Disclaimer: I am overly aware of how negative and trying this post reads. This is the story of me trying support myself and fit my life around the desire to write stories. It has not been easy. But I wanted to put in a small disclaimer at the beginning to say that this blog does not reflect upon the multitude of blessings, privileges and magic moments I’ve encountered on this journey. I have been loved and upheld by my partner, my incredible family, several precious friends and by you, as a community of writers. I am extremely thankful for so many things that the pursuit of creative living has afforded me.
Okay real blog starts now:
Around two years ago, I wrote a blog detailing the struggles of trying to support myself financially, be an adult and a respectable member of society, whilst writing stories. And oh baby, is that story is still going. I thought it was time for an update. I’ve actually thought it might be time for an update for a long, long time, but it scared me. I didn’t want to write a piece of work that might highlight just how static my years have been. Just how -not far- I’ve come. Not only that, but the biggest challenge over the last four years has been SHAME. Of not-enoughness, of feeling like a fool, a child. It has taken a while to get the courage to face my story, for fear that it might exacerbate those feelings. But, if I’ve learnt anything from my journey so far, it is that sharing our stories about creative living is powerful, and it reminds us that we are not alone.
These last four years
When I first left university in 2014, I worked full time in an office as ‘executive assistant’ but predominantly milk getter, and tea maker. It feels far from my life now, but I recognise it as a very trying period in my life. My brain switched off. I remember the feeling of sitting at my desk, with nothing to do, staring at my inbox. It felt like when you’ve been on a plane for a really long haul flight, and life doesn’t feel real, and you stare at that tiny plane on that tiny map and you debate whether you’re sitting at the front of the tiny plane which is in Germany, or the tale end which is somehow in Singapore, and time stops and the plane doesn’t go anywhere. That’s what it felt like. I was completely detaching. I did nothing in my job, I had hours of free time, but I did not use the time to write. My brain was off. I quit after around 9 months. I was going to round it to a year, so it looked like I tried harder, but I couldn’t last that long.
It was then that I thought I’d had an idea from the heavens. Social Media Management. Working for myself, for small businesses. I’d work from home and write my book, whilst managing some random peoples IG. So dreamy. I thought.
That was most certainly one of the hardest years of my life.
I wrote, a lot. But within that year, and the years coming, I etched dark patterns and horrible scars into my life. I gave nearly full reign to the voice in my head who was, and continues to be extremely convincing, but full of lies. The voice determined to make me feel less than. I was never enough. I had never done enough. I was never writing enough. I was never working enough.
I had no boss but myself. No one told me to get out of bed and some days I didn’t. I had to be the motivator of every thing I did. Waking up. Getting clients. Getting writing done. Working. Writing. How much was enough working? How much was enough writing? I never felt like I had done enough, which ironically made me do less and less. I had so little contact with the outside world. I became incredibly isolated. No one validated anything I did. I was living in a vacuum. It was a hole, that got deeper and deeper as the year went on.
It is strange looking back on memories of depression. They have a glaze painted over them, which makes them hard to recall. I find it hard to remember my thought patterns, or the feelings of hopelessness. But I still have images that linger. Sitting in front of the tv, after several hours of watching the gilmore girls, unable to move, unable to do anything. I didn’t have energy write. I didn’t have energy to work. I hadn’t spoken to anyone all day and I didn’t have anyone expecting anything of me. I have memories of crying in the shower. Of being in the pantry, with pantry moths flying around me, crying.
Still, I managed to get some writing done, slowly.
In 2017, I tried to pull up from 2016’s fuckery. I got qualified as a Personal Trainer. This was an active job, I would interact with people, but the hours would still let me write. Perfecto. It still seems like a good idea. But personal training … you’ve got to want it. It’s brutal. Just like wanting to be an author. You’ve got to fucking want it so bad, to get the clients, to get the work. I’m willing to fight for my stories, I am willing to give anything to my story writing. Because of this, personal training did not have my all, because my all, was with with my stories. I managed a hodgepodge of work, a few mornings a week, a few afternoons. Money trickled in. If I was to get more clients, I needed to invest, time and money. All my time and all my money. I didn’t want to do that. Depression snuck back in, when I couldn’t write, and I couldn’t get work – god those were the dark days. I ended up asking my parents for help. Something that bought with it huge, huge amounts of shame. Just get a proper job Amie. I would scroll obsessively through job advert websites. Applying left right and centre to jobs I had no passion for and still not getting them.
I had two bright lights in 2017. Both writing related. I finished my first book. My very first book. Done. I submitted it in August 2017, to a lot of different agents and publishers. Then in November, I did NaNoWriMo, and my second story, a historical fiction that had been bubbling for years, literally fell out onto the page in some kind- off raw gold goodness. It took me three and a bit years to write my first book, and a matter of months to write my second.
These are the golden moments of creative output and creative living that the way I lived afforded me.
Yet, I still felt like a huge failure. By the end of 2017, I had about 25-30 rejections on my first book, I was exhausted from trying to get work, interviewing for marketing jobs / publishing jobs / ?? jobs that went nowhere and I was weak from fighting a fight every single day with the inner voice who woke me up, reprimanded me for sleeping in, and put me to bed, chiding me from my day of uselessness and not enough-ness. Retrospectively, it’s very cool that 2017 gave birth to two books, but I couldn’t give myself any recognition. My two businesses had failed, I had failed as an adult looking after myself, I was asking my parents for money and finally my book had failed. I had failed as a creative and as a person. – This was my internal narrative spewed at me everyday. It still spews, sometimes.
In 2018, I came back from Christmas holidays with my parents in the UK and I got a job at a cafe. Regular income. Constant work. I saw people, interacted with them regularly. I was getting paid money. I was working, slogging, I was tired from my job, I was glorifying busy, I was pleasing my inner critic. She lay low. I didn’t know if I was feeling better because this is what I needed, or because I had finally pleased the voice in my head. I really didn’t want to please that voice. My little enemy, I didn’t want to give her what she wanted, she didn’t deserve it. But at the same time, this job resurrected me from self loathing, I wasn’t about to throw that away. I was finding some time to write, and to work. But there was the constant thought in the back of my head – hey, what happens if you want children? What if you want to buy a house? Will you be doing this forever and ever? Eventually, as shifts got cut down, it was more like -Hey, are we even actually going to be able to pay rent this month? But I was hustling. In a normal job. Inner critics loves hustling for money. (Money is society’s way of saying, congrats, I accept you. Which is why writing for no money can sometimes feel like crap).
Midway through this year I was given an awesome opportunity, by a fucking awesome publishing company, to come in and help deal with a very large submissions pile, by reading books and rejecting / moving forwards manuscripts. (I Promise this will be another blog.) What an insight this contact work was. I am indebted to the editor who got me this month of fun. I worked with their team for four weeks, reading books, experiencing the publishing world. It was abundant, and very challenging and very rewarding all at once. But once my contract work ended, my cafe refused to give my job back.
So that where I’m at my darlings. I’ve been un-employed for coming up a month now. And I’m reassessing what my future might hold. I’m listening to the pulsing of the earth beneath my feet, listening out for something calling my name. For now, I’ve stopped wrangling with the world, squeezing it, begging it to give me something, anything. I’m being soft, listening, writing, drinking coffee. Breathing deeply.
I’ve tried a plethora of different approaches to designing a life that let me be creative, because my creativity didn’t pay me. Each attempt has proved challenging in its own way. Sometimes / Often times, I wonder why I didn’t get a marketing job, and work 9-5, create a life that is consistent, financially rewarding, socially acceptable, and let writing take a backseat, write on the weekends. That would’ve saved me all these years of struggle. But in my heart, deep down, I think I am very glad I have not chosen to do that. Some sparkling soul commented on my instagram the other day and she said, “normal is not for us”. It really isn’t. I feel very guilty that I don’t want to work the normal 9-5 job. I hear a voice in my mind saying, ‘sometimes you have to do what you don’t want to do’ . Cool. But also, I’m going to try really hard to make sure that I don’t have to do what I don’t want to do, K? We ‘aint normal. We are allowed to want to live a life that surrounds our art. We are allowed to want a life of creating and storytelling. That isn’t a crime, even though sometimes the world might make us think it is. This isn’t even indulgent. I think it might just be, really, really beautiful.
I have been journaling every single day since I lost my job, and it has been a ritual of healing for me. I could have very easily tumbled into my dark depressing pre-made holes. But I am still here, in the light, growing. These four years have been brutal but they were there for a reason, to strengthen me as a person, as an author, to let me stretch further, access my higher, sparklier self. To give myself conviction and even more determination to live creatively and freely. I don’t have a plan right now, other than to keep writing. But I am choosing to be brave, and I am determined that something brighter is around the corner. I have felt hurt, and like a victim for a very long time. Determined that the world didn’t want me to write. Sure that the ‘right’ thing to do would be to get a full time job in an office. 100% dead set on the fact that I don’t deserve to have a job that I love. Why was I even trying? Selfish. Self indulgent Amie. But since I lost my job last month, I can see the strength and resilience that these last four years have given me. I am not wincing at the next blow that will surely hit me, but I am putting faith in the idea that abundance is awaiting me. And I speak to myself with more care. Determined, rebellious creator, Amie.
We are allowed to want a life full of magic, creativity.
We are allowed to want to live a life against the grain. I have faith that I am on my own, perfectly imperfect path. I have faith that I will create a life that aligns with my soul.
Living a creative life is not an easy road, but never let the world make you think you don’t deserve it. You deserve to live a life that reflects who you are and what you desire.