Photo Project – A Novel in a Year

I am currently in a place where I am hatin on life right now. I think I must have a compulsive habit of overwhelming myself with activities and simultaneously listening to depressing music, which just makes me feel even more nihilistic and gloomisome (I know that’s not a word but I don’t care). After probably the most emotionally traumatic experience on jury service last week (which by the way made me lose all faith in humanity and this country’s justice system), I am expected to return to normal life as though my psychological well-being is still intact. Right now I am trying to balance my CIM Diploma in Professional Marketing deadlines, the coming of Ramadan, prepping for my holiday in Singapore (which is in two weeks aaah!), all alongside the demands of my current job, keeping on top of this #dietlife (hardest shit I’ve ever done, gimme Cambridge finals any day) and, oh yeh, trying to ward off my Mother’s attempts to introduce me to ‘nice guys who can cook and clean’ -_-. Not to mention my flailing attempts at learning how to drive (my instructor recently text me asking how my theory was going -_-… ). I also recently decided that I want to run as a local Councillor – because why not? Government is taking everything to the dogs and unfortunately for them I have something to say about it.

The thing about all this stuff – life stuff – is that it gets in the way of what I really love doing in my spare time – which is writing and dedicating time to my art and photography and – wait for it – creating websites (lol). I mean, I haven’t even had time to upload a blog post for two months – but I have about 15 draft posts on the burner! I just can’t seem to find the time to finish anything off. I guess it’s all about priorities, and the thing about priorities is that they all come at you at once.

life
Yup.

At the start of this year I made a devout declaration to myself that I would complete the first draft of my novel by the end of this year. I’ve been writing in a bitsy manner for years and having met an agent at the London Book Fair in 2015 from Conville and Walsh (who gave me some really great advice regarding my work), I decided that I really had to kick myself into gear and WRITE GODDAMIT JUST WRITE WITHOUT FEAR OF JUDGEMENT AND WOTNOT. In 2015, I was a mess and didn’t have much of an idea of what I wanted to write and was really grasping at the straws of other great writers and trying to mash their ideas up and make it my own but it just wasn’t working. I couldn’t take ownership of those ideas because I didn’t feel like they were my own. I didn’t want to return to writing fantasy stories like I did when I was younger – I just wasn’t in that mindset. What I really wanted to write was something that would EMOTIONALLY DESTROY PEOPLE after they read it. But pfffft. No ideas.

2d510e65298deba7e6bc750b5c123161
Me being devout and making promises to myself.

At the start of 2016 however, during my standard online wasteful perusal of Twitter, I stumbled upon a competition that The Guardian was holding in conjunction with 4th Estate (book publishers) to get more BAME writers on the scene. Spurred on by this, and the looming deadline, I started writing regularly. Ideas didn’t just come out of nowhere btw; they had been circling in my mind for a while, if not several years, from things I had witnessed in my dreams, images and scenes that my mind had conjured whilst day-dreaming or phasing out while people were talking to me, or when I’m half asleep on the bus. But the competition all of a sudden gave these ideas a clarity and a somewhat coherent storyline that wasn’t there before. The competition also made me feel like I could manage it in my spare time – the limit was 8,000 words. I had also started my diet at that point, which meant that I had my lunch times free as I wasn’t eating as much.

All writing advice that I have come across in some capacity always emphasises the following: write everyday and dedicate a part of your day to writing, everyday. So this was my new routine: writing everyday at lunchtime. This way I incorporated it into my work day so that when I got home, all excuses like I’m tired, not in the mood, I’m hungry, I’m angry etc. etc. could not get in the way. And guess what? I was super productive. I would take my laptop and sit in the sunshine in the cafe next to my building, drinking my Costa and eating my protein bar and I was able to write 500-1000 words within the hour depending on the inspiration flowing through my veins. Sometimes I would tear up because the scenes were so deep (lol – it was actually hay fever). Other times I would laugh like a maniac because what I was writing was so ridiculous (I ignored the stares of people sitting next to me). But it didn’t matter – I just needed to get my thoughts on paper – I could go back and edit it all later. I realised soon enough that I could easily write more than 8,000 words and could turn this short story that I had started into a full-blown novel. To date I have written over 20,000 non-sensical words and passages (only 60,000+ to go yey!). For some reason however, I fell out of this routine after a couple of months, and instead I started to work through my lunch breaks because things got so busy (at work).

And this is where my sticking point is – my writing is important to me, and yet it’s usually the first thing I neglect when life starts to get in the way. Like all meagre human beings, my motivation fizzles fast, and I need a constant prodding in the back to keep me on track. My sisters are good at hounding me on the regular, but what I have found that motivates me a lot are other writers’ posts of their own struggles, challenges and experiences of writing. I find that the writing community and their insights inspire me the most and spur me to action. One such project that I immediately loved upon seeing it, is Catherine Banner’s #YearInTheLifeOfAWriter project on Instagram. I love social media, books and photography – so this was right up my street! Catherine’s aim in starting this project was to explore how social media can be used to tell stories, specifically honest stories about the day-to-day life of a full-time writer. The whole writing process and the hard grind that authors put into writing is in many ways shrouded in mystique. By uploading a picture a day, with insightful captions might I add, Catherine is bringing to light the various elements that go into the writing process and seeing a novel through to fruition. Also, as a Marketer, I think this is probably one of the most creative projects I’ve seen in a long while, and the execution and thought behind each photo really admirable. I was super enthused by this project and have used the hashtag in various Instagram posts of my own relating to my writing efforts. As you know I’m sure, the more popular or widely used a hashtag, the higher the chances of the content being viewed by a greater audience. I always endeavor to support other authors and try to buy books to support the industry.

However, I am not a full-time writer; I am a part-time one and, due to the nature of my personality and as mentioned above, I like to have ownership of things (a bit like Voldy), otherwise I do not truly feel like I can make them my own. Inspired by Catherine’s photo project, I recently decided to start my own one too on Instagram to motivate me to FINISH A BLOODY FIRST DRAFT BY THE END OF THIS YEAR. I shall be using #ANovelInAYear to chart my writing woes and (hopefully) progress. Anyone who follows me on Instagram will know how obsessed I am with the whole channel. I won’t be uploading a picture a day in relation to the project however (that’s too intense for me right now), but as and when I feel relevant or pertinent to my writing process.

writing books
Pretty much got inspired yesterday when I checked these out from the library.

You can follow me on Instagram to keep up to date with my posts. I also plan to reveal bits of the story in the captions along the way, as many of my photos have some relevant part or context to the story I am writing. See here for my very first post and a little ‘reveal’ about the initial setting of the novel. I hope by the end of this year I can upload another blog post saying that I have been successful in drafting 80,000-100,000 words and that this photo project has been a great motivator along the way. High expectations I know. Even if it is an exercise in itself for me, I hope that other writers who may stumble upon it find it useful – or entertaining at the least.

Right, I need to stop writing about writing and actually do some writing! X

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