lxxxvii

There’s something hot and heavy about a final draft. I was editing a ghost story I’d written before Christmas, in the final few hours of a week’s work, juggling the things I needed to finish in the office with putting the final touches to the story.

It was something I was going to read out at a friend’s party, so there was already a sensation of performance attached to the words, but I found that the closer I got to the end, the ruddier my cheeks were getting, the hotter my blood.

As I played around with the last few paragraphs, making sure that the reveal was set up just right, that the words were sinister enough, that the image I was painting was perfectly chilling, I was intensely aware that if I looked like I felt I would have a job of explaining why finishing a ghost story was behind it all.

My forehead was blazing, I could barely sit still. The prospect of completing a piece of work in a way which tied everything together properly, which hit all the right notes, was exhilerating. It felt amazing, exciting. It was arousing.

But not as that might sound. It wasn’t particularly sexual, it was more emotional, more about being voluntarily vulnerable. I was laying myself bare, because in order to read this and achieve anything I’d have to be utterly serious, totally committed.

The prospect of how people might react to something I was so serious about, something which was a whole exposure of my ability and person and ambition as a writer, was giving me flushes, making it hard to sit still. It was exciting me.

Now. Without going into too much detail, I know this feeling pretty well. A few months into my first job I had an unbelievable email… thing… with a girl (married) from the same company. It went nowhere but at the time the possibilities, the exhileration of something happening which was so unlike ‘real’ life, was intoxicating.

I’ve also sent more than my fair share of conversations online or via text which were entirely, honestly and shamelessly… exposed. The longer the exchanges went on, the higher the temperature of my cheekbones seemed to soar. It was addictive.

Often, I can forget quite how passionate a person I am. Then, suddenly, like while editing this story, it can burn to the surface and I do, say or think things which a few moments ago even would not have even flitted into my mind. It takes no time at all for it to arrive.

But once it does, there’s a stark contrast between the things which drive it on and the rest of the world, the rest of life, which is now just a colourless backdrop. It stays with me, and I was wired for the whole of the drive home that evening, story printed and ready.

Why should writing have the same effect on me that being so… unabashed does? Is it the writing that’s the thing, given that in all the situations which take me to this place I’m creating words, expressing something, reaching for something impactful.

I’m sure that the idea of performing the words at a later date made a big impact, anticipating as I was that experience. But then, if you follow (and without me needing to go into detail) the same could be wholeheartedly said of the other experience too.

Should I write all my pieces with the intention of reading them out? Will that passion take me to places that otherwise unmoved writing might not? Or is it the connection with what I’m writing that can light such heat in my creative heart?

Or, alternatively, is it the illicitness, the taboo nature of what I’m doing even right now (feeling just a little of that face-warming glow) as I write for myself in an environment when I should be doing something entirely different, entirely not for myself?

I have what the internet tells me is ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response), where sometimes my whole scalp will tingle at some trigger – an interesting accent, light breeze, or even right now, just writing about having it.

I don’t remember if I’ve ever had ASMR while writing (not about ASMR), but it’s obvious to me that writing itself is rooted so deeply inside of me that my passion must be entwined with my expressive impluses.

It’s no surprise then, that when I’m most in touch with my creative instinct, when I’m trying my hardest to express something with clarity and impact, that I should be excited, aroused even, by my efforts.

Will it be the same for all my final drafts? I hope so. But what I really hope is that the writing which leaves my face red, burning and almost blisteringly stimulated, has even an ounce of the same effect on anyone who reads it.

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About Ben Catley-Richardson

Writer, reader, husband. Father!
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