Choices and Decisions

We must eat and drink simply to survive, and that, of course, is the most important decision we all make—if we are to exist. After making the choice to go on, the quality of our life is next and that is improved by shelter, and fulfilment, which may or may not include companionship, with due respect to Mr Maslow and his Theory

From the moment we wake up every day our life is filled with making decisions based on choices … selecting which direction to take.

When a creative writer develops an idea and produces the cast for a story, the entire process from those early ideas right through to the publication of the book is filled with choices. Within the story, each character must make decisions. Those are designed to produce the various incentives for the character and action to move forward, and to maintain the reader’s interest. If you’re still reading, my choices for this post are working, so far.

For an author, while the internet is a wonderful source of information, and a valuable marketing tool, it can be a distraction, cause laziness, and among other things, at worst, deplete self-confidence. In terms of ‘research’, we authors now have an incredible volume of information at our fingertips, but we must be wary and professional. Google, Wikipedia and suchlike, with respect, are not factual deposits of information on all that ever was, is, or will be. We must be prepared to make some effort (apart from producing our stories), by reading widely, and utilising multiple sources to corroborate and balance our information.

Smoking, alcohol, and drugs are addictive and harmful when overused. Social media too, is habit forming, and while we have the choice to join a site, a group, or actively partake in discussions, it is easy to be drawn in. ‘Click-bait’ is the phrase used to tease someone into reading an article, post, or whatever in media. We are all susceptible to being ‘caught’ and as we delve deeper into the article, the active thread of comments, or information, we invariably find ourselves going down a rabbit hole. Personally, I feel guilty and cheated in equal measure when I realise I’ve spent half an hour or more on social media … and gained nothing of any benefit.

Are you susceptible to the lure of a literary or graphic hook?

When you saw the title of this blog post, what was it that captured your interest?

Did you have concerns about how far you might read, and how much time might be spent on it?

Those are not trick questions. Any intelligent species naturally strives to explore, especially with the intention of improving understanding, or position within their group. It stems from a desire to benefit.

I’ve just returned from two weeks holiday in the Netherlands. My wife and I enjoyed a break in our caravan, based in an excellent campsite which unlike many, doesn’t have internet access. I don’t intend to detail our activities, but suffice to say, apart from booking our ferry crossings and our pitch, I had no need of internet. If we wanted access, a walk into the nearby small town to a cafe was all that was required of us.

Did I make any good decisions about my writing while away?

Earlier this year, I was having difficulty developing Crusader, my latest crime thriller, so I opted for working on Selena: Sea Nymph, my first sci-fi fantasy. Over recent months, apart from when on regular trips in our caravan, I’ve made progress with Selena, but I needed a break from the story. I arrived in the Netherlands having made the decision to only work on Crusader.

It was a good choice, and within a couple of days I was at peace, unlike many of the characters in my new crime story.

Did I make any other decisions related to writing while I was away?

Yes, and as I tend to do, I experiment with ideas and implement them without bells and whistles. In other words, unlike some folks, I don’t usually advertise my every intention on social media or elsewhere.

Over the past few months I’ve reduced the time (and energy) expended on social media. Apart from slowly withdrawing from the daily, mind-numbing frustration of some of the posts and comments (in a variety of internet locations), I’ve also left several groups.

Having made progress with my plan, in the coming months, I intend to reduce my ‘social’ media activity to the minimum. To aid me, I’ve already made my choices regarding websites, and groups on those sites, and it’s a short list. Within the sites and groups I will also be reducing my ‘friends’. I intend to remain a part of the Indie Author Support and Discussion group (IASD), but will soon relinquish my admin role.

I haven’t lost faith in my ability to write, however, writing is a passion for me, so the stresses of marketing, monitoring sales, and reaching ‘targets’ are not concerns. Whether or not my work is selling is in the hands of those who see what I produce, and they will decide my level of success.

In a brief visit to Facebook on my return I was delighted to learn that not one, but two of my titles had received a Reader’s Choice Award in the Connections eMagazine, a superb platform for authors. Codename: Foxglove achieved a Silver in the Thriller/Suspense category, and Amsterdam Calling achieved a Bronze in the Romance category. In the time-honoured tradition, I’d like to thank … Melanie P. Smith for her tireless energy supporting fellow authors, and also all who voted for my work. Congratulations to all of you who were honoured by an award.

For many folks it takes a long time to find a balance, but in my case, pleasure and relaxation come before stress, and any personal fulfilment or success is derived from an occasional positive comment, or review. If I entertain one person with a story, I’ve been successful, and the level of my success is increased exponentially by the number of people entertained.

Is there a difference between choices and decisions?

I think of choices as the options we perceive on our journey in life, and our decisions create the ongoing route we take. A crossroads is often used to depict this but I chose a picture I took in woodland recently. Our options in life are not always clear-cut and definite as in a relatively simple crossroads. We must occasionally be prepared to venture along a route which is not staightforward.

Thank you for taking the time to read this brief distraction, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

Busy doing nothing ….

Keukenhof Flower Gardens

Once upon a time, I blogged weekly. Back then, I was in regular contact with a lot of like-minded people, visiting blogs about writing, dragons, artwork, poetry, reviewing, and myriad other topics. I’m pleased to say that I achieved recognition with ‘awards’ for my blogging, but creative writing was about much more for me.

As the urge for storytelling increased, I slowly let go of the social aspect of blogging. My posts veered more towards my personal projects and dreams of producing a catalogue of work. In honesty, I was keen to achieve success because I tend not to go into things half-heartedly. I’d enjoyed several promotions in my long military career, and I’d proved myself in retail management, my equally long second ‘career’.

How strange it is that while we’re continually pushing ourselves, we fail to recognise how to relax.

I don’t mean sit back and read a book, or take a break and go somewhere. I mean, stop, and simply make an effort to enjoy being a human.

As I said in my latest author website News, ‘at the end of last year, I set out my stall regarding my Work in Progress but as the new year dawned, I was having difficulty maintaining the flow in my primary projects.’

A few months ago, after much deliberation, I decided (with my better half) that it was time to rejoin the caravanning fraternity. It was a self-catering holiday lifestyle that we’d enjoyed twice for long periods in the past. Following plenty of research, we chose a suitable, modern, but pre-owned caravan, and we exchanged our economy-sized car for something capable of towing.

Short trips to the Scottish Highlands, the Yorkshire Moors, and a forest in Norfolk were all pre-cursors to our first proper adventure in a while. A campsite north of Amsterdam was next up, and we were happy knowing that there would be no wi-fi, no TV, and no on-site attractions, apart from tranquility, and a pleasant view.

During our ten days in Landsmeer, we truly relaxed. We paid visits to our son, his partner, and our five-month-old grandson in the city, and they visited us. Pleasant walks locally, and trips to places of interest were all done without a hint of urgency or specific timetable. We didn’t listen to the news or allow the world to break the spell, and it was blissful to spend time at the site which was never busy.

After the first couple of days, on occasion, while my wife was enjoying one of several pastimes, I brought out my Mac, finding the inspiration to continue with my primary Work in Progress. It was as I continued the story of Selena: Sea Nymph that it hit home how ‘constant’ my output had been for months. I had spent so long feeling a need to write, read, review, and support others, and it wasn’t until I stopped that I realised how much self-imposed pressure I’d applied.

I finally recognised how much I needed a rest when I was busy doing nothing.

*

What have I been doing for a couple of months when not producing novels?

A couple of years ago, I created a pseudonym (complete with website and author profile) to write erotica. The choice of a female name was an experiment to see if a woman might sell the genre better than a man, and I opted to make her a single, Scottish, thirty-something.

While my regular brand has been resting, my other name has been producing stories. This is not to say that they are treated any less seriously than my mainstream work, because unlike some of her contemporaries, ‘she’ creates a ‘story’ as a vehicle for sexual adventures. Above all else, the tales are fun to write.

Following my break from reality for a while, I’m now revitalised and working on Selena: Sea Nymph. I will, of course, be planning regular short breaks for my wife and me to get away from it all, but I believe it will encourage my imagination and creativity.

Thank you as always for reading my thoughts and, of course, for any comments.