Chewing pens and cleaning out the fridge

Remember that feeling? You’re stuck in a dingy classroom. Sun streaming down on the playground. Somehow not quite making it through the window. You’re doing an exam. Only they must’ve given you the wrong paper. Your mind’s blank. The clock’s ticking. All you can do is chew the pen. Stare out of the window. Wish you were somewhere else. Anywhere but here. Today’s been like that.

In between bouts of window-staring I’ve been teaching English. Cleaning out the fridge. Reorganising the kitchen. I’ve walked to the shops and back. I’ve fumed at BT for telling me the free email service I’ve used since dinosaurs roamed the world wide web is going to be withdrawn. I’ve cooked. I’ve made endless cups of tea. Nothing. No inspiration. Not a whisper. It’s nearly bedtime. Here I am writing about not writing. Just so I can get my five hundred words for today done.

It’s all part of the journey, I suppose. For the last few days I’ve been on a roll. Ideas have flowed. And the words to go with them. I’ve written on topics close to my heart. And enjoyed every minute. I didn’t even consider counting words yesterday. Not until the post was almost finished. I’ve counted this one three times already. Four now.

Time was when the towel and I would have parted company hours back. I’d not so much have thrown it in as thrown it right out of the pram. Along with the laptop. My toys. And all thought of ever writing anything again. Apart from incensed emails to BT. I’d have opened that bottle of red wine. Filled a large glass. Put the telly on. Huddled in the armchair. And felt sorry for myself. Quite right too. Poor me. I’m rubbish. What on earth made me think I could write in the first place?

It’s just as well I’ve got a hefty welly behind me now, in the form of a £12.50-a-day fine for failure. It’s also as well I spend so much time trawling random blogs and news items online. I’m not usually a fan of motivational gurus. They make me feel even more inadequate than usual. Not to mention annoying me because they’re more concerned with their message than with being kind to the English language. This being the case, I’m not sure why I gave an article entitled The Most Important Question You Can Ask Yourself Today more than a passing nod over the muesli this morning. But I did. The gist of the Mark Manson’s argument is that happiness requires struggle. Or to give it a more familiar twist – no pain, no gain. Yes. I know. It screams cliché. But it works for me right now. The harsh truth is I’ve wanted to be a writer all my life. Up to now, every time I’ve hit a day like today, I’ve given up. Told myself I was never going to make it. Gone off in a huff. Abandoned the keyboard for weeks. Months. Sometimes years. Manson asks what is the pain you want to sustain? See what I mean about cruelty to the English language? But he has a point. If you want to lose weight you have to eat less. If you want to pass exams, you have to study. If I want to be a writer, I have to write. Come hell. High water. Disputes with BT. Total mental blocks.

Today is day thirty-two of my Give It Up challenge. I think. I’m beginning to lose count. And the plot. I seem to have given up watching telly. Sitting in comfortable chairs. Washing dishes. Leaving the building. Eating proper meals. Exercise. Making phone calls. Reading. And going to bed before midnight. But in somewhere the midst of it all, I have most definitely given up NOT being a writer. I’m pretty happy with that.

And you’ll be pleased to know that, despite everything, no pens were chewed in the writing of this blog.

I am blogging to support One25, a Bristol charity working with street sex workers. If you’ve enjoyed reading this, please consider donating at

Thank you



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