“I am not at all in a humour for writing; I must write on till I am” said Jane Austen, at some point.
I imagine every writer at some point before, since and after has felt the torturous, humiliating, devilish sensation of being unable to write. I used to think it was purely a self-indulgence, like a singer saying they weren’t “in the mood” to sing, or an artist complaining that they were not inspired to paint. Despite being raised by an artist, it was with a much more “just get on with it” attitude.
So when I got 35,000 words into a story I was trying to write, I got very stuck. The interest went. The ideas went. I wanted to write something great, a story worth being published, set in a world so fantastic only I could have dreamed it up. But despite having piles of ideas, that evil blank document somehow chased them all away when I sat at the computer.
It was time, you see. In the modern world, it really seems that time is our enemy.
I needed solid blocks of hours to sit down and work through it. To punch through the frustration and into the inspiration again, the joy of discovering the story. I wanted to take Ms Austen’s advice at her word. After all, if there’s a mistress of words more well-respected than she I’ve yet to find one.
But, of course, the London life decided to take over. Long hours on the job. Friends. Dates. Failed relationships. They all eat into our time more than we would like. If every writer has known the frustration of working with words, every Londoner in the modern era has known the frustration of simply working. By the time we’ve battled our way home it’s all we can do not to just lay on the bed, exhausted and beaten, until we summon enough will to go out and search for food. We’re the new hunter-gatherers; we’re just doing it in the world’s most incredible city. And in more layers than our ancestral brethren. Probably.
Having said that, London summer does seem to bring out the most primal in men. God bless it.
Or maybe the flopping onto the bed ritual is just me. Either way, I realised how much time I was wasting. Wanting to create the time but failing to summon the energy – it’a a poisonous circle.
I made a list of all the things I wanted to achieve going forward:
Finishing the story.
Power through in my social media career.
Start freelance copywriting as a side-earner.
Have time to do the things I enjoy but never have times for, like video games.
Refresh social life with new groups.
More time aside for meditation.
Write every day. Read too.
Audition for sunset Boulevard (more on that later).
Have time to play poker again.
So, as I write this, I’m in a writer’s group I found online. It’s quite ingenious really, you meet at a cafe in central London, and you all simply sit down and write for 2.5 hours. There’s literally an entire Hogwarts-style table filled to the brim with near-silent writers tapping on MacBooks (why is it always a MacBook? Curious). The amount of work I’m managing to get done is tremendous, its more than I’ve managed to achieve in days together of 5am rises. With the best intentions, so often the time just runs away from you, somehow. But I wish I’d thought to do this group 3years ago. I know if i’d gone home tonight I would have just slobbed out on the bed, I very nearly almost did, and yet here I am. Writing. Meeting new people (one or two) and getting things done.
One of the weirdest changes recently, in what feels like the start of a new phase, is how much more attached I’ve become to writing. My story, my blog, my copywriting, all of it. There was something in me that used to balk at the idea of being “a writer”, and I’m not sure why.
Perhaps I looked upon it as some kind of cliché.
Perhaps because for many years I wanted to act and perform classical theatre. “Writing” always seemed to be what people became when they’d failed at being a performer. Or so it seems in my head, anyway. Perhaps it’s because in this day and age, everyone and their dog is a ‘writer’. It becomes a cringe-worthy title. Perhaps it was because as a child I drew and painted more than I wrote. That form of self-expression just flowed more easily.
For whatever reason, I didn’t quite see the sheer beauty in just working with words. Perhaps some people see it earlier. Perhaps some would argue that 27 is too late. But better late than never, right? I always loved reading, and I always loved writing, but it was like part of me still resented it, still wanted a bite of the other apple, a slice of the other cake. I didn’t look at the cake in front of me and see just what an amazing thing it actually is. As I sip my iced latte, I can’t help but think I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
The space provided by this group is the golden answer to my time dilemma. As I sit here, I realise I have no other task at hand but to write. It’s the most liberating and emancipating feeling in the world. It’s hard to explain, but it’s like being blissfully imprisoned in a place where all you have to do is create. Imprisoned with other writers which is even better. No TV, no texting, no snoozing life away on the bed, no messing around on dating apps for hours on end.
In a strange way, it’s exactly why I made the decision to force myself to join these groups. It becomes so easy to walk the line between work, tube and home in London, but it’s not why I came here. I came here to live in the open, not shut myself away. The scary thing is how easy it is to start doing the latter. I don’t want to live my life defined by the person I’m dating, not that I’ve been very lucky in that regard so far, with a handful of short-lived relationships under my belt. But I don’t want to be living for them; I want to be living for me.
In the end, that’s really all we have. If we aren’t proud of our own lives, how can we expect anyone else to be?
At 27, I still don’t feel like I’ve quite found who I am.
But I’m searching. I’ll just have to write on until I do.