"If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.” -Lord Byron.
I hear you Lord Byron, I hear you. This week began in the true style of the eternal struggle I constantly face - the battle between work and personal life (or rather personal ambition). I am, on a weekly basis, faced with the following questions: Do I take a lunch break? Do I have time for a lunch break? Does anyone else in my office take a lunch break? Did someone schedule a meeting advertised as important but that actually has little relevance on my job, during the hours people normally have a lunch break? The crippling culture of meetings to discuss absolutely everything, which seems to be rife in my work place, means that I never actually have that much time during the working day at my desk in order to do the work generated by said meetings. This of course, means I often have to stay late at work and end up watching my personal life and creative ambitions shrink under the ever-expanding hours of a profession I neither visualised myself in nor trained for in higher education. As for a lunch break, no one in my office takes them regularly and certainly never for the allotted hour.
It is not all that bad. I work next to one of the most famous parks in London. But the amount of times I have actually taken a walk in that park in the last year are so few I can count them on one hand. Ironically, my job has got more interesting in the last year than it was when I first started. My salary still remains laughably small, but I am being given writing to do. For the first time in my entire employment history, I am being given messages to craft, copy-writing to edit and webpages to create. I am being creative in the workplace. It is a revelation. Granted I am writing blurbs about students, companies and banks and businesses; things that don’t grab my interest like music, film and literature does, but I do get to write about London and any writing is better than none at all. I got to research cities in Europe today and discovered that it rains 200 days out of the year in Brussels, which is interesting to me, but has gotta suck for the Belgians. That nice, tidy and well-written little fact went straight on to one of our student webpages. (just for the record, I did not use the words 'gotta' or 'suck' in the presence of students or any company web pages. I only write in colloquialisms in this blog because no one pays me to write this. I do it out of the goodness of my own little warm heart for the wider web community)
So I have lots of writing to be getting on with! There are bulletins to write, newsletters, handbooks, mini-student magazines, invites to events, emails to alumni and much more. The problem arises in that I have been given all this ‘writing work’ (which I am good at and for the most part enjoy) but not the time in which to do it. I have my other job (as an administrator) to do, as well as my new job (copywriter), and I simply cannot find the time in the day to do it all. So of course my working day bleeds into my personal free time in the evening, which is deeply frustrating.
I used to volunteer as a cat socialiser at a local animal shelter on Saturdays and after 3 years of dedicated service, of learning about animal behavior and petting hundreds of cats, I gave it up to concentrate on writing. I have always wanted to write. Next to having a family, it has been my greatest desire. The problem is I have never known what to write or really believed in my own ability to put words on paper. Ironically now I am actually doing more writing than ever before and people are telling me that I am good at it, but it is all work-related and not the creative fiction writing I had envisioned. Plus I am always so tired on Saturday mornings from the working week that I never end up getting up in the morning and sitting down to write.
The most serious problem however, arises when, like Byron, I don’t write I do tend to go mad. I feel all stressed and anxious. My thoughts form sentences and I re-write them in my mind again and again until they are perfect and then written down. I must write, simply to empty my head of all the thoughts and ideas that swirl about and build up to breaking point. If only I had the discipline and bravery to sit down and really write properly, no more bulletins, no more event invites, no more carefully composed letters, polite and rigid, but something big, bold and colourful. Something beautiful. Something I could be proud of.