Wednesday 15 January 2014

A work in progress...

'A writer writes, always.'* Except, that is, when that writer is tired, bored, hungry, at work, excited, upset, stressed, content or distracted by even the slightest thing, such as an unusually shaped orange, or something equally inane.
The problem is that there are literally thousands of things to do other than write, and sometimes, it feels impossible to sit still and concentrate for long enough to do anything constructive or useful. Although I seem to find an inordinate amount of time to play Fruit Ninja, which is neither constructive, nor useful, although it is bizarrely satisfying all the same.

'The night was humid....muggy...cold...dark...squamous?'

Often, finding the next word, the next step, is the hardest thing in the world. What is stopping me? Is it actually the inability to find the right word, or does it go deeper than that?

Being creative is not simply a tap that can be turned on and off at will (although, my friend  Zolneczko will confirm that I'm actually very good a turning non-metaphorical taps on, just not turning them off again, but of course, that's another story**) Sometimes my brain just won't connect the dots. Sometimes I can't find the neat and reassuring life lesson at the end of each cycle of experience. Sometimes it's all for nothing, and sometimes it just makes me sad. Sometimes all I can do is remember the fact that life can be an arse for no good reason, and maybe it's that niggling truth that saps all inspiration out of me, and i just don't see the point in trying to express anything at all (yes, I too can hear it, it's the world's smallest violin, and it's playing just for me!) 

The other less than less fantastic thing that appears to come with writing, or lack of it, is a soaring ego that is inexorably linked to a crushing self-doubt. It's the Larry David of it all, it's a constant stream of LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! DON'T LOOK AT ME! 

I crave appreciation through my writing. I know how it feels when I've done a good job, something I can be proud of. I also know when it's not so great and I just try my best to hammer out something that is acceptable to you, a pleasant way to spend a few minutes, at least, if nothing ground breaking. I want so badly for people to like what I write but I also find it really difficult when people are positive about it. I want constructive criticism, I want to learn how to be better, but the slightest complaint I can still take to heart so utterly it can make me creatively impotent. It's one of the weirdest and most delicate ecosystems of insecurity that I've ever encountered. 

I may not write as a result of many different influences and emotional states in my world, but for all of the times that those things stop me from writing, they are also, always, the reason why I write in the first place. I have worked out that are four different 'types' of writing that I do on a regular basis. I know I say that at the risk of sounding hella pretentious, but bear with me on this one. One of the most important types of writing for me is the writing this blog. Because I've purposely left this as a nicely vague platform of expression, it means that ideas and snippets that start out in the other types of writing often end up here. This is my favourite method of problem solving, because I have to find patterns in order to make these pieces congruent and fluent (or at least, that is what I’m aiming for, even if it’s not always apparent!) That is what makes blog writing excellent practice and super helpful for my brain on many levels. So thank you for reading this and giving me a reason to keep doing it. 

The next 'type' for want of a better word, of writing, is the attempts at short stories. Little ideas that often lead to nowhere, but I like to try to put them together and see what can happen, even if it just means shelving something until a time when I may find it relevant again. Then there is the writing of my story, the BIG ONE, and this is the writing that has received the least attention recently, to my great shame. The last 'type' is my diary writing, the writing that will never see the light of day if I have anything to do with it! That sort of writing happens frequently, if not daily. It is probably the most enjoyable form of writing I do because it is completely personal and written for nobody but myself. It's a massively disjointed, rolling stream of mostly nonsense. Much of it is just me blowing off steam. Often it's not even in full sentences, and you know things are a bit grim in Chrissy world if the entries contain painful attempts at poetry. I love poetry but I cannot write it. That doesn't stop me trying to though, behind closed doors and with the curtains closed, a dirty literary secret. 

In thinking about the above, I realise that I do write, even when I'm not 'writing'. A writer really does write, always, even if it's not for any good reason. Writing is my way of expressing who I am, my way of trying to find patterns and make sense of the world, my way of trying to find answers and meaning. 

I've recently read some of my older attempts at writing, with a view to comparing the then to the now. The benefit hindsight gives me is that I now recognise how raw and intense some of the emotions and ideas that I expressed were. What has changed from then to now is my desire to say less about me in a linear, 'here is the plate' manner, and to express at lot more through characters that are not just a part of me, but a reflection of my experiences and personality, and the experiences and personalities of the many and varied people I have known over the years. This is because our lives are stories. Our experiences always have so much in common, pain is pain after all, and joy is joy. We have all tapped into the fundamental parts of living and this allows us to understand and empathise with the stories of others. Writing is all about making the reader care about the characters' journey, without your interest, empathy and attention, it's just the equivalent of a person speaking to an empty room.

I've been very, very angry with myself over the last few weeks, if not months, for being so lazy with my writing. In particular, the big writing, my story, not the inconsistent stanzas that I seem incapable of rhyming. But after speaking to a lot of lovely people recently, I am starting to think that maybe I shouldn't be so hard on myself. I'll get there or I won't. It's all about the journey anyway, and as long as I keep writing in some form or another, I'll be happy. Except that's not enough, it will never be enough, I can do better, I should do better, I owe it to myself to be better. And so once again I am confronted with the conflict that comes with trying to do something you love, one minute up, the next down. Full of confidence to full of doubt, a seemingly endless cycle.

I'm a contradictory person on so many levels. I'm wary of change, terrible at thinking outside of the box, and I'll be so focused on what is in front of my face or what's happening tomorrow that I forget to think about the rest of my life. The thought of planning something bigger, larger than my immediate sphere of influence, is terrifying and off-putting because I'm lazy and indulgent and I want to stay inside my box where it is safe and weird and mine. But the idea of being trapped inside my box forever is even more terrifying and that's how I know that I have to test my boundaries, I have to make an effort to see the outside world, because maybe it will help me to work out what exactly I do want out of my life. I think we're all a bit like this though, aren't we? If our brains worked in straight lines, contradiction free, life would be far less stressful, far more organised, and completely and utterly without soul. It is the conflict, the contradiction, that makes us look closer. It's the void between who we are and who we could be that makes us so hopelessly, wonderfully, fascinatingly interesting. 

I think the point of sharing writing, fictional or otherwise, is to open up your flaws, and your perceptions of the flaws of others. This process of confession, and presumed confession on the behalf of others, is the spark of connection between the writer and reader, it is what makes that sharing process meaningful. Do I believe that I am the only person who feels they have potential but constantly wastes it? Am I the only person whose wants and desires sometimes conflict with the priorities and responsibilities of my life? Am I bollocks. It's within all of us, it's part of the human condition, and writing is a continual examination of what it is to be human. I want to write people that you can relate to, because I am people, and I'm trying to write what I know. A good story can change a person's heart. It's a lofty ambition I'll grant you, but you may as well aim for the stars because why the hell not? I have read so many stories that have touched me on a personal level, that have reflected my own journey and struggles and inspired thoughts and ideas in me that have helped me to work out what I think and helped me to comes to terms with how I feel about the world. To say that a good story can change a person's heart is an understatement actually, I think it would be true to say that, for me, books have helped to make my heart.

Our flaws are what make us real, and we make mistakes as a result of those flaws. Overcoming these mistakes makes us stronger, it makes us better. I think that we need to stop being so angry with ourselves for being full of contradictions, but we should never stop analysing our behaviour and trying to be better. The journey of our lives is the drama, it is the story, and that is why stories matter. It is this thought that reassures me that maybe it is okay to be a walking contraction and a writer. If you have all the answers there is no story to tell. Telling the story helps me to learn the answers for myself, because a writer learns as they write and the reader follows the journey. 

I am a work in progress. So is my whole life and all of the relationships in it. So maybe it is okay that my story is currently a work in progress too. That is not to say that I shouldn't get it finished this year, because after I've finished learning what this story has to teach me, I would like to move onto the next one. But letting go of the frustration of where I am at the moment, and focusing on where I could be in the near future, will be a large part of moving to a place where I will be done, I am sure of it. I think that is something we could all do well to remember, whatever our goals, whatever we're giving ourselves a hard time about for not achieving yet, to stop flogging ourselves for where we haven’t got to, and start working on how to get there.

'The night was hers.' Hmmm, I like the sound of that.

*The line, 'a writer writes, always' and the idea for 'the night was' metaphor for writer's block are both taken from the most excellent film Throw Mama from the Train, which I implore you to see. It's not, in a million, zillion years the film you might think it is judging from the title, it's an excellent film about writing and imagination made in the 80's starring Danny DeVito and Billy Crystal and it's utterly charming.

** I managed to break my friend's kitchen tap in the last week and sort of, maybe, caused a mini flood, if you will. That was the first of three breakages so far in 2014. Let's pretend I do this to be ironic or to amuse my friends, okay? And not that I'm just one of the clumsiest buggers you might ever have the misfortune to pass a glass to. 

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