Monday, 18 January 2016

Into the Unknown



I began 2016 upset with myself. 

Regular readers might recall my Oath, Boast & Toast this year? Well, I was upset because I'd watered it down.

I changed it at the very last minute. I had just completed a contract with an extremely impressive human rights group. It'd been a truly amazing, eye-opening experience, but my time there had come to a natural end. 

I'd decided that 2016 was going to be the year I threw myself into writing. I was going to tailor everything else in my life around it and see what happened. Whilst I've been in the UK I've been to see a couple of nonprofit projects, the type of funding work I can do in the evenings, from home. Meanwhile, I've been networking online, lining up a couple of meetings in the arts community in Rwanda once I return. 

I had planned to branch into writing retreats on Lake Kivu. I was going to do this in partnership with my friend Christiane, who had just built an ecolodge in a perfect location, high in the hills, overlooking the water. Unfortunately, she passed away in September, so I put that idea to bed. 

Lots of ideas have been going through my mind since. Rwanda has always been hugely productive for me creatively, and I want to give myself time to see whether I can develop a proper writing routine. See whether I can shift myself away from development consultancy towards something more artistic. 

It's a huge gamble. Nothing is guaranteed. Which is why, when the lovely organisation I was working for offered me a second year at better pay, I stumbled. It happened just before I posted my Oath, Boast and Toast. Whereas before it had read: 'This is it, death or glory!' it then became 'Perhaps I'll try and focus more on writing in the New Year.'

The moment I posted it, I knew I wasn't being honest. I was allowing fear of insecurity (especially financial insecurity) to overshadow the heart:

I get a sort of tingle down my spine when I earn money from writing. It’s the same tingle I got when I was offered my first publishing contract. A little spark of joy which lies dormant in between, when things aren’t going so well. 
As writers, I think we live for that spark. - The Dabbler Interview

My first advance is modest, but it means a lot. It's the first time a publisher has said: Yes, we believe in you. We believe that we can sell what you write... In an industry where money is often tight and nothing is ever certain, that's a massive token of trust... Every book I've written has been slightly better and gone slightly further. - blog post

I am in the ridiculously lucky position of being able to buy a little time for myself. I have a secluded spot in which to write, friends who rejuvenate me and prevent me disappearing up my own arse entirely, and a little work which, although intermittent, can be folded around my writing routine. All I need is rent money and food. I'm a fairly simple being, all told. 

It's at times like this there is only one thing to do: scour the internet for life-affirming quotes which back up your idea of who you want to be. In my case, I mostly have @adriantannock to thank:

You can fail at what you don't want, so you might as well take a chance at doing what you love. - Jim Carrey 
Whatever you're meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible. - Doris Lessing

And, of course, Christiane, who insisted that if I had the opportunity to write, write I must. 

So, I've taken the very brave, or very foolish, decision to turn down the extremely kind offer of guaranteed work, and return to my original plan of free falling into 2016 in the hopes that things will work themselves out.

I'd regret it if I didn't at least try. 

This blog could get quite interesting once I get back to Rwanda. 

Or very quiet, depending how the writing's going...

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