing drives me to read which has in turn lead me to some fantastic adventures.  Most recently it has led me to Jukepop where I have read some amazing stories and met some wonderfully supportive authors (who have in turn given me fantastic advice!).  True, education is invaluable, but not all education takes place in the classroom.  After all, the few months I dedicated to writing saw me place in the top ten of the SWP2015 which in turn led to a podcast interview.  Imagine what might happen after a year?

I will, of course, still be taking part in the JRP every month.  J.A Water’s Lyncia will still get a review which I will post in time for Christmas.

I’d like to thank those who helped me overcome this personal hurdle – not only my fellow authors but my husband too (I don’t know how he put up with my mopiness!).

As always, stay tuned for further updates and of course the review of the fantastic Lyncia.

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8 thoughts on “Learning to Breathe Again

  1. That is a very difficult choice, and I definitely understand the desire to choose happiness first. That’s important, and if what you’re doing causes more problems than solutions it may be time to take another path. It sounds like you have a good plan for your way ahead though, so best of luck to you. It’ll be great to see another story from you, whichever you choose to pursue. I’m honored that you’re reading Lyncia, and thank you so much for the kind words.

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    1. I’m looking forward to sorting out the review! I really enjoyed Lyncia! I’m hoping to finish it over Christmas so the review will be in two parts! The first part will look at the first fifteen chapters and the second part next month will look at the rest.

      It has been a difficult decision. There have been other bits and pieces in the background that didn’t help either but this is definitely one of the biggest decisions I’ve ever had to make but I feel like a real weight has been lifted. The very instant I made the decision, the floodgates opened, the ideas poured fourth and I wrote for hours and hours. That’s how I know it’s the right decision.

      I will keep you updated with the review of Lyncia and hopefully have it up just before Christmas!

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      1. That’ll be super cool. There’s a lot that happens between chapter 15 and 50, so I’ll be interested if how those parts compare to one another. And yeah, stress is so much more difficult to face and deal with than it’s usually made out to be. I hope you find a balance between work and play again soon.

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  2. Congratulations on making the decision! I have no doubt that it’ll be great for your creativity. Good luck! And your comment on how you’ve just seen writing as something natural got me thinking, so thank you. 🙂

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    1. I’m glad it got you thinking. It was an interesting realisation for me. I think sometimes we all take things we do or have for granted every day and when we stop to think about them we realise how precious they are.

      I am super excited by all the prospects. I know my writing is far from perfect (not that it ever will be – even if I became an international sensation there will always be room for improvement). I enjoyed the learning process over the summer so a whole year of it is going to be paradise for me at least.

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  3. That’s a respectable choice. I made the same decision a year ago after I started a full-time work that hit my writing harder than when a tank gets blown up by a rocket. My year is up, and I’m back to working, but having spent one year with no major focus other than writing, I find it easier to balance life and writing at the same time now. It’s not a choice available to everyone. I had a decent saving which I could fall back on, which was the reason I did the year break. I’m sure it’s the same for you. But I felt that once I was writing on full time, even coming out of it, I was able to juggle better. I may be applying for university next year, and that experience might hit another block, but we’ll cross that bridge when I get there.

    Look at me, rambling. Hah!

    Any long time writer who has ever experienced writer’s block can attest to how depressing and terrifying it can feel, especially if you have done writing for more than half you life, as I’m sure most of us have. We’re not used to the quiet in our heads. But it’s a little like a CPU. The boot up takes longer than the run.

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    1. I didn’t think you were rambling at all! It has been nice to see support from people and to hear that people have had a similar experience and understand. It wasn’t an easy decision but I’m glad I made it. Given how unpleasant the experience was I feel lucky that this is the first time I ever experienced it. And you’re right – it was really desolate in my head without my writing! So glad it’s over!

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