Cost-of-Living Adaptation: Magellan Dissanayaka, writer and novelist

From university to first publication amidst the cost-of-living crisis

Cost-of-Living Adaptation: Magellan Dissanayaka, writer and novelist

It is no secret that the UK is not currently in a good place, with rising inflation, job insecurity and an out-of-control housing market. As a result, the cost-of-living crisis has impacted creatives and writers nationwide. To pursue creative passions, writers must first find a way to survive in a challenging socio-economic climate. In this article, I delve into my experiences as a writer and explore how I've had to balance an ever-increasing workload against the stresses of day-to-day life whilst remaining committed to my creative projects. 

Reality

First, some background is in order. I started writing at a young age in primary school, and I was always a voracious reader and loved books. When I was 22, after finishing my bachelor's degree, I decided I wanted to make my career as a professional writer. 

The trials and tribulations of writing are often hard and lonely. During the pandemic I was able to truly practice and hone my craft. I accepted the task with enthusiasm and the knowledge that if I put in the time and did the work, I would achieve the goals I sought. As a result, I started a Master’s degree in Novel Writing at the University of Middlesex with the aim to challenge me as a writer and find a mentor within the field. 

All things considered, with the world in lockdown, I feel I made the best of a challenging situation.

However, when the cost-of-living crisis emerged, I didn't anticipate how difficult it was to manage and commit to writing with the same enthusiasm. In the past, I approached writing by sitting down and forcing myself to write even when I didn't feel like it, alongside my day job (unfortunately something many aspiring writers need) as a Personal Trainer. This built up a robust and reliable writing habit, allowing me to practice my craft. With the increased pressure of the cost of living crisis, soaring bills and an increase in rent prices, I found my focus distracted, and it became harder than ever to sit down and finish my novel.

This left me feeling a sense of guilt and doubt, with a little voice saying, "Magellan, you're not doing enough. Are you even committed?" These negative thought patterns began to create more friction between me and my passion, and there were many days when I couldn't write or could only manage a few hundred words at most. I lost momentum and I lost my confidence.

Adaptation

To combat these feelings, I began to treat myself as if I were a Personal Training client. I had to give myself the same advice I gave to my clients and treat myself with the same care and compassion as someone nervous and looking to begin training in the gym.

I believe all good solutions come from great questions. I asked myself, how am I going to fix this? As a result, I devised a series of strategies. Firstly, I began using an app called Balance, a guided meditation tool with a number of meditations that helped me rebuild my self-esteem and helped me decompress, thus freeing my mind up for creative or physical work. Secondly, it became critical to exercise the body. I'm currently a blue belt in Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu. Training consistently, sometimes five times a week, helped to clear my mind. It's tough to feel stressed about bills and rent when another human is trying to strangle you with a rear naked choke. 

Additionally, having constant feedback about the development of my martial skills allowed me to reinforce my self-esteem as I could physically feel the progress I was making by executing a new move or performing well on the training mats. I also used journaling to identify any thoughts or behavioural patterns counterproductive to my creative work.

Inspiration

I realised that my peers within the industry had likely encountered these situations before, so I looked to podcasts and YouTube to learn from other writers and find alternative methods to help alleviate the burnout and stress I was experiencing. I've been a big fan of The Rebel Author Podcast with author Sacha Black. I found her experiences dealing with burnout a great way to gain some perspective on my situation and understand that other writers have experienced similar situations. 

Following these experiences, my short story, Only in Death, was accepted by the publisher Myth and Lore to feature in a hardback book called Spun Stories. To my surprise, it has since sold out and this was a huge moment for me in developing as a writer.

Following these experiences, I’ve had to develop a different skill set to effectively manage and address my stress and burnout whilst becoming more compassionate towards myself. This has left me feeling reinvigorated and more determined than ever to become the writer I always dreamed I could be.


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Author

Magellan Dissanayaka

Magellan Dissanayaka

Magellan, a published writer and a graduate of the University of Middlesex with an MA in novel writing, combines his passion for fiction with a dedicated pursuit of martial arts, holding a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He's also an avid Warhammer enthusiast and a passionate League of Legends player.

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