Try as I might, I just haven’t been able to get my shit together.
I haven’t posted anything here in weeks, nor have I posted any fiction or non-fiction on Twitter, Instagram or Medium. Writing — or even just the thought of writing — makes me anxious or depressed or angry.
But many things — things as mundane as walking the dog, cleaning the house and taking a bloody shower — can make me anxious or depressed or angry at the moment. Sometimes I can work through these feelings and get stuff done, but in other instances its easier to simply not bother trying, lest I throw myself out of a state of reasonable mental stability and into a shitstorm of tears, panic and self-destruction. I can sit down to write feeling calm, content, and confident in my ability, and twenty minutes later find myself hiding under the duvet, sobbing hysterically and plotting my suicide. And I promise you that’s no exaggeration, as dramatic as it sounds.
It’s not the writing that’s the problem, it’s me. I want to write so, so badly. I want to finally finish editing my novel and finally get started in earnest on my next one. I want to hammer out the first drafts of a whole bunch of short stories, the concepts of which I scrawled in my notebook weeks and months ago. The trouble is, when I put pen to paper I get sucked into that horrible place where I question if my ideas are any good and if I’m eloquent enough to string a decent sentence together and if I even have any imagination at all.
I think I’m alright at writing. I think writing fiction is probably one of the only things I’m good at. But when I’m questioning my ability and convincing myself that actually, no, I’m fucking awful at it, I find myself coming to the conclusion that I am utterly bloody worthless. If writing is my only skill, and I am bad at that one measly skill, I basically have no skills at all. I have nothing to offer. I have no purpose. My life has no meaning. Might as well be dead, right?
This has been my mindset about writing for months, but right now I’m not in the darkest depths of despair. I’m really working on changing my negative image of myself, and I am not at this very moment convinced that I am a terrible writer. Nonetheless, I still have this stupid fear around writing, because every time I write I risk pushing myself over to the hopelessly dark I-really-wish-I-was-dead mindset once again.
It’s not just writing, either. It’s reading too. For weeks I’ve neglected to read the work of my favourite bloggers and writers on WordPress, Medium and social media. Why? Because they’re a reminder that they’re doing what I’m not. They’re using their imaginations, flexing their creativity, playing with words and language and entertaining their readers. They’re doing everything I want to be doing and am too anxious to do. They remind me of my failings. And not only is it selfish of me to cease supporting the wonderful writers whose work I love, but it only makes me feel disconnected from the online fiction world and exacerbates the belief that I am not good enough.
What the HELL am I gonna do about it?
If you’re sick of me bleating on with this woe-is-me attitude by now, I don’t blame you. I’m probably more sick of it that anybody else. So I’m going to try to change it.
I’m currently in therapy, doing a combination of CBT and REBT and DBT and all the variations of BT, I guess. It’s still reasonably early days but I’m learning a lot about how to process my thoughts, feelings and beliefs in healthier ways. My self-harming habits have reduced, I’m suicidal only, like, 50% of the time instead of 98%, and I finally have a more positive outlook on my life. I’m hopeful that eventually I’ll be able to operate like a ‘normal’ human being again (whatever normal is), and accept all facets of myself – the good, the bad and the average – without mentally beating myself up.
I’m trying to get back into the routine of writing a little every day, even if it’s just spewing my thoughts and feelings out into a notebook or writing about that weird, creepy dream I had about eyeballs the other night. If I find that any of these witterings are worth sharing with the general public, I’ll post them. But I’m going to forgo any formal posting schedule for now so that I don’t have to feel like a failure when I don’t adhere to it. Instead, for the time being, I’m going to see if I can just make writing fun again without any of the fear. ‘Cos writing really used to be my absolute favourite thing ever, and there’s a tiny hopeful scrap of me that knows it still is.
Speaking of fun writing, now is a great time to turn a negative post into a positive one (and massage my writing ego a little) by sharing news of the recently released VSS365 Anthology, in which one of my tiny Twitter stories has been published.
The #vss365 hashtag game on Twitter is a hugely popular daily writing challenge. A new single-word prompt is posted every day and writers are tasked with penning a tiny flash story that fits within the site’s 280-character post limit. Back in summer the founders and hosts of the challenged asked for submissions to the anthology and one of my tales was accepted. It’s certainly a confidence boost to see my work published amongst that of hundreds of incredible writers and I feel very lucky to have been part of a such an ambitious project.
All royalties from the sale of the VSS365 anthology will be donated to The Book Bus, a children’s literacy charity. So, if you buy a copy, not only will you make lots of writers very happy to have their work read, but you’ll also be helping kids across the world to access lovely books and learn how to read. Go and check it out on Amazon.
Over and out
Well then. I um-ed and ah-ed about posting this because it is so negative and whingy and whiny, but sometimes a good whinge is necessary. A problem shared and all that. Thanks for reading. Hopefully I’ll some more fun stuff for you to read in the near future.Follow Ellie Scott on WordPress.com