A writer’s guide to Not Writing.

A friend once asked me if I enjoyed writing.

Obviously. I love writing. That’s why I’m a writer.”

He made a face.

“But, like, do you actually enjoy it? Because I love coming up with ideas and even structuring them, but the concrete act of writing is the worst. It’s almost painful.”

I laughed then, but I’m not laughing now.

These past two weeks, I’ve done everything in my power to avoid writing.

Shame didn’t help. I’ve said fuck it and have taken said shame on the nose. If it’s shameful not to write, then I am the Queen of Shame. Shave my head and ring that bell, loud and proud and shameful.

I’ve managed to find every excuse under the sun.

  • I went on a long weekend of vacation.
  • Then, there was too much noise outside my house, so I had to live somewhere else for a few days.
  • Then the internet went out in the rental house.
  • And I had a tiff with my partner.
  • So I wasn’t feeling good about myself.
  • Plus I needed to cook.
  • And I needed to take some long walks, to blow off steam, you know.
  • Shit — I needed to plan my damn wedding.
  • And obviously I needed to be social. Sun’s out.

Oh, and don’t forget: I needed the all-important Me Time.

And that’s not all.

I’m such an expert at Not Writing that I drape my avoidance in “learning” to disguise it.

I read endlessly, all in the name of enrichment. I have twenty tabs open at once, and I will read them all.

My partner asks how I’ve spent the day. “Research,” I say, dusting off my lab coat.

I digest swaths of information. The Top 27 Toxic Words That Are Hurting Your Conversions have gone in one ear and out the other. I knew what CRO was for about five minutes this morning. And I have taken down notes that consist of the circled words “LIZARD BRAIN”.

And I read what’s trending online, because you have to know what the people are talking about. And I read my friends’ feeds, because who better to know what’s up than my intimate circle of pals? And I read the news, because #resist.

The first few articles each day are often exciting, especially when I stumble upon troves of info that inspire me to actually make a move.

And then that move gets lost in the flood, along with the inspiration to make it. More tabs appear. And I don’t know it all yet, don’t see the full picture. There are so many people who know things I don’t.

How can I possibly write under such ignorant circumstances?

Intense fear of taking action grips me when I contemplate writing.

Writing means putting yourself out there, means seeing what you say. And what if what you say is a load of shite?

You’ll be forced to face that head-on. How will you deal with yourself?

And you’ll be revealed for the fraud that you are. Will you still have any friends?

And all your hopes and dreams of being The Writer That Mattered will be crushed. Your mother will be so disappointed.

This is what I battle every time I contemplate writing something for myself. I’m sure I’m not the only one (say hi!).

At this point, there are really only two things that keep me writing.

  1. The fear of — someday hopefully far off — realizing that I am old, and that I have not done what I wanted to do, à la Sylvia Plath’s figs.
  2. The wish that — someday hopefully quite soon — this fear won’t be what principally motivates me. That instead, I’ll be pulled along by a steady steam of successes, of pieces and projects I am proud of.

One of the articles I read today suggested keeping physical evidence of your successes at hand, on your desk. It’s not a bad shout.

(You see? All those hours of reading paid off!)

Perhaps I need clearer evidence within eyesight that I am, in fact, a writer. I’ll find a way to try it. Because for now, every time I contemplate putting pen to paper, it feels like nothing I’ve done up to this point counts.

But — I am convinced — that writing is like AA. The most important part is showing up.

So here I am.

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Content designer. Sassy futurist. Ukulele plucker. Ottolenghi acolyte.

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Janel Torkington

Content designer. Sassy futurist. Ukulele plucker. Ottolenghi acolyte.