Friday, 4 February 2011

In Need of a Life Plan

I often find it hard to sleep. Going to sleep is not a problem; staying asleep is the thing I find tricky. Thoughts amplify at night; they swirl and gather in corners. But those dark early hours, while the world slumbers and urban foxes bark beyond the window, are the best times to think of plans. In fact, the Grand Author Plan. (Oh yes, I haz one.)

I haven’t been writing much recently and it’s been worrying me. So far, since October, I have written three short stories (more about one, later), fiddled a bit with the novel, and thought up some ideas for more. That’s it... and it’s not enough, not nearly enough. My energy levels dissipate when I commute a long way and work full-time; this time last year I could do it – work during the day and write in the evenings – but now I come home and am fit for nothing. I try to stir myself to be creative but it is like stirring a pot of treacle, and the tired part of me wants to be left alone.

So what are my solutions here? As the dark night does throw me a bone, sometimes.

It seems they focus around my job – take that away, and the creative energy levels rise (as the money falls). But take it away and bang goes my chance of buying a property – mortgage providers love freelancers. In fact, take it away and can I afford to rent my own place, even? It depends what I swap the day job with – another full-time job closer to home? But would that a) pay as well, or b) be viable – the industry I work in is still shaky from the recession. And is swapping like for like worth the effort of change? It might buy me some commute time, but would I be just sticking a plaster over a still sore cut?

Or there is the freelancer route – which sounds attractive but is equally hard work - more so, when bills loom and you have to make it all happen. My experiences of working as a freelancer is like playing the Spectrum game ‘Pitfall’ (anyone remember that?) – desperately swinging from rope to rope, always looking for the next one to grab in order to save you from falling into the pit. I never felt I could relax – even when engaged on a contract I’d be thinking of the next, and the next, and what happens after that one, and this one.

I guess what it comes down to is that I’m scared of just going for it. Eep – I’ve admitted it. I’ve taken risks in the past with my writing – twice I have jettisoned everything in order to follow my dream, and twice I’ve crash-landed, to be honest. The first time I lost sight of my goal and settled for a job with the illusion of writing; the second time was beyond my control – personal circumstances and the recession meant I pretty much lost everything. I guess it is natural then to feel scared about going for it a third time (third time lucky?). If I was in my mid-twenties I probably wouldn’t be feeling this way, but add ten years and suddenly things like security look a lot more attractive.

I actually don’t know what the answer is. But maybe none of us do. It could be that I find somewhere to move to that is closer to the current day job, and this cuts out some commuter stress. As don’t get me wrong, I like the current job – it is probably one of the nicest full-time jobs that I have had. But time flies when you are busy doing something else. I think this is what scares me most of all.


Tabitha Bird said...

Keep going and keep writing. Let the rest take care of itself I say :)

Debbie said...

I get a lot of what your saying. It's easy to lose focus on your goals when you can't switch off and outside factor are in the forefront of your mind. Personally, the weather doesn't help. Solution? I'd say just keep writing, even if it's just a word, keep it flowing.

Misha said...

I feel like that too, sometimes.

I don't know if I would take the leap in your situation.

On the other hand... I probably would take the leap, just because I'm scared of it.

So no... I am not the one you should listen to.


Good luck with your decision, though. I'm praying for you.

MorningAJ said...

Let me get this right...... "If I was in my mid-twenties I probably wouldn’t be feeling this way, but add ten years " makes you a 30-something, right?

I went off to university at the ripe-old age of 37. Post divorce (the first one) post redundancy (the first one!)and feeling like I was half way through my life and achieving nothing.

I've never looked back. (Unless you count the second divorce and the other redundancy - but I don't!)

Go for it - don't miss life while you're waiting for it to happen.

Old Kitty said...

Beautiful Jayne!!!! I bet what you've written are all quality!!! I say let others whizz their way shooting-star-like blazing across the darkness - they fizzle out quicker!! I think the slow steady hard working ones' stars shine longest! Yes I am talking gibberish!! LOL!!! But you get my drift. So long as you do whatever you need to do to have a roof over your head and are not starving then you can really and truly work at acheiving your dreams!!! Oh yes I'm all talk LOL!!! But you have TALENT!!! Yes you do!!!

Good luck! Take care

Laura Marcella said...

As someone who has been struggling to find a good, full-time job in this economy, I'm not much help. So obvs I'd tell you stick with the job you have now until things start looking up in the economy. I'm confident it will pick up, but the question is when? Ugh.

Keep writing whenever you can! A little writing is better than no writing at all. Good luck, Jayne!

Indigo said...

So many say, we need to live life in order to write. What they never fully explain is how to continue when living that so called life interfers with writing.

I've been in the same boat, in my case a few personal issues keep exploiting themselves to the forefront of my mind. I'm at the place, I'm beginning to look toward writing prompts to keep the muse flowing. Who knows what might come to life then. (Hugs)Indigo

Munk said...

I am torn as well, between the work I love and the work I believe I need. Great post.

Angela Ackerman said...

So sorry to hear about your turmoil. I agree with everyone else--keep writing, and try not to let the things you have no control over hold too much sway over you. :)


Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Talli Roland said...

I hear you, hear you. When I worked full-time, I just couldn't muster up the energy to write. I put everything into the job.

It's so hard to know what the right thing is. I'm going to go with a rather lame (but true) cop-out: do what feels right to you, inside.

And try to sleep!

Hart Johnson said...

I can't imagine letting go of the safety net until the writing (or even freelancing) has taken off. Closer to home DOES seem ideal (or a way to write on your commute?).

I guess maybe I envy anyone who can make it work. I work full time because my family needs me too--not doing it is not an option... and then I write probably 3 hours most nights. My family and home are thoroughly neglected, but it is the only way I can see to level up the writing so I can someday give up the day job.

Maria Zannini said...

It's a tough decision, and one you can't make lightly.

Like Hart said, you need a safety net before diving into freelancing.

If it were me, I'd have at least six months of (generous) living expenses saved up and 2-3 regular paying customers before I'd go rogue.

Your commute sounds horrid though. I had a great job with a bad commute once. It made me very grumpy. Changing the commute made all the difference in the world.

Fran said...

I took a whole year off once to just write. Ha! I spent so much time at the shops, buying disinfectant or sugar just to avoid having to do any work, that I was never in. No self-discipline. I just can't do it.

Julie@beingRUBY said...

oh my gosh.. you are writing the story of my life right now... just insert 'creative something' where you have 'writer'.. In fact my life has been like this for years... and the day job was so demanding I never really considered anything creative as there was nothing left at the end of a 90hr week... eventually it took it's toll on my health.. 2o years of those hours will.. and i collapsed into a heap of nothing.. hahahaha.. so the age old dilemma ... money no life.... life no money!!

I'm really at a crux right now.. so If i come up with any incredible insight.. I'll let you know!! hahaha I'm going through a lesson that material things way you down and cause stress .. all those material things we buy with that money!! hahaha.. Still I know it's not an answer... but has me thinking..

ciao xxx Julie ...Take care of you..

Julie@beingRUBY said...

me again
I just read Fran's comment and laughed.. I took last year off due to ill health.. and did nothing.. had a year filled with stupid disasters and moving house and other crappy stuff that takes your mind away from what you want to be doing.. but I guess I rested... and now.. faced with the dilemma of going back to work.. I want a year off... for me!!! hehe.

Ok.. off again!!

Oh.. but first... don't forget blogging is being creative... it is educating our ideas and inspirations and fueling good habits of being creative on an almost daily basis .. without us even noticing!!!

Lori said...

Age does not matter to the creative spirit. Creativity is a restless master. Demanding and then elusive. I fully relate to this dilemma. Creatives need 'white space' or down time. Time to rest the mind and just ruminate and reflect and ... voila ... be inspired. Perhaps we all just want to take too much out of a day. Maybe accepting the job as a blessing and seeing your commute as your 'white space' instead of becoming anxious about the time you are losing or wasting could be a step forward.

I enjoy your writing and expect that as you relax again that you will find the words flowing more easily. I've done freelance, home duties and paid employment. The latter is the best by far. Unlike popular thought, I find it hard to make money from what I love doing. Putting a price tag on that is hard going, too.

Relax. Think White Space. Take a long lunch or an afternoon off to do something completely different and recharge.


Rachael Harrie said...

Hi Jayne, first time here *waves*. I hear your dilemma, and I can see how much it's playing on your mind! I'm afraid I don't have any advice for you, though you've got some great comments above. I guess something to think about - if you do give up your job, will you spend all your writing time worrying about paying the bills?

I hope it all works out for you.



Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Jayne...don't worry we all go through these days. You will get out of them. Catch up with all your other work and before you know it you will be back to writing.

Happy Frog and I said...

This is a post that I can really relate to. I want to have more time to be creative and try to see what my full potential is but real life keeps getting in the way. Take your time making your decision though. I'm sure you will make the right one for you. x

Plain Jane said...

Hmmm, life plan...goals...creative needs....Sounds familiar. I am almost fourty and feel like I am waiting for my life to start. When our life is not as we planned, sometimes we forget the bonuses that have come our way. That said, I will be jumping ship at my job in a few months in an effort to expand my creativity. We'll see how it works out.

Christine said...

Jayne, you say that last year you were able to handle the commute, get home and still have some energy for writing. So, might you be able to do that again? Perhaps your energy levels are low at present.

If you like your job, I would be inclined to say 'stay with it', since it means that you might be able to buy your own place.

I understand your turmoil but I think that you are putting pressure on yourself. If you are tired through not sleeping then it's a bad time for making decisions. Ride it out....:-)

Dolly said...

I understand this sense of frustration only too well. I used to have work that kept me so busy I couldn't find time, energy or inspiration to draw or paint. I would try explain to people that you cannot put in a full day's work. cook dinner, eat, do dishes then settle down to paint before bed. Now I have lots of time, and no money. I hope you are able to sort out how to continue with your writing, because you are so very talented.

The Words Crafter said...

Wow. You've hit upon probably every bane of every writer. I don't know the answers, either. Just know that you're supported and commiserated with.

Munir said...

I think you will do great as a writer. Don't give up. I got two books published by "Lulu Publishing" It did not cost me a thing. They take their share when they get an order and they give you yours. This saves paper. you deside every thing. However I ended up giving away a lot of copies of my later book because people who read it said that it will make people take care of their health. I did not write for money. I had a message to bring across. So if you do too, then write and let people know. Good Luck

livinginthe1940s said...

A fellow writer from the writing world, keeping busy with writing is sometimes a hard challenge. Of late, I haven't really been writing, either; mainly "head" plotting, dialogue, description - getting ready to delve back into editing my WW2 historical fiction trilogy. Ah, the hardships of the lonely writing ecstasy! Keep going - it will all come free soon. Soon.

Rose said...

I think this is a massive problem for anyone creative- not just writers but I know designers who have graduated and been unable to afford to pursue the career they're trained for. We are all to some degree stuck in a cycle.

Also frankly the hours we work in the UK do make it hard to do anything outside work without being exhausted- especially if you're one of the good people who finish work at say 6.30pm and then go to the gym for an hour, by the time you're home you just want to get into bed!

What do you do? well it will be better in the summer but I think you take time off and write and you just keep trying x

Janet O'Kane said...

Oh Jayne, I do sympathise with you - even now my writing time is being nibbled away by paid work and I'm feeling frustrated at not being able to get on with what I really want to do. The only consolation I can offer is that unlike many vocations - model, athlete, etc - becoming a fulltime writer can happen later in life.
An oft-used phrase in these parts is 'if it's meant for you it won't pass you by'. Trite maybe, but it usually proves to be right.

Kittie Howard said...

Ohhhh but you're going thru a stage that will end on its own. Go with the flow, try not to think so much, let life be life. Tab's right, write when you can and let the rest take care of itself. It helps to smile when you don't feel like smiling and to get new people in your life (not that you should drop others, just broaden your net)...good luck!

LeishaMaw said...

Hang in there. We all get dry spells. Don't think of it as time you're not writing, think of it as time you're pre-plotting.

Buy Exchange said...

Nice posts! Keep writing! Loved your blog!

Ev said...

Bin the life plan and wait and see what happens. When I hit forty I thought all I had to look forward to was the menopause and death! Then I found writing and it has changed my life completely. I'm back working full time in a tedious job but it pays the bills and I find when I do sit to write I am more determined to use the time I have wisely. What's meant for you won't go by you. Keep reading and writing and we're all rooting for you. Love Ev x

Wendy Altschuler said...

It's hard to cut out time for our passions when we also have to pay bills. You're such a beautiful writer and I can see why you'd want to jump in and do it full time. What a risk but also it could be such a reward!

Happy Odd Girl said...

I think you should play about with the novel some more :)

I really hope you find a solution to your dilemma. You write well and have a very engaging style. Your blog always makes me feel better, even if you just talked about random stuff. So I think it would be a real tragedy if your Grand Author Plan went by the wayside. It would be a great loss, think. So please keep going for it! :)

When I have trouble finding the energy to write (in my case due to long-term illness) I find the 'write one page a day' thing helpful. Whether it's a page of actual story or a page of story planning notes - one page feels doable, and I feel that I have taken another little step in that Grand Author Plan! (I haz one, too!) :)

Jayne said...

I just want to say thank you to everyone here who left words of encouragement and shared their own experiences. I read every comment and so appreciate you leaving words of support. Thank you for ideas of solutions, and for saying that I’m talented – that means the world to me! Some answers:

MorningAJ – Yup, I’m a 30-something. And great advice (I’m very impressed with what you have achieved!)

Hart – I sadly can’t use the commute to write. The only part of the journey where I get a seat is the bounciest part of it all – I have tried to write but my pen bounces up and off the page – makes my handwriting even worse than it already is!

Maria – That’s what I did before – had six months saved and 2 regular commissions. But then recession hit, commissions went in-house, and my then partner was made redundant so suddenly I was paying all the rent and bills, and sadly my savings went kaput very quickly!

Fran and Julie – Although I did write the book when I took time off; I do now feel I wasted a lot of time and could have used those hours far more productively. I think next time (hee! One day!) I would create a timetable and stick with it. Thanks for reminding me that blogging is also creative, Julie!

Lori – Walking gives me that ‘white space’ – I agree, it’s so important.

Rachael – Welcome! And yes, last time I gave up the job I did worry about paying the bills. It’s a tough call.

Livinginthe1940s – Welcome! I love the 1940s – very intrigued by your blog title – will be exploring soon. :)

Happy Odd Girl – That is so nice of you, thank you. I’m so glad my blog makes you feel better – what a lovely thing to say. And it is great to hear you also have a Grand Author Plan!