The Many Roles That Make Up Who We Are

Last Tuesday was a fairly busy day for me.

I got up around 6am with my two-year-old, as is the norm. We had breakfast, got dressed, let the chickens and ducks out and fed and watered them all. Then we had our usual little mooch down the lane with the dogs. Back home, I had my coffee and he had a hot chocolate to warm up. These things happen every day.

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After that, I left the house with my fourteen-year-old and drove us to the local community hall where I was running a writing workshop for 7-16 year olds. I do this every school holiday with my Chasing Driftwood Writing Group business . I slipped off my ‘mum’ hat and popped on my teaching one, welcoming the children in, talking about writing and getting the workshop started. Once it was over, my daughter helped me put the tables and chairs away, and I was Mum again.

We arrived home and I slipped further into the usual role of Mum, with my toddler who had missed me. I only had time to eat some lunch, placate him with brief cuddles and chat, before I had to get back into the car to drive to another job. This time it was within my other role as a dog walker. I’ve only gone back to this fairly recently, but it was what I was doing before I had my youngest child. Back then, it was the perfect day job to tie in with writing. In between walking dogs, I wrote.

I put on my wellies and mucky dog walking coat, collected the dogs from their home and set off across the muddied fields of Throop, adjacent to the river, as usual, in total awe at the beauty of my surroundings. I was yet another me. The dog loving me. Never happier than when in the company of these lolling, wagging, slobbering beasts. Dogs are an obsession to me as much as reading, writing and music. They make me who I am, and who I have always been, and when I am walking along with them, lost in my own head, smiling at their antics, I am reminded of who I was as a child and of what I dearly wanted. To be a writer and to work with animals.

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While I walked, I slipped between dog walker and writer mode, throwing their ball and tossing them treats, as I thought up blog posts and articles and snippets of short stories in my head. Every now and then, as is standard, I had to tap something into my phone notebook in case I forgot it later.For this time, I was not Mum or writing teacher, I was myself, I was Chan.

Back home, a brief rest and then it was time to walk my own doggies again. I was definitely tired by then, and had just recieved a text from a good friend reminding me that it was drinks tonight. I had totally forgotten and instantly I thought no, I can’t, it’s been a busy day and I really need to do some writing and get an early night…At the same time, I desperately wanted to go. This is a group of friends I made through being a mum. Our 9 year olds have all been friends for the last five years, and our friendships have grown over that time. We try and meet up every now and again outside of school, as these days, we are seeing less and less of each other within the school environment. The boys are getting older and wanting more independence, and we’ve all noticed we now see less and less of the usual mums in the playground, as we increasingly drop the kids off and leave them to it.

I made myself go out and socialise, as it is not something I do very often. Like most writers, I’m an introvert at heart and love nothing more than my own company, my own imagination, and to round off the night, a good book. I was so glad I went, though, as I was able to enjoy a few glasses of wine, and strip off all the roles I had played in the day and all the many ‘hats’ I had worn. With the workday over, children in bed, and partners at home, we were all able to have a good moan and a catch-up, a bit of essential ‘me’ time!

This was a busy day, but not an unusual one and it got me thinking about how the roles we play make up who we are. But who is the real you? Are we ever really our true selves, or just different versions of us, presented in different ways, for different reasons? It got me thinking about the next week ahead. On the Friday I was lucky enough to be interviewed on BBC Radio Solent as part of their Dorset Lives section. I was incredibly nervous, but yet when I listened back, I was overwhelmed by how calm, confident and professional I sounded talking about my writing and why I set up my Chasing Driftwood business. I couldn’t believe that was actually me! I mean, was it actually me? Or just the version of myself I knew I had to present in order to get through that particular situation? It was certainly not the same me that gets ratty with my kids at home, or wanders by the river, splattered with mud, throwing balls for dogs! This week I will going into a local school for a meeting about a proposed school writing project, inspired by another writer, but put forward by me for this area. Yet again, I am sure the ‘me’ I put forward during this meeting is going to be different. Professional and confident, but she is also going to need to be warm and passionate about the project and how it could benefit the school.

Is there ever a true us? Does a real me exist? Is it the one who is left when I am totally alone, beholden to no one, with nothing expected of me? Or is it the one who chats to other mums inside the school gates? The one who drifts off inside her own head when out with her dogs? The one who runs the bath, and picks up the dirty clothes and makes the lunch boxes for the next school day? Or the one who plans writing workshops and presentations?

I guess I am or have slowly become all of these roles, and all of these people. They are all me, when I need them to be me. They are all parts of who I am and what make me an individual. Some of them did not use to exist at all, but now, here they are. Here I am. All these different faces and demeanours and personas. How very odd when you think about it!

So, what about you? Who is the real you? How many roles do you play out in your busy life? How many hats do you have to wear? Please feel free to comment and join in the conversation! I would love to hear from you!

 

 

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Getting Out of The Dumps

Last week I posted very excitedly about my writing goals for 2017 and I was feeling very vibrant and energetic with the start of a new year, full of possibility. I was just brimming over with exuberance and ambition. Annoyingly so, I feel.

This week? Not so much.

Call it the post Christmas and New Year anti-climax. Maybe that’s what it is. A sort of slumping of the shoulders at the months of cold weather ahead. A general loss of enthusiasm, I guess.

Writing is a strange affliction, where you are constantly indulging your selfish dreams and passions, your desire to write, while at the same time, constantly battling self-doubt and reality checks. I know I am not alone when I ask myself on a regular basis, what the hell am I doing this for?

Well, the answer is still the same and always will be. I’m writing because I have to, because I’d go crazy if I didn’t, because I live in perpetual hope and aim to keep getting better.

That’s enough, believe me, it will always be enough. But when slumps like this hit, it can be hard to claw your way back up again. So I thought I would attempt to list the things I am feeling down about, and then try to counteract that with a list of things to feel hopeful about, possibly with the result of cheering myself up. We’ll see!

Down

  1. Doing my tax return. Yep, it’s that time of year again where I am smacked right in the face with how little I earn at what I do. This then leads to building guilt and panic telling me that I need to stop it all now and get a real job fast!
  2. Lack of interest/support from loved ones. This is not uncommon, in fact pretty much every indie writer I know has experienced this. I even wrote an article about it for Author’s Publish which went down rather well. Like I said in that piece, it’s not always what you think it is, it works both ways, there are so many reasons why, blah blah blah, but just for a moment let’s acknowledge that it does actually hurt. Which leads to further self-doubt and guilt and telling yourself to just stop it.
  3. Lack of reviews. It’s nice to get sales but what authors really really want are more reviews. This is so we can find out what we are getting right and wrong! Even bad reviews are helpful as they add to the overall amount. With no new reviews, writers feel totally alone. It’s nice to get the odd pat on the back or helpful suggestion. New reviews pick you up when you feel close to quitting. They keep you going and make everything worthwhile.
  4. Never ending guilt. Yes, the guilt again. Guilt about not earning enough money, guilt about being almost constantly in another world of my own construction, guilt about wishing the kids bedtime would hurry up so I can get on the laptop and get writing. Ugh! So much guilt!
  5. Feeling like a fraud. Oh, this one is bad at the moment. It rears its head from time to time! I think it’s because I’m running an adult workshop in March and although I enjoy this and have done this before, this is the first time on my own, not with Dorset Writers Network, and every time I stand up and talk to other writers I feel like a massive fraud. I feel like I should say, Google me! Then decide if I’m worth listening to!  Same goes with writing my books. Some days I feel like a writer. I am a writer. Other days, not so much.

Up

  1. Face reality. I can’t realistically look for any other work that is not in some way self-employed or done from home as I have a two-year-old to care for. When he starts nursery in September, I will be looking at my options, and again when he starts school the year after that. So maybe I should stop worrying so much that I am not contributing. I’m raising him! And he’s awesome
  2. Some friends and family are with me all the way, so I need to appreciate and concentrate on these. Remind myself that no one shows a lack of interest deliberately to hurt me and that there are many, many reasons why this happens. Move on, head held high and remember to always, always, prove them wrong.
  3. Reviews are wonderful. They will brighten an entire week! They remind you that people are reading, digesting and reacting to what you have written, so yes, they are worth their weight in gold. I need to concentrate on making sure readers realise how important they are and I need to continue to approach book bloggers in order to secure more reviews.
  4. Well, the guilt will always be there. From when I was a child nick-named ‘cloth-ears’ to now when my husband accuses me of constantly thinking about characters and plots…It’s just who I am and I don’t think I would want to change anyway. I generally only write once the youngest is in bed, so it doesn’t steal too much time from the family. Maybe I should remind myself how artistic and creative all of my older children are. They’ve followed me in my love of books and reading, and if they’re not writing their own stories, they are making music and art.
  5. I think unless I truly ‘make it’ one day (whatever making it means!) I will always feel a bit like a fraud but I will try to remind myself that I have achieved a lot, and if I can offer words of advice or just talk about the mistakes I made in the beginning, with a writer at the start of their journey, then I am doing a good thing. I love running my writing group. The writers are unbelievably talented individuals, who also all happen to be bloody fun to be around. We talk a lot and laugh a lot. The same goes for the outstanding children who come to the kids workshops. As long as people keep turning up, then I guess I am doing something right!

Right, now I think I have talked myself out of that miserable little slump, how are you all doing post Christmas and New Year? It is a really weird time of year, to be honest. We’ve all eaten too much, drank too much, and watched too much telly. We’re struggling to get back to normal life, and January just feels so bleak at times. It’s cold and dark and Summer feels like it is never going to return. How do you cope with this time of year? What are the sort of things that get you down in the dumps, and how do you manage to cheer yourself up again? Please feel free to comment and share!

 

Indies!! What The Hell Are We Doing?

Indie writers, if you’re anything like me, you ask yourself the same question on a regular basis. It looks a bit like this;

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I’m sure my family think I am mad. None of this really pays off, let’s be honest. My husband chuckles when I declare I am going onto the laptop to ‘work’. He thinks I am crazy for giving myself so much stress.After all, it’s not like I have a boss breathing down my neck! I don’t actually have to do any of this, do I?

He can’t understand when I announce that ‘I have a lot to do tonight’. To explain, it usually goes a bit like this; ‘I’ve got to finalise the short story for the newsletter and I’ve got to fiddle with the template, plus I’ve got to share the newsletter link to my page before it goes out, so I can try to pick up a few more subscribers, then I’ve got to go over this week’s blog, because that goes out tomorrow and I haven’t added images yet, and I’ve really got to start hitting some book review blogs and I’ve really got to start submitting to some competitions, but I’ve got to finish this book too, and plan this other one…’

And I’m sure he’s thinking; um no, you don’t actually have to do any of that. You could have a night off and watch TV or something.

Indies, I’m sure you can relate to how I feel when I regularly ask myself; what the hell am I doing? Why am I doing this? Why am I writing another short story to add to another newsletter than only 19 out of 34 people will even open, and out of those 19, only 2 will go on to open the file and hopefully read the story? Why am I sharing my thoughts, my progress and my blog posts to Facebook so that it can show them to only 23 people out of 1027? Why am I asking for reviews when I might as well be banging my head against a brick wall? Why am I writing a book when the ones I have released already barely sell? Why do I constantly feel like I am fighting a losing battle? Why am I forever looking for the holy grail of ‘making it’ as writer? Will I even know it when I find it? Why the hell am I doing this to myself?

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I think it’s common to feel thwarted, frustrated and downhearted as an indie writer. You constantly swing between feeling like an outsider, and feeling proud to be doing it your own way. You feel like you have something to prove, when surely having a nice, fat traditional publishing contract, would be all the proof you’d need? As an indie, you keep one eye on the sales, you pester and beg for reviews, you enter competitions, and do all you can to promote without becoming an annoying spammer. You lose yourself in social media, and it is all for your books. Sharing interesting writer advice to Twitter, pinning funny writing quotes and making storyboards for your books on Pinterest, running events and giveaways on your Facebook page, and starting an email newsletter to try to gain a decent, loyal following. You do it all, don’t you? And wonder when on earth it’s going to pay off…

How do you know when you have succeeded? How do you measure achievement when you’ve chosen the indie path?

Maybe it’s enough money to live on, or to at least pay a few bills. Maybe it’s some level of fame, recognition or critical acclaim? Maybe it’s wonderful reviews, or just a nice, steady trickle of sales? Maybe it’s just becoming a better writer.

Sometimes I have to stand back and force myself to ask some awkward questions. What if I never sell lots of books? What if I never get the amount of reviews they say you need to get Amazon on side? What if I never win an award? What if I never get any recognition or any level of success?

Would I stop doing it?

No.

Never. And when I remember this, I think, fuck it, and keep going.

And what is success anyway? Yes, more reviews, more sales, an award or too etc, would all be lovely. Of course they would. They would make it all worthwhile. They would help justify the hours, the blood sweat and tears and sanity invested in all this. They would help alleviate the crippling self doubt and the gloomy, why am I bothering days.

But you can measure success in other, smaller ways too.

Such as, where was I a year ago? Or two? How about six?

Well, six years ago I was still working on the early drafts of The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, having dragged it out from the dusty suitcase under my bed where it had been living since I last worked on it aged 16. With my then youngest child starting school, I’d felt the strongest urge ever to get writing again, as that book had just never stopped talking to me.

In the years that followed that decision, I’ve published four novels and one short story collection. I’ve finished two more novels and am working on getting them released soon. I’ve started a Facebook author page and slowly but surely reached over 1,000 likes. I started this blog which also has over 1000 lovely followers. I’ve had many articles about writing published by Author’s Publish. I’ve fallen back in love with writing short stories. I’ve started my own writing business, Chasing Driftwood, running adult writing group and children’s creative writing workshops. I’ve been asked to run several workshops for children and adults by the Dorset Writer’s Network. I’ve become a reviewer for Underground Book Reviews, where I actually get paid to read books! There is so much more I want to do too, such as working regularly with schools, running workshops for aspiring authors and after school writing clubs. I want to write all of the books in my head! And if that’s not the main motivation for all of this craziness, then I don’t know what is!

Plus, I have a confession. I do moan, I do lose heart, I do get frustrated and I do have ‘I’m just gonna’ give up’ days, but do you know what? The truth is I actually enjoy all the craziness that goes with being an indie. I’m proud to be doing it my way, I’m proud to be learning from my mistakes, I’m proud to be getting stronger and more confident, I’m proud of the sales and reviews that I have, and the messages from readers. And as for all the other stuff; Pinterest, tweeting, author page, email newsletter…yeah, I have to admit it is all quite fun. Admit it!! It is fun!! Plus, writing blog posts, learning how to master social media, attempting articles and short stories, will all help make you a better writer. You may be doing them for promotional reasons, but the process is going to help your writing in the end, so that’s a win-win!

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Now, over to you, fellow Outsiders. How often do you feel like quitting? How do you really feel about being an indie? How do you measure your own success? Do you enjoy all the promotional activities that go with being an indie, or are they a curse? Please feel free to comment and share! 🙂