Pick up a pen and write …

Saturday night and the rhythms of carnival are pulsing outside my window. I’m a week from the end of this writing challenge. My mind’s as blank as the screen in front of me. You’d think it might have got easier as time went on. That’s what I thought. I was wrong. It’s been a journey. A wild one. I wouldn’t have missed a minute of it. But I’m a long way from the confident writer I thought I’d be by now. Instead I live with a constant fight to write.

I’ve discovered excuses and distractions I’d never even dreamed of before. I sit down at the keyboard. Upload a few photos to Facebook. Just quickly. Before I get stuck in. I feel thirsty. Make tea. Realise I’m low on milk. Walk to the shops. Come home to cold tea. I browse pointless news articles. How to have the career I always wanted. Bit late now. 10 ways to tell that my marriage is on the rocks. Mine never got off them in the first place. I make resolutions to de-clutter. Meditate. Get more exercise. Lose weight. Save the world. I Google recipes. Look up yoga classes. Decide I can squeeze in an extra volunteer shift at One25. Then I eat nectarines. Gaze at the sunset. Make coffee. Move the plants so I can take photos of the sunset. Upload the photos to Facebook … Anything to avoid actual physical contact between my fingers and the keyboard.

I’m one-hundred-and-nineteen days into a challenge. I’ve given up NOT being a writer for one-hundred-and-twenty-five days. I’ve learned that I love writing. I’d have to love it by now. Either that or the laptop would have landed in the car park weeks ago. I’ve also learned that I don’t need a telly. I do need to read. I love creating. Anything. Cakes. Birthday cards. Stories. Poems. Soup. I find people fascinating. And I love teaching just about as much as writing. So why do I still find it so bloody difficult to get down to work?


I’m trying to please everyone …

I’m writing with half an eye on the blog. All the time. What will people want to read? Have I written about this before? You’d be amazed how easy it is to forget after a hundred days and more. Am I boring everyone to death? Or is it only me that’s sick of the sound of my voice? Why hasn’t anyone read my last post? Does everyone hate me? I haven’t written about my internal Editor for several weeks. This doesn’t mean she hasn’t been breathing down my neck. Analysing every comma. Re-structuring every sentence. Whispering in my ear. Insidious. Insistent. What if Gertie reads that? She’ll never speak to you again, you know. It’s all right. I don’t actually know anyone called Gertie. This is rubbish. Nowhere near as good as that thing you wrote last Thursday. You’re getting worse at this, not better. Call yourself a writer? Real writers don’t run out of ideas. Stop messing about. Get a proper job. Act your age.


I think I should get a proper job …

I wouldn’t wish a lifetime of penury on my worst enemy. Actually, I’ve been sulking. Didn’t help the creative flow much. I wanted to go out this evening. I couldn’t afford to. This is normal. My normal. I wouldn’t know how to behave if I had money. And I definitely wouldn’t want all that anxious keeping-up-with-the-Joneses stuff. That said, I still get the odd yearning to throw in the alternative towel. Get a job stacking shelves in Tesco’s. Go down the pub once in a while. Try someone else’s normal for size. I know. I’d hate it. But it doesn’t stop me wondering from time to time.


I’m rubbish at selling myself …

I could make a living from teaching and writing. If marketing skills were a part of my resumé. As it is, I consistently undersell myself. I’m guessing there are not many teachers whose students tell them off for undercharging. As far as writing goes, I’ve made a few submissions to women’s magazines. All rejected. Thank heaven. Otherwise I’ve never even tried asking anyone to pay me for doing it. Unless you count asking people to sponsor this challenge. As a result, writing gets squeezed into the corners of my life. Late at night. Before meetings Sandwiched between things I tell myself must be more important. All of which brings me neatly to my final point.


I haven’t got time …

If confession is good for the soul, I have one of the healthiest souls on earth these days. To keep up the good work, I’ll share another character flaw. I’m the world’s worst time manager. I often blame this on my limited ability to say one small word. The one that begins with ‘n’. Ends with ‘o’. And has nothing in the middle. In reality the problem goes much deeper. My response to any request for volunteers is frankly Pavlovian. I’ve tried sitting on my hands in meetings. Biting my tongue. I wouldn’t have been at the meetings if I’d been able to say the ‘n’ word of course. I’ve tried staring out of windows. Counting drawing pins in notice boards. Working out how many people in the room are left-handed. Anything to distract myself from the fatal words. Would anybody like to …? It doesn’t matter how much I wouldn’t like to. I can only control myself for so long. No-one else speaks up. I’m doomed. The result? I worked nineteen hours over a two-day period last week. Excluding writing. Seventeen of the hours were voluntary.


I’ve identified a heap of problems. I’m really good at identifying problems. So what am I going to do? I’ve been reading Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. I love it. I’d really recommend it to anyone who wants to write. Her advice is simple. Pick up a pen and write … Keep your hand moving. The days I’ve come close to failing have been the days when I’ve given the problems the upper hand. I’ve re-edited eight times. Fretted about money. Worried about wasting time. Tied myself in knots over other people’s opinions. It really doesn’t take that long to write five hundred words. I can sit down with a pen and notebook. Get caught in the current. Come up for air eight hundred words later. Dive back in. I won’t have polished prose at the end of it. I will have the raw material I need. And the worry will look different. Money? So what. Have I starved yet? No. Pleasing people? Impossible. Forget it. Getting it right? Does anybody get it right all the time? I know one or two people who think they do. But that’s another story. So for now, I’ll just pick up a pen and write.



I’m blogging to raise funds for a charity close to my heart. I’ve given up NOT being a writer for 125 days in support of One25’s work with vulnerable women in Bristol. If you’ve enjoyed reading this, you can find out more about what I’m doing by visiting One25’s website at http://www.one25.org.uk/. You can also support them by visiting my fund raising page at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=JeanMutch where you can make a donation and suggest an idea for a short story or a post on the blog. Thank you.




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