Why, As A Writer, I’m Taking A Break From Books

I’m taking a break from books. (Or so I’m going to try.)

On average I read 4-5 books a month. That’s a lot of words to compare to my own, and I’ve decided that I ought to stop complaining I don’t write enough when I spend so much of my time reading.

I used to bring books to accompany time and space, my bag overflowing with one too many books. But now I’m starting to see that books are different to my own creativity. They are there, they are permanently in print, they create noise in my head. They are the expectation – I have to be as good as these to be published; to be read. I have fallen so far into admiring others I have started to doubt my own use of words. I’ve always known I can write as they do, its only lately I’ve started to realise I just haven’t been giving it enough time. I must live and breathe my own creations. Picasso didn’t look at paintings trying to figure out how they did it, he picked up a paintbrush and made strokes that felt right. I want to write because of the infinite possibilities a keyboard presents when I open my MacBook. After all, for every word I read, I could be conjuring one for myself.

As I’ve grown in London, I’ve observed that London is a city of expectation. Expectation through external stimuli, through noise, even something as small as facial expressions. As a young, aspiring writer this has proven to be hard…. I’m sure as any young person, trying to make it in this city, it’s hard.

Through time, I’ve discovered my laptop provides a silence that nothing else can. I can sit in the most noisy of cafes and hear nothing. When I am sitting in front of a screen I can achieve anything, write anything. Literal infinite possibilities the alphabet provides. With my laptop in hand, I can go anywhere in London; Anywhere, and it will always lack expectation.

I love books so much, but I love my completed projects more; my stack of poems, my nearly finished novel, my website and articles full of poetic monologue.

So here I start, indefinite days without reading any word of another. My to-read pile will just have to wait.

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Liberty

As we grow and age, our sense of freedom also changes. I’ve always been one to be self-righteous about freedom. I know most of us are, but I remember from a  young age always demanding the freedom to go to the shopping mall with my friends, demanding my parents to just let me do what I want, demanding that I go where I want. Rightly so my parents were strict on discipline and for me as a teenager, freedom wasn’t a right, it was a privilege.

When I was 13 or 14, I decided I wanted a job. Not legally old enough to be hired in New Zealand, I volunteered at my local library. For me, not only was this a chance to prove responsibility with shifts and everything else that came with the job, it felt like a step closer to freedom. I wanted to feel like an adult and a job seemed to come hand in hand with that idea in my head – funny how a badge with my name on it felt like liberty. As I neared 15, I got a job delivering papers in my local area. Suddenly I had an income on my very own bank card and a whole lot more freedom. In the grand scheme of things I was earning cents, but as a young teenager earning my own money – that wasn’t originally my parents – was invigorating. It was at that ripe age of 14, and about a month before my 15th birthday, I bought myself a scooter; freedom in the form of a 50cc engine, bright yellow. To be fair I bought it second hand, and my Dad did a fair bit of fixing it up, but it was the next step up the staircase of liberty.

The day after turning 15, and months after learning the NZ road code start to finish, I got my drivers license. I was 15, and suddenly my definition of freedom changed. From being dropped of at the mall by my Mum for a few hours, to being able to drive anywhere on 50km/h roads. There were of course curfews, and countless safety lectures, but I could drive myself to school, and as I got better paying part-time jobs, to those too. I was able to help my Mum when she was in need of a few things from the supermarket. Having a bucket on the back of my scooter, I volunteered and went up. I may have only been able to carry 2L of milk, and a broccoli, but I’ll tell you I was stoked. The most memorable thing about getting my scooter was filling up my scooter for the first time.  I remember driving out of that petrol station, singing to the pedestrians I passed, grinning my face off behind my Dad’s motorbike helmet – I perfectly remember how liberated I felt in that moment.

Fast forward to a year later, and I passed my restricted license test – I could now not only drive a scooter alone, I could drive a car by myself. No parents, a speaker system (!!!) and the ability to conquer my Mum’s entire shopping lists if need be. I know shopping seems like a weird thing for a 16 year old to be excited about, but to be able to do that for Mum seemed like the ultimate privilege of freedom. Plus, if I got to use Mum’s car I could play the music as loud as I wanted. I never had my own car officially, but when my Dad bought a convertible Peugeot… well, well, well… imagine this: a 17 year old, a red convertible, driving along the coast in the middle of summer, sea sparkling in the wing mirror, stereo blasting Twenty One Pilots. Oh how I miss that car. If someone were to ask me about freedom, that memory would come to mind – so would a smile.

Fast forward to now, and my sense of freedom is somehow less perceptible. This is my third year living in London and away from home, and I do have endless freedom. I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, wherever I want, yet somehow it doesn’t feel that way. I used to find liberty in the simple things – walking my dog alone, solo adventures to the beach, staying out after dark, and now I find it harder to get that same thrill. And no, going to Sainsbury’s to get groceries no longer makes me sing. I’ve been decently poorly the last week and I’ve had more than enough time to mull this thought over. I’m 21 now, and everything considered I am officially an adult anywhere in the world. International freedom but when do I feel the most liberated? I feel free when I’m writing. I can play with words limitlessly and I can lose myself in any creative world I choose. I feel free when I travel; away from the bills and responsibilities, I can lose myself in the new sights. I live for experiences and to travel is to self-liberate. Without thinking too much about the words I just used, looking back I’ve used the term “lose myself” in both cases. Is this really true? Am I using this in a negative way? No, I don’t think so. After a bit of thought, I think losing myself is a good thing; I stop stressing, I stop over-thinking and immerse myself in the now.

For me, living in the moment is the true key to liberty.

 

Survival Instincts

From a young age you always hear the phrase ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, and more often than not people will say this to you as a piece of ‘much required’ wisdom.  As much as I accept this phrase about not holding prejudice based on someone’s outward appearance, I do slightly disagree.

Judgment is an inherent quality that our brain feeds with experience. We have established this instinct for survival; the judgments we make are what permit, or prohibit, things to get close to the core of our lives. Moving to a new country, I found myself surrounded with the unknown in things as simple as a phone shop. I spent the first month making choices purely based off harsh judgment and gut feeling.  There were the initial times of pharmaceutical and grocery shopping, I would walk an extra block to shop at a chain-store over a cheapened corner shop. When I was flat hunting, as simply as talking to a person over the phone, I would judge the landlord on the language they used, and immediately accept or decline the idea. For all I know these are the simple judgements that have extended my life, or have caused me to miss out on opportunities.

So what happens when you take a leap of faith and do leave things up to chance? Once I was settled within a house, had a group of friends, and had all standard life requirements organised, I went through a phase of doing spontaneous adventures; going outside of my comfort zone with relation to cafes, experiences and stores. I think the key point here is that because I was successfully living, not only attempting to adapt and survive to this new environment, I didn’t need that safety net of judging everything as heavily as I once had. I remember phone calls home, discussing this exact topic with my parents.  There comes a point where after the judging and hard work has been done, you do need to loosen the reigns of planning, and live life day by day, decision by decision. Sometimes there are positive consequences to veering away from that planned path of judging things critically. This way of living, or leaving life to serendipity, is what makes for a more rounded life. You come across things you may have never knew existed, you may meet people who are destined to be in your life, or find a new passion.

Judgement is something that is I believe to be socially acceptable when you feel that your life or well-being is at risk. I think that we need to make decisions for ourselves based off our intuitions and personal judgements; ultimately we have to live with our own decisions and choices, so we need to be satisfied with them. Nevertheless, don’t forget to give things a chance; we need judgement to survive, but we need spontaneity to live.

Blissful Brighton

My eyes felt heavy. My whole body tired from only six hours of restless ‘sleep’; the previous night spent socialising on The River Thames, with the best of people. It was the Tuesday of last week I booked a day trip to Brighton; a beautiful, well-known coastal town on the southern coast of England.

Dawn marked an early start; by 7.00am I was halfway to St Pancras getting increasingly more excited to see something other than the familiar brick buildings of London. As the train crawled it’s way out of the underground tracks into the fresh air above, it hit me that the day was going to be beyond beautiful. I don’t tend to find any train journey a hardship; I like to absorb my surroundings, and to admire the people in these little towns going about their days. I respect their ability to live so isolated from city life. I am such an urbanised being.

I stepped out of Brighton Station just before 10am, looked at the glistening water at the end of the long stretch of road, and aimed true. The sun was already proudly taking its place in the empty sky of blue, creating little diamonds on the rim of the horizon.

When I reached the barriers at the top of the steps – the only thing between me and the beach – I stood for a second and closed my eyes.

I took a huge breathe in and could smell the salty sea air; I could hear seagulls conversing above; I could feel the warmth on my skin, and immediately it felt like home. It wasn’t long before my moment of sentimentality was broken by bustling families, all ready to take the prime spot amongst the pebbled beach. It was my time to go do the same. I took my shoes off, went down the steps, and hobbled along the smooth, hard stones and sat down to finally fully admire the view. People were already out sailing the glassy sea, at least 5 boats. I could see the famous Brighton Pier, I contemplated running off to see it straight away but decided with a full day ahead I wanted to take my time. I laid on the stones until I was surrounded by people dragging the ‘Hire Me’ deck chairs and loungers to their stony destinations. Being so close to the water, I almost was glad to be forced off my perch and towards the crystal blue. It was refreshing – cold enough to make me squeal in lack of anticipation –  finding it’s way between my toes, forcing a smile upon my face. I stood here, mesmerised by how translucent the sea could be.

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Keeping my shoes off, I then wandered up and down the 24°C heated pavements and wooden pathways of the Brighton beach front. The souls of my naked feet being radiated with every step. I explored the Brighton Pier, looking out at the never-ending clear blue waves, whilst capturing the smiles of kids on carousels and bumper cars. This was an amazing place; a miniature theme park suspended above the water on 116 year old wooden stilts. After moseying around the Pier until I had seen all I wanted to see, I continued East past the Pier before turning around and walking past it all again. Seaside themed boutiques, stalls and food stands. Children gathered around a puppet show. And, what really caught my eye: live music. Because of my hunger, I decided on some lunch before returning to listen. I saw a packed Fish ‘n’ Chip shop on Kings Road; what a perfect idea. I ordered the battered sausage and chip combo, received it in my paper cone, splashed on some vinegar and walked back towards the excitement. Being the documenter I am, I held it out camera at the ready – sea in the background, perfect lighting – and a pesky seagull swooped in and stole one of my sausages. I can see it now, this seagull flying off with my sausage within its beak – was a humorous highlight to my day. After a handful or two of the perfectly cooked chips,  I resolved the 25°C heat with a small tub of Cornish ice cream. With the coffee latte and chocolate flavoured perfection, I sat with my back to the sun, listening to the amazing male duo. I gave all ears, mesmerised by the raw talent and stage presence until I’d realised too late that I was well sunburnt.

Time for some shopping, a good excuse to get out of the sun. I wandered up to the famous North Laine, and The Lanes. Two well known shopping streets. Narrow cobble stoned pathways, windows filled with gorgeous displays of hand-crafted jewellery and artwork. From here I headed to the Royal Pavillion. This building was  beyond describable. The only way I feel I can describe it, is that it didn’t feel like I was in England. Reminded me of an Indian palace; indo-saracenic architecture. A definite must-see.

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Time flew by, with all the shopping, the sight-seeing, and the photographs. I realised then that the small time between my wandering through the gardens before the Royal Pavillion, and my train back home, needed to be spent tasting a local craft beer. This I ordered at The Seven Stars on Ship Street (trying saying that fast, ten times). I stayed here until I had the perfect amount of time to slowly wander back up to the hill-top perched Brighton Station. I ended up arriving with just enough time for a relaxing coffee, then home-time.

As the time to depart back to London came around, I was amongst a crowd of Londoners having spent their day the same way as I. The carriage was full of beached-out bodies, crying babies, and limbs sun-kissed from a day by the sea. Beneath the salty heads of hair, and the tired faces, you could see the happiness that a day soaking up valuable sunlight and freedom could bring. As the train pulled out of Brighton station, the residue a top of the train gracefully trailed its way down my window; as if representing the tears of going back to reality. Being alone, I plugged my headphones in and watched the countryside swim by. The trees a medley of greens; the very tips glistening limes as the last shift of the suns beautiful work came to an end. As we neared London, and as we slowly merged with the smoggy orange horizon, I realised that I was leaving quality and joining my life amongst quantity. Then something amazing happened. I saw the London Eye as we rode in Blackfriars Station, over The Thames. It shot a spark of excitement through me, the same feeling as the first time I saw it. It reminded me of how amazing and privileged I am to live in such an amazingly beautiful and unique city.

This really has slowly become, and is now,  my new home.

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