Ah, yes, of course – breakthrough, then seesawing of “Can/Can’t”. Acceptance, then overwhelming sense of hard work ahead. Excitement and then… doubt. Inspired, then idiot. Idiot.

So I’m a writer but I think it’s clear I actually don’t like writing. What I like is producing ideas, fleshing them out, exploring them – and doing this with the GWife has been superb and heart-lifting stuff. Can I believe that we went from nugget to developed spookstory in 30 minutes? I cannot.

We’ve spent the last week hammering out the arc of half a dozen ideas, and I’ve been happier than ever at the progress we’ve made while still managing to argue about opinions and interpretations without wanting to say bollocks to it all and go to bed. We’ve taken stubs and developed them to a point where… it’s time to write.

I’m simultaneously excited and overcome. Mostly, I’m all but paralysed with pressure from the amount of ruddy writing I’ve got ahead of me. The ideas have always come easy, and the development has been easy or satisfying or natural or all three. But writing is a whole different matter. Writing is hard fucking yakka.

Mainly, it’s not the word-by-word progression that creates the struggle. I’m awful at pressurising myself with the ‘what would a literary judge think’ approach, and I’ve suffocated myself with an attempt to be ‘clever’ as I attempt to gauge what the perfect sentence might be that could win me accolades, respect, attention.

Crucially, though, aside from worrying about marketability and slush-pile limbo or publisher rejections and the ever-talked-about impossibility of making a living as a full-time writer… Aside from this clouding nonesense is the sheer task of making meaning happen, of writing feeling and conversation and meaning and action and everything.

Awards are nice. Very nice. But right now I’d be happy if I could just write what I want to say. A scrawled notebook page neatly ties up the arc of the tragic Isle of Wight-set multi-generational novel about men and being a man we’ve plotted out, but it’s not a single page of the novel itself. It doesn’t provide the first paragraph. It doesn’t pin down the last.

I can go on like this for ever. The heroic poem I’m grappling with currently challenges my ability to say what I mean while trying to either bind narrative to a structure or bend the structure to accomodate my narrative. There’s never enough space for exposition until there’s too much and I wallow in needless words.

Of course, if it were easy we’d all do it of an afternoon. In between putting six past Cech to win the league and bowling out the West Indian top order from the last thirty years. Just before raising the roof in a West End masterpiece and finishing the night with a Hendrix-inspired guitar concert in Wembley. That is, stuff worth doing is hard.

Tough, tough, tough. With everything else at the moment I’m not sure if I need my ass kicking or for regular therapy sessions. Either of which put massive pressure on everyone else – but not much on my own shoulders. And, as with everything, I know the real answer: I need to start, now, and I need to concentrate.

I’m not good at concentrating, at focusing, at not letting distraction get in and ruin the momentum. Even worse than that I hardly give momentum a chance to get going as I’ve usually bypassed the whole starting business and got straight on with the distraction thing. Is cracking on, just writing anything, the solution?

This blog was supposed to get me writing but it’s been a one-way counselling exercise more often than it’s resulted in prompting me to sit down and approach a piece of work with commitment and my full attention. Writing at work isn’t going to change that too quickly, though it at least might burn out some of my angst so it can’t sit throughout my commute and block anything I might achieve with our evenings.

There’s no conclusion here, I’m ranting and reaching and to some degree avoiding the central problem which is that I’m simply not sitting down and starting.


About Ben Catley-Richardson

Writer, reader, husband. Father!
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