As with anything that relies of a stream of consciousness, there has to come a point where the noise runs out. Or at least for me it does – any diary or one-a-day thing like this I’ve tried has reached a point of limbo where I’ll talk either about a) the limbo itself, b) that I’ve nothing to write or c) end up circling a drain of self-examining blah.

It’s a shame because often it ruins a good thing, and takes something that was healthy into a place that’s not even bad, it’s just pointless and self-defeating. Fortunately my better half has kicked out most of the luggage responsible for c), and so far I’ve avoided the dullard’s choice, b). So I’m on a).

The reason I’m on a) is probably because I’m not remembering that this is supposed to be free-form, give me a chance to get rid of the stuff preventing me from writing and leave me fresh to start putting pen to paper. Which makes what the book says about airing tension make sense at least.

Often I’m tense about writing because there’s that question: If you write about it, then you think about it, and if you think about it then is it part of you? For a long time the characters I’ve attempted to write have either been husks, with no interior life or essence, or they’ve been essentially versions of me. Except that’s not even true, because they’ve been versions of the safe me, versions that aren’t too dangerous.

Because we all have thoughts we wish we didn’t. We all think about things we know we shouldn’t do. But writing is so often about exploring these unspoken parts, bringing them out into the daylight and exposing them, and that’s where the great majority of tension has been for me in writing for as long as I can remember.

Still, now, I worry that if I write about infidelity, if I write about a man who chases women, if my character feels angry with his wife, or if it’s a she, and she can’t stand her family, or she has a baby but something dark inside encourages her to kill it, what does that say about me? What does it say that I can even imagine that just off the top of my head?

But forget what it says about me, the worry is that it says something about other people in my life, or the way I feel about them, or the way I think they feel about me, or on and on and on into madness, where no writing gets done because you’re too scared of the real you. My fiancée has helped dampen these worries, she’s seen that I’m almost afraid (or ashamed?) of myself and has tried to make me see that I don’t need to be.

As much as I’m enjoying now the co-writing, with its firing back and forth, its developing an idea from two perspectives and its refreshingly untimid criticism of stuff that just doesn’t work – plus the fact that she is incredibly undefensive about her suggestions or my reasons for discounting them – my feeling is that this is working so well because we both buy into the idea. I don’t know if she’d be as keen were the idea much less, well, of something to be proud of.

And yet perhaps that’s a good thing in itself – I’ve long decided to stop wasting time forcing myself to read books I’m not enjoying, because what’s the point. So goes the same aim for writing – what’s the point of writing things you can never be proud of? The co-writing is teaching me that when there’s someone else who gets this close to the writing, you try harder because it has to make them proud as well.

If I only ever write one thing and it makes us both proud, then I’d rather that instead of endless shifty stories I can never really feel we share. Yet I can see that if we can make this one thing something to be proud of, there’s going to be more beyond it, because with each session we’re both going to get stronger, and even more able to pursue the huge issues which intrigue us, rather than me chasing the things which morbidly fascinate me but have nothing really to offer beyond, well, almost emotional masturbation.


About Ben Catley-Richardson

Writer, reader, husband. Father!
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