Catherine Gracey

Living Life, One Misadventure At A Time.

The Trap of Convenience

If you haven’t been paying attention to the news lately, you might have missed hearing that we’ve now reached one degree Celsius of global warming and that the Paris agreement – while admirable and inspiring – hasn’t come close to producing enough policy and legal change to avert an additional degree of warming.

My family and I agreed that we might not be able to change the world, the government or big business, but what we can change are our own actions. We decided to set a goal for ourselves of becoming carbon negative. What that means is that we want to find ways to reduce our emissions as much as possible and then find ways to offset more emissions than we produce. If you’re interested in following our progress, you can read more over at the Carbon Negative Family.

We aren’t at a point where we can make big financial investments yet, so we’re looking at small behaviours that can add up. As painful as it was, one of the first things that we targeted were our convenience items. These are those little labour saving items that we couldn’t possibly do without in our time poor society.

Cutting out our little time savers began two months ago. I spent a few weeks frustrated by how much extra time the change was taking before I had the most astonishing realisation – it wasn’t actually taking extra time at all. I was noticing the time spent on new versions of old activities, and completely blind to how much time I was saving in other areas. If anything, I have more time available now than I did before we starting changing our behaviours.

Once I realised that I was time richer, I noticed another startling change: I’m not bored out of my mind any more. Instead of having one or two lengthy activities I now have a dozen quick ones. My day is more varied and I can choose between far more ways to spend my time. When my partner comes home from work and asks me what I did during the day, I actually have something to talk about.

By switching from externally produced services in the form of products to doing things ourselves, we’re becoming increasingly self-sufficient. I feel more competent to run my life however I want to, because I’ve stopped listening to all the nonsense that advertisers have been telling me for years. I’m testing their theories and I’m finding them lacking. It’s a liberating switch from being told that I, as a mere consumer, have been the one lacking all this time.

I hadn’t expected such a small number of changes to have such a big psychological change for me. What I also didn’t expect was the financial change. I’ve stopped looking at our bank account and wondering how we’re going to get to the next pay period without cutting into our savings. I’m not feeling guilty for staying home and raising our young children instead of working a paying job. Instead I’m looking at our bank account and wondering if we can buy those solar panels now that we were planning to save for over the course of a few years.

Convenience has been an ideal that I’ve held up for a long time as the standard that I should aim for. The way that I was living my life certainly was convenient…just not for me. I’ve realised that anything convenient in my life is probably a place where I’m disorganised and indulging in lazy thinking. Seeing every instance of convenience as an opportunity to think about the way I behave, to design my life rather than have it designed for me, has been invigorating. We set out with this change to help the planet, and what we’ve finally discovered is a way to help ourselves.

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Starting Again

No matter how nostalgic I might feel for an earlier time in my life, it is impossible for me to pick up where I left off; my financial situation is different, my family situation is different, my attitude is different, even my body is different. Over the past year I have tormented myself with comparisons between where I am now and where I used to be. I constantly feel as if the me of today falls short compared to the me of yesterday.

There are obvious problems with nostalgic comparisons. I have conveniently forgotten all of the nights when I was unable to sleep because I was plagued with worries and doubts. Time seems to compress, so that problems it took me a year to solve feel as if I overcame them in the space of a week. My memory is faulty, and it captures the moment of triumph as I worked out a solution, but omits many pertinent details about how I struggled to get there. I can make as many comparisons as I like but, unless I am brutally honest with myself, they are never fair.

I am not often kind to myself. When I am confronted with an obstacle, I tend to talk to myself in a way that I would never dream of speaking to another person. All of the toxic thoughts that I have edited out of my memories have simply been supplanted into my present, causing havoc where there is already a sufficient amount of difficulty to work with.

In April I took Shroomi for a month of traipsing around Europe. It was just the two of us and our luggage, so I had a lot to contend with. She is two and a half, and at the start of that trip I had never spent an entire day alone with her before. Two days into the trip and I had a spectacular case of bronchitis. One week into the trip I pulled a muscle in my back. Somewhere in France I partially ruptured the posterior cruciate ligament in my knee.

There are a lot of things I learned when it was just my daughter and I, and a lot more when it was just the two of us and a fairly debilitating injury, but one of the main lessons was that it’s time to start being nice to myself. Doing things in the hardest possible way doesn’t make me a badass, especially when no one is around to see me do it. Achieving my goals is the important thing, not how much I suffer in the process. Pain is a warning, not a measure of success.

Many of my current goals focus on reclaiming things that have been lost to me. I have the expectation that if I could do it once I can do it again, but this is an unreasonable and unkind way to view it. The first time I achieved my goals I had no idea if I could succeed or not. I wasn’t burdened by flawed memories of what it was like, so I had a green field to build on. Every solution was equally valid until I had tested them.

By clinging to the past I am clinging to old methods, but my context is different and no amount of wishful thinking will change that. The kindest thing to do is to give myself permission to start again, to find new solutions to things that I will deliberately view as new problems. This way, when I succeed and get what I want, I can get it with a sense of pride in my accomplishments and not just a sense of relief that I repaired the damage and salvaged the situation.

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The Crystal Ball of Hindsight

I firmly believe that hindsight is the most powerful teaching tool that we have. Paths and possibilities that are hard to see now become so obvious when they move to the unchangeable safety of the past. Decisions can be reassessed, playing what if becomes easier because so much more information is available, and what was known at the time is simpler to weigh up and properly measure.

The past year has been very educational. Not a day has gone by that I haven’t looked back and wanted to kick myself for what is obvious today that I didn’t do yesterday. Every time I let my thoughts drift to the past it shows me another strategy that I didn’t use. Time is blurring into a frustrating sequence of could have, would have, should have.

It would be easy to berate myself and get negative about this process, but I also understand that it is something I need to be doing. No matter how I view this time in my life one year from now, I will not regret the lessons I am drawing from my mistakes, some of which have been spectacular. This reflection has shown me options that are still available, options that I might otherwise have missed entirely. Life will be very different in another 12 months.

Today I had my first session with a German tutor. We discussed the problems I have with the language, the strategies that I tried in the past, and what my capabilities with the language are. At the end of the session she told me that she doesn’t often have students who are as motivated as I am, and that I am clearly prepared. In that moment I paused, reflected, and decided she was right. I am incredibly motivated, and I am incredibly prepared. Then I quipped that preparation doesn’t do much good if you never get past the preparing and into the doing.

Things derailed for me a long time ago, and I have spent years since then preparing to make things better. I put an incredible amount of effort into the preparation, and I burn out just before I would achieve what I set up. There is always a new problem, something more urgent to take care of, and I hope that the old things I have prepared for will sort themselves out. Sometimes they don’t, but they do with enough frequency that I never notice my pattern unfolding again. The only thing that is guaranteed as things are is a life cluttered with half-finished projects.

The solution to resolving the tension in my life is to follow the path that allows me to finally and consistently act. Progress inspires progress; it becomes a habit that is harder to break with each passing day. Progressing defines you as someone who can, rather than someone who wants. It soothes regret and erases bitterness.

I should take all of this wisdom and do something great with it. I could work through the grammar exercises that I have. I could finish the pair of pants I am making for my daughter. I could work on my coding project. There are dozens of paths available to me. They all look equally promising; they all look equally terrifying. I just need to start walking and remember what I’ve learned.

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An Identity Walked Into an Abyss

I was recently discussing the concept of an abyss and chronic illness, and I have been asked to write down what I was talking about. The conversation started with one of my favourite quotes from Nietzsche:

Wer mit Ungeheuern kämpft, mag zusehn, dass er nicht dabei zum Ungeheuer wird. Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein.

It translates into the well known:

He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.

Our identity is a fluid, continually evolving thing. The different components of our identity rise and fall in importance depending on the context and their relevance, and the roles those components play vary accordingly. There are aspects of our identity that do not change, and there are aspects that come and go. For instance, I have always been and will always be a woman. This is an aspect of my identity that doesn’t have much importance if I am reading a book or playing with the dog, but it becomes critically important if I decide to bring a new life into the world. On the other hand, my identity as someone who writes computer code is relatively new, and will only remain for as long as I continue to write code.

Illness is something that attaches to our identity. If we are infected with a cold, we do not express it in that way; instead we say “I am sick”. It has become an attribute of who we are, with the same phrasing as saying “I am blonde” or “I am hungry”. For most people in most instances, this addition to our identity is removed in a few days, perhaps after a week, and our identity changes again. We say “I am better” or something similar, and are able to replace the negative identifier with a new, positive one.

When illness is not cured, however, we don’t go through the process of restoring our former identity as someone who is not sick. The longer we wear that negative badge, the deeper it presses on us, into us. We are used to shaking off illness in a negligible amount of time, and so this new aspect rises in importance. “I am sick” is a statement that needs to be dealt with now, not in a day, a week, a month or a year. It is more important than identifying statements such as “I play tennis on Tuesdays” or “each year I go hiking through the mountains for a week”.

As illness continues it becomes chronic illness. This is the place where identity begins to suffer. It has been at the top of your awareness for so long that other aspects of your identity are stripped away. How can you call yourself someone who plays tennis on Tuesdays when you haven’t stepped onto the court in six months? Are you really someone who goes hiking through the mountains every year when you’ve told your friends that you will sit this one out?

With every realisation of what we have lost, we step closer to our personal abyss. “Who am I?” is a question that has to be asked. If the only way you can answer this question is to say “I am someone who is sick” then you are staring into the abyss. You have given it too much attention, too much importance, and now it is consuming you.

None of us want to stare into that abyss. It means seeing all we have lost, all that has been sacrificed, and all that might never be again. You realise that “hitting rock bottom” is a myth spread by people who think they were there only because they have no idea of the many things they still have left to lose. But you know, and if you stare into the abyss then you find yourself wondering what else will be sucked into it. As long as you keep breathing, there is still more to lose.

Stepping back from the abyss is the most obvious thing to do, and it is the focus of many programs that are designed to help people with chronic conditions. You might not be able to say that you play tennis on Tuesdays ever again, but you can still say that you enjoy listening to Mozart during dinner or reading XKCD cartoons. It is a conscious process to push the illness down your list of priorities, to see all of the things that remain, and to embrace what is left.

The problem with this type of therapy is that it will never solve the real problem, which is being sick. Life becomes a carefully constructed series of behaviours and habits that provide equilibrium. We hold the stories that we tell ourselves like a talisman to ward off further evil. “If I do all of these things, I can get through the day.” We have stopped fighting the monster, and instead we have struck a deal with it. Consciously ignoring the abyss saves us from its return gaze, but the price is to accept it as an unchangeable part of who we are. For good or ill, we have become the monster.

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I Just Have To ____

Years ago I heard a piece of financial advice that has stuck with me: understand the difference between wanting something and needing something. I do not need the latest version of the latest gadget on the market, even if I want it. I do need to pay for food. The simple question – do I need this or want this – has saved me tens of thousands of dollars in purchases that would have been regretted a week later.

Now that I am a mother, the way I spend my time has changed dramatically. I have a little person with very unpredictable needs. Caring for her is time consuming and, after weeks of being the parent who stays at home with her, my stress level was rising.

I decided to apply the financial question to my time: do I need to do this, or do I only want to do this? I need to care for my daughter, but what about the other activities that I fill my day with? Making this distinction was simple. Every time I hear myself start a sentence with “I just have to”, I pause and rephrase it. Do I need to do this thing, or just want to do it?

Within minutes of deciding that I did not need to turn my computer on one day, I discovered that I had hours of free time. This was not a shift away from productive work but rather a shift away from deleting the spam in my inbox and reading status updates on Facebook from people I don’t know. I was able to do an incredible amount of housework. I was able to photocopy exercises from a text book that was due back at the library. I finished a sewing project that had been sitting on the kitchen table for a month. Even with all of this activity, I was still able to spend hours caring for my daughter. The day suddenly felt longer and fuller.

Deciding that my computer activities could wait for a day forced me to do so something that I had not done in a long time: I had to relax. Since I did not “have to just check something” I was able to finish the other activities that weigh on my mind. The things that I need to do had room, cleared from something that I only wanted to do and, if I am being honest with myself, I didn’t particularly want to do anyway.

As my day progressed and I accomplished more, I noticed my sense of self shifting. With every minor accomplishment I saw myself changing from someone who has an insurmountable to do list to someone with a list that was quickly being surmounted. My focus moved from the things I don’t do to the things that I am capable of achieving. Instead of seeing weakness and inadequacy, I saw power and strength.

The emotional and mental high from a single day without the computer flowed into the rest of my week. I began the following day in a good mood, and it was easier to recognise the difference between activities that I needed to do and things that I only vaguely wanted.

Every day since that first decision to leave my computer turned off has become easier. I am no longer plagued with thoughts of my own inadequacy, because now I see all the hours where I am someone who gets things done. I no longer feel time pressure, because I can see all the free hours that are at my disposal. It feels like being handed an unexpected sum of money and being told to spend it on whatever I choose.

If the only positive changes were to the way I experience my life, the question of wanting versus needing to do things would be worth continuing to ask. But it is more than that, because I have a daughter now. I have a daughter who will learn what it means to be a woman from me. I have a daughter who will watch my activities and see how she should live her own life. I have a daughter who will know what it is like to have a mother who loves her while being plugged in. After all, I might want to giggle at funny pictures on the internet, but I need to raise my daughter. And, as it turns out, I have all the time in the world for that.

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Tiger Stripes or Leopard Spots?

The language surrounding pregnancy is powerful; it has the ability to make or break a woman’s self-esteem and body image. Words can build confidence, and words can take it away again.

Before I became pregnant, a friend posted a graphic that said mothers were tigers who earned their stripes, with a picture of a heavily lined, post-baby belly. I loved the empowerment in that concept, that “unsightly stretch marks” were really badges of courage and strength. Renaming the lines tiger stripes instead of stretch marks robbed this change of its damage, and converted it into a similar type of beauty that some people find in tattoos.

During this pregnancy my partner has probably become rather bored of being asked if he can see any stretch marks yet. Finally, in week 38, the first subtle marks appeared. He wasn’t certain, and so I needed to wait until someone else could check them for me for confirmation. Confirmation was provided that I had some, but not many.

Some is enough.

All marks are on the underside of my belly. Shroomi is so big that I can’t see below my navel. Knowing that I had finally earned my stripes, and being unable to see them, was an exercise in frustration. What colour were they? How long were they? Which direction did they run in? Were they clustered or evenly spread? Did they form any cool patterns?

I finally managed to work out a way to balance high enough on my puffy toes to check out my belly in the bathroom mirror. Since I am now over 90kg and my centre of gravity likes squirming wildly, this might not have been the best strategic move on my part. Despite that, I managed to get a good look at my belly.

My dream of tiger stripes as a badge of maternal strength immediately vanished. There were no lavish lines streaking my belly. Instead I had smaller, broad spots. A tiger? Oh no, not this belly. I am clearly a leopard.

I am a leopard, who can change her spots. Take that, animal kingdom.

Perhaps I will get the stripes as well, and turn into a leopard-tiger hybrid. Perhaps I will keep my spots just as they are for this pregnancy, and add to them with the next. Perhaps spots will continue appearing until Shroomi decides to join us on the outside. Regardless of what happens, I can’t wait to see how they look once my belly has returned to a babyless state.

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Get Me A Coffee, Would You Love?

Over recent weeks my Facebook feed has been overflowing with posts about sexism in the workplace. An astonishing amount of this seems to be centred on men asking female colleagues to get them a coffee. The request is usually made in a thoughtless way, and not well received by the colleagues in question.

Ladies, we need to talk.

All of the protesting over the last few decades that we’re equals has obviously not taken us very far if so many of you are continually being asked to do the coffee run when you don’t want to. I spent a few years working in administration, where fetching the coffee was actually part of my job description, yet I can assure you that I have never been asked more than once by an individual I was unhappy to get coffee for.

In the spirit of sisterhood and furthering the cause through passive aggression, I’d like to encourage all of you to consider my simple strategy to eliminate unwanted coffee requests.

Step One: Evaluate the request.

Getting a coffee for someone else in the organisation is not an inherently demeaning thing. Sometimes coffee must be purchased from places on the other side of lovely parks, and you know how terribly slow that can be. Oh, how tragic, you must be out in the sun and fresh air while your colleague is stuck at his desk.

However, if this request comes with the modern equivalent of a slap on the butt, then clearly the person asking for this must pay. Dearly.

Step Two: Get the coffee.

If you’ve decided that getting the coffee is actually in your best interests, then this step is fairly boring. Get the stupid coffee and get on with your life.

But oh, what is this? The person requesting the coffee is a total jerk who needs to pay for their attitude problem? That sounds much more fun.

The problem with coffee is that it’s fraught with dangers. If – like me – you aren’t someone who drinks it, then making it is an arcane art that you will never perfect. Ever. Is it one spoon or ten? When they requested two sugars, what exactly does that mean? Two teaspoons? Two dessertspoons? Two packets? Is the drink supposed to be served hot or cold? Since we’re just stupid girls sent on a stupid errand, it’s a bit unreasonable of those clever misogynists to expect us to understand.

That’s such a shame. But do your best ladies. I know that none of you would *gasp* deliberately botch it.

Step Three: Give them the coffee.

Here’s the deal: you wanted me to get you a coffee? Then you’re going to drink it. All of it. And by god you’re going to pretend that you liked it.

You’ll get a range of responses to this one. My personal favourite was the man who began wheezing “are you trying to kill me?” Well duh, of course I am, but I’m not about to admit that to you. It’s much more fun to get all girly hurt and defensive. I do love the sickly smile of people pretending to drink it. It warms my heart in a way that tepid beverages never could.

Step Four: Gracefully accept the end of your coffee fetching career.

There comes a point when nobody in your workplace will allow you to fetch them coffee. My coffee making skills were so legendary in one company that I wasn’t even permitted to carry the pot if someone else had made it. I wasn’t allowed to pour it into mugs. I wasn’t allowed to touch the coffee tin in the kitchen. By the end I wasn’t allowed to wash the pot when they were finished with it.

When you reach the point where you’re not allowed to go within two paces of a coffee mug, you can amuse yourself by openly offering to get people coffee. I was in one meeting where three people leaped from their seats to make it while a fourth distracted me with something apparently critical that only I could do. They never accepted my offer, but I was still able to get points for trying.

Thank goodness men are so much smarter than us, ladies; they never make mistakes with coffee the way I do…

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Martyrdom Is Not Easy

The local sportswear shop had a t-shirt in their window display that caught my eye last week. It read “nothing worth it comes easy”. There were two points with the message that I have taken issue with:

  1. Easy in this context is an adverb. It should read “nothing worth it comes easily”.
  2. That’s a load of rubbish.

We’re a culture of martyrs, and messages like this one are just another tool we use to rub our martyrdom in other people’s faces. Unfortunately, everyone around us is also busy being a martyr, and so we have to increase our perceived martyrdom in order to compete.

Love is worth it, and love is the easiest thing in the world. Love means accepting someone for who they are and being happy that they’re in your life. Instead of acknowledging the simplicity of this, we moan about how difficult love is. We attach so many other ideas to it that we kill the loving foundation. We take the person we proclaim we love, and try to beat them into a new shape and personality. If we fail, we moan about how awful they are to anyone who will listen. If we succeed, we moan about how they have changed and are no longer the person we fell in love with. Well duh. Love is easy; control and manipulation are not.

Health is worth it, and the second easiest thing in the world. If you think getting a bit of fresh air, good food and exercise is hard, try living with a chronic illness for comparison purposes. A healthy body can easily run around the block on a warm spring day; an unhealthy body will struggle to get dressed in the morning. Restoring health is as simple as quitting the behaviours and habits that destroy it. To tweak the slogan: just don’t do it.

Fulfilling work is worth it, and the third easiest thing in the world. What could be simpler than waking up excited to start the day? It’s certainly easier than waking up, pulling the pillow over your head, and battling your emotions for half an hour while flailing half-heartedly at the snooze button. Getting up every morning to do things you hate is very hard, and rarely worth it. Living your dreams is easy.

The only things I can think about that are hard and worth doing are the things that I don’t have the skill or the strength to do. The best thing about skills is that I can easily acquire them with the right tools and teachers. Strength might take a while longer to gain, but I can get around that by finding the right tools and asking for help. It’s amazing how easy it is to find help in our culture: everyone else wants to be a martyr.

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Deconstructing Fear

A month ago, I was very excited by something I had learned online about goal tracking. It changed the way I viewed some of my projects, and I decided that I wanted to find a tool online to help me keep track of things. I googled. I googled some more. I finally cracked it because I couldn’t find the tool I wanted.

So I sat down and created it.

I discussed my new tool with a friend, who told me that it sounded like a great idea that other people would probably want to buy. Cue gushing pride over my new toy. He was right, because it’s a fantastic thing, and I’m not that great at cheerleading for my own work. I decided that this was my opportunity, and that I was going to create an online store to sell it. Maybe a thousand people share my frustration and want it, perhaps it will sit on a virtual shelf gathering dust. Whatever. The outcome doesn’t seem nearly as important as trying.

If you’ve been paying attention over recent weeks, you might have noticed a decided lack of posts about my new business venture.

This week I took a time out to contemplate why this tool is sitting on my computer and not out there in the world. It was an honest day, and the answer was simple: I was afraid.

I worked through the obvious things that I could be afraid of. Was I afraid of starting and failing at a business? Was I afraid of social repercussions by trying this? Was I afraid of losing all my money and having nothing to show for it at the end? They were all valid ideas that I have come across often in the world, but none of them felt true for me.

Later that night, I sat down with a notepad and decided that I was going to write down everything I was afraid of. The condition I imposed on myself was that I could only write down specific, quantifiable things. Fearing failure was too vague; I had to write down exactly what it was that I feared failing at. The list turned out to be much shorter than I had expected:

  • I’m afraid of buying the wrong software.
  • I’m afraid of designing an invoice.
  • I’m afraid I won’t automate the sales process properly.
  • I’m afraid of having an error in the file.

I sat there, staring at the list, waiting for the real, deeper fear to emerge. It never did. It slowly dawned on me that I had embraced the full depth of my fears, and this was as bad as it got. As I read over the list, that little voice in my head was loud and indignant. “Really, Catherine? You’re afraid of buying software? Really? Oh no, not software. Not that thing you already buy a lot of.

When I got over feeling stupid, I sat down and wrote out a second list to answer my fears:

  • Buying the wrong software is better than buying no software, because without software there is no store. Launching something and then fixing it quickly is better than never launching. I’m the boss, and I can change things whenever I want to.
  • There are many books and articles online that will help me to design an invoice. If I get through the process and still can’t work out exactly what I need to include, I can pay someone to design this for me.
  • Plenty of other people have automated their sales process in the same way I want to automate mine, so I already know that it is possible. If I can’t find articles and books about how to do it, I’m sure someone can help me.
  • I have been using my file for a month now, and I haven’t found any errors in weeks. It will take me less than 10 minutes to go through and recheck my programming. Even if I miss something, it won’t be difficult to correct it and email the revision to anyone who has already bought a copy.

Once I realised what my fears were, the strategies to overcome them were simple. I dived into research, and within hours realised that I should be able to set up everything in a single day. The information was a bit too technical for me, so my cousin will come over next week to help me set it up. I never would have been able to ask for his help if I hadn’t explored my specific fears and turned them into actions.

I’ll report back once we work through my hurdles and get things up and running. Then I’ll sit down with a few other projects that have been delayed, and see how stupid I can make myself feel with thise.

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End of NaNoWriMo

Today is the end of NaNoWriMo, and I have not had the outcome that I had anticipated when I began the challenge. I began with high hopes that I would complete a novel by the end of the month, because it is something that I have repeatedly succeeded at before. Instead I ended up deleting the novel at 19,000 words and leaving it at that.

I feel more successful than I ever have during NaNoWriMo.

Before I began the Bachelor of Arts (Professional Writing) after high school, I was ruthless with what I wrote. Wrong sentence? Delete. Flat character? Delete. Boring idea? Delete. Stupid plot twist? You guessed it: delete. If I did not enjoy what I was working on, the outcome was swift and remorseless. And I loved it.

At university I was exposed to many new ideas about writing that I had never encountered before. There was the idea that writing is not something for pleasure, but instead it is hard work that is mentally taxing. My prose should never be deleted, but instead carefully put aside in a file in case I changed my mind later. People who don’t write every day to a set schedule are pretenders who will never make it in the industry. Writing poorly is better than not writing at all, because you can just fix it later.

After a few years of this, the thrill of writing was gone. I no longer trusted my own judgement. As my marks improved at university, the friends and family around me told me that the quality of my work was declining at an equally steady rate. I was caught between an expert opinion that carried the authority of industry experience, and the opinion of amateurs that I secretly suspected was correct.

If you’ve ever wanted to understand writers block, repeat the above actions and you’ll be there in no time. When anything that you write will be wrong, it is impossible to find the confidence to push through and continue.

This month, while writing another novel that was going in a direction that didn’t make me happy, I finally paused and considered the ideas that I had been taught. Writing has to be hard? Rubbish. Every word is precious and needs to be preserved at all costs? Rubbish. Doing exactly what I want to do is bravery bordering on insanity? Rubbish. These concepts are all the petty miseries of other people, and there is no need to buy into them.

When I decided to break out of NaNoWriMo this month and trash my work, I felt liberated. I was no longer bound by the rules of other people to work in a certain way at a certain time. All the pressure lifted, and I switched from seeing my novel as stupid to seeing it as a story that had taken an early wrong turn and needed to be gently steered back on course. This was reclaiming my writing, my ideas, and even my beliefs. I can’t imagine a bigger success at this point in time.

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