I recently lost my job.
I suppose I didn’t technically “lose” it – I was working on a fixed term one year contract. However, I was settled and happy where I was working, and the longer that went by without my boss mentioning the end of my contract, the more I convinced myself that it would be extended.
Sadly, those hopes came crashing down around my ears a couple of weeks ago when I was told that my contract would not be renewed. I was very fortunate that I found a new job within a week of starting to look, but at the time, it seemed like the end of the world. I didn’t want to leave, I had hoped to stay, I was afraid of being unemployed and I was wishing that I had prepared myself better financially over the year.
But in amongst all of that emotion, a part of my brain remained very objective and saw the possibility for a story in my situation.
“What if,” I thought. “What if a disgruntled ex-employee accidentally stabbed her boss with a letter opener? Or burnt down the office?”
Obviously this is fiction – I would never do anything like that in real life – I feel guilty for swatting flies and flushing spiders down the toilet. But in amongst everything I was feeling, the comedy potential of the scenario of the ex-employee desperately trying to cover her tracks made me smile.
Equally importantly, it helped me realise that I am a writer. I have had my fair share of tough times and upheaval this year, but in all of those low points, I have had a nugget of an idea for a story.
Most of those ideas are nothing more than a sentence in a notebook. Some are just stored in my head. But for all the times that I get frustrated for not finishing what I’ve started, or worse, for not starting at all; for all the times I allow myself to be ruled by my inner critic, and feel too inhibited to allow anyone else to read what I have written; for every time I have felt like I never wanted to pick up a pen again, I have this knowledge:-
I see the world from a writer’s perspective – everything has the potential to be a story.
For anyone else who is having or has had tough times, my one suggestion would be imagine that it is happening to someone else, someone entirely fictional who can do or say or react in anyway that you want them to. If you write, you might find the potential for a story in the hard times. If you don’t write, it may help you process your own emotion and smile in the face of adversity.
I set myself the challenge of not losing creativity during the working week by setting aside time every day to complete a writing exercise. You can read the blog about this here.
One of my aims had been to post the results of the daily exercise into this blog. However, after completing 4 exercises in a row about about opening lines, I realised that simply posting the outcome of the exercises is not going to make for very interesting content.
So I am going to have to be a little bit more creative.
Instead of simply posting the exercises into the blog, I am going to use them as a starting point to inspire short stories, which I will post instead. I am still going to set aside the time and complete a new exercise every day, but I will use this as a starting point rather than as an aim in itself.
When I defined myself as an aspiring writer, I said I wanted to create finished stories, adopt writing routines, maintain my creativity, feel more comfortable in sharing my writing and work on improving my writing.
It seems to me that using the writing exercises from my writing challenge to create new characters and stories is a much better way for me to achieve those aims, rather than treating it like a homework exercise which I will complete and then forget about. It will take me longer to create stories to post, but hopefully it will make for more interesting blog posts and it be more beneficial to my writing in the long run. Who knows, maybe one day I will be able to open the door on the host of characters who are currently tapping away, looking for a way out.
- Try these writing (and reading) exercises to hone your skills (onewildword.com)
- Top Ten Prompts to Inspire Creative Writing (writingthefire.wordpress.com)
- Today’s online writing groups’ poetry and story exercises: 28 August 2013 (morgenbailey.wordpress.com)
I agonised over using the phrase “aspiring writer” in the sub-heading for this blog. After all, I wouldn’t want anyone to think that I think I’m actually any good at writing. I don’t want them to think that I’m trying to be the next J K Rowling. Maybe it would be better to describe myself as a “novice writer” or a “hopeful writer”.
In the end, I ignored the voice in my head and went with “aspiring writer”. I like the way it sounds.
“direct one’s hopes or ambitions towards achieving something” (www.oxforddictionaries.com)
When I looked up what to aspire actually meant, I realised that I am an aspiring writer. I do want to achieve something with my writing. I want to turn my ideas into actual finished stories. I want to adopt and improve writing routines. I want to maintain my creativity and feel inspired every day. I want to make peace with my inner critic and feel more comfortable in sharing my writing. I want to get better at writing all the time.
Of course there is part of me that would love to hit upon a bestseller. That would love to be able to tell people that I write books for a living. But that is not how I choose to measure my success. Even if no one ever reads a word I write, I will still be an aspiring writer and a successful writer so long as I continue to work towards meeting my own personal writing goals.
- Foolproof ways to begin writing a short story (or any fiction for that matter) (lucidverity.wordpress.com)
- Silencing the Writing Demons Within (princessofthelight.wordpress.com)
- Advice to aspiring writers (kate0murray.wordpress.com)
“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lade crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I wouldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at me feet.”
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar.
This quote has always stayed with me since I first read The Bell Jar. Initially because it resonates with the choices that we all face at such a young age – should I stay on at school, should I go to University, what should I study, what career do I want to pursue. I can completely empathise with the feeling of so much possibility, where you choose a path because you have to do something, and let all of the other potential futures fall away. I did this. I choose to study law because that it what I had decided I would do when I thought being a Lawyer was all about being able to have the last word in an argument. I choose to start working in the law, because that is what people with law degrees do. I choose to qualify as a Solicitor because I knew I was capable of doing the job, so I might as well be paid for it. I set myself on that path and it was not until much later that I became aware of all of the other possibilities and opportunities that could have been open to me if only I had looked a little closer.
Now, I think the fig tree from this quote is representative of my feelings about writing. I have written stories my entire life. As a child, I would write stories in my notebooks before I could even write the alphabet. I have notebooks bursting with ideas, names and phrases, potential long stories and potential short stories. But like Esther in The Bell Jar, I sit in the crotch of the fig tree and I don’t develop them into anything remotely resembling completion. There comes a point with every story where I lose the belief in my ability to complete it, and even when working on it, the back of my brain is always shouting at me about the other ideas that I am not working on.
I have never really found a way to overcome this. I am hoping that this blog will help me nurture all of those little buds on the fig tree into ripe, juicy fruit, and allow me to catch them before they fall to the ground.