Don’t Do the Done Thing – Do YOUR Thing

‘But you can’t drop out now,’ my friend exclaimed when I told him I was leaving university, two years into an English degree.

‘Why not?’ I replied.

‘Because it’s not – it’s not the done thing.’

Whenever someone tells me I can’t do something because ‘it’s not the done thing‘ I cheer inside because I know I’m putting my own needs above my fear of not fitting in.

And then I go ahead and do it.

I dropped out of uni because I was feeling deeply unhappy. The course had been a disappointment and I didn’t feel I belonged in that world.

I might have been wrong about the belonging part, but to this day I believe I was right to ignore the done thing and put my own needs first.

Don’t get me wrong – if you truly desire what society / your school / family / friends expect you to do then that’s fantastic. Happy days!

But if you don’t, it’s time to give the done thing the elbow and start putting your thing first.

Maybe in your world the done thing is to go to university but deep down you harbour dreams of becoming an entrepreneur, Richard Branson stylie. Do it. Listen to your inner calling, enrol in the University of Life and start building your thing.

Maybe the done thing amongst your friends is to get blitzed on drink or drugs every weekend but the loss of control makes you feel vulnerable and scared. To hell with putting yourself at risk for the sake of fitting in. Find your fun your way without risking your health and well-being.

Maybe the done thing in your family is to forge a high-flying business career but the thought of breakfast meetings and quarterly targets and sales quotas makes your soul shrivel. Create a career doing whatever makes your heart sing. Forge your own path. Create your thing.

Maybe the done thing in your relationship is to squash down your feelings and censor your thoughts but sometimes you can barely breathe for the repressed emotions. Speak up now. Honour your feelings. Say your thing. Loud and proud.

Maybe the done thing seems to be living your life on social media 24/7 but the incessant scrolling is making you anxious, the haters are making you depressed and you’re getting pout-ache from all the selfies. Take control of your online life. Manage your social media in a way that feels positive and light. Do your online thing.

Maybe you dream of writing a novel but you’re worried that what you want to write won’t fit any of publishing’s pigeon-holes. Write the book that makes you come alive. Write your thing, your way.  

[Side note: When you write your thing your way your writing will be way better for it.]

The truth is, when you do anything your own unique way it will be better and you will feel happier.

The trouble with the done thing is that it’s been done to death.

All too often, the done thing is the dull thing. Or the painful thing. Or the feel-the-life-force draining thing.

So, the next time you feel dull or uninspired … or downright unhappy, ask yourself:

“Am I doing my thing … or am I squeezing myself into the done thing?”

* This post was inspired by a close friend of mine’s recent decision to opt out of the done thing and do his own thing instead.

It was inspired by the courage he’s shown in swimming against the tide.

It was inspired by the joy that now shines off him as he figures out his thing. His true thing.

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How to Create a Loose Plot for your Novel or Story

If there’s one thing guaranteed to have writers banging their heads on their keyboards in despair it’s trying to find the fully formed plot for a novel.

What can seem like a great idea when inspiration first strikes can soon appear daunting when faced with the challenge of expanding it from scrawled note to 300+ page manuscript.

Before I start writing a novel I like to create a loose outline to guide me.

Today I’m going to share how I create this outline. So if you have the germ of an idea for a novel (or story) use the exercises below to help your idea grow.

Simply free-write your answers to the following questions (I will use how I came up with the plot outline for my novel Finding Cherokee Brown to demonstrate):

What is the core story you want to tell?

This is the one-line pitch. The crux of your novel. The central story.

For Finding Cherokee Brown it was: The story of one girl’s bid to beat her bullies.

What are the sub-plots?

These are all the other storylines that will weave in with the central one.

In Finding Cherokee Brown the subplots were:

  • Cherokee being reconciled with her errant, rock musician father
  • Cherokee writing her first book
  • Cherokee falling in love with graffiti artist Harrison
  • Cherokee realising that her mum and step-dad have her best interests at heart

What subplots do you want to include in your novel? Try answering these three questions as prompts:

  • On their way to achieving their main goal, what obstacles will your central character encounter?
  • Do you have more than one main character?
  • What are their storylines?

What key scenes do you have to have in your story?

Usually when I flesh out my characters and begin plotting a novel some key ideas or scenes will pop into my mind. When I began work on Finding Cherokee Brown I knew that there had to be a showdown scene between Cherokee and her bullies and I wanted it to take place in a school assembly for maximum impact. Also, I had a vivid picture her at some point having to seek refuge in the disabled toilet in school.

I didn’t know exactly where these scenes were going to take place in the plot but I knew they had to be in there somewhere.

What scenes do you have to have in your novel? It doesn’t matter if you’re not sure exactly where they will go, just jot them down.

How do you want your book to end?

Although I like to plot loosely, I always want to know where my novel will end and how I want my main character to feel at the end.

When I began work on Finding Cherokee Brown I knew that I wanted my heroine to end up in Paris and I knew that I wanted the final scene to take place at Sacre Coeur (and not just because it’s my favourite place in the world and I wanted an excuse for a ‘research trip’!)

I also wanted Cherokee to end up feeling wiser, loved and empowered.

How do you want your main characters to feel at the end of your novel? What do you want them to have overcome? Where do you want them to be?

Getting clear on the ending is like programming your final destination into a sat nav. Even if it’s somewhere you’ve never been before and you’re unsure of the route you’re going to take it gives you the security of knowing where you’ll end up.

It gives you something to work towards.

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Do you need help with your writing?

After years of helping people with their writing through my workshops, talks and Writing Consultancy I’m very excited to be developing my first novel-writing e-course.

And in order to make sure it’s as helpful as possible I’d like to hear from you.

What aspects of novel writing do you struggle with?

What would you like to feel more confident about when it comes to your writing?

What nuts and bolts advice would you really appreciate?

Let me know in the comments below, or email me at: curhamcopy[AT]gmail[DOT]com

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