lxxviii

I’ve often been worried that I’ll run out of energy for writing. Do too much in the office, say, and I’ll be less able to go home and write something for myself. I made these posts into much more of a demand by telling myself I didn’t have time to write one, to come up with and develop an idea. But it’s never about energy to write or have an idea. It’s thinking.

Or, more exactly, it’s the energy to hold and maintain one thought, one train of thought, against all else. Between finishing that last paragraph and beginning this, I found myself clicking a link from Twitter, reading a terrifically boring page, then closing it to find myself on an article I wanted to read. I’d totally forgotten, for a second, about this post.

WordPress has a beautiful fullscreen editing view. It’s on now. And immediately I feel a rising sense of unease, of being unsure and lacking in confidence. What if I forget something about this, or that, or if I need to reference something on the page? On the WordPress page? Am I insane? All I need to do is write.

Now for another experiment – F11. Okay, now all I have is a full screen of text and white space. My immediate reaction is to need to know if I’ve spelled ‘full screen’ the same as I just did a moment ago. With the space or without? Is this writing? Is this thinking? In just a moment I’ve drifted away from my intended focus.

Perhaps I’ve excuses in the office – people are on the phone (very loud right now) and other people are talking close by. A constant stream of potentially interesting people are walking outside past my window. But the whirr has eased a little. Though the background noise is now so distrupting I think I need Spotify… Okay.

I’ve Einaudi on my headphones but I’m unable to stop myself listening in on other people’s conversations. Now I’m wondering what it was I was going to write (in between I’m trying to work out if my manager is reading this over my shoulder…) and in all I’ve pretty much lost my track. This is what’s so hard – there’s something out the window, everyone is looking at it, can I avoid it… No.

I’ll try again. This is what’s so hard, concentrating. I do have a nice slice of blue sky just outside my window, which is good for looking into and thinking. But at home I have a studio, a garden, a safe and controlled space to put myself in without distractions. And yet I still can’t seem to get myself in there regularly enough.

So it isn’t even the writing, the thinking, or actually the concentrating that’s the problem. It isn’t even the distractions. It’s the act of stepping outside of all this, of taking the decision to own some space and time and dedicate it to thinking, writing, concentrating. It’s the decision that’s hard, the choice of do or don’t.

The few steps from my kitchen to the studio, when I eventually take them, immediately begin the process for me. By the time I’ve got in, turned on the heater and the CD player (Einaudi again) and shuffled around for a few minutes I know why I’m there, and I know that I’m going to do it. I’m about to start writing.

I still feel that crawling thing at the base of my neck at this point. Because I could still bail out. But the act of leaving the house, going somewhere else, cutting away the easy distractions, means that bailing out would be a choice too, now, it would be a decision – and I’d have to take responsibility for that.

Writing is about just writing, just getting on. Thinking is not hard, or challenging. Concentrating is just about removing distractions and starting yourself off on a trajectory – momentum will take care of the rest. But I have to solve the decision, solve the choice, make it less about “Do I want to?” and more about “It is time to”.

All of this and I’ve not even got to a second draft stage of anything. I’ve a half-draft now, which I haven’t touched in days, haven’t thought properly about in that time, and I’ve already got something else I’m getting excited and focused on (Quest journal). This is the next thing to sort – sticking power.

And sticking power isn’t about discipline, really, or forcing myself. It’s about remembering that I won’t ever run out of energy for writing, for thinking, and that each stage is just as exciting as the last – the idea, the development, the draft, the polish, the finish. It’s all exciting, it’s all work, it’s all demanding. But it’s who I am, under the avoidance tactics. Under the fear. The fear of finding out that, actually, I was mistaken.

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About Ben Catley-Richardson

Writer, reader, husband. Father!
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