What am I doing? Saturday night I took myself off for a stomp to relieve a pressing sense of cabin fever which had me moving listlessly about the flat for want of something to do, unable to gather myself to sit down and write. A glass of wine in the Turf soon put me in a better mood, however, and I found myself eagerly scribbling the beginning to a new story.

This time it was an idea I’ve had for a long time, prompted by a chance and potentially misheard eavesdrop I caught at a family do. It’s an idea rooted firmly in the image that overheard comment created, a mundane absurdity that I love for its strangeness, how easily it upsets the usual order. And as I wrote it entire chunks appeared, rough but formed, that I’d never thought of before.

Now it’s not just an image but a story, not simply an anecdote but a sort of eerie comeuppance. This happened because, finally, I began to write it out, to let it flex and bend and stretch and (my favourite expression here) breathe. The more I wrote the stronger it got. It was exciting, rewarding, relieving even – it’s been some time since I caught the wave like this.

Then, last night, I’m filled with a similar yet less active restlessness. I think I actually wanted to be writing, except I didn’t – and part of me didn’t because I was purposefully avoiding redrafting what I wrote the day before. I couldn’t for some reason just leap straight off again from where I’d been, instead I had to spend my time trying not to edit in my head the brilliant but unpolished stuff I’d written already.

Come on, come on, this isn’t progress? This isn’t scaling the next arc, breaking the cycle, this is just another form of the same restless nervous sabotagery I’ve practiced over the years. Fortunately, unlike before, I’ve got this journal – which I’m now starting to recognise as a vital part of my writing, not just to blow away the cobwebs or expose baggage I need to deal with, but as a way of preventing it all vanishing again.

Attempting to write these posts and not keep talking about the same thing is difficult, but only if I always write the same way about the same thing. This is not new ground for me, this shoulder-twitching avoidance, but being explictly concious of it is something I’ve not managed in the past – the closest I’ve come is realising something is up, but I’ve never before had to explain to myself what that really was.

Neither have I had to keep talking before about it beyond my usual clam-up boundary. In the past, the thudding discomfort I’d felt would have driven me to drown it in movies or videogames, hurling myself into mental soporiferousness to escape for as long as I could from that dragging sense of not doing what I ought to be, what I could be achieving.

Catholic guilt doesn’t really cut it here, despite my upbringing, but I’ve certainly often suffered a sense that I’ve got something special and all I’m doing is feeding it muck, leaving it obese and sweating, clumsy and depressed. I’ve buried myself in soothing noise to mask the upsetting tugging of… what? My ambition? Talent? Whatever. I’ve just turned away.

But that’s not this, I didn’t turn away last night and look for solace – except that’s exactly what it was, because I’d started the job so well my daft side was always going to raise worries that I couldn’t continue at the same winning clip. I would tastelessly suggest that throwing myself into booze might have been more hurtful yet significantly more productive than videogames or DVDs. But that’s also bollocks.

Some writers might have succeeded in silencing the inner botherer with wine or beer, but I’ve tried that and all I’m left with is meaningless but earnest drivel. No, this is a battle I win without stimulus. I’m lucky enough not to be alone in this, and it’s not really a battle as much as it is a challenge to smile, and instead of saying “It’s okay, I’ll do it tomorrow,” simply tell myself, “If it’s okay, then do it now“.

About Ben Catley-Richardson

Writer, reader, husband. Father!
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