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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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.

Mantra

When I say the word ‘home’, I am no longer referring to New Zealand. I am speaking of my flat, my town, London – London has officially become my new home.

It feels like more things have happened since I arrived than the combined endeavours of 2014. I have achieved so much since leaving the warm, Summery land of New Zealand, and I couldn’t be more proud. In my first blog post I quoted my favourite all time quote, or in my own opinion, more of my personal mantra:

“The more you live for yourself, the more you end up living for.”

And I still wake up every morning and live by it.

It’s rather interesting becoming so liberated so quickly; I had to quickly understand that the only priority I have now is my own survival. From the small concept of traveling alone and being able to see whatever I want to see, to the priority of my day to day life schedule, I have to make every single decision for myself. The small things of an adult life, that I now have had to do on my own, are building me into a more confident and independent individual with every passing moment. I find this new life of organising bank accounts, finding my flat, remembering to buy groceries, and forgetting to do my washing until I literally have run out of underwear, all overwhelmingly exciting. Yes it is more responsibility, but the freedom that comes with living for yourself is such an empowering thing.

I live in a house with, let’s say, a fair few other young adults – from a tall Irishman to a bunch of Kiwis and Australians. I have made some good friends living with a larger household than the usual, and I wouldn’t swap it for anything. Of course there are things you have to give up, like a bit of privacy and space, but the added bonuses of living with a full house outweighs those petty negatives in a flash.

I have good conversations with my housemates on a regular basis, and we all agree that the social aspect of where we live is all a part of the London experience. Due to the amount of people, you can almost guarantee someone, somewhere in the house, will do something with you (if they haven’t already invited you out). I go out to dinner with a person one night, and go running with another the next morning; I can wake up at 2am and join someone watching a movie, I sometimes even get home from work and everyone’s going out partying; I literally have the opportunity to socialize 24/7. The best part about it is that people know people, so you end up making friends through friends. Coming here, you just need to realize that London is a huge scary place if you are too fearful of mingling.

I never have been a huge drinker and in New Zealand if I was to go out with friends I would either be a one drink sort of girl, or the sober driver home. However, my own choice to stay clearheaded hasn’t stopped me from going out with a group from the house; I still go out to have a laugh with everyone – even if it is only lemonade or soda water in my glass. Being so venturous towards being confident with new people and socializing makes all the difference when it comes to truly living out an experience. You have to step out of your comfort zone, and I know I say this a lot, but it’s the complete and utter truth. If it wasn’t for my ability to put myself on the line, I would not be where I am today.

“Paige, want to come to Amsterdam with me and Pip?” – Um, do you even have to ask?

I guess where I’m taking this is back to, and 100% based on, the idea of my mantra. Of course, I have friends and family, and the most beautiful home, back in New Zealand, but because I decided to live for myself, and move here, I now have so much to live for. I have a city and Europe waiting to be explored, I have a new healthy lifestyle – which has allowed me to drop the pounds faster than I thought possible – I have new friends who share the same passions, and I have a new found respect for myself.

I know the quote is accurate, and I will endure to follow its meaning in my life as much as possible.

So should you.