June’s Writing Challenge

I have been unemployed for 29 days now. The initial relief, grief and congratulations have fallen by the wayside. And now, as if my new era has truly begun, I get asked how’s unemployment?”

I’ve got a few joke responses up my sleeve, ready for easy deployment. I can pretend I’m reliving my 18-year-old lad phase that never was, with a holiday to Malaga and late bedtimes on school nights. I can recall the day when I pottered about in the garden and did some financial planning, and say I’m enjoying an early retirement. Or I can recall my recent local sightings of Asa Butterfield, James Acaster and Maisie Peters, and claim to be rubbing shoulders with the great and good of East London.

The serious response is trickier. I haven’t been doing anything much with much direction. This is mostly intentional, in an attempt to ease myself back to productivity and motivation when I’m ready. But I don’t know if I like the lack of direction, I don’t feel like I’m thriving in this mode. I certainly disappoint the eager questions about how free you must feel”.

My to-do list might have something to answer for here. In week 2 of unemployment, I listed all the things I might want to do with my newfound free time, and then picked what I wanted to focus on first. I picked the things which felt like they were oriented to looking after myself - decorating my room, sorting my dodgy foot, that kind of thing - in an attempt to put myself on a better footing going forward (no pun intended). I delayed the bigger, scarier stuff - the where am I goings, the what am I doings - for when I had more fuel in the tank.

While my approach felt good at first, my motivation soon withered, and I ended up in a familiar situation. Some unticked tasks on the list which I didn’t want to complete, other things I’d much rather do, and a disciplinary voice in my head telling me I should stick to my initial plan and get through the list. Result: I do nothing, but think about all the things I’d like to move on to do when I’ve made my way through the list. Further result: once I eventually cave in and move on to those things, I’ve thought about them too much and overcomplicate where to start.

Dear reader, to you this is probably a confusing and incomplete account of how I think. But allow me a thought spiral for a moment, maybe even jump aboard.

I repeatedly intend to do something, and don’t do it. That something is often something I want, wanted or need to do. I repeatedly fail to do that something. And as a result, I have come to expect very little follow through from myself. Deep down, I know I won’t do some things I set out to do.

What’s behind this? Probably a lot, but one feeling sticks out. I really don’t like making mistakes, or doing things not very well. I cringe at the idea that I might complete a task but do it wrong. What if I upset someone, waste money, look stupid? Why do something with the risk it doesn’t work well, if you could do nothing at all?

I think it’s obvious that this is no way to live, and certainly no way to achieve big things (which I’d like to have a go at). I’d like to work on being less mistake-averse, and more effective at doing what I set out to do as a result.

Partly this will be a process of reconfiguring my thoughts and feelings towards failure - embracing and learning from it, not running away. But partly, I can also combat this by following through on something that I want to do, but worry about doing. Go with it, commit myself to it, quieten the internal voices of doubt and revel in the ups and downs of trying to see it through.

One thing that’s sat on my to-do list for a while is write more posts for this website. A personal website’s for life and not just for Christmas, after all. But then I don’t know what to write about first. I think of all the mistaken views I could espouse, the eye-rolling reader, how difficult I found the first post, words coming back to bite me, the rugged’ (read: crappy) writing style, the exposure. In the menu of tasks that my to-do list offers, it seems like one of the scarier possibilities. The longer I leave it, the larger the anti-writing monster in my mind grows.

And so it is through writing more posts that I’ve decided to change. Every day this month, I’ll post something new on here. Sometimes it will be the output of a day’s work, other times the few minutes before I go to bed. The important things for me will be sticking to that commitment, and not letting the errors of the output get in the way. I hope that my writing - or at least my willingness to write - will improve as I go too, and a more productive habit might emerge.

Rest assured that I have had my doubts about even doing this. It will take time, it might stress me out, and maybe most speculatively, what if it gets in the way of me getting more involved with the general election? But the time will be well spent, the stress worth it, and elections come and go anyway.

So I’m going to go for it. Stay tuned! (He says, as if there’s an audience here). I hope future posts will be less of a bewildering whistle-stop tour of my thoughts, but I make no promises.

June 1, 2024