The day after my job as a technical writer in Paris ended a year ago, I turned my focus onto my writing projects. I thought the switch would be easy. Writing was no longer something I fit into my life, but rather became my main focus. Working as a freelancer for so many years, I have always been able to focus on my tasks, manage my time, and realize my goals with relative ease. I thought Iíd be able to have the exact same approach with my writing. Unfortunately, it didnít happen that way. I wasnít able to focus on my writing for eight hours a day, like I would with my day job. I got distracted by fears bubbling up inside of me and doubts tapping me on the shoulder when I least expected it.
Instead of stagnating in my despair, I began to read a lot more. Reading became my greatest solace and support. While I was browsing books on Amazon, I found a book called Conscious Writing. The title piqued my interest. I downloaded the sample and after reading only a few pages, I bought the book. Within a couple of months, I was traveling to a small town near Bath, England, for a one-on-one writing retreat with the author of the book, Julia McCutchen. I was excited to go to England where I lived for two years prior to moving to Florence. It was during while I was living in England that I rustled up the courage to move to Florence so I could learn Italian and find my inspiration to write.
The moment I met with Julia, I felt a calmness come over me. I had been feeling a lot of fear and frustration for months, but didnít let it out. Julia encouraged me to let out my emotions and with great ease, they flowed out of me. I resisted initially, but I felt safe enough to just let go with her. Julia talked to me with great compassion as I released my emotions. She gave me the precious gift of being present with me and allowing me to honor myself where I was.
During our conversation, Julia pointed out that I had put too much pressure on myself. I talked about how I couldnít decide on which project to focus on as if I had to pick the one I could finish and get off my plate the quickest. I couldnít figure out why I was procrastinating so much because when I had a full-time job, I was able to fit in my writing in my spare time. Although now that I had more time on my hands to focus on my writing, I was flailing around unsure of what to do next and in which direction to point go. Time was slipping through my fingers and I wasnít able to grab hold of it.
I learned a lot during the three days of my retreat, but one thing Julia said that stuck with me was, ďWriting is your creative vocation, not your job.Ē The relief I felt was so huge that my body fell back against the chair. My body perked back up and I had to tell her that if Iím a writer, Iím supposed to prove that Iím a writer by publishing books. ďI canít just keep saying Iím a writer and not publish any books,Ē I said. Julia suggested that I release the heavy weight of publishing books so I could return to the delight of writing. With her assistance, I realigned myself with the pleasure of writing by connecting more solidly to my heart.
When she asked me about my writing schedule, I was embarrassed to tell her that I had tried to force myself to adhere to a schedule, but failed miserably. I have a great need to feel free and not be too constricted by any type of scheduling of my time. Julia advised me to craft my own rhythm by going within and coming up with a schedule that could work for me. I appreciated approaching the subject of my schedule with more freedom. She also added that my schedule doesnít have to be set in stone and that it could be a map for the day so I could modify it as I see fit.
When I left the retreat, I felt lighter and more confident about my writing life. I felt as if I were finally on the right track. Since then, I have also discovered a few other things that have helped me tremendously with my writerís life, like having a bullet journal. I have been using a bullet journal for the last six months and I canít imagine my life now without it. In my bullet journal, I plan my day the night before, define my priorities each day, and check things off as I accomplish them. I not only keep track of my progress, but also give myself acknowledgement for my daily accomplishments.
In an on-line workshop that Julia conducted recently, she asked us to define our goals and specify the action points necessary to achieve each one. One of the action points that came to me was to define a specific amount of time per writing project. For my novel, I now dedicate two hours a day and for each of my other projects one hour a day. Thanks to this one action point, I have become even more productive and motivated to work on each of my writing projects. Now when it is time for me to work on a certain project, I do some breath work, get centered in my body, sit down, and start the stopwatch on my iPhone. Regardless of any blocks or fears that might come up, I remain focused on the project for the specified amount of time. In this way, Iím able to give my full attention to each project and honor it fully.
I am now no longer making a mad dash for the finish line; I am savoring each step on the journey that each book is taking me on. I am much more at peace with the unfolding of my creative vocation thanks to my daily schedule that keeps me motivated and inspired. I am now focusing on becoming the writer who can complete the novels and books Iím passionate about putting out into the world. I have realized that just because the initial spark for a project came out of me, it doesnít necessarily mean that I have all the knowledge and wisdom to complete each one immediately. I must dive deeper into who I am, release any blocks, be as present as possible, and write from that space of love and wisdom inside of me.
Picture is of the Pulteney Bridge in Bath, England.
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