More than once in the last month or so I’ve started to feel my pulse heighten, my brain lose track of everything that’s going on, my attention strung out in a dozen directions. Twitter updates point me toward new articles which begin new trains of thought which lead to new ideas, new posts, new angles on what I’ve already written.

It’s as if I’ve had too much coffee. I can’t sit still. I feel as though I’m about to miss something, to drop something, to let something slip by. And all the time I’ve got the knowledge that the only way to really get through the feeling is to do something, to write, to express. But the only way to stop it is not to have a day job.

I do almost all of my writing at the moment at my desk at work, where I ought to be working. Right now I’ve little on that can’t wait, but I’m also away from my desk more than usual, away from the opportunity to sit and just spool out what I’m thinking. To explore what I want to do, to attempt to achive some honesty, find something true.

Working in the studio last month on the novel was a totally different experience. No fluttering heart, no fear of losing my grasp on what’s happening. I was writing something which needed time to breathe, which needed to emerge in a first draft format. I wasn’t even considering an end date, a completion. Just a beginning.

But the more I write here, the more I read online that moves me, the more I feel like I don’t have the time to complete these projects and get them out there for the biggest impact. I have a heroic poem whose central idea is so right for now, so perfectly suited for the sort of epic tales you see at the cinema, in graphic novels, in novels.

I desperately want to get it finished for the Cardiff poetry prize next March. I tried this year but it’s fighting me, resisting my unnatural forcing of it into a shape that hasn’t properly formed yet, urging it along towards a submittable version. But the fact I want it to win, to properly express the bright heart of the poem, means I’m pushing it too hard.

I have a self-project I’m starting to pad around like a cat on a pillow. It’s going to be so incredible to write, and to get it started and prevent it lingering around I’m going to begin by publishing the first draft on this blog. The timing is brilliant, the rising of debate around men, gender respect, the value of women, all these things resonating with what I’m trying to do through the project.

And the novel, which has slid neatly to the back of my mind, is becoming more and more relevant as my own life goes forward into exciting and wonderful new territory. I am going to be a father, and the broadening of my own experiences of coming to terms with this fact, with the first stages of my wife’s pregnancy, is influencing the tone of the novel.

While I work through these projects, my thoughts prodding at their weaknesses or exploring their depths, developing their stories, there’s a thousand other people writing every day. A hundred other voices like mine I’m trying to keep up with. Dozens upon dozens of relevant and crucial articles every day which could help me, inspire me.

I can’t breathe. I can’t get anything done. Even writing this felt like I was taking a risk, that I’d miss something, that I should be writing something that answers the questions someone has just asked, or that I could be taking hold of the opportunities which are presenting themselves right now, if only I could find the time!

It’s madness. I need that studio. I need that ability to step away from everything, from the pop-ups and the updates. My strength has always been in my own reactions, my gut instincts, the level of thought I focus on something. Whenever I attempt to do something quickly, to fly off the handle, I fail to reach that razor edge of truth, to create something which doesn’t just fill space but which discovers something. Expresses something.

I’m never going to get anywhere unless I slow down and think. Take the time to consider what I really feel, not what I think I feel right now, what I think I have to throw out there as fast as possible and hope it sticks. If it’s not quality, if it’s not honest, I may as well say nothing. I can afford to let go. I can take my time. I can breathe.

About Ben Catley-Richardson

Writer, reader, husband. Father!
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