I set myself the task of completing seven non-writing actions to move me towards a professional writing career.Here was the list that I set myself last week:

  1. Submit work to Material Magazine
  2. Sort out and revamp this site
  3. Set up Nature Stories website
  4. Make a list of other submissions to competitions
  5. Make a front cover for Obelisque to put on reading sites
  6. Make my five character pieces for 21 Soul
  7. Write each morning

So what I achieved off the list

Number 1 and 2. I submitted three short pieces of a series of flash fictions and one poem on food to Material Magazine. And I also began to revamp this blog and to start posting regularly here.

It wasn’t altogether easy. The deadline for the submissions was midnight on the 10th and I’d already switched the computer off, not wanting to linger in front of a screen too late into the evening. But I did go back, switch it on, and submit the pieces.

And writing here isn’t the easiest thing in the world either, so it seems. As I wrote about in the opening post, there is a sense that I should be farther along this path than I am. That is, of being a professional writer, having published books, novels, writing full-time. Overcoming that sense of disappointment in oneself of not having achieved this so far in life, and doing it publicly on record, feels like A Great Exposure. But I also know those feelings of disappointment with oneself—measured against an internally-held ideal—are also one of the largest blockages to fulfilling potential. So this exposure could, one hopes, become an exorcism instead.

What wasn’t achieved?

Numbers 3 to 6 didn’t fare so well.

I guess that was because some of them were quite difficult, or obstructed. I couldn’t remember my tech login to set up my Nature Stories website. (Nature Stories is a small social enterprise I created when I was awarded a small grant from Hefce / Unltd Fund to take creative writing workshops into local community groups to develop writing confidence and pro-environmental reflection and activism (it’s done in conjunction with a local marine conservation charity, so far). I’m bidding for some new money, and so wanted to get the website set up to show funders.)

But 4, 5 and 6 were all do-able. I just didn’t commit the time to doing them.

And why was that?

Well, a couple of reasons I guess:

a)     establishing new habits is, as the research shows, hard work. It takes a long time to build in time and energy for new commitments, particularly at busy times—and heading back to a teaching timetable is a busy time; I was, last week, feeling overwhelmed by the time I spend at a computer screen (all my writing is typed, not handwritten)

b)     They’re not all so easy I themselves. Take number 6, for example. 21 Soul is a coaching/psychology programme developed by Steve Thorp to help people rebalance their lives across the different spaces and experience of living, to focus not just on the social self, but also the ecological and soulful/spiritual self. It is a form of un-psychology, grounded in integrative practices and a real-world acceptance of very harsh truths about the impacts of western civilization on the planet and on each other. It is, in my view, a powerful process and one that I’ve benefited from greatly in the past three months. But it can be hard, as it is about opening the doors to one’s inner life, desires, blockages and creativity. It is difficult to ‘get into the mood’ for such deep delving. But the reason it makes it onto this list is because such exploration is important for creativity. I’ve been writing about that a lot on a separate space for this 21 Soul process. If you want to know more, pop over and have a read.

c)     That last one: writing each morning. That snuck in there without thinking too much about it. It would seem obvious that to become a professional writer I need to write consistently. But in some ways, having it on this list crept into the time that I thought to give over to these tasks. Instead of adding a commitment in time to do these things, I merged them with writing. That is, I began to do them in writing time, because actually (and this is no bad thing!) writing was actually easier than some of these, such as creating a front cover for my novel so I could post it to online communities such as Goodreads.com and Authonomy.com. So it gave myself a get-out. As long as I’ve written each morning, I argued, then really I’m still a writer. Yes. That is true. But a professional writer? No. Not that, yet.

But it won’t be there next week, replaced with… writing this post each Monday. (Which might be a challenge in itself, with a teaching load of 8-hours, 10am to 6pm without a break, for the next 12 Mondays. Sunday evenings then.)

It would be easy to be hard on myself – you didn’t commit, it’s that simple. But negative messages don’t really help and they do not reinforce good practice. Rather, what a professional does in this situation is

  • Draw attention to what you have done which might on the list, and other stuff which isn’t
  • To examine the situation and make a change, positively.

And I’ve done a lot, such as working on my PhD, and taking on a new teaching commitment, which are all things I’ve taken on as a means to progress the professional writing career. They shouldn’t be lost just because they weren’t on the original list.

And so for this coming week, looking at what I did and didn’t do, I’ve made a few decisions.

  • Morning writing time has to be dedicated, for the next six weeks, to completing the critical element of my PhD, so it is done, finished, out of the way. Without this completion, I cannot progress in practical terms: there is literally no time for writing.
  • Not to confuse not-writing with not writing, or even writing
  • To be specific with tasks. If I am going to write, then it is a particular piece, for a particular purpose. There’s plenty of other time for free writing.

So, this week’s 7 tasks:

  1. Post Week 2 of this blog series on Sunday
  2. Develop my Profession of Writing intro presentation
  3. Set up Nature Stories website
  4. Put in my Churchill Travel Fellowship application
  5. Make a front cover for Obelisque to put on reading sites
  6. Make my five character pieces for 21 Soul
  7. Re-join NAWE

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