Maybe it’s simply because the sun’s out and the garden is looking lovely, but the truth is I’m in an astonishingly good mood.
This isn’t a recent development, although the moment feels right now to document my shift in thinking. Once a blogger, always a blogger. This is in part down to the completion of creative writing course this week, one which has re-acquainted me with some basic skills.
So, conscious that this blog has suffered a little bit in recent weeks, here are some shiny new thoughts of mine. None will change the world and don’t think for a moment I think they’re groundbreaking.
1. I don’t set enough time aside for reading
Reading suffers from an image problem for some of us. Some years ago a friend expressed surprise I found it difficult finishing a book. How could I possibly start another book if I had one unfinished in my hand. His judgment was so marked, that I foolishly concluded I probably wasn’t a reader. Another friend during the same conversation expressed surprise that I wasn’t able to finish a book as quickly as he could. How could I call myself a book lover if I took a long time to get through a story?
That’s bollocks, of course. What I notice now that I’m re-connecting with books is how we little time we set aside for reading in itself. A book is often turned to in order to fill in time rather than for the pleasure of reading itself. That seems a shame and if it goes unchecked will be a case of diminishing returns.
2. I have three books on the go at the moment and I’m OK with that
That’s all changed now. I have three books on the go at the moment. Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much Is True and Shaun Levin’s A Year of Two Summers. I like the fact that I can dip into all of these whenever I want. They offer different things and different viewpoints. They’re also different writing styles. Reading all of those things concurrently keeps things a bit fresh.
Like writing, I’ve set aside half an hour each day to read something (other than work stuff), ideally printed, but often via my Kindle. I’m loving it.
3. Mainstream publishing skews the experience of reading
I looked at the Top 20 books on sale in WHSmith last night at Charing Cross station. Yes, they’re the most popular books and might give a suggestion to novices about what to read, but such lists also give the false impression that the familiar is best. Reading ‘off the beaten track’ is slightly more challenging and – for me – ultimately more satisfying. In this way, I think reading could offer me that same voyage of self-propelled discovery that ploughing through Mahler’s symphonies for the first time (effectively) five years ago on holiday.
4. Writing is difficult, but the prize is worth it
During a training course introduction a couple of months ago, the question was asked “What brings you joy?” I answered with “Two things: writing and my garden.” There was a sigh of recognition (at least, I think that’s what it was) when I said it. Saying it out loud was automatic. Like the garden work I’ve thrown myself into this year, writing is difficult because it isn’t an overnight thing. They both demand small repeated bursts of activity in order to get around the negative talk which can potentially block achievement. Nobody ever tells you that when you get underway. Shame.
Knowing you’ve rattled off a draft short story is as satisfying as a warm bath or the knowledge you’ve completed a really thorny task. It is the gift that keeps on giving.
5. There’s a massive difference between writing and publishing
Even if it is difficult, writing is still a pleasure.
Publishing is business.
Don’t get the two confused, otherwise you won’t do anything.
6. Writing is drafting and editing, then more editing
Write something. Anything. Leave it be. Then come back and start playing around with it later. Trust yourself. Nothing happens instanteously. The really satisfying stuff is the complete antithesis to blogging.
7. Classical music has taken a back seat
I’m not entirely sure whether I really mean this or not. Only time will tell. The reality is that I’m switching Radio 3 on less, and the last concert I went to was at Wigmore Hall a few months ago. The coming Proms season might change that, obviously. At the moment, I’m not feeling the classical music love.
8. Blogs are suddenly phenomenally difficult to write
Some people I come into contact with see blogs in negative light. This stems from a lack of understanding or experience. The creativity involved in the process is then overlooked. Sometimes, the line “that seems a bit long”, does make me want to gnaw my own hand off.
That negativity seeps into how I approach writing blogs. As a result blogs now demand great planning and don’t present themselves as an opportunity for near-automatic writing. Some of the joy has bled out of the process. That seems a terrible shame.
9. Career development training courses: some of the most valuable experiences I’ve had in recent years
I may have waxed lyrical to friends and colleagues in recent weeks about this. If you’ve not heard about it then consider yourself very lucky. But, a series of training courses I’ve attended which will (assuming I successfully complete them) enable me to help others develop their own careers has had a profound effect on me. The course so far has increased my own self-awareness to such an extent that I’ve effected real change in my own personal development. I’m really proud of that.
10. Quiet aids reflection
One other experience I’ve had over the past few weeks is discovering what personality type I am.
Others who have been through the same process haven’t necessarily greeted their result positively, but I’ve found the process fascinating. It’s helped me realise that I’m pretty much dependent on ‘quiet time’.
As I think about that more I realise how much at odds that is with working in the broadcasting environment. ‘Selling content’ demands consuming content, and consuming it demands time at the expense of quiet reflection.