Imagine you were someone in popular music who, many years ago, made some records that were pleasing but that never troubled the charts very much and then you spent most of the rest of your life doing drudge work in an office till the mortgage was paid off. For your biggest hits, such as they were, you just bashed out the chords on a guitar and reeled off whatever words came into your head and it seemed to work. There was energy. People got enjoyment from it.
What do you do now? You’ve just realised that you don’t really know how to play guitar properly at all. You try to perfect some more Travis picking, learn a classical piece, try something jazzy. You feel like you’re back to kindergarten, trying to play London Bridge is Falling Down on a tin whistle and hitting bum notes. It’s the same with writing. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about deleting this website and throwing my hat at the writing game.
It’s not that I haven’t been writing, I have, but not enough and not purposefully. I start on a whim, noodle about for a while, get distracted and let it die. (Apparently you have to water these creations with words every day.) Or was it going nowhere because I never had any end in view? I think of new things I’d like to write every morning, and before I forget I write a clue to it on the whiteboard in my office. But then the day goes by, and another, and another and eventually, after weeks, I might even forget what the clue meant.
After organising my notes and fragments, which I wrote about in my previous post, I have not come to a place of easy progress with a clear road ahead. Instead, it turns out that most of what I have is unusable, poorly written and sometimes completely wrongheaded and amateurish. It’s better to know that. This is part of moving on, recognising where I am and finding a way forward. The image that comes to me most often is of someone recovering from a stroke, as if my day job had been a long coma from which I have only just awoken. The world I knew has gone. Everything is new to me.