ii

I don’t need a header, really. But I like the motivational number for the moment – with this post it’ll be two steps down the road to becoming a writer. I’ve already got pretty good at holding back the inner editor – though I’ll still take out the spelling mistakes. And this one is going to be a real effort, the proper half hour.

I had a whole intro almost in my head before I sat down, and now it’s gone like water. That’s why I’ve always collected notebooks – well, I’ve always collected notebooks because the next one was always going to be the one which would make me a writer, not just someone who comes up with ideas for stuff to write. But I’m glad I collected them, because now I have notebooks full of ideas and half-started projects.

It’s sad that it’s taken me this long to really take writing seriously, to see it as not only something I want to do, but as the only thing I will ever be able to fully and wholeheartedly commit to without catching myself, as if looking in a mirror and realising I’ve gained 100lbs, and knowing so clearly that I shouldn’t be in this room, this meeting, this conversation, I shouldn’t be using my energy for this work. I should be writing.

On the other hand, I’ve spent the last 15 years having ideas. I’ve spent at least the last 10 years developing these ideas, shaking them around and forcing them to survive in the harsh world outside my head. I haven’t been sharpening my writing skills, but I’ve sure as hell been sharpening my talents for ideas, recognising and developing them, killing or nurturing them. Realising that if I forget something today it’ll come back. And if it comes back again it’ll come back so strong I’ll have to do something with it.

Though that’s not really fair either – I have been sharpening my writing skills, just perhaps not in terms of writing fiction. I spent four and a half years writing about videogames, coming into work every day and striving to make prose about dull games interesting, passages about intense moments gripping, and explanations about key mappings worth reading at all. I wrote insanely creative and bonkers features and news articles. I wrote inanely straightforward walkthroughs and tips. I wrote. I burned out.

But even after that I wrote – I went back to the basics, relished the immediacy of straightlaced news reportage, of putting fact after fact and presenting it with no ambitions of raising eyebrows or stirring smiles. I was two years in a very comfortable job writing boilerplate words, but it was good because at the same time I grasped an idea I’d had years before and made it fit into a story and then I finished the story.

I am a writer. I’ve written my entire career. I wrote through my entire school life. But that was the first time in what felt like an awfully long time that I had something in front of me that was completed. It’s probably only a second draft. But it was like finding a wearable sweater (two arms, a hole for my head, another for my body) in a basket of woollen shreds and needles, regardless of how tatty it was.

After leaving journalism I started writing poetry. I didn’t write a poem a year like I’d intended to, but I did write quite a lot. Some of it was good, but almost all of it was fun to do. And right now I’m working on taking two stanzas I wrote in the first weeks of that experiment and turning them into a full blown poem which sometimes brings me out in shivers it’s so good. It is good. It’s such a good idea but I finally feel able to do it justice.

A lot of this is down to my relationship with my fiancée. We’ve talked about this poem, this idea I’ve had, almost since we first met a year ago. What has brought me to this point started then, when I first read out some of my ideas to her, the smile that came to her face which spoke almost of satisfaction, as of a suspicion being proved correct. Her enthusiasm has brought me here. Her generosity has, quite literally brought me to these words from the gift of a book.

You can write an awful lot in half an hour. To be honest, the only thing I can see worrying me about this process is that it may be an achievement in itself, and actually leave me having written nothing more than some stream-of-conciousness ramble about writing. And yet I know that’s not true. This is not an achievement (though if you’ve read this far, you should probably feel you’ve achieved something) it’s an exercise. That’s probably the most important thing. I’ll have to find some way to reinforce that.

An hour’s writing a day – including half hour of journaling – is very little to ask. Already this evening I’ve sat, watched, cooked, made tea, read, considered what to do next, eaten… Writing this entry was always there at the fringes. I intend to make sure it never gets further out than that, but I can’t ever imagine this being something I look forward to. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Eridris waits, and actually what’s positive is I’m now looking at the clock and thinking I can’t really wait five more minutes to get started on what really matters – the actual writing I’m here to do. Tonight I feel like an hour would be enough. And 25 minutes has been enough of this.

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About Ben Catley-Richardson

Writer, reader, husband. Father!
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