Not a starving artist.

I am 30 years old and I am nowhere near accomplished in my goals as a writer. Or as a sewist for that matter. Or in any other freely creative aspect of my life. And I am completely okay with that.

When I was about 18 or 19 years old I made a decision. I had finished school with poor marks and zero direction due to the truest of teenage distractions (boys and booze). I had toyed with many career paths. I was jobless, had no money and limited support, and just wanted to make a steady income. Deep down I knew that I wanted to be a writer, but I wasn’t going to burden people who couldn’t afford it with the task of propping up my dreams. So I had to shelve them. I had to get a job. I didn’t just have to get a job, but I also needed a career. Something that could eventually keep my head above water so much that I could maybe afford to write as well. Something that would carry me through being crap at my craft, then mediocre, then maybe one day good. Something that could carry me through submissions and rejections. And maybe even through a book deal or a writing contract that paid me money, but never enough to live off. Something to fall back on. Something to keep me from mounds of debt.

So I got a job at the local BigW and enrolled in a uni entry course. I fumbled my way into a social science degree: interesting enough to keep me engaged, but with enough majors available that might actually guide me to a job. I majored in Human Resources. I got a plum job in a graduate program for the state government in Sydney. I bounced around for a few years through gruelling, dull, busy-work and being tasked with managing trumped up projects. I had relationships and heartbreak. I moved house many times, got home sick for Newcastle and went running back there to a job I didn’t really want, giving up lots of money in the process. I dealt with trauma, death and ill health. I suffered.

Then I interviewed for a job doing what I was finally good at, at a place I could find meaning. I now work for a disability service provider, in HR, doing work I genuinely enjoy. I’ve done it for long enough to be confident in the advice I give.  I won’t for a second suggest that I have “made it” in this career. I could learn to do this well for the rest of my life. But I can now finally say that I am in a place where my career is not penetrating my every waking moment.

So, I am writing again.

When I was young and quite stupid in all other aspects of my life, I made a decision that the starving artist path was too hard. It was a very difficult decision to make but I take no shame in it and I don’t regret it. It was a choice that gave me power to now write with freedom and to not become disenchanted when my craft isn’t good enough to put food on the table. My creativity will never have that burden now.

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Urgghghh

I think I am having a quarter life crisis.

Yes, that sounds dramatic. No, I don’t care.

At least, by my calculations, having a quarter life crisis at 29 means I should live to 116 years old. Yay me.

I just want to write my book. But now that I finally have some time to do it, my brain has jammed and I am unsure I will ever unjam it.

I can’t even blame my day job. My work is challenging and rewarding but I rarely bring it home in my hands or in my head so it’s hardly the problem.

I’m compensating by rewatching Dawson’s Creek. It isn’t helping. Dawson, who is whiny, obnoxious, and definitely NOT my favorite character (marry me Pacey!), has unfortunately got his shit together more than I do. He can at least put together a script. Even if his latest is, as Jen puts it, “fluff”, he is able to at least conjure, craft and complete a whole story. Whilst wallowing over Joey for goodness sake!

Lately, I can’t even muster up a cursory list of character traits.

I can sort of blame other aspects of my personal life, aspects which I don’t wish to discuss here. But in my youth these personal crisis would be reason to write. Writing would help me escape.

But for now I am stuck in my head. Stuck in wallowing, thinking and feeling as though I will never be the writer I want to be.

Urgghghh….

…at least I have Pacey

Fear

My novel is going to explore some big ideas.

It is about purpose. Whether our lives have purpose, whether one persons individual existence has purpose, whether purpose is fixed, can be altered, or is entirely invented.

Yet on the surface, the story will be about teenagers coming of age, with a very strong element of science fiction that may work wonderfully, or may be over the top for what I need it to achieve.

And then there is the political stuff that found its way in there, that I just wasn’t expecting.

And of course there are the big plot holes that I have no idea how to fill.

It’s any wonder I haven’t written it yet. It’s terrifying! How do I do this story justice? I know there is an incredible story in there but how can I, a total amateur, ever hope to get it right?

It’s hard enough deciding if it will be one book or three. Written well it would be three. Which means it will probably be one. Ha!

Does this sound redundantly negative?

It’s meant to. I have to face this insecurity and move forward in spite of it. I have to convince myself I can do something remarkable. That I myself am more remarkable than I realise.

You’re a wizard Dani.

A disjointed life

This last couple of weeks I have barely posted because I have barely had the energy to go to and from my day job and contribute meaningfully to it, let alone do more.

I had a week long headache which was the main culprit.I have minor surgery pending for an ovarian cyst which will hopefully help. The generic ‘symptoms’ I have had over the last couple of years are unbearably disruptive to my work, my relationships, my fitness and my hobbies. Writing always comes last of course and this is becoming increasingly upsetting. The cyst may not be the core reason for my problems but it is certainly exacerbating them. I hate the term “health problems” and the connotations it brings. I want to burn with energy and achieve great things. I hate feeling lazy, or worse, incapable. I am looking forward to moving forward.

In spite of this, there are little brightnesses in life! I finally got sick of having nowhere truly comfortable to read a book, so went on a mission to find a “reading chair” which would also double as a “recovery chair” post surgery. I am very, very pleased with my find, a leather chesterfield recliner:

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This only cost me $50! A bargain considering it only has minor wear. The only problem will be keeping boyfriend out of it haha.

I also pushed through the headache to go out for dinner and a drink with the work girls, and realised I need to do so more often. Its good to talk and gossip and laugh occasionally.

I am also sad The Office is coming to a close. Which is probably not helped by the last few episodes being better than the whole last 3-4 seasons.

I am also finding peace from the craziness and pain with this a short stroll from my front door:

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Life is good, if disjointed, and will soon hopefully be alot more on track.

Scrivener, ready to roll!

Last night was exhausting. I spent several hours playing with first Dropbox, then Scrivener. I think I’ve got it!

The process is only really complicated if I switch from my PC to my netbook and back again. This will happen if I get a spare few hours on weekends to write in a coffee shop or the uni library. Not really an issue at the moment.

Here is the process I have worked out for saving on Scrivener:

Saving

  • Open the project on my PC, the project file is saved in My Documents on the actual computer.
  • Work with document. It will autosave every 2 seconds (while active) to the My Docs file.
  • When finished for the day, close Scrivener. The file will autosave, and will ALSO save a back up to the Dropbox file.
  • Open the Dropbox and be sure that it is fully synced (based on the file symbols) before stepping away from the computer. This is important because if the computer gets switched off or goes to sleep before it is synced it may stuff things up if I try to open on the netbook.
  • Close the Dropbox and sleep or shutdown the computer.

Opening in a different device

  • ONLY open in a different device if Scrivener has been fully closed in the previous and the above process followed completely. This also applies if returning from Netbook to PC.
  • Open the Netbook.
  • Open Dropbox on Netbook.
  • Open My Docs on Netbook.
  • Delete any old files from the My Docs folder (these will be old versions from last time I used the Netbook, the latest version is in the Dropbox).
  • Copy the latest back up file from the Dropbox into the My Docs (it will be a zip file)
  • Unzip (extract) the file
  • Delete the original zip file from My Docs, not from Dropbox (just to eliminate confusion).
  • Open the project from the new, unzipped file that is now in My Docs.
  • Be sure to follow the process for “Saving”, but this time we are on a different machine.

I know, lots of detail there, and possibly too many steps, but this is apparently the most secure way to work, and the detail makes me feel safer. I could just work straight from the Dropbox all the time and save the backups to the local My Docs folder, however this is less secure. A Scrivener Project is actually a collection of various types of files all interacting with each other. You want the project to Autosave frequently for peace of mind, but if it is doing that with Dropbox as opposed to a fixed local drive it can create all sorts of issues. This way, the backup file is created in Dropbox only when you close Scrivener. Not only is this safer but it gives you a specific moment at which you need to turn to Dropbox and check that all is synced and you are not going to open up a half synced file next time you need to write. A half synced file could be missing hours worth of work! Bad stuff!

Phew. It was such hard work figuring all this out. I am relatively nerdy but that only gets me so far.

I’m sure others out there have ‘better’ ways of doing this, or at least better ways of explaining it. And maybe some of my assumptions are wrong. By all means, feel free to add a comment…advice is appreciated!

Busy night tonight with SES training and assessment, but tomorrow night and definitely Friday night….the writing begins! 🙂

Procrastination vs. too many interests. Which exactly can I blame my lack of writing on?

I was looking for a picture of Lisa Simpson procrastinating, to accompany this blog post, when I found out that there is a whole episode in which Lisa procrastinates instead of writing a novel. So what did I do? Went and watched it instead of doing some writing, or planning, or plotting, or character developing.

And after all that, this was the best image I could come up with…though Lisa finds far more to do while procrastinating than this picture depicts.

Anyway the whole thing got me thinking that there is more than just straightforward procrastination getting in my way: I suddenly, recently, have a full and satisfying life. There are hobbies, activities and endless entertainment and education at my fingertips. How do I prioritise all that?

My week now includes:

  • 35 hours per week of work, 7 hours of lunchbreaks that usually get spent on social media.
  • Enjoying a new hobby of sewing as a beginner
  • Blogging about said hobby
  • 2 evenings of indoor climbing
  • 1 evening of State Emergency Service (SES) volunteer training
  • Online sew school modules
  • Time with my man
  • Occasional time with friends and family
  • Occasional enjoyment of the Kindle (often in the previously mention lunchbreaks)

And thats not to mention 1-2 hours each week wasted on grocery planning and shopping, several hours on cooking dinners and packing lunches, washing clothes, cleaning up, driving etc.

That’s not to say I don’t have plenty of time to myself, I do. But when I get it it’s often a choice between sewing, writing, reading, discovering, watching some TV etc. All these activities I find enjoyable and satisfying. Am I struggling with procrastination? Or is really just a lack of ability to prioritise? Or even a total lack of interest in prioritising?

Whilst I don’t consider myself as intelligent and conscientious as I imagine an adult Lisa Simpson to be, I do think I am alot like her and I have spent most of my life assuming myself the intellectual. In recent years I discovered not only that that was not who I was, but also that I was not that person due to conscious choice. Life was always too short to stay buried in books or to pretend to like maths. Despite that realisation, it was only recently that I attempted to explore my creative side, and the joy I am gaining through sewing is wonderful. When I have time to spare at the moment, I am either sewing, reading about sewing, planning sewing, or diving into the online sewing community. It is my priority at the moment and writing is not, and I am ok with that because sewing is bringing me so much joy, satisfaction and relaxation (when it is going well anyway).

I am not saying I want to give away the idea of being a writer. I want to write this novel very much. I just think I am beginning to understand why it is not happening at the moment. The next thing to figure out is how to make it happen!