I’ve been trying to write a blog post abut something for about a week now, and I’m really struggling with it. In fact, I’m struggling to write anything. I’ve got the last assignment for my creative writing course over the lines, fumbling it like a nuclear football juggled over a fire pit, as well as editing a few episodes of my two podcasts, Bleakwood and All Creatives Now, but that’s it. Beyond that, my well is well and truly dry.
Which is kind of what I wanted to talk about. But how do you write about not being able to write? Let’s find out!
I’ve had a bit of a weird few years. I’ve spent half my life wanting to be a writer. Just over six years ago I released my first novel (independently), the result of nearly a decade of work and learning about writing craft and indie publishing and all that jazz. Always with the same aim — one day I’m going to become a full-time writer. It was a mantra, one that has, at times, become all-encompassing.
All the while, I’ve been working a day job. Not by any means a career I would have chosen (the other options of crusading journalist and bloated rock star having long since fallen away) but a decent one. Progression, decent salary, security, all that jazz. But I kept writing, always with the idea in the back of my head that one day I’d be saying goodbye to that career and hunkering down into writing full time. In these dreams I weirdly look just like Stephen King, but my bald spot has long since rendered that impossible.
Four years ago, that day job suddenly went away, as jobs occasionally do. I had to find a new job, because my Amazon sales of the Blood on the Motorway novels would barely cover one round of fish and chips a month, let along match the wages that were about to disappear.
I found one, maybe less than ideal in terms of who I was working for, and it meant upping sticks and moving the family across the country. Which we duly did. No sooner had we moved than the company announced they were closing and that I would lose my job.
So, that was fun.
The long tail of that job has been far longer than anyone could have imagined at the time. So my writing brain (which takes up the roughly 47.3% not taken up by alternative rock lyrics from the 1990s) kicked into overdrive. Paul, you fucking cretin, it whispered (it’s a mean motherfucker, this bit of my brain), this is your chance. MAKE ME A GOD!
I was going to shoot for the moon.
I’ve been very lucky these last few years. The declining workload of a closing company, coupled with the ability to work from home, meant I could work almost as though I was a full-time author, while still earning the steady paycheck. Sure, that meant working a ridiculous amount of hours, but it’s amazing what you can do when there’s a goal to shoot for. Over the course of those years, I’ve written over half a million words, launched four websites, two podcasts, and tried to put the hard yards in when it comes to promotion. Let’s just gloss over the fact that I’ve done that bit really badly. Oh, and I’ve been doing a diploma in Creative Writing from Oxford University, which requires just a tad of additional focus.
It wasn’t enough. Sometime around March I had to come to terms with the fact that I was going to have to get another job to start when this one ends, and suddenly on top of launching the aforementioned podcasts and work getting much busier, I had to find a new job. Anyone who’s been in that market recently will tell you — that’s a full-time job of its own.
Then something really great happened. I found a job (hooray) but not only that; it was a job that was a lot different to what I’ve done before in a lot of ways. The actual work I’ll be doing is the same, and something I know I’m pretty good at, but what’s different is the company. I don’t really like to talk about work stuff on social media all that much, but I’m actually working for a company I can really believe in after two multinationals with somewhat shady records on different issues. But here I’ll be able to make a difference in actual, tangible ways. I’m really looking forward to getting started with them, and I honestly never thought I’d feel that way about the career I’ve fallen into. I can see myself working there for the rest of my career.
Which does then call into question, where does that leave the writing? At first, I looked at the fact that I’ve got a bit of time off between jobs and thought HOW MANY PROJECTS CAN PAUL DO IN THAT TIME? That is because I’m an idiot.
The whole thing is making me think a lot about my relationship to writing. I’ve concluded that it’d be a lot healthier to go back to just writing for fun, for me. But I’ve got so many projects on the go, it seems… tricky. When you’ve been trying to spin so many plates for so long, what does writing for fun even look like?
At the moment, I feel so burned out. Looking back now, I can see that I’ve definitely taken on far too much. Most of that work has gone into things that nobody ever sees or notices. Web redesigns, mailing list automations, updating sales descriptions across multiple episodes of a monthly serial… the list is endless. I’ve spent the last three years putting everything into trying to reach a point of going full time. It’s been all-encompassing. When I realised back in March that it wouldn’t happen, I got kind of depressed about it, but was still throwing everything into it. In fact, that’s a bit of a lie. I got very down, not just about writing, but about my whole place in the world. A lot of us do. In fact, one of my biggest struggles in wiring this is my good buddy imposter syndrome, who spends all his time breathing down his neck whispering you fool. Nobody cares. Look at the world, it’s on fire. And you’re bleating on about waa waa waa I’m not sure what kind of writer I want to be?
Fuck, I hate that guy. Anyway, after a good few weeks of soul searching, I think I’m getting comfortable with the idea that I’m not sure I still want to be a full-time writer.
Look at me, couching that language.
So, let me be clear. I don’t want to be a full-time writer any more. If it happens, marvellous, but I don’t see any way that it will, and the reasons for that are twofold. One, I don’t want to find an agent or a traditional publishing deal, because I kind of despise what the publishing industry is, and boy, does that seem as much fun as trying to find a new job. But I also hate social media and self promotion, so I’m never going to make it as an indie author. Not to FULL-TIME AUTHOR levels.
If I go back to doing this as a hobby, none of that matters. I can put books out, and if people like them, great. If they don’t; hey ho. Or I could put it all aside for a while and learn the sitar. Who knows? But I want to go back to just doing what I want.
I’ve been looking at this time coming up, a good chunk of weeks of no work. My good lady wife starts a new job in September and until then isn’t working either, and the kids will be off school for most of it. So, do I really want to spend all that time sat at this desk?
No. In case you’re wondering. So, I’ve decided to take a proper break from everything, until September. I’ll write if I want to. But I don’t think I will. When I start work in September, I’ll revisit it again, but on a more sustainable level. I don’t know what will look like, yet, and I think I need a clean break from it all and have a good rest before I can even think about it.
So, if you’re waiting for the next episode of the Sunset Chronicles, or Bleakwood, or All Creatives Now, I’m afraid they’re all going on the back burner. I actually love all three projects, but I just can’t face them at the moment. Let’s see where we are in September.
In the meantime, you can find me hanging around on socials, probably. Actually, possibly not. I might delete them all. Maybe I’ll be in my back garden, if you can find that.
Hey, look, I wrote about not being able to write after all…