What TEDx Leamington told me about my writing

Attending this years’ TEDx Leamington event was a huge privilege. Being a huge fan of TED Talks in general, when an opportunity came up to go with my dear friend and graphic designer, Mish Abrahall, I couldn’t say no. The theme was ‘Rip Up the Rule Book’ and I was immediately intrigued.

The event did not disappoint. Professionally executed, with a complementary level of seriousness and silliness, I listened to each talk with enthusiasm and openness.

What I didn’t necessarily expect was how affected I would be by some of the talks. Being at a creative and professional crossroads and already asking myself questions, some of the speakers managed to really drive home some alarming truths, but truths I needed to hear.

I was particularly moved by Catherine Pawley. So much so I had to take my glasses off after she had departed the stage to wipe some rogue tears away. It’s an unusual feeling when you connect with someone who you have never met, but this young lady managed to articulate my feelings of being stuck in a rut, of being frustrated, without knowing my predicament. In particular, she drew parallels between her own personal struggle to those who stay at jobs they hate, or in relationships that aren’t going anywhere. She put this down to how difficult it is to leave ones comfort zone, and how we cling to our suffering because it is familiar and safe. I had been paying avid attention to her anyway, but as soon as she said that, I woke up in a big way. In that moment I understood that I am the only thing holding myself back.

Juggling my desire to be an author with my current marketing career has been getting me down, in a big way. As I have explained previously, I almost binned off my writing, the thing that I have adored all my life, because the struggle was becoming too much. Because I haven’t yet succeeded with publishing my novel, I automatically label myself as a failure. I ignore any achievements I may have under my belt and fixate on the goal that has not yet been fulfilled. Sometimes, it’s all consuming. I have defined and articulated my failures but not my successes.

I have given up before I have even truly begun, so of course I am never going to succeed. So I need to change the rules. How do I measure my own success? How do I measure my failures? Who set these rules that have made me truly miserable and hopeless some days? Me. Just because I’m unpublished, I’m a failure. Says who? Me. I’m systemically destroying my creativity through fear and feelings of inadequacy and it has to stop. I need to start from scratch, re-evaluate how I see myself and my writing and make positive changes.

Living in fear is an issue. It’s negative and a paralytic. I’m not taking any risks, or continuing to send my work to agents because I fear it. I fear the rejection, which is all I’ve known. But again I have to move away from this behaviour. Another talk, this time by a man called Barnaby Lashbrooke, highlighted how as we grow older, start businesses etc. that we lose our instincts trying to follow a specific way to do things set out by others, or other people’s expectations. When what we really need to do is listen to our gut. Interestingly, he said the more he tried to do what was expected, to manage and protect his business appropriately, the worse he felt. When he opted to make some bold changes, he turned his business and life around. This is what I need to do, particularly surrounding the possibility of self-publishing. I fear doing it because I fear doing so will blow my chance at a traditional publishing career; it won’t. I know an author, Michelle Adams, who was self-published for years who next year is publishing her first novel via the traditional route. I fear my book won’t be a success, so I don’t do anything, I stay still. This is a big mistake.

As soon as the talks are published online at TEDx, I’ll share them so they can help inspire the people I know, as they have inspired me. In the meantime, I’m going to focus on actually doing things; making commitments to simply write more and think boldly about decisions I want to make, and try to not be too afraid to make them.


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