xlviii

Do I still want to do this? Yes. No. Of course. It’s always going to be hard. Otherwise who wouldn’t want to do this. Who wouldn’t want to write the books, the stories, the plays, anything, who wouldn’t want to write successfully if it was easy to do. I know there are people who do write because it’s easy, and why wouldn’t they. But not for me.

The difficulty isn’t the problem. It’s approaching the difficulty with the attitude that it’s actually worth overcoming, that what you create on the other side will actually have value. It’s impossible to find this validation, this confirmation of value, from other people before the damn thing has even been written, before you’ve put a single word down, because it only exists in you. Right, less flimflam. It only exists in me.

I’ve got to write, or I’ll never be happy. I need to. Needing to doesn’t really make me happy, but I know that writing, and being on a roll in writing, will make me happy. I find value in overcoming challenges, in being respected for doing difficult things, for taking on things that other people can’t. At work, I relish public speaking – even if I’m sometimes scared, worried, or just desperate not to fail. But I relish it because other people don’t.

Writing for me is intensely personal, and I’ve always found it difficult to continue with something that didn’t tap into my own psyche, my own feelings. Divorcing myself from my inner voice is impossible, not least because a significant portion of my life has been spent denying that voice in the real world, turning away from being a writer, turning away from doing something that wasn’t conventional, that didn’t fit the regular pattern.

And yet I’ve still resisted it, because that personal writing is both upsetting and tough to continue when I’m always asking questions about why I should even be doing it. Shouldn’t I be spending my time writing something that’s more likely to make me bags of cash? Isn’t it a better idea to pursue writing projects which have more obvious bestseller appeal, rather than hurl myself down the rabbit hole of my own memories, experiences and personal history. I’m no celebrity. My life is not a matter of public importance. What value is my life story?

Of course it’s the wrong way to think. I’m not famous, but I’m the only me I am. My life isn’t important to the masses, but it’s vitally important to me and mine. My life story has limitless value when the telling of it could bring me happiness, self-confidence, self-respect and self-worth. Doing this new project for me has to be enough reason. If I do this for anyone else, for any other reason than to tell what I need to tell, I’m going nowhere.

It was hard to hear my better half air thoughts I’d hidden from for so long – perhaps I’m just not the kind of writer I’ve always looked up to, the kind of writer I’ve wanted to be. I might not be able to write the human stories, the human fiction, I’ve wanted to for so long. I’ve written stories, light, almost weightless things, and discarded them even though they were good, because I wanted more. Perhaps I’m not able, not yet or not ever, to write that stronger stuff.

But I can write, I can remember, I can still feel some of those moments like they’re happening right now. I can retake breaths from my past. And the more I do, the more that challenge is going to open up, the more that difficulty is going to become an exciting, progressive experience that keeps opening new doors. It is going to hurt, because the best stories always do. But it’s going to be worth it. And then, well, who knows what comes next.

And I leave it there? I’ve done my word count. Good for me. I have got to start actually writing now.

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About Ben Catley-Richardson

Writer, reader, husband. Father!
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