Wednesday, 23 April 2014

April Update Part 3: Well that was a nice three months…

For the last part of my update I wanted to share with you my feelings on how the beginning of my year away, or perhaps, the beginning of my new direction in life, went.
            As a very quick reminder, for a mixture of personal and professional reasons, I left my job last December after nine years at the place and am using my savings up to live in Spain this year both to think about where I want my life to go and most importantly, to write as much as I can. 

My thoughts on leaving:

I’m having trouble convincing myself that three months have gone, but there it is, undeniably true. I know everyone always says how fast time goes, but really, that was ridiculous. I travelled to the island of Mallorca at the beginning of January and am now back in London visiting friends and family, I will fly back out to Spain next week but this time to the mainland, staying in the region of Murcia until the end of the year. This isn’t a travel blog so I’m not going to go into detail about the trip itself but I will tell you about how it has affected me as a person and as a hopeful writer-to-be.
          The main thing to say here, and I hope I don’t come across all la-de-da-airy-fairy-wishy-washy motivational poster here, is that I do not regret leaving my job. In fact, I’ll go further and say it was the best thing I have done and I know that I made the right decision, as difficult and heartbreaking as it was, I am very happy with myself for doing it. No need to say anymore on this or give reasons. I’ve talked about it before and I know it is a much more complicated issue for many people when they have responsibilities that I don’t have such as children and a mortgage so this is not an exercise in gloating or sticking my tongue out at others. It is a serious business giving up a good salary and pension no matter what. I have removed myself from any chance of being able to buy a property or any of that stuff for a very long time, if ever, and the likelihood is that I will be in my local lingo, ‘skint’ for the rest of my 30s and my 40s and once again potentially, forever…I really don’t care. All that matters to me is completing the work I have set myself and that is as far as I am looking. Yes, it is easy for me to say that now, I still have this year to live through before having to worry about that but if you allow me a little piece of wishful thinking…

Some of the more picturesque scenes from my hometown that I missed while away. I took the photos while out for a stroll the other day.

What I learnt from being away?

It’s one thing making a change and moving on from a place or situation that you once knew or loved in an emotional sense, but it’s another to move on in the physical sense too. I chose Spain for very simple reasons, my limited finances (the South American trek and the first class Orient Express will have to wait for now), to learn the language, the climate and the isolation (I'm in a rural area not a city). I had a longing to be away from it all and test myself as to whether or not I have what it takes to push myself to write when alone, moving to the other side of London wouldn’t have been the challenge I needed.
            Again, at the risk of sounding like a smug bugger, I don’t regret it at all. I had a fantastic time and have an immense feeling of self satisfaction that the risk paid off, not in any other way than I now know I have the ability to motivate myself to write every day, whatever that means for the future I couldn’t care a jot, I just know that I can sit down and produce work and that’s all that matters to me…honestly, believe me! Even if I churn out absolute rubbish and no one ever reads a single sentence I write, I know that I am doing what I love doing and as silly and unpromising as that sounds, it is the answer to a question I have been asking myself for over twenty years, and as selfish and isolating as that sounds it is the answer I had hoped for.
Being away has allowed me to feel freer than I have ever felt. I have no fear of failure, I only fear not working hard and that worries me, not because I expect success from its result, it is solely from the disappointment of not producing the work I know I have inside me. I don’t care about anything other than being happy at finishing the large projects I have set myself. That sense of being isn’t easy to accept, and part of the desire to be on my own was not just for the space and time to write, but also for the space and time to think, to consider my life. Once you accept that life can be what you want it to be, and for me that meant having to accept that I would be without a lot of the things I thought I wanted, then things become calmer and clearer and I have gradually learnt to accept that those things I probably won’t get isn’t something to be upset about, if you want something else more then that is what you have to go for. Everybody is different of course so this is just my opinion.
Outside of writing I have always liked the idea of travelling and speaking another language but I have never felt that I would do it…the reality just seemed impossible, not because I ever felt it was out of my reach, just more that I never felt I would take the steps needed to make it happen. Now I am very clear. I will learn to speak Spanish no matter how many years it takes.

This was me around the first time I visited Spain, aged 15. It's not in Spain but it's the only photo of that period I could find that didn't include underage drinking or friend's that I couldn't be bothered to ask their permission to post, and I wasn't getting the scanner was on a school trip and by the looks of it I was in the grip of teenage moodiness…but anyway, any excuse to see my hair again. If I could have a word with myself though I would – why did I stop practicing Spanish once I left school? What a shame, this year would be very different if I had kept it up. We never know it as kids, but language skills are so vitally important and helpful, I would recommend anyone to start learning, never too late.

I also never thought I would live anywhere other than London, part of me still thinks that I may never live permanently away from London, but this experience has allowed me to feel that living for extended periods of time in other countries is something that isn’t just a possibility, but something I actually want to do! I have stopped blocking up these daydreams and no longer feel it is something stupid or naïve to say that perhaps I will live elsewhere. Who knows if I will ever do it, or where it may be, but instead of immediately throwing up defensive excuses such as, how will I earn money, how will I speak the language, how will I find a place to live and all of those essentially responsible and important questions…I just allow myself to say I will do it and when the time comes I will find a way. There we go, I knew I would…I verged on the motivational poster speak…sorry ;)

What does it feel like being back home?

There were several reasons why I had this short break back in London, the most important one being catching up with friends and family. I didn’t know how I would find things so I thought a three month trial period was a good idea.
            It has had two effects, the first one being the reinforcement of my feelings towards living in London both good and bad, and the second being the solidifying of my confidence and excitement of going back! I honestly can’t wait, I know how much work I need to do and the sheer volume of work the next few years holds is something I am itching to get on with. So, within a few days I knew that I had done the right thing and that I had changed for the better.
            That aside, I have had the luck of being back at the same time as a friend had a baby, another friend told us all they were having another baby, a friend opened a new pub, a friend’s birthday, a friend was in a play…that sort of sounds like all I wanted to do was drink myself blind but that’s sort of true…the weather in London has been fantastic so I have got to enjoy walking around in the sunshine, I have eaten every type of take away cuisine possible, seen a few films, caught the dramatic finale of the football season…and so on…it’s been great!
            Saying that, my discipline in terms of routine has gone out of the window, I haven’t practiced Spanish, I haven’t written as much as I should have, I have had several lazy days…and of course I have caught a cold. However, I have managed to complete all of the essential business stuff such as my company accounts and self assessment, I have updated all of my paperwork and business plan, I have a meeting next week with my web developer to make sure everything is set for the rest of the year (2014 is an on-hold year, the next steps in our development plan are for 2015 as you can appreciate), I have met with the writers I am working with, I have set everything up for the next apartment and generally got my affairs in order.

A few more snaps...

So what is my future going to be?

If I can be as simplistic as possible all I need to do is write and survive. There is nothing else going on, the absolute basic requirement of the rest of this year is to produce work and enjoy the experience. I am totally at ease with the challenges 2015 will bring me so I am not going to think about them any more, I am living for this year and I promise you I will be working my backside to the bone. It’s a contradiction to say that the more I dream the more realistic I am but that’s how I feel. I currently have thirty short stories in development and the idea for my first novel. I am going to maximize the time I have this year and although I would believe it if the betting shop put odds on me getting a tan before writing a novel (have you seen my skin tone? An entire summer in Spain is no guarantee I can assure you.) I am positive and excited. I’ve said it before but all I want to do is to return to the UK having worked as hard as I could have and being satisfied that I know I tried. I look forward to blogging more from Spain and letting you know how the writing is going and sharing my experience there (I know posting photos of sunny beaches annoys my friend's so I'll be doing plenty of that), talking about all the random topics I used to talk about, informing you of Rufus Garlic's and Alfred Duff's progress and generally wittering on...

Best wishes everyone.




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