I’m back, almost six years to the day since I last posted something on Medium. I suppose I should say something along the lines of “As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted” — which is a line from Cassandra, the famous Daily Mirror columnist. But it was nothing so dramatic.
Back in 2016, I’d just come off a 35-year stint as a journalist, mainly writing about Tech, and I’d had my fill of deadlines — and in that situation, I’m afraid writing regularly for Medium constituted just yet another deadline. I was in need of a break from writing… Another damn thick square blog post. Always scribble, scribble, scribble! Eh! Mr Christian — to steal and adapt a quote about the 18th century historian Edward Gibbon.
So I gave myself a break and tried out a few new things… I worked in local radio — meh, there is a limit to how excited a man can legitimately get over competitions offering the prize of a free fish ’n’ chips lunch. I started podcasting — and that was great but eventually I found the time commitment, particularly surrounding the syndication of shows, was becoming onerous. In other words I’d replaced my writing deadlines with another set of deadlines. And, I also ran a syndicated Americana music radio show — but once again I was chaining myself to the desktop with yet more deadlines.
But then, having tried and tested all these diversifications, I found myself back with a yearning to return to writing. I got one non-fiction book on local legends and folklore out of my system. (It’s called Shuckland and you can find it in print and digital formats on Amazon etc. Here’s all the links you’d ever need https://www.urbanfantasist.com/shucklandbook.html) On the strength of this I got myself an agent and a contract to write another non-fiction book — I’m in the final couple of weeks of completing the manuscript, more news later. And that really got my writing juices flowing again and rebooted my creative mojo.
In my spare moments I’m putting together notes for a dystopian science fiction novel — my first forray back into the SF&F field in about a decade. And it also reignited my interest in short-form journalism — for most of my writing career I’ve been a columnist with a sweet-spot of 500-to-750 words — which I’m going to hit with this piece!
The moral of this story — or the #amwriting take away: if you keep banging away at something long enough, yes you might get better at it but you also risk getting stale and that could ruin your creative passion. (This lesson probably applies to all creative pursuits.) So give yourself a break… try something different — even if the only result is to discover that what you thought might be a better pursuit really isn’t. (I’ll resist the old joke about the only things in life you should never try even once are incest and folk-dancing.) And ensure you do have some other outside interests to keep a sense of perspective — and that you do not become a self-obsessed monomaniac. (And there are plenty of those in the creative writing field!)
As Sheryl Crow once sang: A Change Would Do You Good.