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Celebrate the wins
Allow yourself to bask in your success, and rest, before your next endeavour.
There’s less than a week to go until my conversation with the award-winning author and screenwriter, Lauren Beukes, so now would be a great time to get your FREE tickets!
Lauren and I will be chatting about her new novel, Bridge and the experience of seeing The Shining Girls adapted for tv (if you've not seen it, Jamie Bell is positively terrifying in it!). We're also going to be talking about how she uses her journalism skills to research her stories, how she finds people to interview and how to do those interviews ethically. Plus what it's like to be a writer with ADHD, working with development editors, and her recent move to the UK. See you next Monday, 23 Oct, at 19:00 BST!
This week’s newsletter has been prompted by last week’s Ada Lovelace Day, the annual celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology and engineering which I founded in 2009 and have organised every year since. This year was the first since 2019 that I’ve organised an in-person event, which happened last Tuesday at the Royal Institution.
I had, in all honesty, forgotten how enjoyable it is to run an in-person event, how gratifying it is to watch people enjoying themselves so much, and how satisfying it is to see just how much delight a great event can bring both speaker and audience.
This isn’t to toot my own horn (though tbh, I probably should toot it more often!), but more to set the stage for one of my failings and my new attempt to tackle it: You see, I tend not to celebrate my successes. I finish a project up then immediately start preparing for whatever comes next.
That’s partly down to having been working as a freelance since the late 90s – the uncertainty of freelance life means that celebration feels like tempting fate. If I celebrate this success, will I get any future work?
Stupid, I know. Superstitious, even.
Worse, freelance life can be very feast-or-famine. Success doesn’t last long because there’s always uncertainty about what’s coming next. Yeah, sure, this month’s bills got paid, but what about next month’s? That ever-present worry can really take the fun out of a celebration.
But surely, this precarity means we should celebrate more? That’s my conclusion, anyway, so last Saturday my husband and I went out to dinner and toasted my success. I took a moment to really feel it, to take it in and internalise it. A lot of work goes into ALD every year and this year was no different. It’s important for me to recognise that and to mark not just the success but the completion.
During the worst of the pandemic, (which is definitely not over), the years seemed to blur into one. All the normal markers of time’s passing vanished for a while and the uncertainty thrown up by finances badly damaged by companies reducing their sponsorship spend meant that I threw myself into each new project as it came up, rarely pausing for breath. So that’s another thing that I’m taking pains to do – take some time off to recuperate and recharge.
And it’s the same with my writing. No matter how small the win, whether it’s a submission to a competition or prize, or just finishing a new draft, these successes are going to be celebrated. And I’ll take time for a little self-care afterwards. One can’t just keep ploughing on creatively without acknowledging our milestones, without taking the time to mark those moments of progress. Or without taking a moment to regroup, recharge and reset.
Life is a series of ups and downs. Celebrating the ups and resting after intense periods of work means we’re emotionally more capable of weathering the downs and better prepared for our next tranche of work. We can’t just throw our all into the now, we need to prepare for the next, and for whatever comes after that.