It’s been a while – in fact, a month to the day – since I used this blog properly, and I can feel it. My posts on Facebook are getting somewhat erratic (and lengthy, as I feel the urge to dissert on various topics); emails and messages to friends are not at their most coherent; I feel tired and thoughts are swimming around unstructured. These are all telltale symptoms of not writing enough.
It’s odd that, even having written that first paragraph things seem to start to coalesce in my head. And writing a short anecdote about choir just now has had the effect of depositing that topic out of ‘processing’ mode, too. That’s it; it’s down on (virtual) paper; filed away. I definitely believe in keeping a tidy mental ‘inbox’.
A friend on Facebook pointed out very insightfully and kindly (because I very much love and value honest and constructive advice and people who are not afraid to criticise) that rather than spending time on Facebook talking at people, tilting at windmills and producing faintly ranty waffles, I should focus. Write a book, instead of talking about how much I’d like to write one. Use the time I have, rather than moaning about how quickly it passes.
It made me determined to keep the word ‘focus’ in my mind. It’s true that I often feel I’m overflowing with ideas and projects (which means that all too frequently my friends on Facebook are the recipient of some of my new pet topics or momentary flashes of opinion or – occasionally untested and possibly questionable – insight…) but if I can make sure they are usefully challenged then that is the best use of both my actual, practical time, and my energy.
I have always known that I am at my best if I have a project. Unfortunately, sometimes they are not of my choosing (my very unpleasant divorce which began over a year ago occasionally rears its head, and is a project I could definitely live without having to deal with). But mostly I have been fortunate in that I have several different professional tasks that are good positive projects to tackle, and which I can care about and believe in. If I make sure I focus on ‘focus’, and keep my friend’s remark in my mind, I hope I will be able to channel my energy usefully.
That applies to writing in general, and the voluntary and paid projects I am involved with in my work, but also ideas, thoughts and opinions. Not too long ago, I worked on a PhD for five years with the aim of exploring and testing ideas and concepts about visual culture and gender which I had developed. I still think in these sorts of ways, and develop mini-theories about things in society which it would be interesting to test. Rather than disseminating them randomly into the ether of social media to be lost, I should curate them, value them, collate them and investigate their usefulness to see if there are bigger projects hidden behind their possibilities. If there are, then I don’t want to waste them.