THE WRITER’S LIFE
I still have to remind myself sometimes that I’m a writer. Not because I’m unsure of whether I can write or not: I can; I’ve won an award, I’m published and I occasionally get paid a pittance for it. Often I have to remind myself as a defence mechanism; for self-assurance. Life would sometimes be easier if those with a tendency to judge asked more questions outside of themselves. It’s just a deeper level of thinking about everything.
The observation is equally valid when applied to some in authority as it is to most of those who are not. If many of the latter talked to me and asked me direct questions, I’d give them straight answers. Instead, they answer their own questions and form judgements. They’re the plastic police and defective detectives who have been the bane of my life for the last three years. I find ignorance perverse, rude, sad and pitiful. That’s their problem. Personally, I’m more inclusive. I try to find the good in people, however hard it might be to fathom. I suppose I just think that little bit more: That’s my problem.
It’ll happen again this coming weekend, when curtains twitch on all sides of my parents’ house, as I arrive with a hold-all of clothing and belongings. Truth is, I’m on a break, with my children. The studio simply isn’t big enough to host the kids. The chattering classes will decide – without making enquiries – that I’ve drunk myself out of another home and I’m turning up destitute. They’ll congratulate themselves, feel superior and go off to chatter. Short of ramming my arm down their throats and pulling their entrails out, I have no way of stopping them. And so they will make up their own small minds: Not my problem. What am I to do? Go round to everyone’s house and explain why we’re there? Show them that the hold-all contains a dismembered body, which I’ll inter in my parents’ garden? Maybe I’m a little paranoid and insecure; That’s part of my illness. But I’m a writer now.
Sometimes I’d like the self-opinionated to spend a typical day with me, just as I would those who determine my future through unfairly weighted health assessments as I fight to regain my PIP entitlement. On the basis of any one day, they’d see someone who is constantly distracted and unable to concentrate, and who then finds it difficult to sleep because I can’t switch my brain off. They might witness the odd moment when I manage to free myself of all distractions and actually write something. They may witness the beginning of a story, as I kill them slowly: I’m a writer.
But then, they might find me on a good day. On a good day, I might write a new story; a chapter of a book; or both and more. No day is the same and the parts which make up the days can be as unpredictable as the days themselves.
Depression scares people: It’s fear of the unknown and it’s just as bad for the sufferers as it is the ignorant and other, more well-meaning observers. Others must find it far more frustrating than me because they’re not able to be as vocal as I am. Depression is an illness; a disability, just as debilitating sometimes as a physical impairment. If more people spoke to those who have mental health issues, perhaps they wouldn’t be so misunderstood.
Other depressives might want to swap brains with someone else. Ours are difficult minds to live in but our warped worlds can be quite fun. I enjoy exploring mine and reporting on what I find in that strange place.
I’m not alone; Obviously in depression, but as a writer as well. I’ve read the memoirs and musings of many writers whom I look up to and they’re remarkably similar to me, albeit more successful. Should anyone care to undertake the research, you might be surprised at how many writers have mental health issues and it’s because of those issues that many are writers. The Guardian runs a weekly column, “My working day”, in which a well-known writer describes their day of writing, or not writing a lot of the time. It is a source of constant amusement and comfort, to see these people describing a day which could just as easily be one from my life.
Other writers have told how they spend most of their day being distracted, both with non-writing things and the minutiae of things which they’re trying to write. They’ve told of how they can write 10,000 words some days and nothing at all for a week; then of those 10,000 words ending up in the bin. They write of the frustration they feel when the block sets in and how they’ve been tempted to give it all up and go back to some sort of “proper” job; Then concluded that they would probably last less than a day if they had to be accountable to someone else. They speak of how equally enlightening and frustrating one can be as one’s own boss. They worry that time may run out – in any given day, or in life – before they’ve converted all of their thoughts and ideas into narrative, prose and dialogue. There is much internal turmoil and of all the arts, writing pays the least in monetary and recognition terms. None of those writers would want to do anything different though and they cannot be controlled, least of all by themselves. I’m in good company and doing the only job I’ve ever wanted to do: That of a freelance writer.
People may point an invisible finger; I raise one back. They may speak under their breath; I’ll say what I think, and probably offend someone. As one famous writer once observed, “I am unemployable and as such, I am a writer.”
As I once noted: If someone (metaphorically) shits in your shoes, first take off your socks. Then put your shoes back on and walk to your detractor’s house. Upon arrival, be polite; Remember your manners: Remove your shoes before (figuratively) walking into their home.
There was a time when I might have forgotten the metaphorical and figurative. Now I’m a writer.
For me, most days are good now. Because no matter how bad the day might seem, on reflection there will always be some good to be found. I’ve written around 50,000 words of one book over the last few months but I’ve hit a snag: My heart is elsewhere, in the most recent short stories I’ve been writing. So I’ve done as some of my more famous peers have done: I’ve effectively binned 16 chapters of a book I was writing. Not permanently: I’ll go back to it, when my mind is clearer. For now, I’m writing a new book, which has sprung from those recent shorts: Cyrus Song:
“…I was an extrovert on paper: I could be anything in the words which spilled from my typewriter. If anyone were to read those words, they might find me…”
The original short story is still on this blog and the companion, The Cyrus Choir will be in this weekend’s Schlock! webzine, hopefully garnering some interest in the book.
My protagonist is a writer who can talk to the animals.
I’m a writer now. Why would I want to speak to those who can’t pose questions directly, when I can talk with the animals?
“There is always something you can succeed at. Where there is life, there is hope” (Stephen Hawking).