I am good at getting what I want. To be more specific, I am good at getting what’s good for me. I used to mistake this for me being terrible at getting what I want. Even a person as resilient as myself can only get their heart broken so many times before they begin to believe the universe is plotting against them. I still believe the universe is plotting, but I no longer believe it’s against me.
I semi-satirically believe this conspiracy that my life is a television series. I have lived through too much absurdity for it to be anything otherwise. I think my life/tv show has an ensemble cast, because I am not designed to be a main character, and I think my story arc has been a c plot this season, because this year has been pretty uneventful so far.
Whilst my sadistic scriptwriters have been taking a break from taking the piss, things have started looking up in Eliza world. Lately I have been devoting myself to my personal growth. I want to live my best life, and if I know anything about fictional characters, it’s that they have more control over themselves than their writers give them credit for. If my conspiracy theory is correct, and I am indeed a character in a tv show, I’m not going to let that stop me from becoming my best self.
My self-care regimen started at a basic physical level. Each day I drink three litres of water, go to the gym, and eat healthy food. I also have a policy of spending two hours working on my novel each day, but I’m not as strict with that as I should be. I’ve now upgraded my self-care routine to include writing three pages in my journal each morning as well as my usual nighttime diary, and keeping a gratitude journal.
Whilst the physical aspects have been beneficial, the biggest shifts in my energy came when I increased the time I spent writing each day. When I wake up, writing in my journal is the last thing I want to do. I usually start by writing my dreams. Whether it’s “I dreamt I stole a chick from a farmer because he was going to kill it but I felt morally conflicted because it was his livelihood” or “I dreamt I was at a Frank Turner concert in a bus stop”, it gets words on the page, and gets my brain into the flow of writing. It tends to be around the 1.5 page mark where my groggy ramblings become creative or philosophical. Writing each morning helps me start my day feeling inspired, and it means I have plenty to think about as the day goes on.
I’ve gotten into the new habit of reading a book with a cup of green tea each morning. I’m currently reading Arundhati Roy’s “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.” I hadn’t read a novel in so long, because most of the books I’ve bought recently have been self-help books. But I love Arundhati Roy, and when I spotted this novel in my local Oxfam bookstore, my limited self-control didn’t stand a chance. As a writer, it’s so important to take time to read, and my reading time is something I often sacrifice because of uni work or my all-consuming desire to binge-watch tv shows. Not only is reading a beautiful form of escapism, it’s also a way to learn about the world, and learn about what it means to be a human and a writer. The novel I’m reading at the moment is about a transgender woman in India; it’s a world and an existence I know nothing about, but through the power of Arundhati Roy’s writing, I can see life through this perspective that is so different to my own.
The writing and reading and conscious living have blessed me with an abundance of creativity this week. I am a vessel filled with artistic energy. I’m suddenly overflowing with new ideas for this novel I’ve been working on on-and-off for six years. My time is coming, I am manifesting my desires into being, and I am getting closer to the life I want to lead.
I am an ambitious person. There are different levels of the Ambitious Eliza persona. There’s the “I will win this game of Scrabble or so help me god!” level of ambition, which is probably my most frequent outlet for it. But the more evolved expression of Ambitious Eliza is my desire to work in the television industry, and this ambition lights a fire in my soul in a way that Scrabble never will. It’s different even to my writing ambition, because it comes from a different part of me. My love of writing is like breathing, and it is my creative, artistic side. My love of media is different. It comes from my professional side. It’s the part of my life where I want to climb ladders and work my way to the top. It isn’t like breathing, it’s like a workout. It’s where I want to build muscles and be at the top of my game.
When I was in my second-to-last year of the hellscape that was school, we had to do a work experience placement, ideally related to the subject we planned to study at university. I knew by this point that I wanted a degree in Film Studies, so I did what Ambitious Eliza deemed the only rational thing to do: I googled UK-based film production companies, and compiled a list of their phone numbers. I believe it was some point in late March, and I remember sitting outside at a picnic table in the centre of the yard, during a free period, phoning up these film companies, asking if they would let me do work experience there. I’ve blocked out most of my memories from school because they were various levels of traumatic, but I remember this one clearly. There were eleven production companies on my list, written in alphabetical order. Ten of them rejected me, but I was not put off. I called the final name on the list: Working Title Films. The company which produced Bridget Jones Diary, and Love Actually, and many other wonderful films. And they said yes! I spent a week doing work experience as a runner there, in August three years ago.
I don’t know what happened to Ambitious Eliza in the years since then, but she hasn’t been particularly active. Life squished her down and she camped out under a rock for a while. But something shifted in me over the past couple of days. For the first time in three years, I saw the forest instead of just the trees, and Ambitious Eliza crawled out from under her rock.
Opportunities are all around me, if I look in the right places. Yesterday I had a burst of inspiration that connected something I was personally invested in with my plans of how to advance my future career, and I felt like the fates were smiling upon me. In addition to this, my ideas for my novel have been flowing with unusual ease lately.
The other day, it suddenly struck me the importance of media within my novel. It’s only mentioned briefly in the context of newspapers and radio, but both my protagonist and antagonist use it as a tool in their war against each other. I looked at this tiny aspect of a novel I first wrote six years ago, and I saw the potential for a whole new dynamic in the story. I am fascinated by media, I am particularly fond of audience theory. The fact that I can fit my passion for media into my novel makes me feel like I am in alignment, that I am on the right path in my life.
I was fourteen when I began writing the novel that was once called “Consequence” and probably won’t change its name because I’m horrendous at thinking up book titles. I got the idea on April 14th, and began it on April 15th. About three months prior to this, I began reading the book that changed my life: The Hunger Games. Up until that point my great love had been historical novels. I read them, but I also wrote them (poorly). The Hunger Games opened my eyes to dystopian fiction. It changed me, but more importantly, it irrevocably changed the type of novels I wrote. Dystopia is the perfect genre for me: strong heroines, revolutions, cutting socio-political commentary? Delicious.
When I began writing Consequence, I wanted to write a dystopian novel. It did not end up as one, probably because I didn’t put enough effort into world building. The original version of the novel sits somewhere on the fence between science fiction and fantasy. It never quite fit into one genre, which frustrated me to no end, because my great passion in life is putting things into neat categories and labels in my mind so that I can understand them properly. Being unable to fit my novel into a genre irks me even more than being unable to fit myself into one Hogwarts house.
But as I began to develop the significance of media in the new version of my novel, it occurred to me that this version of my novel is becoming increasingly more dystopian than the original. Unlike fourteen-year-old Eliza, twenty-year-old Eliza has put considerable effort into the world building of her novel. One of the themes I’m exploring is how technological advancement differs between the two main countries in the novel, Estonia and Russia, and the link between technology and freedom. I wanted to create a greater disparity between the direction the two countries have headed in in the world of the novel. The more utopian my representation of Estonia becomes, the more dystopian Russia must become in contrast.
Consequence was originally set approximately 300 hundred years in the future, but I chose to change this in the new version. I’m currently thinking it will be set approximately 125 years from now, around the year 2150.
Just under a year ago, I was in a war museum in Riga, Latvia, talking to a friend (let’s be real, he was a crush. If it was a friend I doubt I’d remember the conversation a year later). I was talking about my book, surprised someone actually wanted to hear about it (you can see why I had a crush on him, right?), and he asked me what kinds of technology I’d invented in my book. And I was like “whaaaaat?” I set my novel in the future because I wanted two things: 1) freedom in my creation of setting, 2) a nice backdrop to explore how much humanity will screw itself over in coming years. I was never in it for the technology (hence why I can never quite fit my novel into the science fiction genre). My past crush, let’s call him He Who Shall Not Be Named, pointed to the historical weapons all around us, and reminded me that these were from about three hundred years ago. The weapons in question were bayonets. We currently live in a world where nuclear weapons exist. His point was: technology can advance a hell of a lot in 300 years.
Whilst He Who Shall Not Be Named ended up causing me a wee bit of heartache in the end, he made me think long and hard about some of the decisions I’d made within my novel, and I am grateful to him for that. Thinking about technology doesn’t come naturally to me, because it’s not where my interest lies. I want to write about human nature, I want to write scathing social critiques. Technology is just background scenery. But where do technology and scathing social critiques interact? Dystopia. And what kind of technology am I interested in? Media. You can see where this is going.
I decided to sacrifice the 300-years-in-the-future part, because I know my brain doesn’t work in the right way to think up lots of futuristic technology and somehow weave it into the story I’ve already written. But 125 years I can do. It gives me enough scope to destroy half the world in a dreadful war until only a select portion of Eastern Europe remains. But it also means that I can build off of the real world, both in political themes and technological ones. If you look at modern Estonia, it is entirely plausible that it will become a technologically advanced utopian hub of science in a century from now. Just like how if you look at the world we live in now, it almost goes without saying that media coverage will become a weapon in any major war. I still have some way to go with my world building, especially if it’s set in the near future rather than a distant one. But it’s a process I aim to enjoy, because I’m finally writing the book my fourteen-year-old self couldn’t. I am writing the dystopian novel of my dreams, and it’s made me realise that what’s meant to be will happen when the time is right.
Six years ago, I was not the writer I am now. I was good, for a fourteen-year-old. But I was not capable of writing the novel Consequence was destined to become. I used to be scared of the darker parts of myself. Whilst my shadow side is evident in the themes of the original novel, many of its darkest aspects are glossed over because I was scared to explore them fully. It’s hard to write dystopia when you shy away from your own dark side. This time I am embracing the darkness within me, and I am writing an uncensored version of the original story. I write best when I explore themes of destruction and transformation, and that is what this book is about. After all, it’s based on the Persephone myth, which is pretty much the original tale of destruction and rebirth.
Seeing the way my novel has finally come into its own after all these years has changed the way I think about “meant to be” and about my ability to get what I want. Patience has never been my strong point but it’s a skill I’m learning as I get older. I spent months, almost a year, waiting for things I thought were meant for me. I was misguided, and I clung onto hope in spite of its futility. It was the right path because it allowed me to grow into the person I am today, but the end goal was fool’s gold. Now I’ve reached the point in my life where I know what’s good for me. The right energy vibrates differently. I know which people belong in my life, I know which paths I’m meant to travel down, I know which goals I’m meant to pursue. When you follow the right path, everything will fall into alignment and new opportunities will appear. You’ll feel like the universe is conspiring with you, rather than against you.
I have felt unprecedentedly good for the past couple of days. I’ve been doing happy dances in my bedroom mirror, randomly bursting into song as I chop vegetables. Something in the air has changed. And I can feel different pieces of the jigsaw falling into place. My life right now is a conspiracy of creativity, and I am blossoming into the artist I am meant to be. I can say it’s a result of the changes I’ve made in my life, or I can ascribe it to the movement of the stars. I would say both explanations are correct. I have spent the past year feeling like I was trying to walk through treacle, and finally I am able to stride forward, unencumbered. And damn, it feels so good to move.