An Internal Monologue of Indeterminable Length or Sorry Mr. Orwell, I know this is not what you wanted
I can’t write. I just can’t do it.
Just write something. Just pick up a pen and DO IT ALREADY.
Writing, or convincing myself to do so, often feels like trying to swat a persistent and scarily large insect away from your face (somehow size is always a factor when you think about these things: there could be completely harmless fly buzzing around my face but if it’s anything larger than a 5p coin, I’m ready to flip a table and throw a baby at it, all to scare it off). It’s terrifying and stressful, and the action of the swatting itself is time-consuming enough to make you forget about the initial beef you may have had with the fly. What I’m trying to say is…in short…I can’t write.
That’s quite a lot of rambling coming from someone who ‘doesn’t have anything to say’. Stop. Being. So. Shit. Just get on with it already.
I could spend all day showering you with cliché and trite phrases like ‘the only thing standing in your way is yourself’; ‘you must overcome your fears to follow your dreams’ and my most (or least, depending on how you look at it) favourite – ‘just do it’. That last one may be borrowed from an advertising campaign – please don’t sue me *waves creative licence and runs back into cave*.
Yeah we get it, you like to make jokes. Is there a reason you started this?
I digress. I ramble and use humour as a defence mechanism to mask what I am sincerely feeling or am trying to say. However that doesn’t mean I cannot express my opinion sincerely when I really want to (that’s something I’m getting better at and may even master, all well before my 80th birthday), or that a serious point cannot be put across well – if not better – with the use of humour. Jokes shock us out of our passé attitude, the reverie experienced by all when skimming through that morning Metro on the underground. Jokes force us to reflect on our pre-formed opinions and prejudices, jokes challenge us to walk in other people’s shoes.
This is why all your uni and school essays sucked – had you spent even 5 minutes planning out the structure, this wouldn’t have turned into such a raving, loony one-woman omnishambles of a rant.
I want to write. I want to be able to phrase my thoughts into coherent sentences, to evoke emotion out of a reader, to make people think/cry/laugh/get angry/wet themselves a little. The thing that holds me back is fear – fear of failure, mostly. I’m afraid of saying something that I shouldn’t, I’m afraid of people thinking I shouldn’t have bothered, I’m afraid of making a mark, and not making any mark at all.
This often shocks people who have met me in person; others roll their eyes and dismiss it as complaining or looking for attention. I will agree with both of these sentiments – all writers are story-tellers who like to be listened to; and writing is a cathartic process if nothing else. This is egoism I can live with, and will not try to defend myself should you wish to accuse me thereof. I like the way words sound and the power they can wield and when I am brave enough to sprawl a couple on a piece of paper (or metaphorical paper, made up of pixels and gifs and cats – damn you to hell, Internet *shakes fist*), I won’t deny that I do it for attention. If someone pays attention to it and types a heartfelt “this iz shite LOLZ u suk go get a real job!!!111”, well then at least I inspired them enough to interact with the material in some way. If this article ends with me going on some lengthy journey of spiritual awakening – then great. If by pure virtue I somehow manage to take you on this journey with me – well as they say, “when in Rome, eat shit”. Welcome to the brain-fuckery that is my spiritual awakening. Strap in.
The Fear that won’t quit.
Let’s turn back to the fly metaphor momentarily. Fear = fly, swatting the fly = me procrastinating to avoid facing the Fear. Not the most highbrow of metaphors, but I’m writing this pretty fast so as not to change my mind and bin this cataclysm of an article halfway through, so please bear with it. Just off the top of my head, here are some reasons you should never post anything online:
1. What if something you say offends someone? I’m definitely ignorant and uneducated enough to tick all the right boxes and make this happen. But think about it this way – if you offend someone and they explain what caused them offence, you’ll learn something new and hopefully will be less of an ignorant prick in the future. If they fail to explain why you’ve offended them and are just mad (always check with another person that such is the case and that you’ve not still being an ignorant prick) – don’t worry! You have temporarily raised someone’s heart rate and improved their circulation. They will live a lengthy, anger-fueled life all thanks to you.
2. What if your writing is just plain shit? Similar reasoning as 1, except with one added bonus – the benchmark for this is not “what if I suck” but rather “what if I am the suckiest?” Whilst, realistically speaking, this is the case for everyone bar that one person who is the best writer out there (sadly based on number of copies sold, it may be that woman who wrote 50 Shades of Grey), I will likely be disappointed when anything I write is not met with instant success. The punishment for such wishful thinking? Crying in the shower, eating a tub of ice cream and never writing anything ever again because SELF PITY. The sooner your stop pitying yourself, the sooner you will realise what a sincere arse-pain you’re being to the people around you. Hug them, apologise and move on.
3. What if you have nothing to write about? Literally everyone, EVERYONE, has something to write about. You’ve no home, no family, no money and no friends? Great – write about it. You’ve everything any person has ever desired? Great – write about it. You fit in one of the aforementioned criteria or somewhere in between? Write. About. It. You can’t write? Rap about it.
4. It is out there to stay FOREVER. And anyone can find it with
just one click several clicks of a button. Ah, the shamefully stupid afterthought that crosses everyone’s mind after first deciding to start an online blog. “If I post all my innermost thoughts online loads of people across the world will read it and will bond over it and I’ll have this family of writer-friends, yay! Hurrah, Internet!” Sadly this is swiftly followed by the sound of the other rather clunky shoe dropping, on your head, from the top of the Shard – “Shit. Everyone can see anything I post, anywhere, at any time. What perverted SOB created this machine of transparency?! How will I ever get a job ever again?” All valid points, but unless your articles are called “How To Assemble a Bomb in 10 minutes” or “Snorting coke off a biker’s belly in a brothel in Amsterdam – Livestream” your possibility of future employment isn’t completely shattered to smithereens. Not yet anyway.
Having written all the reasons out in full, and having come up with ‘quit bitchin’ pacifiers for all of them, I feel slightly better. I’m not saying the battle is won, I’m just saying it’s now a little easier to write (and I’m not saying ‘the battle is won’ because I don’t support misappropriating other people’s suffering to better describe my tizzy over writer’s block. That’s stupid and you’re drunk. I’m drunk. Goodnight. I will surely edit this out tomorrow.)
The monster under my bed is still very much there – I’m just trying my best to ignore it.
The need for Direction.
Whereas most writers and poets blather on about the need for a muse to facilitate their creativity, what I find I need the most is Direction. Agreed, it’s a lot less sexy than a nymph with messy hair and a transparent dress made of pondweed, but it sure would be more helpful. If Direction were a muse, she would be a tough lass from Yorkshire, probably riding atop a tractor and whipping all creatures around her – men, women, animals – into shape. Sadly, her inspiring efficiency and abundance of common sense never appealed to the likes of Shakespeare and Blake and she never got her deserved spotlight in their works.
What I mean is that the ideas are all there – I just need someone to come along and to nag me until I get so worked up about it, I write it all down, hopefully succinctly enough to be posted at a later date. Countless times has ‘oh that would make an interesting article’ been swiftly replaced with other thoughts at the sighting of a cute animal, rain or most recently – a man picking his nose on the bus with such fervour, you’d think he would buy it a drink first.
I’ve tried everything – I’ve carried notebooks around with me, I’ve written phrases down on my iPhone – all sadly to be forgotten and then abandoned at a later date for failure to decrypt the meaning of ‘sad…shoe…London…rainfall’ and translate it into prose. I’ve set aside time in my day purely for writing – only to find that I’ve still got one episode of Orange is the New Black left to watch on Netflix or that that long-lost friend whom I haven’t spoken to in over five years is waiting for my reply on Facebook. I’ve cleaned flats and made cups of tea and done other people’s laundry, all not because I don’t have anything to write about, but rather because I don’t know what to write about first – or how I should go about doing it.
Facing the facts.
It’s a saddening truth that has brought me out of my slumber of shittiness. Speaking from experience, it always is the simplest and dullest of facts that resonate with us and bring us back to reality, safe from the confines of that velvety blanket of darkness and self-doubt. The Fear will never go away, nor will Direction ever ride in triumphantly on her tractor and trample all of my problems with a swing of her wisdom (hur-hur-hur. Get your mind out of the gutter, folks). The answer – as is the problem – is wedged deeply in my brain and like a stubborn child in the seat behind you on a long-haul international flight, won’t quit no matter how much time passes (particularly if no sweets are presented as a peace-offering).
My problem is that I can’t write.
My answer is that, no matter how hard I squirm and wiggle, writing is something that I need to do. Not because somebody tells me to, not because I think my writing is the bees knees (or any other appendages), or because I think the world desperately needs to hear my words. No, I need to do it because if I waste any more time performing other tasks at half their usual speed as I’m too busy thinking about how I could be writing, I will eventually morph into a big grey cloud of despondency and regret.
The best advice often comes from the most unextended of places – that’s the beauty of human interaction. People will affect your life in ways they’d never imagine and things they’ll say once, on a whim, and sometimes without thinking will have a disproportionate effect on you and your behaviour in time to come. After a bout of whining about something or other, a good friend once said to me in passing, “just don’t be shit.” To this day this is some of the best advice I’ve ever heard, and I’m pretty sure I misheard it (maybe she said, “just don’t be A shit” – I’m not about to ask her and have my illusion shattered).
I’m going to try my best to turn this space into a regularly updated blog. Please be patient with me as I’m not sure where to start, yet alone where this will be going. Most of all, I hope you enjoyed reading it (or that at least it made you pee a little) and that it may inspire you to face that thing you’ve been putting off for eons. If not head-on, then at least a little, crusty old bit at a time.
I haven’t defeated my fears, and I know that I probably can’t write well. But I know that I can write, and I’m sure as hell am going to try. I advise you to do the same if you find yourself battling the same affliction. Quit putting it off – don’t be shit.