August is exciting. August is the month I travel to Derbyshire for Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Swanwick is incredibly special to me because it was winning a free week there in 2014 that launched me into a writing life. It will be even more special this year because it’s Swanwick’s 70th anniversary. I’m thinking of taking my harp with me because that's how I generally celebrate things. If I’m very brave I may even venture to perform a song I’ve written for my fellow writers, but then again, I may not. I’m already being pretty brave (well, according to my definition of the word, anyway) because I’ll be teaching one of the courses.
‘Editing Essentials’, the name of the course, has got me thinking. What, I ask myself, are the essentials? I have twice the time I had last year to expand on them, but I still doubt it will be enough. Do I speak fast or do I cut, cut, cut? I’ve trained my editing brain now to go for the latter. Less, as they say, is more. I must make choices about what are the most crucial elements - the rest can go.
This prioritising seems relevant to everything right now. As well as the Swanwick preparation I have three important writing deadlines, two of which are looming close. The writing has to take precedence over all the other things I should be getting on with. Even harp practice. But with several gigs coming up I can’t desert the harp. As with other areas in life, rehearsal time must be edited. I must focus on the essentials. It is always tempting to spend hours smugly rippling away at the pieces I can play well, but it’s ten times more useful to spend the time working on what I’m not very good at. I’ve arranged a lot of new songs recently so there’s plenty there!
In the midst of the mental hubbub I’m aware of a little warning voice. The whole ‘self-care’ thing is important, too. Maybe more important than we realise. With my history of debilitating illness, I keep reminding myself that those breaks are not an indulgence. They're an investment.
I was in panic-mode the other day about managing to do everything, and I was frankly feeling too tired and uninspired to attempt any of it. The sun was shining outside. It’s been doing a lot of that recently, trying to lure me away from my desk. This time I let it. I went for a long walk in the hills, breathed deeply and took in the scenery. My beloved Exmoor helped me, as it always does. When I got back I felt invigorated and re-enthused. It was the most productive evening I’ve had in ages. For once I’d got my priorities right and everything else just fell into place.
Purrsy, by my side as I write this, is keen to add his own feline brand of wisdom: that in fact there are only three essentials and so long as you can get these (food, sleep and love) everything really is OK.