Big Mouths and Old Habits by Fran Brady

In a previous life, I was a professional encourager. Trained in community development and open to whatever career pathway opened up, (i.e. where I could earn enough money, as a single parent, to keep my family of three teenage daughters, a dog and two cats housed, fed and clothed), I had a plethora of jobs. All of them drew upon my training and expanded my experience and skills in facilitating other people to get more out life and develop their potential. I ended up managing a children's charity in Edinburgh which involved supervising and supporting 10 staff and 30 - 40 volunteers.

When I left full-time working (the word 'retired' is laughably inaccurate since I have been busier than ever) and took up creative writing, I firmly told myself that, from then on, I was going to concentrate on my own development and give up the encouraging/facilitating lark. I was new to the writing game with loads to learn; so this seemed perfectly reasonable.

I reckoned without my big mouth which has a habit of opening (and offering) whenever help is called for. I reckoned without my modus vivendi which leads me to have all these 'good ideas' for what would be helpful and empowering for others. Old habits don't just die hard in me - they appear to have discovered the secret of eternal life.
Linlithgow Palace and Loch

What does this modus look like? Well, I set up a writing group eighteen months ago and it has been so 'encouraging' that I have spent the last few weeks putting together (or 'curating', as current newspeak goes) a 60-page anthology. We meet in Linlithgow, one the most scenic small towns in the UK and steeped in history. Its fifteenth century palace was the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots (she whom Good Queen Bess had beheaded in 1587). The Palace overlooks a beautiful, tranquil loch, home to lots of beautiful birds: swans, grebes, goosanders, coots, ducks . . . so we are calling our group 'The Loch Lights' and our anthology 'Light on the Loch'.

Mary Queen of Scots
Last year, I became editor of a quarterly magazine called 'WordWise'. Having appreciated receiving it four times a year for the six years I had been a member of the Scottish Fellowship of Christian Writers, I was suffering from another of my chronic old habits: I was feeling guilty about taking and not giving anything back. You see: I am a hopeless case.
The past month has gone by in a diet of drafts and edits for both these publications, with a side order of a monthly column for our church magazine ('View from the Pew') and my AE Electric blog for dessert. The final draft of my fourth novel sits forlornly on my desk, covered in the proof-reader's markings, awaiting a window of opportunity, and I suspect I am too late to get the reprint of my third novel out in time for Christmas presents. Meanwhile, there's the annual Christmas catch-up letter to do . . 

I guess it's not so easy to reinvent oneself. But I'm going to try - again!  My New Year resolution will be to programme and prioritise blocked-off creative writing days in my diary. You heard it here first. Oh, and to keep my mouth shut, sit on my hands, stare at the floor, block my ears and generally disengage from the human race whenever the cry goes up for 'someone to . . .' or whenever I feel the urge to encourage coming upon me. I may last till the end of February . . . but every journey begins with the first step and all that.


Umberto Tosi said…
I'm encouraged just reading your post, Fran. Your energy comes through. As writer, single parent and literary editor, you give much of yourself, and those around you are the better for it, it sounds like, though never easy. Good luck with that fourth novel and have a happy Christmas!
Sandra Horn said…
You are amazing. Rock on!
Penny Dolan said…
Do, do, do try and grab your own writing time if you can, Fran, and beware of good intentions that grow bigger - the writing class anthology, for instance.

From someone else prone to saying "yes" - and whose unfinished, dust-covered drafts wished she had said NO!

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