I remember sitting at my desk in High School – a white desk with horrible curling white legs, something out of Beauty and the Beast – and writing so fast into an old notebook that my hands ached and the pages ripped. I had so many derivative, melodramatic ideas to get out, so many unicorns to over-describe, so much tragic romance to under-develop. I was prolific. Thousands of words a week. A new novel ever month. Writing was my therapy, my drug, my calling and I loved it.
Writing to me, right now? Today? This year? It’s a misery. A source of anxiety. A reason to despise myself. I have spent a year reworking manuscripts, one of which is for a PhD and which I probably won’t even try to publish. I am changing characters to meet demands of readers and supervisors and agents and “the market”. I am responding to feedback on my earlier novels, listening to critics and fans, trying to establish a “voice”, working full time and parenting several hundred hours a week (why are they always hungry?). Even opening up a file makes me hunch nowadays, an Igor curled over a monstrous creation trying to spark life into something I can’t remember actually writing
And I just used the word ‘nowadays’.
Is it because I’m a grownup now and this a career? Or because I want people to like my work? It’s not about sales. This is Australia. I sold out my first print run and I still never made enough to take even 45 minutes off my fulltime job. I never used to care if they liked my Han Solo fan fiction or my love story set during the 1994 NBA grand finals.
The best things I’ve ever written were written entirely for myself and they fell out of me like laughter. And tears. Now I consider a writing session the fixing of a few poorly chosen metaphors from last year in a story so stripped of anything interesting that I want to blend it up with psyllium husk and use it as dietary fibre. *shrieks and shakes fist at universe* Why? What has happened to me? I’ve wandered accidently from ‘writer’ into ‘Writer’ and I just want to go back.
I want to write a story that doesn’t know where it is going. With a character I don’t know or understand – someone I’ve just met. I want to ramble and wander and lack purpose and be foolish with my time. But that’s just it, isn’t it? Writing is free, but time isn’t. I feel such pressure – 100% from within – to write really good stuff, really quickly. Sharp, insightful things. And this is hard because many times I am dull and dim. It is a miserable way to feel about a glorious affliction. And it has to change or I am going to stop writing. And I’m not even sure who I would be if I wasn’t writing something. I mean, do unicorns even exist if nobody writes about them?
So - what am I going to do about it? Because I have to do something – what a lame arse post this would be if I just sank under the waves and exhaled a few last adjectives. Well, I do have a plan. It started with a forced creative session that didn’t involve my laptop – the portal to work, the shiny, shiny internet and to all my old projects that demand more energy.
I took my notebook to a café, turned off my phone and wrote by hand for an hour – just to see what came out. I only had an hour and I spent several of those minutes cleaning up spilled coffee and fixing a wonky table (I’m a writer. Distraction is my drug). But when I started, when I actually put pen to paper, what came out wasn’t what I expected. It wasn’t the character or the plot or the genre I expected. It was a kid’s book… but it also wasn’t. It was a little real. And quite a bit paranormal. It was dark. But also not. And I walked out feeling as though I had actually accomplished something. Done something with my time. I let something out. Something I didn’t even know was in there. It was lovely. So now all I need to do – is keep writing it. For no good reason and for no one. I’m going to share it on my blog each week so that I feel pressure to get it done but I’m also going to write it just for me. And my kid. And I think it has given me a little bit of hope that the glorious outweighs the miserable. We’ll see.