Okay so I’ve been having some doubts lately. Alright then, not so much lately as … For Ever but just recently my doubts have done what everything fit to burst does - they’ve come to a very full and painful head. You already ate your breakfast, right?
A more pleasant analogy would be that I’ve been brushing so many doubts under my rug (steady ...) that I’ve finally tripped myself up (little nod to the Marika Cobbold book I’m reading).
I’ve lost the modest pleasure of writing. For writing’s sake I mean. Instead it feels like for the past decade (no exaggeration) I’ve been on a form of treadmill attempting to vie for attention in a combative market; one which I wasn’t prepared for. And I’m actually utterly exhausted. This is not aided of course by my ‘condition’ as I’m sure anybody in full throes of the Menopause can appreciate. But I’m not using this as an excuse - it is just another joyful corner which I have turned on my merry female way and run slapstick-like into a plate glass window. I exaggerate of course but I’m sure you feel my pane. (Miranda, if you ever need a spare few gags, I’m yer man).
The reason I started writing was to get out of my head all the terrible torture that was going on within. Oh, I had a page a day diary but at fifteen that’s NOT NEARLY ENOUGH! Ream upon ream of A4 foolscap (fool) was filled with daily torments and metaphorical killings of peers, family members and probably the English language. If nothing else, it meant I slept some nights.
My writing historically only ever happened during extremes of emotions. If I was unbearably sad, then the pen and the paper got it – plaintive strains of Sade, Alison Moyet and Japan in the background. Equally, in a deliriously happy state of mind, I’d launch my Petite typewriter at whatever surface was available and flourishes of plays, poems and cheeky little tomes to the BBC would be produced. Pen for tears and type for cheers; I wonder if this means anything?
Anyway, the writing. Writing something that you know somebody enjoys reading is the best feeling in the world. EVER. This is why a writer writes. Why an artist paints and why a baker bakes. ‘Oh you clever person, I wish I could do stuff like that’ kind of thing. It’s a great feeder of the ego and of course leads to the desire to produce more and more in the hope that reactions will remain just as good and even better.
But I’m not particularly good at the competitiveness of this ‘world’. I'm not comfortable being here. I don't feel I belong or even have a part in it. I feel proper painful stabs of envy when I read about others' writing successes because I compare them with my own non-success. And as I feel like such a failure such a lot, I'm never in 'that place' which means I'm confident enough to write. Is this a Heller position? I’m not published (I even feel a bit awkward that I've e-pubbed if I'm honest) and because I’m not one of those writers who feels at ease with announcing: "here is my latest book, go buy, go read, spread the word and come back with some nice things to say", then I’m afraid I shall never cut the grade (is that a mixed metaphor? See – a hopeless case). This isn’t what I wanted, expected, need or enjoy. It’s the egg and spoon race all over again. Oh, didn’t I tell you that story? It didn’t have a particularly happy ending. (Yep, so tempted to do a 'yoke' pun).
I was delighted when I found an online community of like-minded individuals all those years ago - who loved writing and loved reading my writing and I became completely addicted to the push-me-pull-you workout the group afforded me (I also made some lovely what I’d call friends in the process) and I’ll always feel blessed for the camaraderie the group gave me in what was a very lonely and scary time of my life.(I’d lost my mum and got divorced – no, I don’t do things by halves).
I’ve never met any of them in the flesh, even though they’ve met up a few times themselves – I always have an excuse: I’m busy crashing cars, I’m having a meltdown, I’m in Communicado - a great place to be. But the real reason I’ve never been is that I know I’d feel like the failure. I’d be an audience in the company of the accomplished and my head would reel, my senses would spike and I’d spend the next few months, years perhaps beating myself up about how crappily I’ve done in comparison. I could write a Self-flaggelation book no probs. And quite when or why I started to feel I should be comparing my failure with others’ successes is anybody’s guess. In the delivery room maybe? Oh, did I tell you THAT story?
So I’m bowing out, fair people.
I'm not going to stop writing. I couldn't do that. But I want to get on with my writing without feeling I have to tell anybody what it's about, without refreshing social media feeds on its progress and without giving myself any more grief over whether it will sell, fit in or attract a market or even if I can persuade anybody to read it. I am done with all this - it's just not Me.
I did the same when I stopped smoking – god, nearly 25 years ago now. I’d ‘tried’ to quit so many times and I couldn’t do it because everyone kept asking me how it was going, how bad were the cravings? Did I want a sneaky one? far too much badgering. In the end I just stopped with no trumpets, no announcements and because nobody knew or realised I’d stopped, it made the transition that much simpler. I know this is a kind of announcement but I prefer to see it as more of a letter of resignation. And I can’t tell you how much relief it gives me. Like dumping the boyfriend who keeps picking his nose but you try to overlook it because he’s the doorman at Cineworld. (You won’t miss my analogies, will you?).
Thanks. It was good to talk. I knew it would be.