When I first started Little Grey Box (LGB), it felt like there wasn’t enough time for me to write all the things I wanted to write. I would write something and immediately want to share it, even if I’d already posted that day. It felt so good to write and I loved the outlet for all the weird things going through my mind. This creative honeymoon period began to fade away though and over the course of about a year, I started to find it harder and harder to write.
LGB had started out as my favourite thing in the whole world but disintegrated into something that was an endless source of frustration for me. I would go to work all day, knowing in the back of my mind I hadn’t written anything for the site in weeks, and feel extremely guilty about it. I’d come home, exhausted, sit at my laptop and try to write something but end up angry and on the verge of tears because I just couldn’t think of anything interesting to write.
The more I tried to create, the angrier I got and I began to hate LGB. At the worst point, I told Matt I wanted to stop LGB altogether and delete the blog. Looking back at it now, that seems like the most ridiculous thing, but at the time it felt totally plausible. It was causing me great unhappiness so getting rid of it appeared to be a great idea.
Thankfully a good friend talked me off the edge of deletion, but only just. She told me to keep it running at a bare minimum, even if I didn’t write anything for weeks, I should keep it alive, just in case.
At the time I was working in my old full-time office job and LGB felt like a pipe dream. When you’re in a routine of getting up and going to work each day, then coming home and doing it all over again the next day, imagining the reality of living your life any other way seems totally and completely impossible. It feels unachievable and out of reach. It is a dream and just a dream.
Because my dream of being a travel writer seemed so unattainable, my logical mind stepped in and made the decision that the best course of action was to get rid of the blog and throw myself into my job. My logical mind told me to focus solely on bettering my career, securing promotions and earning as much money as possible because then I would be happy and live a normal life.
It’s terrifying how easy it is to do that. That lifestyle slips onto your body like a glove, it fits perfectly and is, somehow, soothing. Because, really, you know deep down that you can’t really stuff it up if you’re working a good job and getting paid well. Nobody can accuse you of living a shitty life because you’re ticking all the socially appropriate boxes: money, job, security and everything that comes with them.
Looking back on it now, I know why LGB made me so angry. I was stuck in a place I didn’t want to be in and felt like my dreams were unattainable, so every time I looked at LGB it acted as a mirror, reflecting back at me all the wonderful things I desired but could never have. It was a dream tease.
There was never a point where anything happened to prove to me my dreams weren’t possible, I created all those boundaries myself. My logical mind told me I wasn’t smart enough, pretty or thin enough, talented enough or interesting enough to succeed. The list was much longer than that, I’ve just condensed it. Every insecurity I had bubbled to the surface and took its place on the patchwork quilt of my self-doubt, keeping me securely tucked in place.
I wanted to get out, but I didn’t know how. Then, as it often has a way of doing, the right information came to me at the right time. I was given two pieces of advice that helped me claw my way out of the trench of depression and despair.
Firstly, I was told to focus on loving myself. I had always thought all that ‘love yourself’ stuff was just a load of bullshit. Honestly, I did. But it has turned out to be one of the most important pieces of insight I’ve ever received. I started living for myself, making the decision to make myself happy, sleeping in more, eating more delicious food, saying no to things I didn’t want to do and indulging myself in things I love; art, music etc.
These things helped me deal with my emotional blocks, but I still couldn’t write. Writing felt like the enemy to me, even though it was the thing I loved and wanted the most. The second piece of advice changed this.
I read this article on Life Hacker about Jerry Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret. Yep, that Jerry Seinfeld. It’s worth reading the whole thing, but I’ll give you a condensed version here. Essentially, Seinfeld’s advice to budding comics is they should write better jokes and the way to do that is to write every day. That’s no easy feat, so Seinfeld developed a calendar method to pressure himself.
I’ve adapted his method to fit my personal goals, here it is: Get a wall calendar (or draw one up yourself on a piece of paper). Mark out squares, in days or weeks, depending on your goal. Then set a goal, for example, “I will post on Little Grey Box once a week”. Your goal could be twice a week or once a day, it could be photography related or apply to another creative pursuit, it’s up to you.
Every time you achieve your goal, like posting on your blog once a week, you put a big red X in the box. As the weeks pass and you achieve your goal each week, you begin to create a chain of red X’s. All you have to do is focus on building that chain. Don’t focus on the quality of your outputs or the response it gets, just focus on the chain. Eventually, you will break your writer’s block (or any other creative block).
It worked for me and, after a few months, I didn’t need the chain anymore. I was back… with a vengeance!
Without those two pieces of advice and a whole lot of soul searching, there’s a good chance LGB wouldn’t be here today and I wouldn’t be living my dreams. If you ever feel like you’re at rock bottom and you want to pack it all in and settle for a life you don’t really want, just stop for a moment. Take some time to breathe, fill yourself back up with love and once you’re clear on what you really want, do whatever the hell it takes to get it. Never compromise your dreams.
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