Firstly, thanks to Jade Kerrion for her guest blog, I hope you have had the time to read it. Secondly, Thinking Plainly’s new author Rufus Garlic will be guest blogging soon so please keep an eye out for him!
So, in my previous blog I was telling you how I was badly in need of getting back to writing and finishing my next short story. How I have spent so much time learning the ‘social media’ ropes and focusing on the ‘business’ stuff that I hadn’t got any further in developing my creative writing skills, and that although I was really enjoying the marketing stuff I needed to find a balance to make sure I didn’t forget what it was that I started all this for, what it is I actually love doing…but…that I was getting lost in the maze of all that was going on, the twists, turns and dead ends of working on multiple social media platforms and I was in danger of walking around the maze forever without getting any nearer the exit. So I felt the answer was to write a business plan. Well you can read that blog if you like so I’ll skip to what happened.
It was great, painful but great. I spent a few nights gathering all my stuff together and started drafting a document that would be my guiding light. Then an interesting thing happened. I had made good progress and was enjoying getting so much information in order when I noticed there were one or two notes I had made, probably nine or ten months ago, that were no longer relevant and I asked myself why I had kept them…that triggered a sleepless night, my brain had formed an idea that I knew I would have to carry out.
It wasn’t just a few notes concerning my writing, websites or social media that I understood I no longer needed around and could be deleted. I had a strong impulse to entirely clean out my life of all the ‘stuff’ I didn’t need. Before I go on to what I started, I want to quickly explain why I felt this way. There were two main reasons, both personal, and as I have stated before I’m not using this blog for going on about too much personal stuff outside of writing so I’ll just outline them. Firstly, the last year or so has been tough for me and with the new year I really felt like not being reminded of the past, how could I ‘spring clean’ more than just superficially? Secondly, all of the people I have read about that have travelled the world, be they writers, explorers, charity workers, philanthropists, rock stars, film stars, etc. etc. They are able to work ‘out of a suitcase’ and survive (okay, so the rock stars may have a bit of handy cash that eases things along) but the point was no matter what their environment, they were able to keep being creative, sometimes they even prospered in their creativity. Was it time I stopped being so comfortable?
I felt very liberated when I accepted that a good clean out was what I needed and, well basically, I decided to sell everything! I started by looking at the non-physical stuff, all the direct debits and standing orders I had going out of my account. I belonged to a DVD rental club, I belonged to a family history database website, I had premier accounts on a few social media sites instead of just normal free accounts, I had a gym membership I hardly used anymore, the list went on more than I had expected. I cancelled all of them. I didn’t need the features of a professional LinkedIn account for instance, they were useful, sure, but not necessary.
Then I looked at all the physical stuff. Now sorry to get a bit weepy but it was quite emotional! I used to be one of those people that kept everything, tickets to the cinema, exhibition guides, all of my cd’s had the receipts inside the box so when I opened them I could more or less remember the occasion where/when I bought them, even if it was years ago; the same with my DVD’s; so there were a few hours of retracing my life through scraps of paper. Why the hell did I keep all this stuff? As I went on, I realised that so much of my life was distraction; I was living in the past a lot. Not that I used to mind, in fact, I used to enjoy remembering things, but I knew that was not what I needed or wanted anymore. What I need and want is to progress, to develop; my time has to be for the new, for the unexplored. So although it was upsetting going through all my stuff (it’s amazing how much we cram into our cabinets, shelves and drawers that we forget about…) it was also as I said, very liberating. All the things that seemed so important before, training manuals for previous jobs, a harmonica, a guitar, computer program tutorials, handbooks for long-ago disposed of equipment (I still had the box and manuals for a mobile phone I had about five years ago)…
I looked at all this ‘stuff’ and knew that it was all going to go; it had no part of my life anymore. Excuse the plugs (this isn’t paid advertisement I promise) but I sold my old phones to Mazuma.com, I sold my old Open University textbooks to Fatbrain.com, I sold most of my cd’s and dvd’s to Magpie.com and I’m in the process of selling all my other stuff on eBay. I have some great stuff, really good condition, but I simply don’t need it anymore. Earlier this week I sold four poker books and two chess books on eBay. The person who buys them will get a great deal, I bought all of them new and am selling them for a fraction of the RRP but I’m not fussed, I want rid of them, I want space, I want room to breath in, I want empty shelves, I want freedom from all the bloody ‘stuff’ I have around me! I don’t care if they are limited editions, collector’s editions, special editions; whatever they are, they are going. Yes, it’s sad to see them go, but it’s worth it, I feel better already.
The business plan had done more than I had expected, it wasn’t just my ‘business’ stuff it had sorted out, but it had made me evaluate everything, and I’m so glad I did.
As with most things, there are always exceptions. Perhaps you won’t be surprised to read that I couldn’t bring myself to sell my books. I’ll get on to that in a bit, but before, I know what this whole thing maybe screaming out to you…just another distraction, another reason to avoid writing, to avoid sitting down…well in a way that’s true. It is a distraction, but I hope one that has a purpose and isn’t just frivolous. Having so much stuff around me doesn’t stop me writing but it can hinder my concentration. I want to be able to look around me and not have a hundred images trying to grab my attention. Thinking about it, I’m sure that is the allure of the ‘writing retreat’, those places that people go for periods of time to get away from everything and try and free their minds to write. Perhaps I am turning my local environment into a retreat, somewhere that outside of work, outside of my town, outside of my friends…my mind can wander and be clear.
That’s all I’m hoping to get out of it I suppose, some space to think, both in the physical sense ‘less stuff’ around me, but also in the emotional sense, less things to dwell on, to be reminded about, to interfere with my thinking. I’m not expecting to make any money out of it. I’m selling the vast majority of stuff really cheaply just to get rid of it, so I’m probably losing, but just the process is rewarding enough.
So why not the books? As I guess most of you reading this, I have always bought books as long as I can remember. I have lots of them. I studied a literature degree so I have lots of books from that period. I have lots of books from charity shops. I have lots of books given to me as gifts. I have many that I am yet to read and some that I have re-read a few times. I have modern autobiographies and I have classics. It’s a real jumble really, they are not in any special arrangement, not catagorised or in alphabetical order. They just take up a lot of room! Really, they should go. I would have a lot more space that way, and others could use them, they could benefit people, but they feel part of me more than all the other things I own. I could try and convince you that I need them to reference in the future, to inspire and all that. But couldn’t I just go to the library for that? Or, buy a new book every now and again and then give it away once I’ve read it?
Once everything is gone, it will just be me, my laptop, my books and hopefully one mean looking business plan strategy…then I’ll really be stuck for an excuse not to write.
Hour’s up. (Plus a cheeky ten minutes)
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