There is a way of viewing the world that is the writer’s own. Different from those who blithely go through life without pillaging it for characters or plot points and different from those who don’t stick their fingers in any life cracks to see if they can prise out a few moments of writing time. It is a writer’s own dysfunctional, stressful and I guess, ultimately terminal, way of looking at the world.
I imagine it sometimes – how amazing it must be to be able to just live. To do your thing and then just go home and …chill. There is absolutely no chill for a writer. Ever. Not a single moment of chill.
Because writing is a beautiful parasitic disease that gets into your central nervous system and won’t leave. There is no choosing not to be a writer. There is no changing to art or fashion design or cooking. It doesn’t matter if you are published or unpublished, though there will be varying anxieties with both of those states. It doesn’t matter if you write children’s stories or non-fiction of speculative dystopias. There is no cure and you will feel ill-at-ease for the rest of your life.
Most of the time this is a manageable “slightly anxious self-flagellation”. Why am I just sitting there watching Netflix? There are novels to be written. Poetry to be ripped from the ether. Or worse, “slightly anxious envy”. How is it possible that other people have such space in their lives? Such delicious emptiness to sit alone at cafes and read or tweet or watch entire movies. I could fill that with a masterpiece of literature. Or at least a half-arsed self-indulgent blog post. Or something. I would fill it with words anyway. Why is time wasted on people who don’t want to write in it?
The writer’s gaze is exhausting. You look ahead to days when there is nothing in the diary, you watch weeks ahead for childless moments, for the minute space after a work deadline. You sit in your car swimming in ideas you can’t write down, stewing in creativity that you know is fleeting, that you know will bolt before you make it to a laptop. Most of your life is spent waiting to write. Impatient. Hyper-vigilant and a little agitated. You watch for it everywhere. And by the time you reach it you have created such expectations around that time that you are already depleted.
Except when you are writing.
Sometimes when you write you will feel totally at peace and at one with the movement of your ideas through your fingers and you are able to breathe all the way out. Other times you will seize up at the keyboard and feel mentally crippled and emotionally drained and wordless. But there are those few times when the flow between the world and your mind and your hands is a magical thing, one you can barely control and certainly can’t explain. And this is the drug that keeps us carrying laptops with us everywhere in case time fractures - come what shoulder pain may! The drug that keeps our eyes slightly glazed as we see that other layer of life – the one that is not only story but the dimly lit corners of life in which we write them.