I was picking up the boys from school on Thursday, having myself spent another day mindlessly flicking back and forth between facebook, twitter and wii fit. The boys wanted to have a ‘quick play’ on the playground before we went home, so I said yes, and then thought maybe I could use this time to write something. The day didn’t have to be a complete write off.
So, sitting rather unsociably on the seat furthest from the playground, using the middle pages of my eldest boy’s spelling book and a lead pencil my eldest boy’s friend had found under my seat and handed to me, I started writing. Using the free write method, I was on the same old thing. ‘I’m not writing because…’.
It was easy to write like this. My mind is fragile and easily convinced of my failings, and the reasons to not write are many, even when a mind is strong. The reasons I’m not writing are easily identified, because even if they are complex, they are all variations on a simple theme. I’m not good enough. They multiply and intensify and their darkness is seductive.
But in this hour, I was determined. I’m sick of the wallowing, and I need somehow to move on (if for no other reason than that I have a scary, scary deadline approaching, a deadline which I tangled myself into, hoping that it would work it’s deadline magic and make not-writing worse than writing, but that magic is, for the first time ever, failing me). I kept scratching away. The spelling book was a little unwieldy on my lap, but the pencil was lovely and sharp and the afternoon’s seabreeze had found it’s way to me.
I never feel bad when I can smell a seabreeze.
Try something different, I managed to tell myself. You know why you’re not writing. But what about asking, Why do I write?
And halfway down the first page, I wrote this: ‘I write for the moment when I make a connection between what I feel and what I have said’. And I remembered very clearly the moment when I wrote this and this, and the satisfaction – the depth of the satisfaction – of getting it just so. Such moments are few and far between, but they are there and I remembered them.
I know how ridiculous this will seem, but seeing that written on the page, and remembering those moments, I cried. I imagine I was crying for all manner of reasons, but predominantly, I think I was crying with relief. The relief that it would be worth it in the end. Without wanting to get all Dr Phil, it seems to me that by constantly examining the things that are stopping me – even if I have been trying to examine them in a ‘positive-so-what-can-I-do-about-them way’ – I have been entrenching rather than shifting them.
At the same time, while I’ve been doing all this internal soul-searching, I have never pushed – really pushed – myself to get to the bottom of why I write. Certainly, I have listed the good things about writing, but I see now that I’ve only included the good things which have a flipside. A ‘yes, but’. For example, I write because it made my Dad proud…yes, but…you’re not very good, if he could see you now. And so on.
I needed to push on to the reason which has no ‘yes, but’, which can’t be argued with. I suppose – but I haven’t thought about this too much yet – that I had to find a reason that didn’t rely on someone else’s opinion of me or of what I do. I had to find a reason that relied only on my opinion of myself.
I was crying because I was glad I had found that reason.
I do know that in some respects this whole conversation is tortured wank. I mean, really. Just get on with it already. I know that there are plenty of people with plenty of bigger problems than mine. I know that. But at the same time, this is just part of it. Grieving minds do ask, What’s the point? And it’s important to answer them.