As the frost takes us towards Christmas and the end of the year I have started thinking about last New Years resolution.
Judging by my success at carrying out last year’s resolution I doubt it.
Last year I resolved to declutter my office.
I had a loose plan and would start by cleaning out the filing cabinet.
Any paper I no longer needed would be composted and eventually end up in my veggie garden.
My filing cabinet contains TV and film scripts, novels, short stories, radio plays and articles – it is absolutely full to bursting.
It’s a big old, heavy metal type of filing cabinet – the type they don’t make any more.
Years ago, some department of something – somewhere did a clear out and I rescued the discarded cabinet from a skip – I love skips.
My decluttering started well and I took out some files to sort out.
But then it started to go wrong.
I couldn’t stop myself rereading some of those old scripts and stories.
I realised that I had forgotten about them and so the stories felt like new to me.
Reading the stories made me look at my younger self and I could see I had always written from the heart.
My older self knew my hopes and dreams for those stories were about to be shattered by rejection.
Still, I had kept going after many rejections and disappointments.
I wrote more and more – waiting for that day when some publisher somewhere would decide my work deserved to be read.
That day did come and I remember well the elation and relief.
I hadn’t been wasting my time.
Actually, I know I hadn’t been wasting my time. I had been practicing and learning.
In the pre-digital age expectations were lower.
The common advice to writers was to get some short stories and articles published, keep writing and work your way up to books and scripts.
This was good advice. There were writers who never succeeded in having their work published and simply gave up.
Do I feel sad for those writers who gave up?
No, not at all. If they truly wanted to write they would have continued to write.
They would have accepted that learning and practice go with success.
Do you think I am harsh? I think I am a realist.
I remember going to art classes and realizing quickly that it wasn’t something I was good at.
I didn’t want to spend years and years learning and improving so I chose to do something else – writing.
I enjoyed the process of writing, of learning and improving, so I was willing to spend the time and do what it took.
The problem for writers now is that the ability to publish their early work is that poor sales may discourage them – before they have learned their trade.
We need successes – however small to keep us going.
I have had enough success to convince me not to give up.
I am now more than halfway through my life and I wouldn’t choose any other career.
So, back to my filing cabinet.
Did I throw out those old scripts and stories?
No. Actually I decided to just keep one copy of each. They weren’t bad but I could see the flaws.
I couldn’t see the flaws when I wrote them. It took time and distance to do that.
Is my office now decluttered and freshly organised?
No. It looks like the aftermath of a burglary. But I have no regrets.
Life got in the way.
Earlier on in the year I had to have foot surgery. Shortly after recovering from that I found I had a spontaneous fracture in a different bone in my foot and would be confined again.
Cabin fever set in. This second period of recovery felt like being under house arrest.
I couldn’t walk and couldn’t drive.
Since walking is what keeps me reasonably sane I got what I can only describe as a severe case of the grumps.
This low mood has taken months to pass but I am now over it.
I worked as much and as hard as I could while recovering, but words didn’t come easily and sometimes I felt like I was dragging them out of my some foggy place in my head.
Not a great feeling for a writer but I knew what to do.
I on focused writing shorter pieces and as well as doing some creative exercises.
I persevered and the fog cleared.
That’s what it’s like to be a writer.
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