When I sit down to write this blog, I rarely know what I’m going to talk about until I start typing.
I tend to perch myself on the edge of the sofa, thus adding an element of drama to proceedings, turn over all the things I’ve been thinking and talking about in my mind, and then start writing about one of them. (I realise you didn’t necessarily ask about my writing process, but I’ve been enjoying the My Writing Day series in the Guardian so much that I just couldn’t help myself).
And today, that process made me realise that the subject of most relevance to me right now is the variety of CHOICES we make as we get older. So here’s some thoughts on that:
When Wednesday rolls around and I have special, dedicated time for doing my freelance writing thing, the whole day is about choice. Who will I pitch to? Which idea is worth pursuing? Will I let myself be distracted by the pile of hand-washing that suddenly looks so appealing now that I’m supposed to be doing work? Or will I chase the dollar and get to 6pm before realising I haven’t breathed an ounce of fresh air (or as fresh as London can offer) since yesterday? So many choices and so little time. I spend hours wondering if I’m making the right decisions, as I’m sure we all do.
On a related note, I’ve come to realise how helpful it is when editors choose to spend a few seconds sending a response to a pitch to let you know that it’s not quite right. Nobody likes to be rejected but it’s still so much more helpful than silence. I can tick them off on my list, move on, and try to do better next time. I know that people are busy – and that lots of editors receive so many emails each day that responding is just not feasible – but when you spend your day seemingly sending emails into the abyss, it’s good to feel acknowledged, and hopefully one step closer to getting it right.
Our time is precious and choosing who we spend it with is a serious decision. Sometimes we choose to fight for more time with a person, and sometimes we decide to step away because, for whatever reason, the relationship just isn’t giving us what we need. My new rule is: if it feels like someone is stealing your time rather than giving you the gift of theirs, it’s time to make a change.
This week I chose to take Facebook off my phone. It was making me feel anxious and stressed and constantly in demand and I didn’t like it. Even though the little red notifications were rarely aimed at me personally, I felt that if I didn’t click right now to see what was going on, I’d be missing out or being disorganised in some way. I haven’t ‘left’ Facebook – chill out – I’ve just left it on my laptop for looking at when I want to, rather than carrying it around in my hand all the time. And I feel a lot better for it.
I like writing on here about my life, the lessons I’ve learnt, the things I find interesting, and I like sharing tips and advice that I can only hope someone will find useful. Whether you write for a living or for fun, you have to make a choice about what you will and won’t share. Whenever I come to this blog, I think through the unwritten policies that decide what I write about. For example, I want you to feel like you know me but not so well that I may as well have hung my laundry around your lounge. I want you to know that I’m human without making myself too vulnerable. I want to talk about my marriage without sharing so much that I somehow bring it to an end. It’s nice to have a place where I make the rules – and where I can choose to break them any time I like.
For the last week or so I’ve been getting up just a little bit earlier than usual to start writing some fiction. I don’t really know how to do that (but does anyone before they try?) so I’ve just been sitting down with a pen and my idea and seeing where it takes me. I do about 20 minutes a day whilst still wearing my pyjamas and with my husband sound asleep upstairs and each session gets me about two or three pages of words. Not words I’d like anyone to read right now, mind – my goodness no – but it’s a start. I realised that if I wanted to try, I needed to choose to find more hours in the day. It turns out they are there if you’re willing to respond to a slightly earlier alarm.
It’s very much acknowledged now that we’re a bit older that we have to build time into our lives to do nothing. To choose to have days when we class ourselves as being busy, but what we mean is that we’ll be busy doing nothing. Looking after ourselves. Managing our mental health. Eating our way through our second bag of Wispa Bites. Whatever. This time is ours. Please don’t come round.
We’re about to go on holiday and I’m choosing – as much as possible – to have an internet free time. I want to look at Florence, not my phone. I want to scroll through lists of gelato flavours, not pictures of other people’s lattes. And I want to talk to my husband face-to-face, rather than typing away about idontevenknowwhat on a device that I’m becoming more and more sure is trying to kill me. I choose to have some time off, and I can’t bloody wait.