Busy? Me? Hahahaaaaaaa. No. (YES!)

I can confidently say that until this point in my life I have never even known busy. In the past week, whilst attempting to juggle several major projects for various important clients, I have averaged twelve hour working days. There have been moments when I have entertained, in my exhausted fugue-like state, the idea of physically splitting myself in two, so that I might actually have some hope of completing all the tasks on my ‘to do’ list. Who am I kidding? I don’t even have a ‘to do’ list anymore. I realise now that is a luxury only afforded to people who are familiar with the concept of having free time in their waking day. At the moment that concept is as alien to me as, well, aliens. As for my email inbox, it doesn’t take an I.T. expert to know that when it hits 250 and at least 50 of those are still unopened, that’s not good.

But for all my whingeing and moaning, it’s also true to say I have felt more fulfilled in my job in the past week than I have for a long time. Yes, I’m busy, yes I’m tired (beyond tired, David Blaine in his sleep deprivation experiment had nothing on me), and yes it’s a shame that our June wedding will at this rate be a rather sparse affair thanks to the fact I have literally no brain space left for planning it. But there’s something to be said for a bit of hard graft, and the feeling of satisfaction you get when you’ve worked your arse off and are recognised for it. It hasn’t all been plain sailing (what is?), but I finally seem to have found a company that appreciates its employees and isn’t afraid to say so when they go the extra mile – which makes me more amenable to running that extra mile, at least from time to time (and ideally in very short bursts).

That said I’m hoping normal service will resume soon. For all the excitement that manic twelve hour working days afford, there is only so long one can neglect the important elements of a healthy life, like sleep, food that isn’t fast, physical movement that comprises more than three steps to the toilet and another three back to your desk, and actual, meaningful, non-work related social engagement. It would also be rather pleasant to focus my eyes on something more than twelve inches from my face again. But for now I’ll have to make do with another two hours of staring at a screen and some nasty supermarket filled pasta before my midnight bedtime. And then the cycle will begin again. Oh well, such is life…

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Breaking the Silence

It’s been a month since my last post. Life is such a whirlwind at the moment that I’m struggling to catch my breath. I mean, life’s always busy – despite my best intentions I don’t seem capable of living any other way – but having a new job that is ten times as busy as the last, in parallel with the often stressful process of planning a wedding (there’s nothing quite so thrilling – excuse the heavy sarcasm – as the feeling you get when your venue cancels on you three months after you sent the invites) is leaving precious little room for anything or anyone else (except of course my constant companion Guilt, who naturally manages to elbow his way into almost every situation).

But, tempting though it is to retreat into my head and bob up and down on the familiar sea of anxiety and worry (Guilt bobbing up and down beside me in his rubber ring), before drowning out the internal noise with crap TV and pointless social media staring (which, I won’t lie, I did a fair bit of in plucking up the courage to write this), I know in my heart that my best means of finding some clarity and peace of mind is through writing. Which is why, after several aborted attempts at updating this blog, I’ve finally sat down to do it. And also why I’ve taken the big decision to reassess my writing priorities, to take time out of screenplay writing and go back to what I love most: novel writing.

And what better way to get back into that than by attempting NaNoWriMo again in November? I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve done it before, how many first drafts of novels are languishing in the metaphorical drawer, dusty and undeveloped. And I’ve no reason to think this time will be any different. Given how crazy life is at the moment I’ve no reason to think I will even manage to complete it. I just know I want to do it, or try to do it, to get the creative juices flowing again – and drown out those hateful voices telling me that I’ll never be good enough.

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Thought this was particularly appropriate given the circumstances. Come on NaNoWriMo, let’s get that crappy first draft underway..

Blocking Time

Do you ever feel there isn’t enough time to do the things you want to do outside of your day job? Are you often just so tired at the end of the working day that all you want to do is lie on the sofa and watch crap TV just to relax your mind? But then the guilt sets in, because such activity feels like it actively diminishes your intelligence rather than bolstering it, and if you don’t use your time wisely how will you ever finish that novel/Open University course/improving tome etc.?

If you do feel that way, you’re not alone. I for one experience this cycle of worry and guilt on a daily basis. Even though I know that being a published writer is my goal, somehow it seems that writing at the end of a full day’s work (and, when I can be bothered, a post-work gym session) is always the last thing I want to do.

But then, yesterday, I struck on the most blindingly obvious and simple concept: Instead of telling myself that I had to spend the whole evening writing, with no time to do anything else (the usual mantra due to guilt at not having written enough in the preceding days/weeks), I told myself to spend just one hour working on my screenplay, at the end of which I could spend an hour watching any TV programme I liked. And at the end of that, I would go to bed and spend an hour reading my book (because, in my experience – and somewhat ironically given the benefits – when you’re feeling overtired and too busy the first thing to go is the luxury of reading before bed).

And you know what? It worked. I didn’t do a huge amount of my screenplay, but I did more than I had done in the past few days. And, more than anything, it felt like I had removed a big obstacle that had been standing in my way. I no longer felt scared of the enormity of the task I was facing, because I had broken it down into a manageable task. Moreover, I didn’t feel (as I so often do) that writing meant having to sacrifice all other enjoyment, or that I had to choose between writing and reading (a horrendous choice for a writer because without reading how can you improve your writing? Catch 22).

So often we tell ourselves that we are useless, that it’s impossible to realise our dreams. But what if we’re just framing things incorrectly? What if the problem is not our lack of talent, or even commitment, but rather the very simple and easily corrected issue of time management?

We all know that if we want to do something we must make time for it. But what makes so many people stumble at the first hurdle is the misguided view they must devote every spare moment to the pursuit of that goal. Wrong. Start small, with ten, twenty, thirty minutes a day – whatever feels achievable to you. And make sure that you stick to doing it – simple. It takes time to form a habit, and it isn’t always easy. But if you don’t start, the only person you’ll have to blame for not achieving your potential is yourself.

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Riding the Hamster Wheel

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After the success of my sitcom writing course (writing a 15 minute script and having it acted out by a Game of Thrones actress does count as success, right?) with the City Academy I have once again grasped the nettle and signed up for a 7 week summer course in crime writing, this time with the City Lit. This will run concurrently with the screenplay idea I’m working on with my amazing writing mentor, so I’ll have lots to keep me busy!

You see, what I’m coming to realise is that being busy is always best – or at least that’s the case with people like me, who are creatively minded and enthusiastic but tend towards laziness and phases of paranoid inactivity. Deadlines are key to productivity, and without concrete plans (submit essay by x, write plot outline by y) it’s all too easy to drift out with the tide, never to return to shore. So whilst I will quite often bitch and moan about not having enough hours in the day, I know deep down without these goals and targets I would lack the momentum to achieve anything at all.

Discipline, however, is a different beast entirely, and one that’s far more difficult to tame. You can set all the goals and targets that you like, but if you don’t ‘show up’ regularly, as a good friend recently said to me, the game is lost. And the fact remains that whilst I’m full of good intentions and prone to bursts of fervour, showing up regularly is still something I struggle with. That, and the idea that you don’t have to be in the ‘right’ mood to ‘write,’ nor even must you know where the writing will take you. You just have to sit down and do it. No but-I-have-to-hang-out-the-washing-then-go-to-the-gym-and-make-dinner excuses.

And on that note, I’m just off to the gym and to make dinner before I sit down with my laptop for the evening…..

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Crawling towards Christmas

I’d have liked to have found the time today to write a festive piece of fiction; a story about the spirit of Christmas or some such like, or a heartwarming tale of inspiration and frivolity. Instead, I’ve been chasing my tail with marathon training, present wrapping and holiday packing, topped off with a final pre-Christmas evening with friends at a beautiful mews flat (what I wouldn’t give to have the kind of money to afford one of those) in Paddington, where mulled wine and homemade festive turkey offerings were plentiful (and gratefully received after the aforementioned training).

Tomorrow morning a two hour run awaits, after which it will finally be the long-awaited time to pack up and leave London for the holidays – this year being even more exciting than usual given the two week trip to Hong Kong and the Philippines that has been tacked onto the end of them.

Despite being two days into my break already I’m finding it hard to switch off and relax. I guess it’s not surprising that it takes our over stimulated minds a while to adjust to the slower pace of life that holidays bring, especially given how rare such occasions are for the vast majority of us. And it’s not just our minds-all too often our bodies go into a state of collapse the second we give them the chance to as well, resulting in unwelcome holiday illnesses that prevent us from enjoying the time we have been looking forward to for weeks or months in advance.

But rather than tempt fate by talking about ill health I shall stop here and retire to bed, in order to give myself the best chance of a truly Merry Christmas. The festive season so far has been joyous, here’s to the lovely days that still lie ahead.

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Spinning Plates

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I’ve just been reading a magazine article about people who plan too far ahead and generally take on too much, and how it can be harmful to your health to set too many deadlines in life (apparently people who set lots of deadlines are four times more likely to have heart attacks…), and beneficial to sometimes be spontaneous and just go with the flow.

This weekend I’ve been back home with my mum and stepdad. Mum always worries that I’m doing too much and not getting enough rest (to be fair, given in the past two months alone I’ve organised two big parties with a third in the pipeline, planned a forthcoming trip to Hong Kong and the Philippines in the new year, signed up to a marathon in March next year and written 33,000 words of a new novel – in addition to the daily blogs I’ve been posting every day of this year so far – she might have a point), but I always argue that I like being busy.

And it’s true, I DO like being busy. It keeps my brain active and keeps me inspired. It also makes me a more interesting person, or at least I like to think so. Exercising keeps me healthy and happy, writing soothes my soul and, although planning social engagements can be stressful (the most recent one – a festive lunch for 40 people – particularly so), I love getting people together and knowing the occasion wouldn’t have happened had it not been for my tenacity and enthusiasm in organising it.

I feel so blessed to lead such a busy and fulfilling life, it’s just not in my nature to sit around and do nothing. That said, I’ve really pushed myself to the limit with today’s almost-eleven mile run. And, after getting home from a fabulous roast dinner with friends, my whole body aching, I have to say I’m glad ‘all’ I have to do tomorrow is catch up the 6,300 words I’m currently behind with my novel…

Why busy beats boring

I know I’m prone to exaggeration but when I say this week has been ludicrously manic it’s not even an overstatement. First of all, there’s been work, where I’ve been flat out preparing a presentation to present to the Board of Trustees on my new communications strategy as well as planning and coordinating a project visit from HRH The Duke of York. Outside of work I’ve been spending my time doing a combination of marathon training (pretty sure this militant training plan is going to kill me – and it’s only week one) and writing my novel for NaNoWriMo (which, as usual, is limping along rather ruefully and being shoe horned in wherever I can manage). Oh-and on Monday I hosted a dinner party. And last night I ‘popped’ over to Heathrow to see off the lovely Sarah, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post.

Yes, it’s been a busy week indeed. But as I mull it over (before heading out for a night with friends) I find myself thinking, not for the first time, that being busy might be stressful at times but it’s nowhere near as bad as being bored. Given the choice of being super busy or super quiet I’ll take the former every time – because a busy mind is a healthy mind. That said, I couldn’t half do with some sleep…