Re-Learning: Keeping It Simple

I’ve had to reflect on a lot over the past few weeks: my life, my past, the world, my place in it…but most of all my writing and creative work, and what I’ve been putting out there, thanks to Jackie Johansen at YourWordsElectric.

I’ve come a long way, and to be honest, I’ve either been luckier than most in some weird, somewhat skewed way, or my path is vastly different from others. I’ve published eBooks, and through my blogs, words and stories that still speak to me and that I can be proud of, for the most part. They aren’t perfect, but neither are the overly-priced women’s mags I’ve been spotting and the traditional books I occasionally read these days. Everything is relative after all, and if I’d waited for perfection in my work, I never would have achieved as much as I did today. If I had to put it in IT terms, I’ve been in beta-testing mode this entire time.

But through it all, I’ve  I’d forgotten one of the most fundamental things about writing, and about blogging especially—I forgot to keep things simple.

I also forgot how crippling my own self-imposed beliefs can be.

Yes, I over-think.
Yes, I over-design.
Yes, I spend too much time on layout…
And yes, this is all me, seeking my own level of semi-perfection.
But I also kind of missed the obvious when I had to look at it all through new eyes.

I’d cluttered everything.
I forgot to Keep It Simple, which Jackie pointed out to me without any fanfare or underscoring.

And I forgot I could write and create at more than one speed and in more than one way.

And because of this, I’ve been blogging less, writing less, and finding it easier to procrastinate. Telling myself I needed this visual. The idea wasn’t full-blown enough. I didn’t have anything interesting to say on the topic. Nothing new has happened. I need to open Photoshop to do that and my computer will crash again if I do…I didn’t have enough time…

And so, I might have gone on indefinitely. Until Jackie’s words of truth, and last Friday.

Last Friday, after waiting almost a month to join the competition, I entered this month’s Furious Fiction. It’s an Australian Writers Centre challenge to write 500 words in 55 hours for $500. I could really do with the $500 towards a new computer, so I was eager to try despite the long odds.
But something else happened. Maybe something more valuable than $500 (AUD) towards a new computer. Which is great because the standard of the competition is incredibly high and I have a slim chance of winning.

So this happened last Friday: I wrote a 430 word story in the two hours it took my two videos to upload to YouTube. I read the email with the prompt and criteria at 10h15 (about 15mins into the 55 hours), and submitted my story just after 12h15. Maybe I should I have sat on the story a while longer, but I didn’t want to spend more time on something I had little chance of winning.

Funny thing is the story wasn’t what I intended writing. I’d wanted to attempt a science-fiction, fantasy, or spec-lit story—my preferred genres for flash and short stories. I really didn’t want to write any slice-of-life which makes up the majority of the genres received for this competition.

Guess what, I ended up with a slice-of-life.

I did bat around some ideas for science-fiction or fantasy. But they seemed too obvious for the prompt. I briefly thought about an idea with some world-building like I did with Curiosity Finds A Way.
But I went with the slice-of-life because it came as a surprise to myself. It worked in the criteria naturally and flowed in a believable way. Was my writing up to standard? I don’t know. Probably not. But it met my standards and time constraints perfectly. Besides, I liked it. It spoke to me.

But once I’d submitted, I took a moment and thought, I haven’t written that much or so quickly in over 3 weeks. I haven’t written a completed short-or-flash fiction in over 6 months. I can still do it.

But mostly, I thought, I’m not a slow writer.

I’ve been telling myself I was slow since I learned that most of my writer friends finish a novel in 3-4 months. I did that once—back in Yulin when I usually worked a 3-4 day week and had a good routine. That was before marketing, before blogging, before the whole social media thing, and before the 6-7 day work week. Back in the days when life was simple and I didn’t have anyone to compare myself and my writing/writing speed to. How quickly the simple approach got buried under reaching higher—experimenting—but mostly comparing myself to others.

It’s time I stopped that.

Does my blogpost really need 3-4 themed photos/images? Did I really need to delay writing back to a friend for 4 months because I wanted to share some photos I hadn’t gotten around to downloading yet?
All those post ideas that fell to the wayside because it would take me twice or three times as long to find just the right approach and images…What a waste.

I should have kept it simple.
I’m going to try keeping it simple from now on.
Problem is: I like when I get fancy, when I design and layout.
I need to compromise.
Maybe I’ll just try keeping it simpler.
Like this post.

And stop telling myself I’m a slow writer. I write at my own pace, which varies. I can deal with that. It’s me.

And that’s my truth.

Many thanks and much love to the amazing Jackie Johansen of YourWordsElectric who very generously ran a draw to win a complimentary for her Messaging And Astrology Coaching course. It’s been a real eye-opener for me, and exactly what I needed to know and explore at this time. Jackie keeps it real. We all could, too 🙂


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