Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Do What Makes You Happy

Despite Storm Doris and the fact that it’s lashing down outside, I can feel spring in the air. There’s light at the end of the dark, dreary tunnel of winter and suddenly I’m full of inspiration and ideas.

I’ve got to admit I’ve been a bit of a misery for the last couple of years and as a result everything seems to have gone by the wayside. Particularly my writing which, for as long as I can remember has been a source of much pleasure. Thinking about it, what knocked me for six was getting caught up in the idea that writing had to be about something other than personal fulfilment.

I’d found myself in a position where I was able to take extended periods of unemployment and any bits of work I did were all about funding my pre-occupation with writing. I wrote like a demon for a couple of years and life felt pretty much perfect. But then somewhere along the way I lost sight of my own feelings and began looking outward for external validation. Anybody who self-publishers will tell you that getting a readership is brutally hard work – a full time job in itself. Most books languish on Amazon unread by anyone other than a handful of people and the realisation of this stung.

Not only did I have to abandon the idea that I wasn’t going to be able to abandon the day job, I simultaneously entered the time of life that people like to flippantly refer to as a mid-life crisis. The understanding that (unless I’m going to be in the Guinness Book of Records) I’m well past the half way stage – it should really be called a three quarter life crisis although I concur it doesn’t sound very catchy. Anyway, I became consumed by what I hadn’t done and the ever decreasing road that lay ahead of me.

Fortunately, as with all things human, these things pass and I now find myself inspired by the very same things that had felt so limiting. I don’t need to prove myself because at 54 I’m never going to be the next ‘bright young thing’. No, I’m old enough to appreciate that anything that brings us pleasure should be grasped firmly by both hands.

During my writing adventure, I didn’t spend my days locked away in the attic living like a church mouse. Instead I lived beyond my means, crashing and burning rather spectacularly. I was forced to re-evaluate my relationship with the workplace and now work considerably more than I’d like to which has had an impact on how much time I can dedicate to writing.

So what’s changed? Simply my outlook on life. Whilst I’m never going to be able to retire completely, in a couple of years I will be in a position to cash in my pension which will afford me a financial cushion – albeit a flimsy one. I feel lucky to be coming to the end of my career and contemplating a time of indulging in whatever takes my fancy. Hopefully that will mean writing a whole host of novels that can be read or not.

Because what difference does it really make? The pleasure I get from writing is in no way connected to the number of people who read it. Yes, as I write there’s an audience in mind and I imagine what kind of reaction my words might inspire but once I press publish all that becomes irrelevant. I’ve no idea what happens to my words as they loaf about in cyber space in much the same style I loaf my way through life.

So my advice to you my dear potential reader is do what makes you happy for its own sake and not for anything it may bring you. If you are a fellow scribe it doesn’t matter if you write for you alone or an audience of many, the power is in the joy of expressing your words onto the page. If it’s some other pastime that makes you smile then my message stands the same. I love dancing and singing and the fact that I’m never going to be Beyonce doesn’t diminish that joy one little bit so why should not being Jane Austen stop me from putting pen to paper?

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