Wrong – the barrier to writing was me. The last few times I’d sat down to the poem I just hadn’t felt fired up by it, I’d felt put upon by my own expectations. I can’t expect to sit down and start kicking out worthwhile writing if I’m spending just an hour or so on it every other night, and I can’t expect to force my brain into one project without it complaining and demanding to be let off the leash.

Everything comes back to listening, trusting. Last night I wanted to write, badly, I’d wanted to all day. But I didn’t want to write the poem. I needed something new, something exciting, something that let my imagination off the hook a little and allowed it to breathe. Now I’m listening, but I probably should have listened days ago.

So last night I wrote, only three pages, but it was enough to feel like I was flexing muscles I’d left to seize up and stick. What I produced wasn’t quite what I had in mind – though the beginning worked out nicely – but it was what I needed, and reminded me of why I can’t leave writing behind as a ‘hobby’ and why I need to keep doing it so I can get better.

I went back to the book too, which also brought up something I’d managed to let myself forget – character. This style is natural to me, but I’m going to have to work on it to avoid the ugly fate of becoming “one of those unfortunate, limited writers able only to write versions of themselves”.

It’s something I’ve always been aware of, and always felt I was suffering from, though I’ve already written things – one finished ghost story, one not even half-written kids story, the poem – which don’t feature just derivatives of myself. I worry myself about plenty of things without purpose, simply because I don’t think, I don’t see beyond what I’m worried about to what I’ve already sodding done.

Good, I can do it with my writing. But when the hell am I going to succeed in tearing myself away from that belief I’m too self-involved, too rooted in my own swirling head, to reach out and understand other people, remember that I know these people and that the voice telling me “too bad, you’re selfish, this must be how you are, since you can’t stop it,” is talking utter bullshit. That voice is weakness.

Right now is when, Jesus, when else? Writing the first pages of this novel, just letting myself pour it out until it ran dry with no worry about consistency or editing-on-the-fly, it was liberating, though when it ran out I obviously felt sad that I couldn’t ride that bright wave of creativity on and on. You can’t, not really, you just have to let it do what it will and leave you with something you can work with.

So the voice murmuring “too bad, you’re fooling yourself,” is just as much bullshit, but then I’ve known this for an insultingly long time. But it’s the same voice, the same weakness, telling me it’s too hard in everything else. It’s just newer, that’s all, because I’m getting deeper. And that’s where this post has really been wanting to be about – what’s happening right now, and why.

I’ve always taken a long time to get to the point, in many ways. Seems that sometimes even when I get here I don’t know what to do with myself, rattling around looking for questions when all I have is answers, harbouring worries about unrelated or until-now-unconnected stuff or just turning around and around and around on my head until I’m sick and start the whole process once again, from the top.

And so it’s been, since I started this journal, that the journey was positive, compelling even, searching always and constructive. As it’s been in working out my own wider head-stuff, never alone of course. The last year or more has been so amazing, so the making of me. It’s brought me to new territory, just as my explorations here have brought me to new ground with writing. And in both cases I allowed myself to ignore the achievement.

I’m here, it’s bloody fantastic. I’ve come through, I don’t have any doubts about writing, only urges to keep going, to keep improving. I am seeing that, and in seeing it I’m not forgetting to allow myself breathing space to be myself, to occasionally need a night off or – even better – a change of pace or idea. Giving myself permission to try something different for a change, because I know I’ll come back stronger to what I was working on before.

As much as the novel seed is indicative of this, it’s a way to make sure I don’t forget to take the same time to realise how far I’ve come in the other journey, the other quest. That I look outwards for a change, at where I am and who I’m there with and what that means, instead of forcing myself back inwards to an imagined problem, a fabricated issue.

I know myself well enough to not worry about it, not to spend every minute of every day asking redundant questions that have been answered a thousand times before. And I know I’m perceptive, sensitive, understanding of others – of the most important other. I know. Now I stop listening to the weak, easy voice, and know that I know.

About Ben Catley-Richardson

Writer, reader, husband. Father!
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