When I was in primary school, when I was like eight, I think, I wrote what my school friends considered to be a novel.
For a creative writing assignment, we were told to write short stories. I can’t remember what we were meant to write about, like theme or subject wise, but I ended up writing about aliens. I can’t remember what exactly about aliens I was writing but what I can remember is that, as an eight year old, I was hard core obsessed with aliens. Invader Zim was my jam. Anyway, I ended writing maybe eight or nine pages about aliens where everyone else had written a page or two. I even took my wee jotter home for the long weekend and away to this hotel my family were staying at on a wee trip. I remember everyone being so impressed that I had scribbled so much for this project, and I remember having so much fun writing it and then feeling so good after I wrote it. I think that might be when I actually got into creative writing. That’s my origin story.
Fast forward fourteen years later: I am 22 with some accomplishments but also standards for myself that are way too high and self-esteem issues on the rise. I am struggling to find something meaningful to write about and bothered by a lack of a meaningful way to write about it. I see peers who are achieving things and I am feeling a disgusting pang of jealousy (though, I do (successfully) cover it with encouragement and congratulations). I am unsure of how to progress and am seriously doubting any skill and/or talent I thought I had. I am asking myself, what do I do if not writing?
I started writing this blog a month ago, I think. Maybe more time has passed but for my own sake I’m going to say it’s only been a month. Tonight, that is Tuesday the 9th of April, I’ve opened the doc for it and deleted everything I had typed out. If I look back at what I have written here in a few days, I’ll probably delete all of this as well without reading it over. I’ve been feeling so burned out that I can’t even write about feeling burned out.
Until my writer’s block took total control of me last month, I had been writing just about every single day of the year and I was writing a fair whack as well. Like, several hundred words every day and editing as well. I was starting to feel a little fizzled out but determined to keep going because ultimately, I was proud of myself for keeping going and devoting so much time to what I love. Then I got a cheeky wee rejection from a short story and felt a wee bit sad.
I’d like to think I’m not a cry baby. In fact, I’d like to think, rather, that I’m a Mature Adult who understands that rejection is a part of life, but especially the life of a creative. So, I’m not angry or spiteful or anything about this rejection, but I’m just a little disappointed (cue here: I’m not angry, just disappointed). You work hard on something and you hope the best for it, and it’s always going to feel a bit crap when that hard work doesn’t go the way you want it to.
So, my fizzling out was mounting and then I got a rejection. I decided that maybe a wee break from writing would do me really good. You see, I tried to fill every spare moment that I could with writing or editing or working on a project in some form or another. If I wasn’t writing when I could be, I’d feel so guilty and counter-productive which would make me feel horrible. I’d lie in bed and think about all the work I could have got done that day, and about all the ideas and pretty sentences I didn’t write down, and feel like a bit of a failure. That, I can tell you, is not a healthy attitude. I really punished myself for not working every little second of the day and exhausted my mind trying to think of my excuses for not writing. I could never just relax. I’ll stand by this: a few days of actively taking a break from writing was a really good choice for me to make.
But that was weeks ago. My little writing break got really long. It got so long that when I wanted to write, I would feel like my fingers were frozen so that I couldn’t type or hold a pen, and my mind would turn into one big block of concrete. Like, I was suffering from a bad case of writer’s block. I just couldn’t seem to write. I managed the odd first draft of a poem or a few groups of sentences I liked that could be inserted into a story in the future, but for the most part, I was so stuck. Worse still, when I actually thought about writing my brain just decided to launch an all-out on attack myself. My mind was trying to convince me that I’m bad at the thing I chiefly love to do which really hurt me. I was really hurting myself.
Over the past few weeks, because of all of that, I’ve been feeling a little purposeless. I’ve been asking myself, what, beyond writing, am I good at? I’m not especially sporty or musical (I can play guitar, just not well), and I like cooking but not enough to, I don’t know, do it for a living? Not only was I feeling without purpose, but I felt like there were no other purposes for me.
I filled a lot of time with reading and trying to find inspiration from books and TV shows that I love. Right now, I’m reading Lanark by Alasdair Gray. Truthfully, I should have finished it weeks ago because I was assigned to read it for uni (and I also wrote an essay on it despite not having read it all), but I’m still reading it now. I’ really enjoying it and finding a lot of meaning in it! There are a lot of ideas about being a creative in Glasgow and feeling a lack of meaningfulness in your work and a whole lot of dark and depressing themes. Before that, again for uni, I read the Dear Green Place by Archie Hind which is about Mat Craig, a wannabe writer who just can’t finish his book. I think that maybe these books about struggling creatively have put a sort of dampener on me, despite how much I actually enjoy them.
Lanark has been really inspiring to me. I’ve scribbled notes and a half draft (this is what I’m calling something that’s more incomplete than a first draft) of something that kind of engages in similar themes to Lanark (or is at least trying to) and I’ve been world building for it too, which has been really fun. I’ve been really exploring my main character, who is strongly based on me. I never do that, base characters on myself. I honestly find it really hard to write about myself, so I tend to avoid that. This time, with this new project, I’m trying to be a little bit more real. Hopefully I’ll get some more meaning out of it as well.
I’ve been feeling burned out as hell for over a month now but I think that, finally, I’m starting to cool down. Today I wrote a really pessimistic thing about writer’s block (that will have already been posed on my blog by the time this will be up) and now I’ve written this. I think I’m happy with this. I think I’m happy to publish it. I don’t think I’ll come back in a couple of days and delete all of it, or regret seeing it go on the site. I think I’m shaking this block and hopefully I’ll get back to my short stories soon and be able to properly develop this new project. I really want to get back to what I wanted: posting a short story on the site every month and also writing one to keep for a collection. I want to blog more, even if it’s about pure stupid shite. As long as I’m writing, eh?
Maybe my goal should be to write more about me, and not just stuff I’m doing day to day, but rather these struggles I’m feeling. I want to read more books and see more movies and review them, I want to write more opinion pieces and I want to experiment with essays (I have one in development!). I have a lot of ideas, so maybe I’m feeling a bit overcrowded in my own head. Maybe the only way to fix that is by getting them all out on pages. I’ll share the good ones, maybe.