Over the last few weeks I’ve looked for and accepted any reason not to write. Instead of working on fiction or drafting essays I’ve been working out, researching weight-lifting techniques I’d forgot, reading history books and bingeing on salads, Netflix and videogames on top of the daily grinds of work and socializing.
Today, before starting this essay, I tried doing many things to avoid writing it. Like the proverbial devil on my shoulder, that little Voice of Doubt whispered the appeal of such alternatives.
Why write when you can do stomach crunches?
Rather than write, why not bake a loaf of bread?
Hell, over the past few weeks I’d have downloaded some Kenny G and cranked up the volume, rather than delve into literary activities! If there are any Kenny G fans reading this… well, this probably isn’t the blog for you. But thanks for stopping by!
Lately, mundane day-to-day activities have seemed infinitely more interesting when compared to the act of writing. That alone wouldn’t be a problem if I wasn’t a writer. The problem is that when a writer isn’t writing he or she is always thinking about writing. And over the past couple of weeks regardless of whatever activity I’ve been doing, in the back of my mind, I’ve been thinking “I need to write!” A feeling of guilt for not writing arises the longer a writer is away from their desk. On top of that, the characters of unwritten stories start plaintively calling from the back of the subconscious, each demanding to be heard.
Which raises the question of why I haven’t been writing. Rather than bore you Dear Reader with some bullshit (albeit truth) about how my fiction takes me to dark places and how going into those dark places is personally harrowing and makes me want to come running into the bright light of the real world, I’ll dispense with excuses and provide meaningful verisimilitude.
I haven’t been writing in part because I didn’t want to face the possibility that my efforts are all in vain. That there was something anti-climactic in having recently completed a draft (that took nearly ten years to finish) especially considering the fact that it’s a long way from being polished to the highest standard that it and (hopefully) an audience deserves. At the core of the problem is the question of time and its passing.
I recently wrote about how I’ve taken up a new physical fitness regime and there are a number of reasons for me doing so. For the last number of years I haven’t felt happy with how I look. But the point of the regime isn’t entirely a vanity exercise. The final impetus for taking up the new routine was the realisation of how physically unfit I’ve become over the last couple of years. That realisation was brought about by my two year old nephew: Anyone who has ever had to baby-sit a toddler knows how energetic they are and how much energy is required to keep up with them!
Being around my nephew has been inspiring and healing in equal measures. At two years old, he has no idea of how much so, nor is he yet capable of comprehending the scale of that inspiration. Uncle Chris will tell him when he’s older.
There are days when I feel old and the passage of the years is something that haunts me.
But so what? Achievement takes time. Memories are just where you lead them. We could dwell on the past or we could live in the now and look to the future. Our approach to life, much like the draft of a novel, is a something we can change. Too much time pondering a topic can lead to inaction. As Samuel Johnson wrote:
Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome.
Overthinking our fears allows us to create our own obstacles and objections to moving forward in life – especially when those fears are ephemeral – we lend them power when we submit to apathy.
In short, I have issues with both my appearance and level of physical fitness so I decided to fix these problems. And I’ve been afraid to write anything these past few weeks because of pointless doubt. In writing this essay, I’m dispelling that nonsense and fixing that problem.
Finishing City of Steel was an emotional experience. Writing that tale took me to some dark places and finishing it allowed me to close a chapter on a part of my life filled with regrets. The novel is and was a support during that grueling time but like a cocoon, I no longer need that support. That much is a positive thing. Now I wish to build on the past and transform my future in body, mind and spirit.
Now back to stomach crunches and a new story.