You can write for the sake of it, you can write for change, you can write to tell stories, or you can write to explore. I want to write to explore. I love stories, am fascinated by Stephen King’s worlds spun in his prolific writing, and he does explore – childhood, heroism, horror… But his worlds are other, they are fiction. Not that this dimishes their worth, but that is not my world.

I’ve tried to write fiction like that, stories. I’ve enjoyed it, and it’s fantastic to do when it opens up and the narrative begins unspooling into your lap like a ball of wool. But I feel unable to pursue the exploration of the ideas which drive me within stories, within this fiction. It has a quality of unreality, of otherness that doesn’t relate to the world as we know it enough to satisfy me.

This is effectively writing for the sake of it, writing to be writing. There’s a value here, clearly, in that it’s keeping me going and ensuring I don’t backslide to my old ways of doubtful, agonised conflict between the pedestal-bound icon of WRITING and the more earth-bound yet no less profound act of writing. But once this entry is complete, I will not feel a sense of closure that would come with the completion of a first draft.

Once I strove to write for change, environmental, journalistic, personal, to change myself or others, or a concept. To lend my arm and my ink to a force that existed outside of my own self and pushed for a certain kind of change. I’m proud of much of this writing, though I don’t believe I achieved change of any kind. I certainly never succeeded in changing my own perception that it just wasn’t enough.

I want to explore themes. Love and self-conflict, of villany and goodness, of trust and fear. I want to explore what it means to be alive in our world, what it means to make a choice, what it means to be a man, or to attempt to be, or to fail to be. What it means to live and have a purpose, or die without a purpose, or to find purpose. Stories explore within narrative, but my aim is to explore within a story – for the story to be the frame rather than the drive.

However. I’m also popping with ideas for stories, and always have been. What I’m finally feeling capable of doing is taking the story arc that has appeared through my idea, or the concept which forms the heart of it, and try to forge it together with the exploration or questioning I similarly cannot help my thoughts from pursuing. This is the goal I have for the poem – expression of questions about life within a gripping story – and the goal I have for all my writing.

That I’ve reached this point is fundamentally due to my relationship, which has, step by step, removed the imposed ideas and borrowed philosophy through a constant challenging of “What do you think?”. As much as I thought I knew the answer to this question, I had never asked it of my whole self, never answered it with bare honesty. In being forced to, challenged to, I’ve solved the problem of “Why should I write?” and discovered the exciting question, “What should I write about?”.

It’s been my desperation to escape the problem question, and my complete and total inability to previously grasp or process the exciting question, which has stalled my writing for so long. After our breakthrough session the other day, W2B has been asking how I’ve felt, if I’m elated, do I see how big a deal it was. I still feel solemn. I still feel I haven’t proved the breakthrough. But now that I can explore the unseen territory beyond that point, I can finally begin to see that elation is on its way.

About Ben Catley-Richardson

Writer, reader, husband. Father!
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