I’m finding, in this age of isolation, that I’m looking at writing in a different light; I’m confronting it differently, and indeed, it’s confronting me differently.
In writing purely for myself, the goalposts have moved and truthfully, I’m not sure in which direction to kick. Without journalism, the only subject matter is what I pull from my own head, the only deadlines are self-imposed, the only results are intangible.
As such, I’ve been struggling, somewhat, to see a point. This leads to self-doubt and to a degree, a certain amount of self-loathing. I’ll start writing something, the germ of an idea having popped into my head while standing in the sun out the back with a coffee and a smoke, only to stop after a paragraph as what I’ve come up with I deem to be sub-par, the idea, to my mind, going nowhere, and so I delete it all and am left with that most horrible of manifestations, The Blank Page.
Where I’m lucky however, is in my surroundings. The people around me who love and support me unconditionally; the place where we live, in itself a paradise; the fact I have the means to be able to spend as much time as I like, sitting at my desk in front of my computer, the sole intention being to write. It’s these things which erase any self-doubt or loathing almost as soon as they appear.
And yet, it’s a tricky exercise. It’s almost as if I’m having to find my ‘voice’ all over again, as if I’m needing to develop a style and a method as I endeavoured to do when I began doing this seriously, some fifteen years ago. I never thought I’d truly found my voice as a writer, but I did think it was on its way, so to speak. To have it almost reduced to ‘beginner’ levels is confronting, confusing, frustrating.
On an ego level too, which while less important still exists, I’m finding it hard to adjust. When I submit a piece of writing to a newspaper or a magazine, I know it’ll be read. Perhaps by only a few, perhaps by people who vehemently disagree with my premise – but it’ll be read. I’ll post links on social media, the publication will likely do the same, it’ll hopefully generate some sort of discussion.
Here though, in the vacuum of isolation, there is absolutely no guarantee of this, and despite the fact this in itself is no reason to not write, it’s been hard to get my head around; despite the fact I crave solitude, I still want my words to resonate around the world. Show me a writer who disagrees, and I’ll show you a liar.
There is, however, a flip side to all this, as I’ve come to discover. And that’s that this situation isn’t just a confronting reality, it’s also an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to pull ideas from my head, ideas I’d not be able to write about usually; it’s an opportunity to continue developing my voice, to find new and challenging ways to get a point across; it’s an opportunity to really get down and dirty and write as freely as I want, which is something I’ve always wanted (and, occasionally, have blamed journalism for getting in the way of).
It’s an opportunity to create afresh, unfettered by any sort of guideline or boundary, a time to lay everything out and to see what sticks.
The important thing then, as frustration creeps in, is to remember this. Remember that it’s an opportunity as well as a cold and sometimes harsh reality. Combine the two and make them work to your benefit. Revel in what’s good in life, and channel that energy. Sure, the goalposts have moved, but if you can manage to kick one straight through the middle, well that’s an achievement, and a reason to keep on writing. At least to my mind.