How are you all doing? It’s a difficult question at the moment, I know. Albert Einstein once said, “In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity,” and for creatives and writers around the globe, lockdown has given many of us the opportunity to claw back a little time and focus on what we truly love. This is easier said than done, however.
After spending most of March and April indulging in bad habits and embracing the hedonistic disorganisation that the potential of impending doom can bring, I decided to set myself some serious goals for May. It was the only way I was going to break out of the “fuck it – lets drink endless glasses of wine and watch movies, the world has gone to hell in a handbasket” mindset. Don’t get me wrong, I had kind of enjoyed it. Those who know me recognise that I am very laid back when it comes to everybody else. But when it comes to myself I am the quintessential control freak. Having a well-earned rest from this taxing personality trait for a while was kind of rewarding in its own way. The pre-lockdown me would never have been in pyjamas at 3pm, nursing last night’s hangover while slyly checking the clock to see if it might possibly be acceptable to open the wine again. Old me would not have let a couple of weeks of no writing pass by without having an internal meltdown at the fact that time was ticking and I still hadn’t published the best-selling novel that’s most definitely going to be adapted into film yet. Think about it – if I wasn’t so lazy I could have been schmoozing at the premier by now, right?!! Wrong, of course. Things will run their course and happen when the time is right. Having dreams and goals is a positive thing, naturally. But that positive turns into a negative when you use those dreams to berate yourself when you take a little break from the treadmill. And, goodness knows, when the pandemic hit we all needed a bit of a break.
So, on Sunday, May 3rd I was sat in my pyjamas, nursing yet another hangover and thinking about how nice it would be to get things back on track. Coincidentally, two of my friends on a group chat chose that day to make similar choices, deciding that May would be the month to ditch the take-aways, exercise regularly, and fit back into those old pre-lockdown pants. Without their messages that coincidentally fell on the same day, I don’t know if I would have set my goals and stuck to them. We decided to have a weekly check-in with each other, and to message if we felt we were having a wobble and were liable to reach for the sugar/alcohol/insert bad habit of your choice. Having a sounding board certainly made the tasks seem attainable, so I would definitely recommend asking a friend to virtually spot you if you wish to do something similar in the coming weeks.
Along with the general healthier lifestyle goal I chose a few writing targets. I am dreadful for having unfinished projects lying around the house in various digital and paper formats. I almost finish a book, having spent months obsessing over every character and plot arc, only to lose interest at the point of editing, ditch it and start something shiny and new. My novel writing process is the embodiment of the meme where the guy turns to look at a passer-by who is pretty much identical to the outraged girl already on his arm.
In order to jump-start my interest in old almost-finished projects, I had a nosey at the upcoming unsolicited submission calls. I selected two that fit a couple of my long-forgotten WIPs and spent some time polishing and refining them ready for the submission dates. As of today, I have a drama script waiting for perusal by Screencraft, and the first three chapters of a fantasy book in the pile of entries to an agency’s Young Adult fiction competition. These projects steer away from my usual horror writing, but they are still just as valid and exciting in their potential, and it was helpful to remind myself of that. Naturally, my main goal is to finish the first rough draft of my horror book by the end of May. For me, this means having every chapter complete in some form, even if some of them will need fleshing out or trimming down in the editing stage. I can spend the last two weeks of May scaring myself silly writing the last few chapters of the first draft, and I’m very much looking forward to it.
As for June, who knows? I might revert back into a pyjama-wearing, wine-guzzling layabout. But May has been a good month, and it’s all thanks to goal-setting with a couple of pals who’ve got my back. As we keep messaging each other on wobble days: