These blog posts are turning into a bi-annual affair, which suits me perfectly. But, no matter the infrequency of my posts these days, I always like to share one close to the end of the year in order to reflect on everything that has happened, and look ahead to a new 'chapter'.
It's been eventful to say the least.
In July, I moved into my beautiful new flat, out of London, and I can honestly say that moving here has been one of the best decisions I've made in a very long time.
Something I'm not so happy with is the commute to work on the train. Before moving, I definitely romanticised the idea of the commute by train, and had these glamorous ideas of being able to write lots during the hour-long journey, to and from work. I thought, there is a quiet zone – how fabulous! I'll be able to write there peacefully to my heart's content ... I was mistaken. The quiet zone is quiet only in name, and quiet (ish) about 25% of the time. Because I get up everyday at 6am, then only get home and eat dinner by 8pm/9pm, I literally have no other time to write, and between this, and other things that have happened recently, I have made some pretty big decisions – but more on that later ...
In the last six months since my last blog post, I have certainly had moments of joy, and so much gratitude for my new home, but there has also been a lot of trauma and sadness. The last couple of years in particular have been very hard mentally. I had a period last year around August and September that was very difficult, and was taken to a place I never thought I'd visit ... but then this year, around September and October, those feelings returned, but in a bigger, more concerning, way.
I think in life, most of us can handle bad times, and get through them, if other areas of your life are going OK. In September and October, apart from my mum, some family members and my flat, it felt as if everything was going slightly wrong – I'd tried my best for many years, and worked so hard, only to feel as if it had all been for nothing. I will not elaborate on some of the specifics, but it was as if I tried to keep going, but the foundations were crumbing and I was left standing in rubble, with nothing left to build something new with.
To bring it back to writing and all things books, over the course of many years, I have spent an inordinate amount of time writing, whilst working full-time. But still, after so long, I'm not really financially making any headway – it also doesn't help that so much of my time over the last eight years (that has taken precedence even over the writing) has gone on fighting for awareness for the iatrogenic condition I suffered from. And whilst I don't regret all the time I have spent on it (and plan on it being a very big part of my life still as it means a lot to me), it's meant that I've put my life, health and career last.
At my lowest, I felt as if I had nothing left to give after years of basically working myself into the ground, and I reached the point where I didn't know how I was going to keep going – by that I mean I literally didn't know where I was going to find the energy to keep putting one foot in front of the other. There were days where I'd walk to the train station, I'd see the platform in the distance, and not have a clue how I was going to even get there. I have always been driven by hope and passion, and they have almost acted as a lit candle, which has guided me through the dark and kept me going. This year, it was as if someone had blown out the light and left me without matches so there was only dark, and I was trapped in a deep black hole.
But then, like most things, time, in its most harsh and transformative self, passes and change happens. In November, whilst things weren't magically improved, I started to see fragments of light again. Through the darkness of September and October, I took that time to come to terms with and face everything that had led me to my current state, and if I'm being perfectly honest, and really searched my soul, I knew exactly why and how I was left feeling the way I did.
For a very long time (since secondary school), I have never put myself first, or really thought enough of myself. I have come a long way from how I felt back then, but those feelings stick to you like glue and it's hard, when you're made to feel so bad about yourself, to ever really change. I've never promoted my books, never taken risks with them. I've basically put them out there, then silently left them in the book ether until someone has happened to chance upon them. I have shied away from so many opportunities because I just didn't/don't have the belief in myself. I know in the new year I need to find a way to change how I've felt about myself for over two decades, but I know it's going to take time to undo a lot of these feelings.
I have also had no boundaries whatsoever, but in finally learning what they are, and starting to build a wall around myself, the people who gained from my lack of boundaries haven't appreciated the new walls, which has meant a lot of personal upheaval and change, and whilst it has been deeply hurtful at times, I know my walls are way more important – and without them, I would just be letting in the cold.
It also doesn't help that I've had some major PTSD over the last few years after an experience with my skin at the start of 2021 that I am still dealing with both mentally and physically. Thankfully, I feel as if I am turning a corner with that in every way possible.
Given the choice, I would never choose to return to the place which ended up giving me so much clarity, but sadly, without the darkness of September and October, I wouldn't be where I am right now. I have so much gratitude right now, and am excited for the future again. Thank bloody god for that.
Another pretty massive decision I've made is to leave my day job, which I have loved, but because of the commute and head space I've been in, it's 100000% the right time to go. But I will be leaving with a lot of fondness for the place. I will also be able to take a few months off in order to decide what to do, so all in all, I'm pleased with my decision.
Now, sitting here writing this, I feel so much more at peace and feel like I am, for the first time ever, truly making a fresh start. I have removed myself from activism, and anything related to that, until I have first looked after myself and given myself what I need. I will be of no use to anyone, or the cause, if I haven't first done this. From there, I can go about creating a balance between all the things I love and find a path which is right for me.
After an extraordinary amount of carb-filled waffle, in the midst of the trauma, there has been some actual writing and book-related work over the last few months.
This summer, I went away on a short holiday to the seaside with my mum, which offered a hell of a lot of inspiration for a new book. Then, on my birthday in late September, my mum and I went back so I could take photos that would aid me when I eventually started working on the book. And so, on Monday 10th October, on my way to work during a blissfully quiet experience in the quiet zone of the train, I started thinking about the idea for the book a little more – so much so that I began jotting lines down on the notes app of my iPhone, and between the journey there and back, I wrote 766 words. Amazing how they add up when you're not even trying. The next day, I wrote an additional 608 words, to and from work, going over everything I'd written the previous day then adding to it.
The week after that, I picked up my phone occasionally whilst on the commute (and navigating some pretty rough days mentally), and managed another 863 words by the end of Monday 17th October, bringing the total to 2237 words. On Tuesday 18th October, I was unable to do much because it was too loud on the train, but on Thursday 20th October, I wrote 1,148 words, to and from work, and felt really inspired. I also sent the first chapter and prologue to Mum to get her opinion (she liked it!).
On Monday 24th October, I wrote 445 words. The following day I wrote 929 words. On Wednesday 26th October, I wrote 422 words, but again I was hindered by how ironic the quiet zone was being. The next day, I was so exhausted, I only managed 187 words.
Half term in the quiet zone was a write off, but finally it quietened down enough that on Wednesday 2nd November, I wrote an additional 378 words. The following day I wrote an additional 333 words and really felt connected to what I had written. On Friday 4th November, I had the shocking experience of a quiet quiet zone, which offered the most blissful time in which to write. It was a little louder on the way home, but not loud enough to be an issue, and in total over the day I wrote 906 words. Lastly, on Tuesday 8th November, I went over the two chapters I'd been working on, writing another 393 words over the day and feeling satisfied with everything I had written.
After that, I realised that I needed to switch off a bit after a harrowing few months and take the time in the ironic quiet zone to chill as much as humanly possible. I am planning on reading through everything that I wrote later this month, and I am excited to start work on the book again in the new year.
I actually found myself really enjoying writing on my phone. I'd never really thought of it as an option, but now it's one of my favourite ways – and besides, didn't EL James write the entire 50 Shades of Grey trilogy on her Blackberry whilst on her daily commute?!
Aside from that, when I was on annual leave in late November, I decided the time had come to set up a proper mailing list. After doing a bit of homework, I decided on using the Mailerlite platform for my mailing list, and so far, I am really pleased with my decision. I also deleted my Facebook page and Twitter account. I will never use either regularly (I barely even use Instagram these days), so trying to juggle more online spaces is just not going to work, both practically and mentally. I then added the mailing list, and deleted the Facebook and Twitter accounts, from my bio and looked over my six existing paperbacks and all my ebooks currently for sale to make sure they are the best I can make them, and earlier this month, for the FIRST TIME EVER, I felt like I had done my best with the books and it was time to finally move on from them and look forward to exciting new projects. I have been thinking recently that all these years where I have worked on my existing books, always finding something to change or edit, have acted as a distraction so as not to focus on the things I should have been focussing on. No matter whether my books could be a million times better than they currently are, they are the best I can make them, and that is good enough for me.
I am going into the new year realistic, but positive, and just need to do things differently than I have done. I have nothing outstanding to do with my existing books, I am putting the activism mostly aside till I am ready, and have thrown out the clothes and possessions (... and people) I have hidden my insecure self behind for so long. Now, I am just me; a blank canvas, with a little wall to protect myself and help me face the future and the new.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy new year.
Until next time,