Hello and welcome to the 100 Day Writing Challenge, Day 42.

Today it’s time for another of your infrequent but to my mind deeply important free sessions, where I don’t give you a task, just a free space purely for you and a ten minute timer. I’m trying to back away from giving you any instruction at all on these sessions, so you can practise being self-directed and begin orienting yourself towards work you value.

Now I don’t know how quickly you’ve been getting through these exercises, whether you’ve religiously done one a day, whether you’ve taken some days off – which would be super and a really kind thing for you to do for yourself – or whether there have been some bigger interruptions. Some times where perhaps you had to stop for longer than you would have chosen, before getting back into it.

People sometimes talk about ‘life getting in the way’ but really life is just being life. To think of certain events as interrupting or interfering with others which are the proper business of life is to partition our experience into ‘this is okay’ vs ‘this is unacceptable/wrong’. And while to do so is human nature – I don’t sit down to do my tax returns feeling as if I’m galloping across the red volcanic sands of an endless beach at sunrise on therippling back of a black stallion – it can end up being a bit counterproductive. If you’re not careful you start to abominate anything that isn’t writing, and creating becomes this kind of tax you pay in order to feel productive and to permit yourself feelings of self-worth.

Because this course isn’t merely about writing – I wouldn’t have made it a hundred days long if it was – but also about you, and your journey towards finding fulfilling meaningful ways of relating to your creativity. I just try not to talk about it in those terms – at least not in the beginning – because it makes me sound like a bit of a twerp.

Also because I don’t actually have definitive answers for you, right? As I’ve said, I’m still very much a work in progress, and creating, making stories, making poems, all these things bring me right up against some of my softest, tenderest bits. And I talk about that partly so you don’t place too much stock in the permanency of either grim fallow periods where everything you touch seems to disintegrate into ash or the frankly more dangerous manic highs where you’re this creative volcano belching multicoloured ejecta in this spectacular eruption. Either state can feel like it’s the new normal, like it will go on forever. And it won’t.

It’s hard, but to my mind valuable, work to keep turning our attention away from future rewards or perils, back towards the business of the moment, of today, of right now. If you feel called to write a particular story, or character, or to champion a particular cause, or reach out to a certain type of reader with your work, if you feel or intimate the stirrings of a voice inside you urging you towards that, that’s cool. I’m not trying to pathologise aspiration at all.

I think a lot of us actually feel a bit silly admitting to our dreams and the things that light us up inside, the little fantasy scapes we let play out when we’re imagining our best future. You know, what our story idea would look like as a movie. Maybe pretending to answer questions about our work in an imaginary future interview. Picturing fan art. The front cover. Whatever it is for you.

But I think it’s okay to want those things and to enjoy picturing them, just as long as they don’t end up screaming to you like princesses trapped in towers the moment you sit down to write. If you start writing and all those dreams are the stakes for which you’re playing? Like they’re suspended over a lava pit and one wrong stroke of the pen could slice the cord and send them plunging to their deaths?

That is uh, that is not a setup conducive to free, easy and enjoyable creation. Don’t be so sure of what you want that you’re afraid to chuck it under a bus for something better. Your dreams, if anything, may be too conservative. Certainly the ways in which you imagine enjoying success and the domains in which it takes place lack creativity. You’ll miss opportunities if you calcify those goals, because you won’t spot all the other delicious options on offer.

This is why we turn back, again and again, to the present, to the task at hand, to building strength, to powering up today. You just want to be doing two things: keeping your antennae up for opportunities, and working on making yourself ready. Then when a gap comes, when a chance piece of good luck opens up a little hole in the defensive line, you can run at it and there’s a chance you’ll squirt through. But because you’re creative, alert, and you’re taking this open, abundant attitude towards opportunities, you’ll start to see niches you never saw before.

I mean, you found this, didn’t you? Loads of other people did, this free course, and they never started it. Never tried. You’re 42 days in. 42 days of work. That’s bananas. And I’m hoping, if you’re still here, then some good things have started to happen. And that’s out of nothing, except your taking a chance on yourself. All I’m suggesting here is, what you’re doing now, here, can be replicated right across your creative life. Little repeated efforts. A turning towards things you value. A focus on the moment rather than big, aspirational yearnings that make you miss chances.

Creativity, basically.

Okay, I’m going to shush now. If what I’m saying feels like nonsense to you please feel free to let whatever bits don’t make sense bounce off. I’m not selling you a bill of goods here and by all means take different approaches if they work for you.

Right. Ten minutes, it’s all yours to write with as you wish. Good luck.

<ten minutes>

*gong sound*

And that is it. You’re done.

Again, I just want to turn your attention back to our three questions for frequent contemplation: how did you feel before you started today’s episode, how did you feel during the writing, and how do you feel now it’s done? What thoughts have come up, and what are you telling yourself?

Let’s wrap this up for today. I think we’re almost ready to embark on what will be your most important journey of this course, so best you get some rest. I’ll see you tomorrow.