There has been, by happy coincidence, a lapse of some four months since the time I submitted my suggested subject matter for this article, Staying Positive, and my writing it. Looking back, I can’t say I was feeling particularly positive at the time. The very fact that I had even suggested it is really a bit of a giveaway, because what person who is really positive, I mean really truly deeply content and hopeful, has to try?
Well, four months later, I am feeling pretty bloody positive, so I feel somewhat more qualified to address the subject. So how did I get here… Really? It has had very little to do with getting what I thought I wanted. I was battling an ongoing illness at the time, and I think (in a good way) I just reached breaking point. I had to make a decision: battle on and continue to ‘stay positive’ or, (beg pardon), just give less of a fuck? Because really, ‘staying positive’ meant staying positive whilst waiting, waiting for success, waiting for recognition, waiting for the money that would accompany these things. I would sit for hours with writer friends endlessly chewing over the why this or that had been rejected or the when was this or that going to be optioned? When! Staying positive was staying expectant.
We were like teenagers dreaming of The One. I mused that searching for success in my writing career was indeed like the search for love: I’d had some heartbreak, some pretty disastrous relationships, some great one-night stands – but ultimately, I was still looking. Anyone else, who had successfully found The One, served only to highlight my own failings as a writer and were viewed with bitter envy. This endless struggle for success, and what’s more, to ‘stay positive’ while I was doing it, meant I lost my love of writing and of living. And if we do not have that, what do we have? As with many a great romance story, I missed what was standing right in front of me. My return to good health, a growing interest in my first children’s book, some great writing commissions, being lucky enough to buy a home, my enormous (when I say enormous I mean ENORMOUS) black cat, my husband and the company of a large group of mad and eclectic friends. Just because they weren’t that longed for NETFLIX series didn’t mean they weren’t still AWESOME. And I’ll take them over a NETFLIX series any day (but really… can I have both?) because a ‘big break’ comes and goes – but good people are for life.
I stopped thinking of writing as my passion (a massively loaded term), or my raison d’être, because it meant that ‘failure’ in material terms was so painful. Instead I took the advice of a girlfriend and started seeing it, like I did at the beginning: as a curiosity. It is an art which, like life, is to be approached with a spirit of play and an endless curiosity.
So that’s what I now do: I am fascinated by the people I meet, inspired by the humour and love of my friends, filled with joy by my enormous black cat and my husband, and crack ‘that big idea’ for my next story on the dance floor. I weave my experiences into my work and see it as more of a celebration of my life and all its ups and down than as a marker of success. Put simply, if happiness (or positivity) is defined by the distance between who you are and where you want to be – I lowered the bar.
By Ally Mackie
Ally is an actress, screenwriter and novelist. Her first children’s book, Tilly McBride, is in the process of being optioned for TV and is out to tender with publishers on Monday… She is represented by The Madeleine Milburn Literary TV and Film agency.