Episode 40: The ghost of past procrastination
In which our protagonist seeks mojo and finds a hint of Real Self instead
Dear reader, last time we spoke I brought news of a new job. I had rejoined the world of the working! I was a real person again! Did this mean things were finally on the up for ol’ McMenemy?
Ahem… What is it they say about buses? Wait ages for one and three come along at once?
You can see where this is going.
Don’t worry - this isn’t me saying I’ve given up already. Quite the opposite, which is the problem.
My new role is part-time. That leaves me a couple of days. A couple of days which, in my infinite wisdom, I decided to fill with other work, and then some. I didn’t send this missive one week because I’d done three full days of the job plus two days of coaching training plus a full-day conference I attended “for fun”. That’s six full days of brain power following almost a year of not using the noggin. I was collapsed in a heap, unable to think let alone tap away to create this missive for you. (I did start, to be fair - I just ran out of steam.)
That week was shortened; I was headed for a long weekend in Derby immersing myself in all things spooky at the UK Ghost Story Festival. I opted to wait until my return and do a double-whammy, longer missive for you, dear reader. Just as well, too: GhostFest had me buzzing. It was exactly what I needed. I was so creatively inspired, so full of optimism and joy. I was a totally different person, talking to strangers and all. I had a blast.
I also got stuck in Derby for an extra night because of snow and ice and train delays and general British winter travel fun. By the time I got home, frozen and lugging a bag full of books purchased from guest authors, the buzz was gone, and I curled up to recover. Back to square one. No missive for you, dear reader. Rest and recovery wins.
Back to the old ways
If I’m being honest, I’m struggling with the whole back-to-work thing. It’s really taking it out of me and, as I anticipated/suspected/feared, I’ve already started to overthink everything. I’ve already started biting off more than I can chew. I’ve already found my brain unable to shut off at the end of the day, seeing things at random intervals that take my thinking back to things that should only be dealt with in specific time frames. I never was good at compartmentalising when it comes to work. Turns out I haven’t learned much in this year of being self(ish).
...though that’s not exactly fair, dear reader. Turns out I have actually evolved. I’ve learned enough to spot the issue early on. I’ve learned enough to have the strength to say no to things I don’t have the time or headspace to tackle. I’ve even actually said no to lucrative work - not bad for being “back” less than a month.
I’ve also learned about what I’m willing to put up with and what I need to be happy. As much as it sucked to deal with train delays, my weekend away (alone! bliss!) also showed me what I need to feel confident, happy and ready to tackle the world. It was exactly what I needed after a prolonged period of ultimate low mood; I became a person I had suspected was in there, somewhere, but who refused to come out to play. Surrounded by “my people”, learning and talking about my craft and obsessions, I came alive. I had a reason to.
Mojo: lost or found?
Some of you reading this will know I’ve been struggling with my creativity recently. I had intellectually put it down to the process of burnout and recovery, of my black cloud settling back above my head and refusing to budge. These things are not conducive to creating, no matter the tropes of tortured geniuses. I’ve been struggling so much that I began to question my drive. Was I really meant to be a writer, or did I just like to say I was a writer? Was I just clinging to a childhood dream that was never realistic in the first place?
A writer needs to write, after all. A writer needs to create worlds and build lives and actually put stuff out there. I’ve done none of the above, at least not when it comes to my fiction goals.
After my spooky weekend, after my creative surge, after my heart swelled with purpose, I came home and managed to say no to extra work. I have other things I want to achieve. That I NEED to achieve. And I need to make sure there is space for them to come alive, too.
Now I just need to get off my too-comfortable behind and get some writing done.
Once upon a time I’d have vowed to make a New Year’s Resolution and kick the can down the track a little, let future-me deal with making that reality. The new goal is to get current-me to face facts and get down to business now, not later.
Easy to say, ain’t it?
The week ahead 🗓
Heading back to work means I’m trying to get all of my cards in order. Ducks in a row. What’s the appropriate phrase here?
Writing: I’ll be recapping the goodness from Ghost Fest while also learning about Witch Lit via a Litreactor 4-week class. Got to write a story every week for homework - gulp! That’s one way to end the year on a creative high!
Work: I’m trying to get back into the work swing while maintaining that discipline and balance of saying no and listening to my body. It’s hard. Real hard.
Health: I ordered new gym gear. That will definitely make me exercise, right?
Routine: The routine is non-existent right now, but that’s ok. I’m building a new one and figuring out what I can do. Plus, join me and hundreds of others at the LWS Writers’ Hour every weekday: 8am London, New York, California and Melbourne.
On the stereo 🎧
I was recently asked what my baseball walk-out song would be. I had no idea what this meant, but once it was translated into Laurenese my mind was swirling with possibilities. In the end, there was really only one choice: drama, intensity, chanting of “no one’s going to take me alive”. It’s presented here in all its glory, along with two close runners-up which mean I manage to represent three different continents in my choices.
Top choice: Knights of Cydonia, by Muse
Don’t waste your time or time will waste you
Runner-up: The House That Heaven Built, Japandroids
Tell ‘em all to go to hell.
Runner-up: The Heart is a Muscle, by Gang of Youths
The heart is a muscle, and I want to make it strong.
Off the shelf 📚
The Boatman’s Daughter, by Andy Davidson
One of the side-effects of my prolonged downward spiral was a lack of reading - I just couldn’t muster the motivation nor focus on the page for long enough. As such, my year of prolific reading has taken a hit. Add to that the need for a schedule once more and I’m not getting as much time as I’d like to, and it’s taking much longer than it should to get through books. This novel has been occupying me this last week or so.
A southern gothic with a hint of crime/thriller, it comes highly recommended by highly-praised writers and sits on the more literary side of the horror genre. It’s also very, very dense, so probably not the best pick to get me back into the swing of prolific reading. That said, its world-building is phenomenal; Davidson really brings to life the deep swamplands of the south, the poverty, the dark magic in the land. I’m only half-way through, but feel it’s heading to a dark and murky end.
Get an eyeful 👀
Tick Tick… Boom! (Netflix)
Contrary to what seems to be popular opinion, I love a bit of musical theatre - I was even in actual high school musicals, usually playing a bloke in the chorus thanks to attending an all-girl Catholic school with many people far more talented than me. New musical offerings usually catch my eye, though I do not profess to be a theatre nerd like some of my American fellow Writers Hour hosties. They got very excited and were chattering about this - Lin-Manuel Miranda’s directorial debut based on the work of Rent-creator Jonathan Larson - while I was away at GhostFest. Me and him finally got to sit down this weekend to enjoy it, and it blew us both away. As a writer, it’s worth the watch just to be inspired to persevere against all odds. What a wonderful, heartbreaking, heartwarming, inspirational, creative experience.
Visual confirmation 📷
I cannot resist a conference book stall: here are my hauls from The Haunted Landscape at Conway Hall and the Ghost Story Festival in Derby. Trust me, I wanted more.
Hey Lauren. Just discovered your newsletter through the Substack Go list. I'm in the UK too. Love your musings. I went through a bad burnout a year ago and am also on what I am calling a sabbatical.