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  • Writer's pictureJared Viljoen

Genesis of an idea - part the second.

Note: as is so often the case, my wife was right and I ended up writing long requiring that I break it into two. You can find part one here.

Here beginneth part the second.

Life and responsibilities

Where were we?

Right. Somewhere around my early twenties. As noted in the part one, I had well and truly fallen in love with words and stories in their various formats. Then life started happening and creativity took a back seat.

I left school, got a few jobs (sign-writer, copy boy), was a missionary for two years in Australia, came back, got another job, and started university. As a result of becoming friends with two highly successful business owners (we’re talking in the hundred million dollar ballpark), my grand idea at that point was to become a ‘serious’ business-man, so I enrolled in a business degree. I lasted all of six weeks before I realised that accounting and finance didn’t rock my creative boat and I left to work at my Uncle’s video store. And I started writing again.

I would sit at the counter and work on a meandering urban-fantasy called ‘Symon’ (my fantastical way of spelling it) between customers. It was a story that wasn’t really going anywhere, but it took me about 150,000 words to figure that out. So, I stopped it about seventy-five percent of the way through and started on book two (I know, I know. If book one wasn’t going anywhere, how on earth did I end up at book two?).

After a year of watching endless movies at my uncle’s video store, I enrolled at a different university, this time choosing something closer to home by settling on a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in English. I was finally going to take writing seriously.

Until, I didn’t.

Somewhere between year one and year two, I dabbled with english, and media studies, and film. At some point in that journey I changed my major from English to Psychology because I had got it into my head that I needed a ‘real’ career and at least with psychology I would have a degree that lead to jobs more concrete than ‘being a writer’ (I should say that I actually was also interested in psychology, but it wasn’t a first love). And so, for the next ten years, I dragged myself through a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology and, following that, my wife dragged me through a Master’s Degree in psychology. Somewhere along the way I also spent a year getting what they called an ‘Advanced Diploma in Applied Writing’ from another tertiary institute (my third) which was basically just working on a novel for a year. I loved it. It was another attempt to get back in touch with my first love. But, I struggled (more on that later), and never finished the novel.

And, life kept moving on.

While at university I also got married, had four children, started working at the dole office, got another job assessing inmates for suicide at a prison, shifted our family to a city eight hours away, and started working for the central government in indigenous policy using skills gained from my psychology/statistics/research experience at university. After a few years of that, we moved back to Auckland, and I worked in local government for more money and a better job, also in indigenous policy. From there, I broke away and began working for myself as a consultant. This was all work I enjoyed and where I met some amazing people and developed some great skills.

But it wasn’t writing or telling stories.

As with my first serious attempt at writing a novel, it was a meandering and somewhat direction-less educational and career journey. At points I would recommit myself to pursuing my creative side, but would soon forget this renewed commitment and get bogged down with the responsibilities of life and leave projects half-finished.

2020 Arrives in all its COVID glory

It took COVID to shock me enough to stop and see what had been going on for the past twenty-plus years. After a few months of working for myself, I had actually secured myself a contract that looked promising, at least for the next year or two. Then the pandemic hit and in April 2020 I found myself out of work with four children to feed and a monthly rent of $2400. When I got the email saying that my contract was being pulled, I had an interesting experience. One part of me was scared. How would we survive? But another part of me felt free and excited. I immediately thought about finally writing my masterpiece. I was excited. However, COVID had more to reveal.

A few months in, I had written very little. I struggled to find any more work and things were looking financially precarious. My mood took a dive until I was well and truly depressed. Eventually my wife and I sat down and talked about a few things and I finally met with a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with moderate - severe depression. It was a lightbulb moment, a bit ironic since I had spent about ten years studying psychology!

Suddenly, this feeling I had since about the age of thirteen, finally had a name. This feeling that everything in life felt like pushing through mud. Through the years of trying to write (and work, and raise a family, and fight with my weight), I had also been trying to figure out why I struggled to just live daily life. Why on some days did it feel like getting out of bed was just about the hardest thing anyone could do? Why could I never finish anything? Why would I sit at work staring at the computer screen for hours, unable to convince myself to do my work? Why did I find it so hard to write, something that I apparently loved? Why did people tell me I was talented, but they couldn’t understand why I hadn’t done more with my life? For years I had worked on productivity hacks, planning hacks. I read multiple books and filled multiple notebooks with yet another way of winning the day! It took COVID to bring me low enough to look it in the face. Perhaps because there was nothing else for me to do - the world had nearly literally ground to a halt.

So. 2020 arrived. At thirty-nine years old, it has been a year of challenge, of significant lows, but also a year of waking up. From unemployment, to a low few months, to getting a diagnosis and being put on medication (something I’m still grappling with), to now taking it all and creating something new.

Because of the unemployment, and repeated rejections from prospective employers, and depression, amidst other things, I had to explore new options. For years I had wondered how I could bring my seemingly disparate interests and skills together: psychology, self-help, serving others, creativity, writing, storytelling, planning, notebooks. Nothing quite clicked. All my brain could think was to be a full-time writer, or be a psychologist, or stay working in government in a field I had carved out for myself. It took COVID and a dive into severe depression to shake the muse loose and spark something new.

I figured I wasn’t the only writer-in-development that struggled like this. And things clicked: what if I combined my love for notebooks, with my skills and love for psychology and planning systems, with my love for writing and being creative? What would that look like?

And The Writer’s MoJo was born. A fresh energy entered my life. I was suddenly motivated to sit at the desk and work late into the night, where previously working for more than an hour at a time had felt like torture. I was excited to get up and get to work. The ideas were flowing, and optimism and energy filled me. I can only describe it as divine intervention, and I’m serious when I say that. I had tapped into the inner part of myself that is part of every living thing, the creative spirit/spark/muse. The divine part of us. The eternal part of our nature and, when I did that, heaven reached back.

Of course, I write all of this without rivers of success flowing into my bank account. I don’t have a million followers or likes yet. The Kickstarter campaign is live but is taking a sputtering few breaths as it struggles for life. The facebook pages and website are lucky if they get one or two people per day. I don’t even know if anyone will read this post. It’s scary. I’ve put myself out into the world, and I’m not sure how it will be received. As an introvert, it’s not a comfortable place to stand.

BUT, I think it is important to write about my journey toward success before success arrives. So often we hear that story and enjoy it after the fact. It’s easy to be inspired looking back, when the difficult moments are validated by the happy exclamation mark at the end. This is an attempt to enjoy the success before the happy ending, an effort to experience the journey’s richness now, richness that could be lost in the safety of hindsight. If there is anything I’ve learned in life and in the crucible named 2020, anything of great value in my life has not come through ease. Writing the journey now is an act of faith and hope in what is to come.

So, this is my journey. I don’t write as an expert, but as a fellow-traveller with a particular perspective. The Writer’s MoJo represents an evolution in this journey. I hope it will be useful to someone out there and maybe help them push through their mud, as I’ve been pushing (and continue to push) through mine.



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