Let me say up front, this is not a blog about Covid. Like me, you may be worn down by endless reports and discussions about the pandemic. I am exhausted by it all, I would like to wake up and find it was all a horrible dream. No, this blog is about creative writing.
I quit my job just before Easter 2019, and decided to give creative writing my full and undivided attention.
I would invest time and energy into learning the craft. It’s what I have always wanted to do. I have been conditioned to believe it isn’t a real career path, but I secretly hold on to a dream that one day I would write books and be a published author. Naturally, the publishing world will be thrilled to finally have my stories and would be falling all over themselves to sign me up.
[My MacBook just made a Freudian slip! The predictive text just wrote punished instead of published. Now that’s funny.]
In 2019, I built myself a webpage, I started this blog, called myself a writer and began pen in hand.
I dedicated myself to reading everything I could about creative writing. I listened to podcasts about writing, watched YouTube videos about writing and talked a lot about writing.
Some of the courses got me to do writing prompts, which was great, except the characters would appear on the page, out of nowhere, and then the next exercise would start. Meanwhile my character was half way up Mt Snowdon in a blizzard with no one to get her down. I already had umpteen half started stories languishing in my drawer. I didn’t need any more characters looking at me with accusing eyes. It was all very confusing and not how I imagined writing would be.
I should mention I’ve been to a lot of courses over the years so I was not new to this sport. I had joined writing groups been to seminars and workshops for years while working in one job or another. This had filled me with information, rules, regulations and a lot of useless information along with some good stuff. My writing, if I can call it that, remained in limbo. I knew what not to do and how hard it all was. Especially children’s stories. Getting a picture book published was virtually impossible.
Thankfully, I stumbled across the best creative mentor anyone could ever hope for. Jen Storer, Children’s Author and Chief Inspirationalist at Girl and Duck, was doing YouTube videos about writing for children. Cue the Hallelujah chorus! Seriously, it was like a light went on in my brain.
Jen gave me permission to play, in fact she insisted on it. She spoke about the problem of filling your head, with too much information on writing, and the way ‘rules’ can block creativity. I am so thankful for her wisdom. Since early 2019, I dedicated myself to learning as much as I could from Jen. I watched all her videos, signed up for her courses and even attended a weekend workshop in her home town of Maldon.
My cunning plan was to learn all I could in 2019 and start writing my book in 2020.
Since then, like most people, I have run the gamut of emotions, sometimes all of them in one day. The sheer terror of the thought of losing someone to Covid. Seeing the dreadful footage of patients on ventilators is forever burned into my mind. I stopped watching the news because it was overwhelming. The feeling, when I knew we couldn’t see our daughter and her family when the NSW border closed, choked all the creative thoughts from my head. Then the five kilometre radius and the eight o’clock curfew were introduced and we couldn’t see our son and his family. I couldn’t breathe, let alone write.
You’d think isolation would be a creative writer’s dream, maybe for some, but not for this little black duck.
The feeling of being in limbo, not the fun kind with the calypso music, I mean the endless wondering when it would all end, made me feel numb. There’s a low grade anxiety running under everything.
I had lots of time but not a lot of hutzpah.
It’s not that I haven’t been writing, take this blog for example. I have read a lot of books about writing, I’ve continued to take online courses about writing, watched masterclasses on Zoom, participated in on line writing groups, spent time doing writing prompts and writing exercises. I’ve even done an online drawing course. It’s not that I haven’t been creative, it’s just that I didn’t write a single word in any of the half written stories hiding in my bottom drawer; Aka ‘the book.’
Recently, something changed.
Was it the full moon? Maybe it was the fifth lockdown, followed closely by horrific storms and a week-long power failure? Was it being cut off from my children and grandchildren again?
I think it had more to do with realising how angry I was. The irrational rage that surfaced when I saw someone wearing their mask UNDER their nose. The feeling of cold rage when someone turned up, with a snotty nose, UNTESTED, to my workplace. Screaming at a shop assistant when the person behind the counter is not following Covid protocol. [only in my head! Come on, I’d never do that to anyone]
Once I admitted to myself I was angry, I was able to step away from it. I know from my training that underneath anger is fear, and I realised, I’ve been afraid for a year and half. Not openly, just deep down in my heart afraid. I don’t want anyone I love to die from Covid.
Admitting it to myself, I felt a lock click somewhere deep in my soul. I finally realised all that fear had cut me off from writing ‘the book.’
Last week, I finally decided to choose one of my stories and start writing every day. I would let myself write badly. A crappy first draft. It can all be fixed in the rewrite. First I need something to fix and I just need to get it out of my head and onto the page.
This week I have written my story every day. I don’t know if it’s any good and it doesn’t matter, I’ll fix it in the rewrite. At last, one of the unfinished stories from the bottom drawer is getting some love.
It feels great to step aside from fear, I know it’s still there in the back seat, but fear is no longer choosing the playlist. Thanks to Liz Gilbert for that helpful metaphor.
This blog post is my declaration of intent. I am holding myself accountable by sharing it with whomsoever may read it. I intend to write a crappy first draft and finally write those elusive words:
Thank you for reading this and for the encouragement you give me.
‘I’m a Duckie’ image – girlandduck.com
All other images Unsplash.com