Hello lovely readers and welcome to my shiny new blog. It’s been a while since I’ve done this. Some of you may remember my previous blog where I’d post about a whole range of subjects from decluttering to relationships (which can sometimes be the same thing), toxic friends and make up tips. It struck me, as we began to experience this strange new normal brought about by the COVID19 pandemic, that it might be time to restart them.
At the time of writing, mass protests all around the world following the death of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers have gripped our attention. People have taken to the streets to say enough is enough when it comes to racial inequality and injustice.
Of course, these issues are not new but the narrative around it is beginning to shift as we speak more about collective responsibility on a topic people of colour have felt they’ve had to deal with alone.
It’s been tough, watching this play out. Heart-breaking truths about the black experience in the UK, US and around the world are being laid bare. BUT, as hopeless as it can feel at times, the level of activism and engagement is an indication we’re moving in the right direction. People are asking themselves, how am I culpable? And how can I make a difference?
This alone, is a monumental shift and one I fully encourage. It points towards the good in people, the good in all of us that want to come together and work towards making the world a better place.
It’s all hands on deck. As a writer, for me the frontline is at my computer, so here I am, hoping to lighten the load, share some ideas, thoughts and commentary to help move us towards that better place. The blog will be a mixture of new and old posts which I’m resharing here for you to enjoy.
Whatever brings you to this page, I hope it provides a little light relief, food for thought or ideas and inspiration to carry you through your week.
Are you one of those people for whom, everything can be going great but then you get those whispering doubts in your head? You know, the ‘you’re not good enough’ whispers, that tell you your efforts haven’t quite made the grade. They’re annoying, right?
These cheeky whisperings take up residence in our head and do such a convincing impression of us that we believe it’s actually us speaking. And because we think it’s us, we listen to it! But as the saying goes, don’t believe everything you think!
A while back I was spilling forth with a friend on all the doubts I had about myself but then he stopped me mid-flow, “Andi. You are WAY too hard on yourself.”
I’ve been told that many… many times. All my life, I’ve pushed myself to achieve but though I’ve accomplished much, I too often focus on what I haven’t done.
Are you one of those people too, where self-congratulation is short lived compared to the ongoing conversation of, ‘Not good enough!’
Thankfully, my mate was able to put a spanner in the works of that repetitive cycle and allow me to see the unhelpful self-talk I was bombarding myself with.
It’s so easy to focus on where you’re failing rather than the wins. I remember once, setting out to contact someone pretty high up in the movie industry but instead of patting myself on the back for my Columbo-like detective skills when I finally got in touch with them, I actually berated myself for not aiming higher. The pressure coming from within is relentless.
As I spoke with my mate I realised that ‘I-should-do-better’ is where I look at the world from and everything I do gets coloured with that thinking. Luckily, even if it was for a brief moment I got to see the whole mechanism in action and could intervene but in a way that didn’t energise it. I reminded myself that I didn’t need to judge it or tell myself I shouldn’t be thinking those things (because isn’t that just more of the same thinking! i.e. “You should be doing better at ‘not thinking of those things!’”).
I just saw it, allowed it to be but didn’t take those whisperers at their word, simply seeing them for what they were – a noise within that I could choose to ignore as I got on with my day. Is there a noise within that’s telling you untruths about yourself? Not good enough, not slim enough, not clever enough, too loud, too quiet – whatever the whispers, know that, though we all have this noise we can always choose to ignore it because what it says most likely isn’t true and definitely doesn’t define us.
Unsolicited advice – one of those things many can’t resist offering but that personally, I often hate receiving. Whether it’s about practical stuff like DIY or something personal like a relationship issue, it seems there’s always someone ready to stick their beak in. I think it grinds my gears because I’m not sharing my life to be picked over and corrected. I’m just speaking to feel like the other person gets me.
I once met someone who shared details of a chronic medical issue but what really exhausted them were do-gooders piping up with their ‘have you tried’s and ‘what about this’ing when all they wanted was to have room to speak about their experiences without a deluge of suggestions from non-medical professionals!
Of course, people are just trying to be helpful but actually, defaulting to advice-giving can often be more about the giver of the advice than the receiver. How do I know? Well, full disclose, I am a perennial giver of unsolicited advice. I often can’t help myself. I see something I believe I can fix, help or make better and think, who wouldn’t want that, right?
I used to do it all the time but as I became aware of how irritating it was to me, I realised what effect me doing it must be having on other people. I started to question the impulse that caused me to do it and wondered if, our need-to-fix comes not just from wanting to help but an inability to sit with the discomfort of the imperfect. Perhaps that’s why their* are so many grammar police?? *leeeeave it
And even more concerning, I think fixers find it incredibly uncomfortable to be with a loved one’s pain, unbearable even, and so to salve ourselves we offer solutions. But one thing I’ve learned, on my bleakest days around mental health – ‘solutions’ never made me feel better. In my deepest despair, what I didn’t want was to be told to ‘go for a walk’, ‘look on the bright side,’ or ‘remember how fortunate I am’.
Though it’s coming from love, it can leave the recipient feeling unseen and alone. The truth is, it’s ok for people to experience dark moments, after all, darkness is what comes before the dawn. Obviously, you don’t want to leave them lost in this space but equally there’s no need to rush the sunrise.
And by the way, I’m not saying we shouldn’t give advice, whether it’s been asked for or not. I’ve been offered amazing advice that I hadn’t known I’d needed and received recommendations that have been invaluable. The difference, however, is that in those instances the other person listened intently first. They took in where I was at then spoke from an informed place. They didn’t tell me what I should be doing, what I’ve done wrong or how they did it better. They made a contribution rather than an imposition and therefore it landed in a different way.
Giving advice is a skill and frankly should come with a big dose of humility given that often, we only know what we know because of past fuck ups.
So now, I’m about trying to practice restraint. Not just to not be a hypocrite but because I want people I care about to feel seen rather than fixed – because they’re not broken.
Years ago, I briefly volunteered for the Samaritans and whilst, in the end, it wasn’t a good fit, a big take-away was how their objective is not to give advice but to be with someone in their despair, to listen, understand and simply give them room to be and surely, that’s what we all need from time to time.
Breathing – an automatic bodily function that we rarely give any thought to. But as well as its biological necessity, such as distributing oxygen, the breath is also inextricably linked to our emotions. From the deep breathing of a relaxed, contented state to the shallow inhalations that come with excitement.
I got a huge lesson about breathing when I attended a retreat a few years back. Much of my day was taken up with consuming vast amounts of chickpeas and kale, suppressing the subsequent farts this created and a desperate bid to stay awake through yoga classes – of which I am not a fan. At the time, I saw yoga as the boring sensible cousin of just about every other form of exercise. The fact that lying down was a pose, was just plain silly, or so I thought. My mind needed distractions but with yoga I was forced to contend with the constant racket in my brain.
But then I learned a little about the history of the practice and how it was conceived for male warriors. The purpose was to strengthen the body so they could sit. They sat so they could meditate – and they meditated so they could breathe and the breath was how they connected to God. Interesting, I thought.
So on this retreat I realised that perhaps I was approaching yoga the wrong way. As a pathological goal setter, I was entirely focused on achieving the poses. I followed the instructions about where to put my hand or foot – like a professional twister player – all the time ignoring the directions about breathing. Half way through the week, thinking about those warriors, I decided to take a different tack and focused only on the breath, breathing as instructed and letting that rather than the movement be my focus.
At first it just felt like something else I had to think about. Hadn’t I got enough on my mind trying to rest my ear on my knee? But eventually, something magical started to happen. My brain got quiet and I started to tap into something else – an inner peace. Of course, as soon as I started to think about it, I lost it, going back to my usual mental clamour but at least now I had a reference point.
And even though, after that retreat, I never took up a regular yoga practice, if ever I was feeling stressed or experiencing the buildup of unhelpful emotions, I would take a few deep inhalations and literally expel that negativity. It makes sense really. Isn’t that why we breathe a sigh of relief when things work out or why we sigh to release our frustrations?
I was once told by a very wise woman, that anxiety is excitement minus breath i.e. an emotion can be transformed by letting your breath flow. And I fully concur. Of course we need breath for those fundamental biological reasons but perhaps there is also something divine to it too, something we can all access.
In this pandemic, we’ve all heard the word ‘safe’ a lot – with regards to taking the necessary precautions to not spread or contract COVID-19. We’re used to thinking of safety in terms of physical wellbeing but more and more, I think of the importance of emotional safety, being safe to be yourself without feeling under threat of attack, criticism or judgement.
It’s a weird one too as certain environments are only safe for certain things. Like, have you ever been standing in a nightclub or house party and thought how strange it is that everyone has assembled specifically for the purpose of throwing their bodies around in various configurations we call ‘dancing’? But we’re in agreement this is a safe place to do that. However, try that mess in the middle of Ikea and it’s a different story.
Without knowing it, I think we all look for that safety, especially in our interactions, our friendships and partnerships. We want to be with people we’ll feel safe with. That’s part of what makes a good friendship or relationship – people giving us the safety and space to be our ditziest, silliest selves or share our deepest secrets.
For me, I didn’t grow up in a particularly emotionally safe environment. There wasn’t a lot of room for free self expression. And even though I’ve made my peace with that, it can etch defining traits into our characters. It was only a few years ago I saw how much I always want people to feel ‘safe’ because of those early experiences.
Where some people feed on cruel mickey-taking, I hate it. Even professionally, during my stand up days, when I interacted with an audience member, I hated the idea of them feeling foolish or picked on. I wanted them to feel great. Once, I gave a guy a lap of honour because he did such a great heckle. I literally ran around the whole audience cheering him, wanting him to feel like a champ.
They say, your wound becomes your work and it’s true that having people feel great and feel safe is something that’s important to me. I used to wonder how this would show up in my work and it’s only now, after recording over a dozen episodes of my podcast Creative Sauce, I can see that what I’m really doing is creating a safe space for myself and my listeners to explore our creativity. And honestly, it’s not even about being an artist. It’s just about life, that’s really all I talk about on the pod. I just look at it through the lens of the artist.
When I hosted these creative conversations on Instagram, what I really loved was the community that built up between the folks that would join me every Sunday. Even though they were in many different countries, everyone rooted for each other. Those Live streams were a safe space for us all just to be, wherever we were on our journeys.
I would love to create that again, a space where we can come together, on-line and give each other a lap of honour, a pat on the back, words of encouragement to help us along whichever path we’ve chosen.
Until I get that in place I just want to give a massive shout out to all the creative warriors who’ve walked alongside me, who’d given me the freedom to express my creativity, supported my many changes of direction, re-stringing of my bow, missteps, breakdowns and breakthroughs. And big love to all those Sunday night creatives who’ve joined me on my podcast journey. I see you and I appreciate you.
A few years back, in the hunt for new beauty procedures, I decided to give eyelash extensions a go. My lashes are quite fine and kind of peter out towards my inner eye so I thought, wouldn’t it be great to have TV lashes. From the moment I wake up, to loading the dishwasher, looking Hollywood-fabulous all the time.
I like false eyelashes (the ones you take off when removing your makeup) but I’m terrible at applying them – it’s like wrestling a spider.
A couple of make up artists had recommended lash extensions so I headed to Browhaus on Floral Street in Covent Garden to give it a whirl.
As I tentatively shuffled onto the chair I blurted out ‘I’ve never done this before!’ as though I’d accidentally stumbled into a sex party and decided to stay.
My technician reassured me and offered two styles, one where the lashes are longer towards the outside so the eye looks more feline and one where they’re longer in the middle for a more ‘doll-like effect’. I opted for feline. I like cats. Dolls, not so much.
We then talked about length (maybe it was a sex party). I had a choice of 8, 10 and 12 mm and also singles or clusters. Apparently, the singles appear more natural but the clusters last longer and create a fuller look. Who knew?! I went for 10mm singles.
She then taped down my lower lashes – Clockwork Orange-style. Then I had to close my eyes and I spent the next 20 minutes convinced this was some Jackass set up and this woman was actually sticking my eyelids together.
Anyway, eventually she was done, ‘‘Open your eyes.” As I prised my eyelids open, tears streamed down my face due to the fumes from the glue. I looked like I’d just heard that Rege-Jean had quit Bridgerton.
The technician didn’t seem phased but I was panicking like an MP caught on camera at that sex party I shouldn’t have stayed at. Finally, after 10 minutes, even though my eyes were still streaming, I could at least keep them open. The technician assured me this was normal. Yeah, in your world!
Finally, she held up the mirror. Was this going to be like at the hairdressers where they make you look like a moron but you say, ‘Great job!’ then rage down the phone to your mates after.
Buuuut, you know what? No raging needed. I was worried they’d be OTT, making me look like Ermintrude from The Magic Roundabout but they were lovely.
Anyway, after she’d upsold me some overpriced after-care products, I was done. By the time I got to work the fumes had all but evaporated and I was left with the lash loveliness I’d envisaged. Hollywood glamour, sorted.
They felt a little uncomfortable at first but I got used to them and kept them in for about three weeks. Would I recommend them? Well, here are my pros and cons (sorry I have no pics of the experience – no Insta back then so why take pics, eh?):
Pros: They look really good and natural; Less eye make up is required; They last a long time if looked after.
Cons: You have to have them taken out in the salon! You lose A LOT of lashes in the removal process and removing makeup is quite intricate as you’re now trying not to dislodge the lashes.
Bottom line, some women have a higher tolerance for the discomfort of beauty procedures but in doing this, I discovered, I ain’t one of them. Sooo, I’m happy to settle for what God gave me and instead just use decent mascara.
Sadly, Browhaus didn’t make it through the pandemic but they were great. Big love to all the small businesses who’ve lost the fight. If there’s one you love, why not give them a shout out in the comments below…
Generally speaking, labels are good. They stop us sprinkling salt on our cereal or brushing our teeth with hair removal cream. However, when it comes to people, labels can be tricky.
Even though my on-screen career began with acting, for many years, I’ve been, comedian Andi Osho and for many years, that was fine.
I loved stand up long before my first gig in 2007. A dodgy boat in Surrey Quays where the locals would heckle from the back while a tipsy compere, glass of white wine filled to the brim, ushered us newbie lambs to the comedic slaughter. Fun times.
Scroll forward three years and I landed my first Mock The Week. Promoters, producers and bookers became interested and before long I notched up appearances on Buzzcocks, Live at The Apollo and Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, played the O2 in London, Just For Laughs in Montreal and wrote, performed and toured two Edinburgh shows. In other words, if stand up were Call Of Duty, I completed it, mate.
My career was travelling at breakneck speed but there was a cost. By 2012 I was exhausted, depressed and uninspired. Acting had fallen by the wayside and there was this widening chasm between me and my on-screen persona. I decided to take a break and headed for the sun – Los Angeles. My intention was to stay only a few months but in the end, I was there six years.
Being an unknown gave me the space to reflect, reinvent and decide, what, if any labels I really wanted.
It quickly became apparent, ‘comedian’ wasn’t one of them. In the UK, when I’d seen peer after peer offered their own tv and radio vehicles, I’d resented it. I felt that, even though I delivered time and time again, producers saw me as a risk. But with room to think, I realised, what looked like missed opportunities were blessings because, what I wanted to achieve wasn’t possible through stand up.
All this may sound like I didn’t enjoy my time on the circuit but I loved it. There can be no greater joy than making a roomful of people laugh, feel a little lighter even if it’s just for a couple of hours.
But as much as there was boundless joy, there was, as I say, a cost. Gradually the gap between gigs got longer and longer, the space soon filling with acting and writing. I could feel how much more content this made me. No more anxiety caused by the suffocating expectation that came with every TV appearance.
Instead, I started enjoying evenings in, hanging out with mates, watching movies, basically normal people stuff!
But letting go of the label ‘comedian’ was tough. I genuinely thought, what am I without it, will journalists still value an interview with me if I’m not being funny?
At that time, I hadn’t filmed shows like Line of Duty, Kiri and I May Destroy You or written my novel. Without comedian, wasn’t I just jobbing actor and unpublished novelist? Not quite as fun, eh? So I continued using the label, assuming, at some point, either I’d return to it or like a shed skin it would fall away. But sometimes we have to actively peel off labels that no longer fit, like comedian, TV presenter, vlogger and filmmaker – which are all part of my past not my future.
So now, a good seven or eight years since my last gig, what does letting go leave me with? Well, Actor – a job I’ve always loved, Writer be it scripts or novels, and my new label, podcaster. These are the ones that give me the most joy (and the most nights in).
So as I hang up my microphone, smooth down the big hair and slip off the high heels for good, I want to say a huge thank you to all the fans and folks who’ve contacted me over the years to say they’ve enjoyed my work and LOLed at my silly jokes and impressions of my mum. To everyone who bought Edinburgh and tour show tickets, thank you. It meant the world and always will. Thank you too, to every producer who did take a chance on me. And of course, just because I’m not doing stand-up, doesn’t mean me and funny can’t be friends as many of you who’ve read Asking For A Friend will know. I’ll just be doing it from the comfort of my desk, with a packet of kettle chips on the go.
Big, big love to you and don’t let anyone tell you what your labels should be or even that you should have them. Onwards, good friends, onwards!
Back when I lived in LA I often thought about what ‘Home’ meant.
When I was a kid, it was the house we lived in but also a word mum used interchangeably when talking about Nigeria. I didn’t realise how loaded that one word was until I’d been living in LA for a year or so.
As much as I enjoyed my time there, it didn’t always feel like home and it was often the most basic things that made me realise that. For example, I missed getting on the tube and even more so, getting home the same way after a few drinks. The tube is a real social leveller, everyone, armpit-to-face every rush hour.
I missed living in a city that has a centre like London. Car-based LA is made up of small pockets of concentrated activity, nothing that generates a throng in the way a British high street does. There’s no Oxford Street. No Hyde Park Corner and therefore no bustle.
But home isn’t just about a familiar energy, it’s about practical things, like knowing where to buy stuff, seeing familiar brands, knowing the social etiquette and of course the language.
Yet even in an English speaking country like the US, I still had misunderstandings, the odd misused word causing confused frowns.
One thing I realised early on in LA was that it was important to find my tribe because home is also about feeling like you belong and what better way than to have a group of people who have your back, a surrogate community when you’re away from your own.
I was talking to my mum one day about all of this and she said, in her soft Nigerian accent, “Yes, it’s hard living in another country”.
Her comment floored me as I’d never thought about what she’d given up as an economic migrant to 1960s Britain who’d then given 40 years of her life to the NHS, leaving behind the place she called home, the food, the aromas, the people, the familiarity, the sense of belonging, being surrounded by people who looked like her and coming to a place where people were still adjusting to the discomfort of having the “other” live among them, plus the added challenge of being newly married, raising children and saving in the hope of returning home whilst barely making ends meet.
Just from her saying that one sentence, I learned so much about my mum and the quiet dignity with which she carries all of this. She knows that Nigeria isn’t perfect, that she has plenty to be grateful for in the UK and that after some 45 years this place is home too but she also knows the mammoth adjustment required to live somewhere new.
I pondered with my mum if perhaps “feeling at home” was something you had to generate internally for yourself too. Perhaps this is what people who relocate have to do, create an experience of feeling at home to make being away easier to navigate.
During this pandemic and the resulting lockdown, many of us have turned our attention to our homes, spruced them up and rejuvenated to make them as comfortable as possible during this challenging time.
However we achieve it, ultimately all we ever want is to feel at home, feel like there’s a space where we belong that’s warm, nurturing and welcoming. That comes not just from the physical building but the people and the vibe around us.
Being in LA taught me the importance of that feeling and that it’s something you can create wherever you are.
Being a professional artist comes with its fair share of challenges so – through trial and a lot of error – I came up with a basic survival guide on navigating the creative life without going bonkers.
Get a sense of your own value and the value of what you do and can create. When you express yourself authentically, you are unique and that is priceless.
We’ve all seen those infamous rejection letters received by artists before they became household names. People joke that those execs and decision makers must regret turning them away. But it’s possible that rejection caused those artists to go back, review their work and improve it. So, rather than being the enemy, rejection may be the fuel that makes us better, so embrace it. It can be our friend.
Review your early work
This is a great way to chart your progress. If you look back at your earlier efforts, hopefully, you’ll now see how much you have improved.
Comparing yourself to anyone else is pointless. They are on their own path and have their own luck, rejections and successes to work through. Comparison to others will only welcome resentment and jealousy. Instead, simply aim to be the best version of yourself.
Chart your progress
One of the biggest pitfalls is listening to that voice of doubt in your head which spews negative feedback. One method that helped me combat this negativity was charting my progress on a spreadsheet. Seriously! Down one side, I had things like exercise, opportunities, income, across the top, the date. Everyday, I graded each area, using a colour code. One glance at the chart reassured me that I was progressing even if the doubts in my mind told me otherwise.
Treat it like business
You are the CEO of a very important company. Your artistry is the product and you are the boss and what boss spends all day on an Instagram, Facebook loop. Furthermore, flair, individuality and fun needn’t be compromised by bringing order, professionalism and process to what you do – in fact it should help create space for you to flourish.
A successful career won’t fall into your lap without a strong work ethic. Realising your goals requires discipline (I sound like the dance teacher at the start of Fame). We get out what we put in so to craft the career we desire we need to put our heart and soul into it.
Make sure you rest. Even if you love what you do, rest is important. In fact, it’s part of the process. Go for a walk; have a day out or binge watch your fave show. Allow your brain to have space away from your career. This has all kinds of restorative benefits – and the best bit? It allows inspiration in.
Trust your gut
Trust your gut on your choices, on what your next move is, if you need to stop, change lanes, seek help, look for answers, knuckle down or even take a break.
And if you need help learning to distinguish when you’re being steered by your gut or the fearful noises in your brain, seek coaching, therapy, incorporate a daily spiritual practice or perhaps a good podcast on creativity can help (Yes, a shameless plug). All this can provide the space for you to listen to your inner compass.
Let it go
We chose an artist’s life because we believe it will bring us pleasure so let go and simply do what makes you happy, every day. Do this and as the saying goes, you’ll never work a day in your life. “But what about my goals?” I hear you say.
Of course you have dreams, goals and tasks but when our happiness becomes tied to achieving those things it can mean we’re only happy when we’re achieving and that can be a trap.
Instead, by getting happy, we magnetise the things we desire to us. Remember, the moment we visualise our desires, they’re out there simply waiting for us to call them forth into the material world. How? By using your artist’s survival kit.
A few years ago I discovered online philosopher, Jason Silva. He was making these great bite-sized videos called Shots Of Awe which offered a fresh perspective on life. In them he talks about everything from heartbreak to inspiration, wonder to trauma and more. I loved them but my favourites were always the ones about creativity.
I was hungry for inspiring words. Being a creative can be stressful, uncertain, an emotional rollercoaster and, at times, very lonely. When I sought out these videos I was struggling with my book and acting work had slowed. I felt adrift but though Jason’s videos were a life raft I desperately wanted long-form material that spoke specifically about creativity. However, I couldn’t find any so in typical Osho-style, I decided to create the conversation myself. They say, if you can’t find the product you’re looking for, create it, so that’s what I did.
At the beginning, I was incredibly nervous, thinking who am I to do this? But despite my fears, I felt compelled to carry on.
I advertised the sessions on my socials and one Sunday morning in late December, I started a live stream on what has become one of my favourite subjects – Creativity.
Thankfully, viewers showed up, some I knew, many I didn’t. My first topic was Rejection. Given all creatives face this, it felt like the realest place to start. The conversation flowed and before I knew it, I was getting the sixty minute countdown and was signing off, promising to return the following week with another topic.
I was relieved and delighted with how it had gone and what an uplifting conversation it had been (a far cry from my days on Periscope! If you know, you know!). I could also see how much I had learned from the session.
I continued this weekly commitment for over a year, with the odd break and ended up running 51 sessions, the last being on Inspiration In Isolation at the start of the first UK lockdown.
After, I felt a real sense of achievement and loved the community of creatives that sprung out of it. After a few months, I realised, the conversation didn’t have to be over if I didn’t want it to be and decided to turn it into a podcast.
Initially I planned to just use recordings of the original streams but then I realised it was better to just start again.
And so, over the last six months I’ve been putting together Creative Sauce with Andi Osho,a podcast series about life as a creative. It’ll also feature listener comments and bitesize advice from some amazingly talented folks like Roisin Conaty, Paapa Essiedu, Thaddea Graham and Richard Osman.
I can’t wait to share it with you and hopefully recreate the community from those live stream days!
Three years ago I landed a book deal. Well, it felt like it kinda fell into my lap. I remember thinking, is this really happening? Turns out, it was. Now all I had to do was write the thing. No worries! One romcom debut novel coming up, I thought, as I rolled up my sleeves and dived in with what I’ve come to refer as, naïve arrogance – the how-hard-can-it-be attitude that’s got me into many interesting situations both professionally and personally…
I got started around March 2017 and was sure I’d be done by June. Never having written a book before I didn’t really have a process or routine. I just started writing, a few hours every day. From the beginning, I spent ages painstakingly perfecting every paragraph before moving on to the next. It was a long, slow process. By the time I finally shared the first three chapters with my editor, it was already late summer. And then came the notes, quickly followed by the despair, and not long after, the feeling of being way out of my depth. I even started talking about returning my advance.
Luckily, calmer voices prevailed, one of which being, my agent Richard.
I looked at my process and could see it really wasn’t working. I wondered if this forensic approach was helping or hindering me. A quote I’d recently seen came to mine.
The purpose of the first draft is to exist, so get it done as soon as possible.
A lightbulb pinged on. My meticulous tinkering was happening way too early in my process. I was like a sculptor who, after throwing a lump of clay onto their plinth, had started on the nose before even knowing what the face looked like.
I changed my tack instantly and the rest of the draft poured from me, in probably the same amount of time it had taken to write those first three, painful chapters.
From here, I learned to break down the creative process into stages and it changed everything. I was able to enjoy spewing forth a first draft without worrying how good it was. I learned to trust my ability to improve that bloated, place holder. After, I felt free to put away my project, allowing it to steep so I could return to it with fresh eyes. I was able to distinguish the different types of editing (broad strokes, cuts, finessing – being just a few) and to understand that these processes require different parts of the brain and that, if we smoosh them together, it makes our poor brain ache. And what do you know, after two and a half years, a fair amount of handwringing, joy, tears and laughter, I finished my debut novel.
If you’re struggling with a project, it may help to review your process. Sometimes a simple shift in approach can make all the difference. Good luck!