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Letting Go

Last week I discovered the libraries here on the Gold Coast hold an event called ‘Writing Fridays’, a structured day of writing using the Pomodoro Technique. Writing Fridays have been on hold since the libraries closed, but they recently announced that Gold Coast writers could now join free virtual Writing Fridays sessions every Friday from 10am to 4pm. So Friday has officially become my writing day. No publishing, just writing. Today I’ll be working on the second draft of my upcoming short story ‘Bedouin Boy’.

Like many other creatives, 2020 has been challenging for me. For the most part I think I’ve done alright, and I’ve been using the extra time at home to move through my writing and publishing goals. I have been working hard to keep in touch with my writing and publishing goals throughout the pandemic, but every now and then, I’m hit with an overwhelming sense of hopelessness, and I ask myself if there is any point to any of it. I ask myself why I am bothering to pursue any of these goals at all, especially the publishing ones.

But the pandemic is not the first time my writing and publishing goals have been seriously shaken up. It is not the first time on this journey that I have been moved to re-examine my writing and publishing dream, and challenge the picture of success I had conceived in my head.

I started taking my writing seriously around the age of eighteen. I completed a correspondence writing course that I had begun in high school, and became a member of the Queensland Writers Centre. It was around this time that I started working on my first book, a novella titled ‘The Wilted Rose’. I was also writing lots of short stories and submitting them to competitions around Australia, and getting a few wins here and there.

I decided to self publish The Wilted Rose when I was 21. I hadn’t tried very hard with the traditional publishing avenue at that stage, but I figured that I could self publish whilst also sending the book out to trad publishers. For many years I struggled to decide which channel I wanted to focus my attention on, all the while clinging to the vision of becoming the next J. K. Rowling. I read lots of articles about whether to choose trad or self publishing. Most discouraged the self publishing path and encouraged authors to try and find success in the traditional publishing world first. I was so conflicted.

Self publishing has become much more widely accessible, affordable and accepted in recent years. This certainly excited me, and I was delighted at the benefits of retaining so much more control over the publishing process. However I was still clinging to that picture of success I had conceived at the start of my writing and publishing journey. Deep down I didn’t want to completely let go of the dream of traditional success.

Then came the pandemic, and like so many other creatives I have struggled to keep my writing and publishing dreams alive. Wondering how this event has changed my ability to achieve my writing and publishing goals, in the short and long term.

Once again, I have been forced to take a long hard look at my writing and publishing dreams and goals, and to review them against the current events. I shifted my focus to setting up my eBook distribution, and put off setting up my paperbacks until the restrictions began to ease and the delivery of physical books could resume.

It has not been so much the need to review and adjust my goals in response to the pandemic that has been confronting to me. I felt like I had just gotten to the stage where I could detach emotionally from my long-held publishing dreams and goals, and to allow myself to consider new, better options. Now, even those options, and any kind of success with them, seem threatened by the pandemic.

What this pandemic has shown me is not how important my writing is to other people, but how important it is to me, and how vital it is to my mental health and emotional well-being. It has helped me detach from my ideals of success, and reconnect even more with the simple act of writing. Writing, not for anyone else, but for me.

In moments of weakness and hopelessness, I have slipped back into negative thought patterns, and wondered what relevance my books and the stories they contained have in the current state of things. People are distracted, emotionally and mentally drained. But in these moments of weakness, when the cloud of hopelessness lifts, I come back to the same truth every time. At the core, my writing is for me, and no-one else. And if in the process I can inspire others just by doing what’s right for me in this moment, then I’m glad.

No matter how my publishing goals change throughout this global shift, one thing has stayed consistent for me, and that is the act of writing itself. As always, writing has served as a source of strength inspiration to me. A way to lift my spirits, a place to escape when the real world becomes too much. I have had to let go of so much in regards to my publishing experience and what I thought that would look like, but my writing experience remains untouched. No matter what happens in the external world, as long as I have the use of my right hand and my mind, I will always have the simple, joyful act of writing.

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For a minute there, I lost myself.

To quote the Radiohead song ‘Karma Police’.

Last night, I was sitting up past midnight writing this blog post, having just surfaced from an episode of seriously ugly crying. Its the pandemic. Its the hate crime. It all hit me all at once, and not for the first time.

Since the 2020 shit show began, I have tried so hard to stay positive, to keep creating if for no other reason than to keep my own spirits up. Even if nobody cared what I was doing. Even if the news I shared with my followers about my writing and publishing progress was drowned out by world events. I wrote to cling to some sense of normality and purpose. Last night, I felt hopeless, and briefly lost sight of why I was writing.

I gave into the feelings that trying to pursue these creative goals was pointless. I’m smashing my goals, and I’m getting my books back into distribution. But the whole world is so distracted that doing these things sometimes feels like an act of ignorance. That by trying to continue to strive to reach my creative goals, I’m somehow in denial about the state of the world. That I shouldn’t be trying to draw people’s attention away from the current social issues we face by sharing my personal successes and progress.

Like so many other creatives (lets face it, all creatives) I have struggled with a sense that my creations are pointless right now. From pandemics to hate crimes, there so much uncertainty. People are distracted, mentally and emotionally exhausted, myself included. I’d like to think my stories provide people with an escape from reality, but do they really want the escape that I want to provide? Do they feel as guilty about escaping reality through reading as much as I feel guilty about enabling their escapism through my writing?

After writing all this down, my tears had calmed and my eyes were heavy and tired. It was nearly 1am, and I realized something again that I realized at the start of the pandemic. Something I monetarily forgot in the overwhelming sense of hopelessness. And what I realized is this.

At the core, my writing is for me. The simple act of writing lifts my spirits even when publishing feels pointless. So I will keep writing, no matter what. Whether the world pays attention or not.