Why At The Water's Edge? It is the title of a story that I started many years ago and which I've only got some sense of finishing recently after many failed attempts. The story seemed to have an energy all of its own when I first started it but every time I tried to subsequently continue or finish it the writing became heavier than lead and duller than dishwater. This is something that interests me (and I try to explore more here): what factors are involved that allow us to achieve what Maslow called "peak moments" and ultimately our potential, and at other times not. The seeking of these moments is what I think Campbell meant by "following your bliss" and for me have mostly occurred when I've been writing.
What of my background? I was a secondary school maths teacher for eight years and then a technical trainer / writer for a mobile telecommunications company (the one which introduced mobile text messaging to the world) for nine. The latter involved writing training material and travelling around the globe training mobile phone infrastructure companies on the use of equipment.
Although relatively successful in the above careers, I always felt as if there was something missing. I didn't get the buzz that I sometimes got from writing, that feeling as if "I was in touch with something". The ideal of making a living from doing something that I was fully engaged with and committed to, in conjunction with the feeling that I was selling my life short haunted me. It felt as if I was way off that path, "the track that has been there all the while waiting for you" as Joseph Campbell put it. Finally at the end of 2007 I decided to leave my well-paid employment with the intention of writing, in addition to recording some of the songs that I had written over the preceding years.
It is fair to say that since then I haven't been overwhelmed by success. Possibly the highlight has been winning second prize in a short story competition. However I do count the completion (to the extent that it is ever completed - the intention is to keep revisiting it to try to incorporate what I've since learned about writing) of the At The Water's Edge story a success. It's only recently that I've started to appreciate the enormity (yes, I know, pride comes before a fall!) of what I was trying to convey with the story and the fact that I personally continue to refer to the ideas about "sailing / motoring", faith, mean that to me, at least, these ideas are valuable.
And then there was the recording of At The Water's Edge album, so called, because when a friend was praising the story I realised it was analogous to me deciding to resign so that I could record the songs. Although many have said kind things about the album I am disappointed with it sonically. I think the songs are good but I was too ambitious trying to record it all at home and in hindsight I should have started performing the songs live first and then recorded them as they have benefited (as have I) from live performances. But then if I hadn't recorded the songs already I may not have the confidence to have performed them, so who knows. I think probably the greatest thing I've learned over this period is my awareness of my propensity to keep pushing, to keep "motoring". Maybe, finally, at last, I may be learning to take the foot off the pedal a bit. Or even completely! That's the beauty of doing what you realy want to do, going out on a limb, going it alone. There is no one else to blame except yourself and that means, shock horror, that I'm learning. I'm changing. I'm adapting.
It took three attempts for me to work up the nerve and actually hand that resignation letter in. Friends and family still treat me with suspicion and disbelief and I understand why. However it also feels like the point when I actually became "me" more fully than I ever had before. The best analogy I can think of is what I imagine it's like for a gay person to "come out". (I can see how the song Get Up! could be interpreted along those lines if anyone is looking for an anthem?!) For a long time only close friends really knew about my interest in writing and music, largely because of my lack of confidence. I've only recently realised that perhaps that this is what this is all about: not necessarily just about trying to make a living from what I create and perform but actually trying to, what I can only best describe at the moment as, "fire on all cylinders". (Of course if I achieve the latter I hope the former will follow too.) These ideas of what Maslow called self-actualization and Jung called inviduation have interested me for a long time, and have at times lead me to believe that there's more to life and us humans than is generally accepted. The At The Water's Edge section of www.andrewshearer.com attempts (albeit unsuccessfully I feel at the moment) to explore these ideas.
Of course, although I feel I am living my life more fully now than I was before it's no guarantee of success. However as time goes on, there is a sense of things coming into focus. 2013 so far has seen what have felt like significant performances from me. By no means perfect but with a kernel of something which I like and upon which I feel I can build. The year has also been a period of consolidation and review as a result of this website having a major upgrade. In addition to the underlying structure and appearance being improved, the upgrade has also involved a technique called search engine optimisation (SEO), a way of tweaking a website so that it is more "interesting" to search engines. Interestingly SEO has perhaps had the added bonus of informing the way forward for me generally.
Upgrading the website and specifically the SEO has a sense of "redrafting" about it. I think the writing analogy applied to life could be a good one. There are countless examples of bestsellers that were rejected many many times before they became successful (examples off the top of my head are Jonathan Livingston Seagull; Pride and Prejudice). My understanding is that it is often not the original drafts that finally get accepted for publication but one of the many subsequent re-writes. And perhaps that's key: continually refining and redefining what you do at the same time as being persistent. Watching a profile of David Bowie recently and being reminded how he spent ten years as moderately successful performer trying different things before he "became" David Bowie could be another example of this.
Perhaps I'm taking the "writing applied to life" analogy too far but this sense of things now coming into focus is how I've often felt with what I consider my most successful writing. I usually start off with the barest sense of something to be written, not knowing quite what it is exactly I want to say but as I proceed it slowly begins to take shape. I had the same sense when I eventually found the loose connection on the motherboard of the PC that brought the recording of At The Water's Edge to an abrupt and long, frustrating halt: a sense that there was a solution and that I shouldn't give up and throw the PC through the window. Rightly or wrongly I have that same sense about what I'm doing here.
So who knows how this is all going to end? Wherever the destination, one thing is for sure, I'm not there yet. Yes, I guess you could say, I'm all at sea, ha ha. But as I continue searching, as I keep moving that lens round (you'll find no automatic focus here!) I hope you find something here which you like. Thanks for visiting.
With Best Wishes,