Following his heart - Story by Sonya Bloomfield
I opened up Facebook the other day and saw a message from an old friend telling everyone that he had just been chosen to step into a six month incubator writing programme, ka pai!
I had to find out how he made the transition to become a writer. What I thought was going to be a story about changing careers turned out to be a story about a man developing a craft that had such a pull he had to figure out how to make it happen.
Lennox is Ngati Porou and Ngati Kahungunu descent. He’s always had a spiritual connection, he said “being a Maori you always have spirituality, it is an inbuilt inherent thing.” As a teenager he connected to holistic writing through books his sister shared with him and this has really influenced his view.
Initially Lennox was not an avid writer but he always loved to read. He dabbled with writing a little in his 20’s but it wasn’t till his mid 30’s that it began to really take hold of him. He had built up a strong landscaping business but he was feeling like he was at a crossroads and didn’t see himself doing this into his future. He also went through relationship break up and was at a really low place. “Becoming a writer seemed so far away and the transition to do it seemed worlds apart. I had no creative writing degree, none of that sort of stuff.”
As Lennox searched for answers he devoured a whole lot of self-help material and began healing from the inside out. This is when he started journaling and writing poetry.
“I started collecting words, anything that I would read or see on TV, anything that peaked my interest to try and build my vocabulary.” He would often rewrite sentences, copy them down and look over them, working through how they could be structured in different ways.
“I started making my own thesaurus.” He found the act of writing it down and finding the meaning gave him an awareness of what he liked and was interested in.
“I wasn’t that fast at typing so I rewrote a whole Eckhart Tolle book to increase my typing speed, his material was a huge help to me and the process of typing it out helped reinforce the message and become it.” He was writing poetry about the simplicity of every day life. “We lose sight of those things, that’s what life is made up of, the small things.”
He was now writing quite a bit and feeling quite connected with it, although self-doubt would still creep into his mind he plucked up the courage to show some of his work to a group he was meeting.
By this stage I was beginning to get completely engrossed in Lennox’s story of how he taught himself to write and the work that has gone into to him honing his craft. His fulltime role was in sales in the coffee industry and in his spare time being a husband and father. He was writing when he could.
“I was still battling with what I was doing and wanted to be a writer, the attraction to it got stronger and stronger and stronger. When I wasn’t doing it, I was flat, and when I was writing I felt good. The more I wrote the better I got. I am a hell of a lot better to when I first started. I’ve always believed stuff can be learnt, it is just the amount of time you put to it.”
“When you really love what you do, you find that in the end it is easier to be in that space.”
As time progressed and the years went by Lennox’s desire to write continued and he wanted to start writing a novel. Because he had a family he couldn’t just give up his job so he had to find another way. By this time they had had their second boy Tane and with Lennox writing at night time he was struggling to find a balance between family, work and writing. When he was out of balance it really affected his creative space.
“Then I woke up one morning and had an epiphany. I was going to stop working at night and get up in the early hours and write. That morning I wrote a contract to Katie and the kids.”
“I promise to be a good Dad and husband and not be to hōhā anymore, and commit to my work during the day and commit to write this book.”
They all signed the contract and from the next night onwards Lennox has been getting up at 2-3am nearly every morning. He has his ritual, he gets up and sits down in front of the fireplace, lights a candle and meditates for half an hour. Then he makes himself a cup of tea, sits down in front of the computer, lights another candle and writes.
“It doesn’t feel disciplined, it is natural now, I just wake up. That’s a hard place to get to when you are going through being challenged about whether or not you can do this. I used to get up and get discouraged and chase word count. You read stuff about chasing word count but putting it into perspective is important. I’ve read a lot about other authors and their habits. You get up and have something in your mind that you need to achieve but it is not the end of the world if you don’t do it. There are times when you get up, and you write it, and then delete it. At the end of the night you don’t have anything but you have thought about a lot.”
“For me it’s about honouring that space, make a cup of tea and sit down and at least I’ve tried. You might not have a good day and then the next day it’s wicked. It’s a matter of understanding yourself, or more awareness about your craft, that it’s nothing to beat yourself up over. I used to be bull at a gate. Now I’m a lot more patient, not competing with anyone but myself.”
“Getting up early works for me. I knew it wasn’t going to be forever but it was something that had to be done.”
That was in February 2012 and since then he has been plugging away. He’s begun sharing the odd poem with friends and realized that he has to put it out there. When he does he gets great feedback and energy from that.
The support and encouragement from Katie has been huge. She was the one that sent him the link for the writing competition. It is held by a respected publishing house and enables budding wannabe writers to enter a body of work to be scrutinized by a panel of judges. Six writers were to chosen to step into a six month incubator writing programme. The intention of the programme is to take “the chosen ones” work through to a completed first draft. Then if it’s good enough, to be published. He gets a mentor and weekly financial support, which in Lennox’s words is nothing short of PRIMO!
Lennox has just resigned from his sales role and gone back to a leadership role in landscaping 3 days a week. He’s achieved time with his family and time for writing.
They say it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery in something. Lennox has carved out those hours through moments in the day in the early days, and in recent times through hours in the night. He’s honoured his contract to his family and he’s honoured the space he created to write during the night. He’s had his good days and his bad days and through it all he’s finally got to this place through a labour of love.
This is only the beginning.