Just over a decade ago I decided to pursue a writing career. I wanted to be able to tell people that I am a writer. I wanted to have this on my passport under occupation.
The thing that really helped me make this decision was the sense of productivity and purpose I felt when I spent time writing stuff that I intended to be read by others. I equated it to the freedom and ease I would feel cycling along on a smooth, effortless path, with the tic-tic-tic of the well-oiled cogs marking my progress.
Blogging was a god-send. Not only did I get to write, I also got to publish and reach readers at the push of a button. Even if it was just one or two people who appreciated my words – this still made it hugely worthwhile to have written them.
OK so maybe writing – or cycling! – isn’t your bag – so what is? And how do you choose work or activities or pastimes that help you feel on purpose and fulfilled?
The lessons I learned from my decision to become a writer have been very useful and have informed the rest of my life. Here are my biggest take-aways:
- Decide that you are going to find what fulfills you – what oils your cogs or floats your boat? It sounds daft, but so many people don’t take this step and end up going through the motions of their life, surviving rather than thriving. If this is not for you, wake up. Choose to be true to the ‘real you’, and commit to knowing who that is.
- To discover what fulfills you, pay attention to the moments that feel good; to what you most appreciate about your current experience; to what turns you on. It’s important to expect and accept good-feeling things as if your life depends upon it (which in a way it does).
- Then, tell the truth about your desire – to yourself and others. We need as much support as we can get in order to thrive and feel fulfilled – but we also need to fully accept and embrace for ourselves what fulfills us. Doing this wholeheartedly and without compromise makes it easier for others to accept also.
- Lastly, trust and follow through on the impulses that feel good. Start small – whether you want another 5 minutes in the sun or you want to get up at dawn and do a three mile hike before breakfast. Slowly but surely, as you pay attention to the good-feeling things, you will feel the impulse more and more to indulge. Over time from the small choices a bigger picture of life emerges, bringing fulfillment with it.
In my experience impulses can sometimes come when I haven’t yet fully accepted the truth of my desire. Yet I follow them anyway. Impulses come from the heart, whereas acceptance is more about aligning the mind. Sometimes it gets messy and people might get hurt (which is not such a good outcome) – but at least we all get to wake up and reassess. New or different choices may be made, and everyone learns and benefits in the long term.
And of course, as ever, journaling is a great way to track your progress.
What impulses are you becoming aware of? How are you honouring them? What effect does this have on the level of fulfillment you are experiencing?
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The only resolution I made for 2018 was to distinguish between the work I do for love – my own writing, and the work I do for money – word-smithing for businesses.
Distinctions bring clarity. And clarity enables us to be creative, productive and to attract opportunities effortlessly.
One of my most favourite books is A Room with A View by E M Forster in which he champions love and truth over social niceties. Without the honest appraisal of what we truly love we will forever be “in a muddle” – and therefore less effective in our efforts.
Giving more focus to the things we love rather than the things we do out of obligation imbues us with clarity and power.
So it’s worth being honest with ourselves and making the distinction.
As a result my writing spark is back with a vengeance. I’m having fun writing my blog and new business enquiries are arriving at my door. Before I was muddled in my thinking about writing – so my focus and energy were confused and dissipated. I was perhaps falling for the assumption that having more things to focus on would rob me of time.
Rather having sharper focus on more distinct things feels like I have generated more time, and infinitely more ideas. Inspiration and words are flowing; and my skills are in demand.
The Journal Writer’s Handbook contains an exercise called Lists of Distinction, encouraging you to distinguish between your talents, gifts, skills and interests. Sharpening your focus on each throws up more clarity, more possibility and more choice about the things that lead you to a greater sense of creativity, fulfillment and joy.
Don’t be muddled. Be distinctive. Make your own distinctions.
First my announcement.
After months of prevaricating The Journal Writer’s Handbook is now available on Kindle. Click on the cover image to go right ahead and buy it!
I don’t know exactly why I was prevaricating. Partly fear of getting the formatting right for electronic publication; partly loyalty towards ‘real’ books. In the end I realised that the Handbook would work well electronically, as all the indices could be neatly hyper-linked and navigation would be easier. Hurrah for giving myself a rational talking to.
So there it is. And the reason why this is linked to my recent birthday is because getting it done became my gift to myself. Completing it on time felt brilliant, and now I am resolved to set a target to achieve for each of my future birthdays.
Birthdays are times of new commitments to ourselves. They mark the anniversary of our first involuntary breath, and we can honour that every year with a special voluntary act of our own.
US based journal coach Nathan Ohren interviewed me a little while ago for his excellent Journal Talk series, and it will be available to hear on 29 April, this coming Monday. Do click on the link above to pick it up and listen in.
We had a fabulous conversation about journaling and reflective writing – and he managed to wheedle out of me my favourite journaling techniques and exercises. We also discussed the thorny question of digital versus manual journaling, and how journal writing is far from the solipsistic, introspective past time some would have it.
Nathan is an awesome broadcaster with such an easy-going and curious style. We had a few technical challenges making the interview but he was super patient and did an amazing editing job. He may well have a new vocation in sound production!
Like me, Nathan has over 25 years’ journal writing experience and he is absolutely convinced of its benefits. His on-line journal coaching programme runs a couple of times each year and I know he has an intriguing dream journaling programme too which kicks off this summer.
So do go and check out what he’s up to. On his podcasts page you’ll find interviews with US journaling experts Jessica Jensen and Mari McCarthy, both offering different perspectives on journal writing, as well as a neat conversation Nathan had over his birthday dinner with Kathy Lynch about the scientific evidence to prove the effectiveness of journal writing for mental and physical health.
And from Monday 29 April you’ll be able to hear what he has to say about The Journal Writer’s Handbook! Click here to go straight there.