The following blog post came about in-part because I am participating in the Writing Contest: How Writing Has Positively Influenced My Life. Hosted by Positive Writer. It also happens to be a topic I feel passionately about and seeing the title of the competition really inspired me to share my story.
I’m writing to you from the 8th floor of a Malaysian hotel, looking out across the city and over the harbour of this island paradise out to the mainland. My skin is warm from the balmy air and my mind and body content from a day out exploring. The sound of chanting dances in my ears from a nearby temple. If you’d asked me a year ago where I would be right now, I wouldn’t have conjured this, not in my wildest dreams.
One year ago today I was at the very beginning of a series of massive changes that would eventually lead to here, but already 27 and a half years into repressing a longtime dream of writing. I was unsettled and unhappy in my job and unsure of where to head next. I had led an interesting life so far laced with incredible and exciting jobs; spending my life in busy kitchens, even busier ambulances and eventually 37,000ft up in the air.
All of my previous vocations shared a slew of difficult similarities: high stress environments, long hours and shift work. Mix these ingredients with the onslaught of living through (and repressing) a significant natural disaster, you have the perfect cocktail for burnout and anxiety.
I hit a slump – I found myself burnt out and lost, I’d resigned from my job and spent a lot of time sleeping off the toll that many years of circadian disruption had on my worn out mind and body. With a succession of empty days and some helpful suggestions, I finally began to write.
Not the writing you imagine, I wasn’t busy piecing together my latest novel or developing an intriguing new character, no. I was simply streaming out my thoughts through a technique known by many as ‘morning pages’, a tool to let your subconscious flow. I was practicing listening to the little voice in-side of me, the piece left that still knew what I wanted, and how to heal. Through the act of writing without a censor and just letting out whatever came onto the page, a little voice began to grow. Day by day, inch by inch, I formulated a plan.
It slowly became apparent that I had a fire burning, a passion to write and an even louder voice telling me I couldn’t. With no other plans and nowhere else to turn I began to challenge that voice, and feed the fire. Writing provided me with an outlet to understand my life, it helped me to understand my anxieties and frustrations. Writing gave me a way to vent, a way to understand myself and eventually a way to change the entire way that I live my life.
Page by page, I wrote articles. I would sit at my local coffee shop and brainstorm ideas. For the first time in my life writing became my only choice, not because I wasn’t skilled or capable in anything, quite the opposite, but because suddenly I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else with my life.
I started out small at the local library, browsing the books for interesting things to learn about and convey in a simple article or blog post. I wrote about my trip to the zoo, the local cafe, and how to combat hay fever. I didn’t earn any money from these beginning articles, however I did earn something much more valuable: self-belief and the ‘proof’ I needed to call myself a writer.
Eventually the burn-out and anxiety subsided somewhat and I found myself a new job, writing wasn’t yet paying and I had run out of savings. I got to write sometimes and got to sit in front of a desk the rest of the time, not quite living the dream but it paid the bills. Coincidently, that was one of the easiest jobs I have ever done, yet the hardest I’ve ever worked, spending long hours indulging in writing once the office day was done.
I had lit a fire inside myself and found a drive to create a life I had only once dreamed of. I commuted for over an hour a day and spent the entire time in my car listening to podcasts on everything from writing style, to marketing and website design. I often shunned social events as my schedule was full with writing. I spent most evenings after work sitting at home by the fire writing and promoting myself until my eyes couldn’t hold themselves open any longer.
Writing has positively influenced my life in a myriad of ways. It has played a key role to helping me to understand myself and understand my varying levels of anxiety and in the early days writing introduced me to my own confusion lighting the pathway to living my dream life. Writing has allowed me to work from wherever I choose, and keep the hours I like. I am free to travel & experience the fullness of a life well traveled, and experience things that the walls of a cubicle could never show me.
Exactly 3 months ago, 9 months after my world began to unravel, I was boarding a plane. However it wasn’t on the airline I had spent 4 years working for, it was on a one way ticket to Bangkok, Thailand. It was writing that helped me discover my dream, it was also writing that has helped me to pursue my dream. Today as I sit in front of my laptop I am 3 months in to being a self-employed freelance writer who is traveling the world while I write.
I have traveled around Thailand and as of 3 days ago have embarked upon a new journey discovering Malaysia. Writing is my dream, and it was writing that helped me uncover it.