xii

Return to the tension. I haven’t read The Book again in weeks, but that’s the message I keep recalling, the encouragement that when all else fails, pursue the tension. This could be true enough of writing as much as it is writing about writing. What is the tension now?

From a personal viewpoint, the tension is in wanting to redraft immediately (yet again). But that doesn’t really cover the ‘personal’. Because in that sphere, there are issues arising because of exactly the opposite problem – that I am writing knee-jerk words in order to fill space and appear to be communicating when I should be considering and saying what I mean, not what I hope is meant to be heard.

In writing, totally in opposite to my personal life, I have valued silence. Doing nothing. I’ve sat upon my ideas almost in fear that I couldn’t live up to them or that they couldn’t live up to my expectations of them. It seems perverse that when I finally did begin writing at any point before I would stop at exactly the point that it got fluid, that I got close to the heart of the story. Meanwhile, in personal talk, I get further away from my own heart.

This inward wrestling with potential and outward search for an unknown but anticipated appearance had scuppered my writing. Sadly, at the very same moment as I appear to have mastered one problem I have begun to self-sabotage quite spectacularly in the second problem. But this really is nonsense, attempting to write about two things and not giving justice to either. I will keep the personal for where it means most.

My writing tension then, has been broken. I don’t fear the task, I don’t expect too much, I’m just managing to crack on and treat it as is probably healthy – a worthy but still earthly matter. However. There must be some tension left, because these last paragraphs have been flailing around, style-less, with no real root in my own mind.

Perhaps I feel as if I’m reaching the real point of tension – something that I’ve perhaps not even realised yet, something just out of sight but still sensed at the edge of my understanding. Or perhaps I’m just not able to concentrate on writing this properly and am already thinking outside of the word-count reaching its target.

Tension then – that my efforts to find a style will result in a forced style. That my attempts to write something I yearn to write will leave me failing to write what I am capable of. That something which starts fantastically and naturally will immediately become awkward and robotic when I attempt to ape my own style. It’s happened before – not just in writing – when I’ve achieved the feat of losing my own way and becoming my own imitator. It ends badly. Well, that’s dramatic. It ends disappointingly.

I’m often blaming tiredness, or this feeling I have now of disconnectedness, bewilderment. But I don’t think what I’m feeling now is tiredness. It’s beyond that, and also less than that. Part of it is laziness. But it’s a laziness to address the other fact, that the feeling is indicating I’ve somehow come loose of my moorings, and in doing so have lost all sense of self and connection with who I am.

At which point I begin, chameleon-like, to desperately try on all other forms to find one that fits with what I expect to be successful or genuine – rather than the harder, more challenging task of finding me again, my natural fit. In several of our conversations recently I’ve found this feeling (though not knowing it) and it’s driven me bonkers, losing my temper. Not once did I think clearly enough to say, just a moment, let me find myself again.

I think I’ve been looking so hard, and for so long in the wrong places, to ‘find’ that self that when I lose it even for just a moment I hurtle mindlessly back into that wandering mindset without realising that I haven’t lost the connection, I’ve just simply dropped it at my feet. When in that downward spiral I consistently make things worse. I get The Wrongers. I fall down and down, always looking at my feet, and never once look up to take the responsibility to pull myself together quickly and easily.

Perhaps I expect a harder job. Perhaps when things get easy is when I get craziest – it certainly happens this way at work. Perhaps when things are going well I wrinkle the atmosphere just a little, so as to contribute to a trip and a sprawl into the abyss of blind searching once again. To reduce myself to endlessly saying sorry (to myself, to W2B, to the world) instead of ever manning up and dealing with it.

To say that I self-sabotage is too simple, though. I don’t believe I do that. Instead what I do is self-sympathise, focusing all on the descent rather than on turning this plummet around and pushing up and out of that lazy morass. I have known for almost my entire life that I was lazy. But I didn’t know then that this laziness could be so hurtful, damaging and timewasting as it has proved to be once and again.

Tension? I am lazy, and I am all too quick to forget about it.

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About Ben Catley-Richardson

Writer, reader, husband. Father!
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