A Year Of Creative Growth

The Incident

“Let all your efforts be directed to something, let it keep that end in view. It’s not activity that disturbs people, but false conceptions of things that drive them mad.” -Seneca

It’s April 4th, 2020. It’s 10am, a Saturday, and we’ve been on lockdown for what seems like an eternity. In reality, it’s been only two weeks since my last social activity, which in the typical fashion these days was a Friday night piss-up.

I hadn’t seen the kids in what seemed like longer, though it was in fact a few days shorter than the aforementioned escapade. I’m used to a Sunday evening to Wednesday morning one week, and a Friday evening to Wednesday morning the next. To go a near two week stretch was unbearably foreign—like sucked through a black hole to a different universe, lost radio connection, never getting home again, kind of foreign.

Add into the mix a removal of my typical ‘kids-free’ activities, and I was lost. Where the days would be spent working, trawling from customer to customer with a brief chat before moving on, I was at home without routine. Where my lunchtime, or afternoon time, or breakfast time fast-food trip would see me sit in the car park and people watch for a while as I tucked into whatever the drive-through coughed up, all my spots were closed down.

Where the evenings rolled around and I’d typically be showering and dressing to go for a meal, drink, or whatever else with my friends, my phone remained stagnant and silent. There’ll be no more pub-grub and pints for a while, that was abundantly clear.

So here I was and here I stayed for a few days. Ripped from routine in a void of responsibility, without potential for social activity—or any out-of-the-home activity for that matter. Lost.

The Search For ‘Something’

“Above all, it is necessary for a person to have a true self-estimate, for we commonly think we can do more than we really can.” -Seneca

I knew this couldn’t carry on, it wasn’t me. I had things to do. Things I LOVED to do. Things I hadn’t had time to do for a long time, and yet here I was, with nothing but time! Read, write, walk, meditate, stretch, workout, reflect. Get my blog back in order and steer it in a direction I’m happy with. Work on the courses I’ve got planned out ready to write. Finish that short story I started late last year. Put out social media posts to help others get the best out of their lockdown time and come out stronger. Oh, and while I’m at it, I can get that lifestyle coaching business up and running!

And just like that… BANG! I have too much to do.

And isn’t that just typical of me.

So far in the purgatory between the March 20th announcement and this warm Saturday morning, I’d managed to keep up a habit of dragging my heels 4km per day, lifting weights from a haphazardly created regime (with no particular goal in mind), and occasionally reading some Stoic philosophy.

A grand accumulation of around three-and-a-half hours per day, with the remaining twenty-one spent twiddling my thumbs. Lots of thinking. Lots of planning. Lots of directionless activity.

Put short, lots of nothing.

In my defence, I did spend 2 minutes once pulling up a list of 300 blog prompts that would have little-to-no purpose on my blog… I spent a further 10 scrolling through them. I was going to use them—I’d get around to it, eventually. One blog post per day for a year! Easy…

The Realisation

“I was shipwrecked before I even boarded … the journey showed me this—how much of what we have is unnecessary, and how easily we can decide to rid ourselves of these things whenever it’s necessary, never suffering the loss.” – Seneca

Hold up, stop. Who am I? What do I want? What am I even doing right now? This isn’t me.

I’m not the guy that purposelessly floats through life, spouting advice while waiting for the next excuse to not take it myself. I’m not that guy that dives into every fleeting thought wildly and without direction. I’m not. Where have I gone? When did I lose me? Was it during this lockdown or even this year? Or some time further back, hidden behind hardly-remembered nights and hangovers?

When exactly did I become the person that talks about what I’m going to do, without taking action? Scratch that, who even cares? Here I am, so what am I going to do about it?

The realisation came almost as fast as this forsaken Covid-19, washing over me in waves, unraveling the muddled ideas with each crash. Here I stood alone on the shore, long after others had left for home. Firm, focused, staring out over the horizon. Each gentle swash erasing away the barefooted imprints in the sand, until all that remained were the impressions beneath my feet, and the potential to stomp forward in any direction I choose.

I wasn’t blocked by the obstacle, I was the obstacle, and anything else in the way could be turned to my advantage. This lockdown wasn’t going to wreck me, it was going to rebuild me.

I refuse to be the person that falls apart when faced with nothing but myself. I choose to direct my own life, without the need for work, bosses, parents, schools, or external structures to hold me together. I am the structure, the individual, and the guide.

Right then. It’s time to build some foundations!

Sowing The Seeds of Growth

“What if someone despises me? Let them see to it. But I will see to it that I won’t be found doing or saying anything contemptible. What if someone hates me? Let them see to that. But I will see to it that I’m kind and good-natured to all, and prepared to show even the hater where they went wrong. Not in a critical way, or to show off my patience, but genuinely and usefully.” -Marcus Aurelius

So here’s the thing, I’m not a one-trick pony. I never have been and I never will be. My interests span from pencil sketching to philosophy, from writing fiction and reading books to psychology and religion, and back again. But how to channel all of that into some sort of feasible direction?

Of course it had to start with what I already had here on the site, and that has led me to a weekend of categorising, subcategorising, editing and re-editing what I had already created. I had a mind to throw it all out and start again, but what a waste that would’ve been. I like the idea that all the previous content here, be it hastily churned out flash fiction or a post on how to start a blog, has it’s place, and will act as a foundation upon which to build, brick by brick, a better version of myself, and by extension, this site.

I’ve chopped my passions and interests into large, chunky titles, that will help to offer a spot for everything I could possibly feel like writing as and when I feel like writing it. These categories and subcategories will grow, as posts in each of them stack up and a natural evolution occurs.

For now, I’ve narrowed it down to Fiction, Book Reviews, Lifestyle, and Musings. They all pretty much speak for themselves, barring perhaps ‘Musings,’ which kind of stands for my personal blog posts at this moment in time.

Fiction can accommodate all sorts from flash fiction to short stories in various genres, until enough stack up in one glaring category to warrant a grouping of the posts. Book Reviews are much the same, and allows me to nurture my passion for reading with a creative outlet in the form of gushing over the pages.

I expect Lifestyle to grow and expand the most, not only in various subcategories, but across broader top-level categories as time goes on. Things like Mindfulness, Psychology, Philosophy, and so on. I simply love writing about these topics, and have all kinds of intentions to keep an active mindfulness journal, take nice photos of things out in the world, and experience many more adventures along the way!

From Sapling to… Great Oak?

Think of the life you have lived until now as over and, as a dead man, see what’s left as a bonus and live it according to Nature. Love the hand that fate deals you and play it as your own, for what could be more fitting? -Marcus Aurelius

And here is the answer I’ve been searching for. The one ‘focus’ this humble corner of the internet provides. A place to share all that is me, present and future, as it occurs and evolves all on its own. Here is the creative expression of my entire being, put out on display for the world to see, if they so choose to watch.

Ahead of me rests a year of creative growth! Freedom in the unknown and unforeseen, purpose and solidarity in the forward motion. I can’t wait to share it with you!

How has this lockdown been for you? Is the Covid-19 stressing you out, dragging you down, or lifting you up? Let me know in the comments!

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