Living each day much muchier
I’m sitting in a room high above Rathdowne St, facing my creative demons. It’s a writer’s class. Not the insufferable kind where we talk about characters and narrative arcs and what publishers look for in a novel these days. We’re all here to face something inside us that stops us from doing what’s in us to do.
I’m surrounded by a long table of women and one man and their coffees and their stories. We take turns. Some of us have a novel in our heads. All of us have ideas and social injustices we struggle with. As each person speaks their creative vision, Catherine stops and says,
“Wow. Who wants to read that book?” Almost everyone puts up their hand.
There’s a lot of nodding and mmming. It’s not because that person has a wild, creative idea like nothing we’ve ever heard. It’s because something about that story resonates with us. It resonates in strange ways, personal ways, creative and unexpected ways. Their stories are all so interesting.
I understand what stops me writing. It’s a shadowy monster who sits in my throat. Whenever I have something to say, it curls its long fingers around my windpipe and whispers,
“Hush, no-one cares.”
The monster has been my friend for a long time. It inspires the brevity of blog posts, which come out as neat philosophical packages. It helps me distil other people’s cloudy, unformed ideas at the office into value-added work. To sit quietly without presence or personal agenda is essential. I let it all wash over me. I catch the important bits in my net, just the bits people care about. My monster is good at that.
It also means I’m terrified to let out my own unformed ideas and feelings. I always pull myself in. Stop it short. Keep it quick. Get to the point. Hush.
The challenge I face is to let go. Who cares if no-one wants to read my trite, preachy nonsense, or whatever it is people think? Maybe if I speak up, people will nod and say mmm just as I’m doing to these other women now. They’ll see something that applies to their life in unexpected ways.
Hell, the challenge isn’t even that someone else cares; it’s that I care. I care to meet, know and befriend the idea I’m writing about. I care about characters that have been knocking about in my brain for nearly 20 years. They’ve been patiently hanging out in there like tiny, trapped prisoners. They just want my pen so they can live their lives. I want to spend time with them and hear what they have to say.
My challenge is that when the monster comes curling, squeezing, suffocating and saying ‘hush’, I respond with all the matter-of-factness I can muster and say,
“Fuck off. I care.”
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.