Going through the motions
I’ve long since given up pretending writing is anything other than cheap therapy. I don’t have the patience for reporting and I’m not famous and or interesting enough to make it in the personal essay world. But writing is a good way to sort through the thoughts in my head and commit them to paper. To read back and see patterns that I hadn’t considered. To be forced to identify conclusions.
I tried to write some fiction last year and I actually thought it was pretty good but I have been rejected from every single short story competition, zine, magazine, website, and mentoring scheme I could find that was free or cheap to enter. No feedback, just a rejection email. I thought that maybe I should do a writers program, maybe just for a chance to get some face time with somebody who could articulate why my writing was bad but they all cost $800+. So that’s not a thing that will be happening soon.
When the pandemic first hit I wrote a lot because I was scared a lot and there was no outlet for that fear that could offer satisfaction. My family and friends had fears too, or they didn’t which was equally stressful. Writing helped me feel less alone in the fear.
I don’t write anything now, I haven’t done for months. An idea will pop into my head and I won’t bother to give it space. I don’t have the platform or the energy to make people read my writing and give it compliments and it’ll take up a lot of mental energy, so overall would be a net negative experience. And who needs that in the year of our lord twenty twenty.
On a semi-regular basis I will jokingly pitch the idea of a screen play or a podcast or a 10,000 word essay on the arts funding of North East England, but I know none of those will come to fruition. I’m okay with that.
In the first lockdown I started a daily journal. I wrote my focus for the day, plus something I was grateful for. I listed three habits I wanted to practice that day and then I ranked my to do list.
At first this was nice, sitting in the sun and reflecting, finding things to be grateful for. Forcing myself to remember that the world has good in it still despite being both figuratively and literally on fire.
But after a while the repetitiveness of my answers was too boring to even continue. Today my focus is work. I am grateful for the sunshine, for good coffee, for being healthy and safe and loved. My habits are to take my multivitamin, to leave the house, to take a lunch break away from my “home office” (desk in my living room).
Going through the motions of being a human isn’t the same as being a human.
On a walk I would remind myself to look at the flowers and admire their beauty with the exact same energy that I would remind myself to take a vitamin.
Anybody who has worked in customer service will know about the “zone out zone”. You’re repeating the spiel but your eyes are glazed over. You’re present but you’re not engaged. I’d take an entire drinks order from a faceless mist day after day night after night.
A lot of people who are much better at writing words than me have written about why 2020 feels so long. Why time doesn’t exist in a linear sense. How the markers of the passage of time have been condensed compressed and erased. When you have nothing to look forward to, when you repeat the same actions with no change. It feels like a form of absorbing life without participating in it.
To quote myself, one of the things I wrote about in my fiction piece that nobody liked was about a self imposed writers block:
She told him she was a writer but she hadn’t written for ages, it wasn’t so much a block as a man made dam. She said she read a book once where a character wrote down every thought she had onto paper without editing or stopping as a form of therapy and she had tried that for a while, but decided she wasn’t comfortable with putting that many of her raw unfiltered emotions on a page (they scared her) so now she was trying the opposite thing and not writing at all. He told her this seemed strange, to him (an artist), as he used his art to help process and release emotions. He couldn’t imagine bottling it up and she asked him if it was helpful, not because she cared but because it was the right thing a woman should say when a man talks about his emotions
And it feels as true today as it did in 2018 when I originally wrote this paragraph. But I still don’t have an answer. I know that writing this was a self indulgence, but I’m hopeful it was the breaking of the dam. I didn’t plan to sit on my sofa at 11:55pm on a Thursday night wearing a face mask and write about how difficult writing seems to be at the moment. But I didn’t plan a lot of this year either. Maybe in 2021 there’ll be something more interesting to write about.