What This INFP Has Been Up To

 

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So it’s been a while since I’ve posted or written anything on this blog, but there has been good reason for it. For the last half year or so, I descended into a period I like to call “productive depression”. I was most definitely depressed, because I had all the symptoms—low mood, lethargy, complete lack of interest in activities, etc.—but at the same time, I was still able to write snippets here and there of my own fiction, so the entire period of time I was away wasn’t entirely wasted.

Finally, after a hospital stay for suicidal thoughts, I am completely free of my depression and have returned to the blogosphere, to continue writing my thoughts and sharing with the internet my own, little life. So what, exactly, have I been up to, apart from moping about and trying not to kill myself? Well, I completed an 8,000 word children’s book, which I have already sent in to a publisher, but I don’t even have my fingers crossed for it because I have very little hope my horrible little book will be published. It just won’t happen, I can feel it, but at the very least I did something during my depressive episode, at least I did practice my writing a little bit.

Because of anxiety and depression, I had to leave school early, which means that I have needed to quickly find some way of gaining education that would lead to employment, because, suffice to say, this particular INFP has realized that her dream of becoming a writer, at least for now, will certainly not put food on the table; so in July this year, I will be enrolling in an Aged Care course that will allow me to take care of elderly people in a residential setting, helping them with tasks such as showering, eating, toileting and the like. It is not the most glamorous of jobs, but it will put food on the table, and even INFPs need to be realistic sooner or later when it comes to earning money; and after a while, if I want, I can transition into nursing by doing a Diploma of Nursing and then going on to do a Bachelor of Nursing, and becoming a Division 1 Nurse, So, basically, I will work in the aged care industry or go on to become a nurse, and do my writing on the side, as a sort of hobby, because the publishing industry is a very hard nut to crack, and I just don’t think my writing ability or the quality of my work is good enough to get published yet.

It’s not the most ideal path—I mean, I’m not too sure if INFPs are completely cut out for working with elderly people, I am a very caring person and I certainly would like taking care of and conversing with old people, but there is the small matter of dealing with difficult elderly people, who might have dementia or behavioural issues, that I am rather concerned about, simply because, like a typical INFP, I am terrible at dealing with aggression of any kind. However one needs to put food on the table, and this is the best educational option suited to my temperament that I have at the moment, especially since it will be a long time, if ever, before my writing pays for necessities like food and rent, so I’m sticking with it for now.

Anything else? Oh, yes. I cut my hair. Yes, that’s right: during my depressive episode, I cut all my hair off, until I practically looked like a man. Well, no, I still look like a woman, but it does, in my opinion, look very ugly; I feel exactly like a shorn sheep, bedraggled and naked. All my long, silky, beautiful black hair I cut off, because I was so depressed and felt like doing something earth-shattering and immense to snap myself out of my depressive state at the time, and now it will take forever to grow back. It’s a small and insignificant thing, perhaps, to the people around me, but to me, it’s enormous and horrible, and I feel almost as though I will never be beautiful again. It’ll take two years, at the very least, for it to grow back to shoulder-length, because my hair is very thick and grows very slowly, and in the meantime, I am miserable and morose whenever I look into a mirror.

As for my writing—well, this INFP is having very mixed feelings at the moment about her writing. Almost every INFP I know likes writing, and I am no different, but to make a career out of it, especially in fiction writing (in particular, fantasy, the genre I like to write in) is something very difficult to do indeed. My problem at the moment is that while I might have brilliant flashes of inspiration, I find it very difficult to flesh them out into proper books, with proper characters and things that happen; more often than not, whenever I try to write fiction, I just start off with a great idea that peters out into nothing, because I don’t have the ability or the writing skills to truly turn a seed of an idea into a flourishing beanstalk of a book. It’s very aggravating, and something that makes me feel as though I will never become a writer, never be published, because ideas without execution are nothing, little less than leaves on the wind. So this particular INFP is getting a bit more realistic about her airy-fairy dreams, and going into aged care instead—sometimes, the real world will break your heart, because unfortunately, banks are stronger and more powerful than castles in the air.

And money is something I cannot live without at the moment. I am turning 20 this year, and have very little money to my name, and still live with my single mother, who works as a cleaner and doesn’t earn very much at all. What’s more, what I’ve discovered with writing is that I can’t pursue it full-time, because whenever I write for too long, I get stuck, and the characters and the descriptions of the world start to go nowhere. Basically, my optimum level of writing, I’ve found, is a page of words a day, if I want to keep myself from getting bored with my own writing, and at that pace, I end up turning out short, mediocre childrens’ fantasy books. Not a good omen for a future in the publishing industry, I can tell you that. So in order to earn money I’ve had to be more realistic; even dreamers, after all, need to eat. I’ll be writing more posts soon—I’ve returned for good this time—especially about romance, and my own loneliness as a young INFP who has never so much as dabbled in the world of love—so keep tuned. I hope everyone is well, and has been doing much better than I have been.

Why Artists Must Embrace Pain

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Everyone suffers in life. Suffering is woven into every weft and strand of existence. To pluck it out would be to unravel life itself. From the beautiful and wealthy and talented, to the poor and homely and unskilled, suffering exists at every strata of society. Insects suffer, and whales suffer. Suffering knows no boundaries. For every living creature, there are only two certainties in life: death, and suffering.

Of course, if we shift the lens back to humans for the sake of this discussion (though I am of the firm belief certain animals suffer agonies more terrible by a thousandfold than those experienced by man), there are different degrees to suffering. A wealthy person living in a first-world country might feel as though their loneliness is carving them open like a knife, but would certainly not, if asked, trade places with someone who is actually being tortured and cut up somewhere in the world. A White person will still struggle in life to get where they want to be, like any human being—but their suffering is nevertheless still less than that of, say, a Black person, who, on top of the usual struggles of life, must deal with racial prejudices and the setbacks and reduced opportunities that come with being dark-skinned in a society under White hegemony. An emotionally-healthy person will suffer less than someone with mental illnesses. A woman, statistically, is likely to suffer more than a man. An able-bodied person will suffer less than someone with disabilities. A child of divorced parents suffers more than a child who grew up in a loving, cohesive family. Heck—you could even say sensitive people technically suffer more as we experience pain more strongly than someone who is thick-skinned. Life is not a level playing field, no matter how voraciously we may extol the values of justice, fairness, equality. If history and our present world is anything to go by, Earth is most definitely no utopia, and often downright hellish for many people.

However, while we might all suffer in various and complex ways, because we’re all individuals, we all deal with suffering differently. Very differently. Some people flare up in fits of rage. Others stew and simmer in their anger and misery for months until pimples pop out on their skin and cankersores on their tongue, emotional energy releasing itself in the form of physical symptoms. People cry alone, or on the shoulders of others. They scream into pillows, break things, laugh hysterically, hurt themselves. Some withdraw; others reach out, becoming more desperate for affection the more miserable they are; and still more grow detached, emotionally numbing themselves from both the pain and pleasures of life. Many escape into addictions, other worlds where they can forget their pain and troubles: videogames, sex, relationships, drugs, alcohol, fantasy. They retreat into denial, or lies, because the truth makes them want to tear their own heart out; and others put up barricades of selfishness and coldness, to protect themselves and gain some measure of security in a heartless and chaotic universe.

And some create art. They write books, make films, draw and paint. They make up tunes, construct pottery pieces or sculptures. They take the messy conglomeration that is life and try to cobble together something beautiful and interesting out of it to share with other people.

What these methods of coping with pain all have in common—except the last one—is that they all involve escape from the source of their suffering. They all involve directing one’s attention towards something else rather than the source of their troubles. It is easy to wriggle out of truly experiencing your pain when you are screaming so loudly the world contains nothing else. It is easy to turn away from your pain when you are preening yourself in front of a mirror and accumulating buckets of money. It is easy to turn away from your own pain when you are too busy hurting others.

Artists, however, do not have that luxury. They must face life and its pain, in all its glory, in order to create anything even slightly noteworthy. They have to dig their fingers into the blood and guts, even if the stench makes them want to throw up. They need to look in the Beast in the eye even if doing so makes them wet themselves. Then, through whatever medium they are working with, they must find a way to crystallise that pain, every facet and edge, for others to feel, understand, know and analyse.

It took a while for me to realise this. I have experienced a lot of pain in my life. Obviously nothing on the scale of extreme starvation or thirst, living as I do in a first-world country—but I know anxiety, I know depression, I know panic attacks, I know mental breakdowns, I know being desperately hungry yet psychologically unable to leave the house to buy anything from the grocery store, I know eating disorders, I know abusive and neglectful parenting, I know sensitivity, I know introversion, I know what it’s like to be different, I know loneliness and despair and self-hatred and shame, I know racism, I know poverty, I know the fear of becoming homeless, I know sexism. It’s not been easy. For the longest time, my coping mechanism was repression. To get on with my life, for years, I repressed my true identity, I repressed my anxiety, I repressed my internalized racism, I repressed my fear of men, I repressed my hunger urges, I repressed my loneliness and shame and self-hatred, I repressed thoughts of my father, I repressed my feelings, I repressed myself. I couldn’t even articulate any of my pain through writing; it was so immense, so complicated, twisted and gnarled together like the tangled roots of a tree.

So I bottled it down, in the hopes that it would all just go away—only to land myself in hospital for a suicide attempt. Luckily a highly unsuccessful one, but sobering nonetheless. But after a year or two passed, I fell back into my old patterns of repression. I knew this was the case when I found myself once again unable to connect with the characters’ pain in any of the books I read, to actually feel their turmoils and troubles as a naturally empathetic person would. I couldn’t even connect with my own characters, which was worse. Everything I wrote was terrible because there was no emotion behind it; I was maneuvering puppets in the hope that one of them would come alive and do the job for me. Quite quickly I realised the only way I would be able to write anything good in my life was if I opened my heart to and embraced my pain and suffering.

It was so hard. I had put the pain away in a box in the attic of my mind, where it sat, dusty and untouched, with several tons of bricks heaped upon it. I had treated it as someone might a poisonous spider: trap it, and hope it dies off on its own sooner or later. But pain isn’t like insects. Pain isn’t living. Pain is just dead memories, able to live on until the day we ourselves die. And I had to release it. I had to release agony, blood and broken bones.

I started off tentatively at first, picking up a file here and there, never upending the whole lot out onto the floor. For the first time in years, I thought of my father, the man who, quite frankly, was the sole perpetrator of a great deal of my woes as a child, and now also as an adult, for your childhood never leaves you. I dredged up one very, very painful memory: waiting at the train station in the middle of the night after a school event. My father could drive, owned a car, a very a nice one, in fact—yet he insisted on taking public transport whenever he deigned to take me places. As I sat there, on the bench, in the gloom and the silence (he spoke little whenever he was only in my company), kicking my legs and staring down at the faint, moonlit glisten on the wet asphalt, my father got up, and walked away, disappearing into the darkness.

My head jerked up. I looked around, peering into the rain-spattered blackness. I still remember the sensation of my long hair, swishing over my shoulders, as I turned my head and looked and looked. Where did he go? I was alone, in the darkness, in a strange place, in the middle of the night. My terror was so thick I felt as though a piece of cloth had been forcibly crammed down my throat, but that was nothing compared to the sting of abandonment. This wasn’t the first time I had felt abandoned by him. He used to take himself on holidays during Christmas when I had never left the country in my life and speak not a word about it and grumble when my mother asked him for grocery money when he came back. He used to buy himself suits and gadgets, deck out his room in the finest sound system under the sun, then complain when I needed money for an excursion. He used to buy ridiculously lavish presents for the daughter of his employee as I stood by and watched, sick with jealousy, and forget my birthdays, and my siblings’ birthdays. I existed for much of my childhood in a state of bewildered misery. But this was new. A fresh form of abandonment. This was blatant. He had actually, physically stood up and walked away. He had left me behind.

No. No! No, no! I stood up and stumbled along the train station; there were lights, fluorescent ones, but only a few, the reach of their luminescence fading away to a pale silver a couple of metres beyond the benches facing the tracks. I ran, into the darkness, to find my father. With each step, my heart roared my fury and despair. One step. Why don’t you love me? Another step. Love me! Please, Daddy, please! Another step. Why would you do this? Another. I hate you! I hate you so much I could kill you! I hate you, hate you, hate you!

Eventually, after much sobbing and stumbling in the darkness, feeling terribly disorientated, like some planet bumped out of its orbit, I found him sitting on a bench on the other side of the platform, absorbed in his phone. He didn’t look up as I sat down beside him, tears trekking down my cheeks. I said, “Why did you do that.” I said it very calmly, calm and serene, as my body shook. He had given me a fright—I was only seven—but to look at him, you would not know it. He just sat in silence for a minute or so longer, looking down at his phone—and then he stood up again and walked away. I sat there, dumbstruck. I didn’t understand what was going on or what he was doing, only that it was somehow very childish, and that it hurt. Again, I got up, and I followed him. I followed him quite desperately, a tiny figure, tottering along in the darkness, frightened and determined both at once. Sometimes, when I look back on this incident, I almost wish I had thrown myself down onto the tracks. Perhaps he would have paid attention then, said something to me, at least to save his own skin. A child lying dead on the tracks and her father nearby doesn’t look good. It would be bad for his company’s reputation.

This time, it took longer to find him, I went around the platform three times, then went around back again and found him back in the spot where he was before, sitting down. Again, I sat down beside him. And then the train came, so my father had to stop the game he was playing with me, and I got on and sat beside him on the train and looked out the window as he sat there looking down at his phone. Looking back on his incident, I see it as a blatant expression of his distaste for responsibility. He was a selfish man, that was certain, but more than that, he was a childish man, who desired no commitments in life except the fulfilment of his own pleasures. For someone like him, three children clinging to his ankles served only as deadweight. Heaven knows why he had us in the first place, if he didn’t even mean to take care of us. This incident at the train station, when my mother and brother and sister wasn’t around, was his way of telling me he didn’t want to be responsible for me. I was the first child. I started off the chain reaction. He not only did not love me—he didn’t want me to exist. He wanted to get rid of me, leave me behind, and like a stray dog at a pound who loves his owner no matter how badly he is mistreated, I played right into his hand and followed him, tongue hanging and panting for acceptance and affection. For him to keep me, to pet me, to love and to approve.

As this memory tore through me, I felt as though my skin was being unzipped, organs spilling out hot and steamy onto the carpet. I wanted to—to hurt myself. No, to hurt him. I wanted him to feel just a fraction of the agony I suffered under his roof, as his daughter. I felt broken. I felt unloved. I felt disgusting. I couldn’t look at myself. I hated being inside my own skin. I wanted to shed it, slip free and twine through the air into some more pleasant sphere.

Instead, I just cried. As you can expect, these tears were long overdue. I cried and cried, letting myself feel the pain, luxuriating in it, even, submerging myself in the misery, wallowing in the broken glass shards until my body was cut and bleeding from head to foot, and then I stopped crying, and got up. I wiped away the blood, tended to my wounds. I took care of myself. And I could suddenly feel again. My emotions came back. I could properly get into the heads of characters, feel their pain and suffering as if it were my own. Reclaiming my pain allowed me to write.

So my advice is, especially for artists and creative types out there who might be reading this, the best thing to do with pain is to embrace it and learn from it. Use it to your advantage. You might as well; you’ve certainly suffered for it. Use it as fodder to create good art, to provide the truest and best reflection of the human experience as you can through your work. Take what was, in the moment, ugly, disgusting and repulsive, manure and droppings, and use it to fertilise soil, make it grow, flourish, bloom and make something beautiful for others to bask in. Art comes from pain. It is terrible to experience, but it is also what connects us to other human beings. We write and paint and draw with our blood, use our skin as paper, sacrifice ourselves, body and soul, to our craft, to one day finally emerge from the dirt and the mud and the grass, holding aloft our creation to the sunlight: a globed fruit, sweeter than honey and bright as a jewel.

The Difficulty Of Amusing Oneself

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Depression sucks the words out of you. Because the entire world is made dull and lacklustre by it, life become one endless series of dissatisfying days, everything you do or think or say turned into worthless, cliched junk dropping from between your lips like counterfeit coins. What does it matter, who cares? Fortunately for me as a writer, it has quite the opposite effect when it comes to creativity. Depression makes everything boring, which makes one slightly more motivated, during moments when the fug of lassitude thins, to make life more interesting —and one of the best ways to do this is through telling stories. Interesting stories. Fantastical, strange and wondrous tales.

Now, this brings its own share of problems—nothing is easy!—and it’s something I have never really had to chance to discuss with anyone about it before. So why not write it on my blog? Really, that’s my solution for almost every mental quandary these days; I always feel much better after sharing pieces of myself online, it’s quite the release. The problem is this: because my desire for escapism is so deep and extreme, anything that veers the slightest bit towards reality bores me to bits. The slightest bit. Basically, what this means is that I—and I think this is the sole reason creative people feel so isolated from others and the general humdrum of society—have a very, very, very low tolerance for boredom. Almost non-existent, really. Why else do you think writers like to escape into their imagination so often? Because it’s so much more interesting than reality, that’s why! Reality is so incredibly dissatisfying, and these days much of the films and books saturating the market recycles the same old tropes and concepts so the world of imagination, once so rich and lovely, is now growing just as boring. What’s more—and this is the cardinal rule of novelty—things get more boring the more you are exposed to them. It’s a common sense rule, but nevertheless quite astonishing when you put it into practice, apply it to real-world experiences.

Say, reality, for instance. Now, the world we live in is a very fascinating place. Life on earth is bizarre, and we don’t really understand anything, will never be able to see the whole picture, only glimpses and glimmers—yet because we see things like our own bodies and the sun everyday, we grow desensitized to the great miracles they are, and find them ordinary, and, at least when we’re not actively pondering them, boring. Likewise, with creative works, the more you are exposed to something, the more dull it becomes. Let’s take one of the most delightful and creative animated movies in the history of the world: Howl’s Moving Castle, directed by the wonderful and brilliant Hayao Miyazaki. The first time I watched this, I was stunned and flabbergasted by the beauty on the screen. In particular, I recall Howl’s bedroom, with its quietly shifting pieces and glinting intricacy, so detailed and beautiful and wonderful I could only gaze in pure awe and delight at the screen. However, if you were to watch that scene every morning before you went off to work or school or to your desk, it would lose its magic. It would become ordinary.

As a writer, this effect is extraordinarily problematic because with whatever I am writing, I am constantly having to work hard at keeping things interesting for myself. This is where the low tolerance for boredom comes in. While others might be able to still find Howl’s bedroom magical after six or so viewings, after the second viewing, I have already integrated the scene into the fabric of reality so it becomes no more wondrous than the sight of cars on the streets. My threshold or desire for novelty is ridiculously high, endless, really, which means I find it very hard to keep myself from getting bored. I feel as though there are two people inside of me, one the teacher standing in front of the board, the one churning out the creative work and ideas, and the other the child, sitting at a little table and chair in front of her, the one who gasps and cries at the magic and wonders of the universe being unraveled on the blackboard. The moment I lose the kid’s interest, the piece of writing I am working on is done, over, finished—or at least until the teacher wracks her brain and finds a more creative way to transmit the lesson. Basically, every second, every minute, every day, when I write, or daydream, which are both almost the same thing, I am constantly struggling to amuse myself.

This is the true wellspring of creativity, I think: dissatisfaction, and boredom; and while luckily I experience enough of these two emotions to last several lifetimes, it also means I bore myself very easily. What seems like a wonderful, fantastical idea, after much pondering, turns dull and bland, and I find myself casting it aside with a huff of exasperation. I wrote an entire story—well over 12,000 words—only to find I couldn’t edit and polish it, not out of laziness, but boredom with what I had written. Having lived through the character’s experiences once, I could not rewrite and live through their experiences again; my brain required something new and fresh to feed upon. Such incidents have happened multiple times. Forty, maybe fifty times. Maybe more.

My Holy Grail, then, as someone who suffers from this condition—an extreme allergic reaction to a lack of novelty—is to find an idea, a concept, a story, a book to write which remain interesting no matter how many times I write it or re-read it. No small task. In essence, I have to captivate and amuse for the duration of a 100,000 words, or more, the creature most difficult to astound and delight in the world: myself. With, I might add, one piece of work, one work I shall have to read again and again, and fix, and rewrite and twiddle with endlessly. I have to—to find something complex and interesting enough to fall in love with for the many months or even years I shall be working on it, wonderful enough to satisfy the distaste in myself for all things real, true and existing even though the base material I have to work with is reality, as it is all I know. I have to come up with something psychedelic. Strange. Something.

Sigh. Wish me luck.

My Life Is Over. Maybe.

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I sound like an angst-ridden teenager, I know, but there is good reason for it. Recently, whilst looking over some old pieces of my writing, I was shocked to find the stuff I was churning out six or so months ago was much better than what I was producing now.

It was very unsettling. And, considering the small hell the last six months of my life have been, even a tiny bit infuriating. It’s almost as if the words I wrote in those six months before—and in those six months I have molted and shed layers of my old self as wildly as any snake—were written by someone wiser, more talented, who allowed their imagination free reign and gloried in the work for its own sake. Someone who didn’t think when they wrote, and simply let the words settle onto the page naturally, like fallen snow. Someone who wasn’t me, and who I wouldn’t be able to reclaim, absorb back into myself, ever again.

I’m trying too hard. I’m not sure if every artist encounters such a block in their life, but I see very clearly that this is the crux of the problem. In between moving houses and struggling with mental illness, I grew desperate at all the time I was losing, and to compensate for this, banged away at the Art like I some smith in a forge behind on orders until I was blackened and sweating and panting. Only I don’t think that is how Art works. It has to come from love, a place of fun and delight, for it to be anything worth reading. Or at least not from a place of hatred, despair, desperation and sheer doggedness.

At least from my recent perusal I know I was doing something right six months ago, as the pieces I wrote, while not of publishable quality, actually possessed a few gleams and glitters of potential, whereas everything I am writing now would need several more rewrites before they become anything better than printed toilet paper.

Heck, even the characters were more realistic and believable—even though I was not actually trying to make them so. Now, despite analyzing characters from the inside out before putting pencil to paper, they still come out stiff as wooden dolls.

You can’t imagine how despairing this realisation is. I honestly don’t know how to return to a place of “unthinking”, when I just let the words flow out as they pleased. Sure, I can do that in a blog post, but that’s because it’s just a blog post, a place where I can relax and spill my mind, not an actual fictional work requiring actual concentration with actual stakes at hand. I don’t know how to transplant the relaxation I feel when writing blog posts, or writing pieces six months ago, to what I am scribbling away at these days. It’s a conundrum.

Oh, you can’t imagine how—it’s like being someone who sings for their bread and butter waking up and finding they have lost their voice. Forever. A bird unable to fly; a pirate confined to a prison on land, forced to gaze at the endless blue sea between the black bars of her high, prison cell window. Alright, perhaps I am being a little dramatic, maybe even a little whiny, but I can’t help it, it’s just very, very frustrating to know that when it comes to writing, sometimes, the harder and more furiously you work to make up for lost time, the worse the end product ends up being. In any other field, you are rewarded for working hard, doggedly—but when it comes to writing, some measure of relaxation is required for any good, creative work to be made. And as someone who is high-strung at the best of times, especially with the move this year, the changes in my home situation, it’s very difficult to relax. I wonder if that’s why people are less creative these days, because we’re all so anxious and focused on surviving in a capitalist society to even bother with obsolete concepts like joy and wonder and delight.

Fingers crossed that this is merely a natural progression in the life of any writer, and that things sometimes need to take a turn for the worse before they can get better. I really have no idea as to how I am going to “unthink” my way out of this, to return myself to a place where writing was done purely for the joy of it, without any pressures or anxieties involved. The more I live, the more I am aware of how very dream-like life is, the way the days seem to blur into one another, memory the only marker of passing time. From the earliest reaches of my memory up until this present moment, my entire life so far seems to have transpired in less than a blink of an eye.

Taken in this context, art, then, merely serves the purpose of making the dream a little more enjoyable, which, if you think about, isn’t a bad thing. It isn’t an ignoble pursuit to devote one’s life to.  I just wish I knew how all the other creators and filmmakers and writers and artists working today and throughout history manage to relax enough to create despite being naturally more predisposed to depression and thinking about death and the meaning of life. Then again, many ended up taking their own lives, boggled by the existential emptiness of existence, so perhaps they’re not the best role models to turn to. Life truly is a series of silent sighs, expelled deep inside our souls.

The Hardest Thing About Writing

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Writing is hard. But what exactly is the most difficult part of the craft? Creating realistic characters, perhaps? Writing dialogue? World-building? Coming up with an idea that isn’t boring and overdone like the thousands of novels flooding into the market every week? No, no, and nope.

The hardest part about writing—for me at least—is getting the words right. See, when you first start out writing–and I’m still sort of trying to tread water in that stage–you overwrite. And by overwriting, I mean you use a thousand words to describe a single exchange between two people, including unimportant details like gestures and hair and the thoughts of the characters, when three hundred would have sufficed. But overwriting isn’t the only faux-pas amateur writers commit. We also have a great deal of trouble describing things in the first place, and this is because translating real-life or imaginary objects or buildings or people or places into words, dead words on paper, mere brushstrokes of ink, is very difficult.

It’s not like other forms of art, like painting, or photography, where the artist can simply jot down, curve by plane by angle, exactly what something looks like. As a writer, you have to make something, using only words, oftentimes things you have never seen before except in the realm of your own imagination, come alive. You are an artist, words are your paintbrush and paint, and you have to use them to paint a picture inside the reader’s mind, to the point where they feel like they are in the story themselves, without the convenience of pictures, or photographs, or diagrams (though some books do include maps to ground the fantasy world in reality). If you were to ask someone on the street who isn’t a writer to describe, say, a church, they would probably fumble along with words like “doors” and “cross” and “stone”. And guess what? If you were to stop a writer on the street and ask them the same question, on the spot, they would probably give a similar answer. That is because writers actually sit down for a very long time to re-write and rework descriptions and sentences that initially started off as “a church made of stone adorned with a cross over its front door” until it conveys both sound, colour, sight, smell and texture. Until it becomes real. Which, may I point out again, is very hard.

It’s one of the reasons why so many writers often have to undertake real-world research before writing a book by actually traveling to the country or the place their book is set in, or resembles the world their book is set in. If the world and the people in it aren’t “real” to the writer, then it won’t come to life for the reader. Think of actors: when they speak their lines, they momentarily delude themselves into thinking that what they are saying is actually true. That they’re not just speaking to a camera, or someone else who is also acting. In other words, the best actors forget they are acting, and embody their characters and the scenes entirely. Writers, who are the actors and the director and in charge of props and scenery all at once, are the same. And to describe a whole world, all while juggling characters and the pace of the plot, using only words, to make it actually feel real, takes hours and hours of practice, carried out over years—probably why some books can take up to ten years to write, at the end of which it isn’t even a guarantee the book will sell well, if at all.

I’m not even close to being even adequate at it yet. I haven’t clocked in all my hours, found out what exactly lives inside me and brought it out in tangible form. I haven’t found a voice, though I have picked up a few characters and worlds along the way, quietly brewing inside the back of my mind. In the years to come, I hope to master the tricks and techniques of writing enough to be able to put on a good show, make people think, delight and astound and amuse. In the meantime, I’ll be in my workshop, working quietly away carving figurine after figurine and throwing them aside, living for a dream.

My Internal Monologue When I Write

despair

Oh, dear God—is there a God that watches over writers, some strange fellow with pencils in his hands and flying books instead of angels? Because if there is, I would hereby like to sacrifice my flesh and blood to him so that he will watch over me with his Inky gaze—it is time. It is time. Time to write. Oh, Lord. There’s something about imminent suffering that suddenly turns me into the most devout, evangelical creature under the sun. Dear God of Whatever You Are, Not Sure If You Really Exist, hear me now: if you have any mercy, you will shoot me down with a swipe of your pencil, and skin me to make paper; at least then my life would have been put to some good use.

Oh, no. Here it comes. The desk. The page. The blank page, filled with lines, waiting for me to fill them. There must be a million of them, just on this one page, I swear. What do I look like, some kind of magician? In what other profession are you asked to turn words into whole words, living breathing characters, into magic, I ask you? It’s absurd, if you think about it. Absurd. My entire life is based on absurdity—now there’s a good way to start a writing session. Oh, Lord. Please, I would gladly be enfolded into your bosom, and, erm, kiss the bud of death, in order to depart from this earthly plane, as long as I shall never have to face the thought of writing again.

No, wait. You are being dramatic. Remember what you told yourself yesterday? The only way out, is through. The only way you will get better is if you sacrifice perfectionism, and choose quantity over quality. All the writing advice you’ve collated over the past few years has said the same thing. You must write, and forget everything else. Fine. I’ll write. I mean, grit and determination is what separates the successful and the unsuccessful, and do you honestly want to be a pathetic, hopeless, nothing? Ah, there go: good ol’ shame and the thought of dying unpublished and unknown always does the trick.

Now. Pick up the pen. Good. Now. Write. Write one word. Wait, maybe it’s best if you re-read what you wrote yesterday, you know, just to jog your memory, slip back into the story. Wait. Is that a good thing to do? I mean, I’m sure I read somewhere that to re-read what you wrote the day before is not conducive to good writing. What if, by reading this, you are effectively snuffing out your creativity through repetition? Oh, please, you’re going to end up re-reading this, anyway, somewhere down the line. Okay, then. Let’s re-read it.

Oh, God. That is awful; what was I thinking, writing this gibberish, this nonsense, yesterday? That little bit of advice swimming in the back of my noggin was right: now my self-confidence has been smashed to smithereens. I should have never re-read my work. Darn it. Dummy-head. Can a dummy-head be a successful writer? I don’t think so. This is your only chance, you know, I mean, it’s not like you have another plan; writing is your Plan A, B, C, D, E and F, because, frankly, you’re not suited for anything else, and if you can’t succeed at this one thing you have a slight knack for then, well, you might as well hang yourself.

Okay! First suicidal thought five minutes into the session. Not good. Not good. Note to self: do not kill yourself, even when the writing is going so badly you could puke, because dead people can’t write. In fact, they can’t do anything. You’d be even more useless—wait, positive thinking, positive thinking, you’re not useless, you’re smart, and creative, and talented, and sooner or later, with a decade or so of practice, you’ll get somewhat good at this writing business, and make a living at it. Oh, it’s like trying to believe in Santa Claus when you’ve already seen your parents sneaking the presents under the tree in the dead of the night. Believe, my friend. Believe. You must believe. If you don’t believe, you can’t succeed.

Oh, right. The writing. Where was I? Okay, dear brain, erase every last word you just read of what you wrote the day before; today is a new day, a new dawn, a new page, and you shall start afresh! Okay. Now. Now. Okay. Okay. Right.

Write. Good, good, you’re picking up the pen, you’re writing, words are appearing—good, good! Very good, you wrote a sentence. Absolutely fantastic. It’s the worst sentence that has ever been written in the history of human thought, but let us not let that detract us from the matter at hand. You wrote something—that is what matters. Keep going.

Oh, God. Oh, God. Why isn’t the scene coming to life properly in my head? I can’t visualize a thing, I can’t even visualize every single strut of the Eiffel Tower if I close my eyes, even though I’ve seen pictures of it a million times, so how do you expect me to conjure, in my mind’s eye, an entire fantasy universe? Where am I going with this? I don’t know. I do not know. The whole story is a sham, it’s just a ramble, it’s like vomit, dribbled across a desk, pretending to be Art when everyone knows it’s not fooling anybody, and what it really needs is someone with a dishcloth to clean it up. After this scene, after finish writing it, I have no idea where to go on from there. No idea, at all. In real life, you’re told not to drive at night with your headlights off, so I don’t see why the same shouldn’t apply to writing. Dangerous business, this is. It’s dark! My headlights are broken, and the car is still moving, I think it’s declivity! Somebody help!

Alright. You know what? Just. Write. Forget everything else, let it all spew out, grammatical errors and terribly long-winded sentences—all that wonderful stuff that makes it look as though you aren’t a native English speaker but someone who toppled from some long-forgotten forest in the Tibetan mountains to rejoin civilisation, wearing nothing more than, like, leaves, and cradling a stone shaped like a cat you call Edward and talked to when you were lonely whilst up there all by yourself all those years. Just let it all out! Ugh. My God, the agony. This is horrible, horrible stuff, what am I doing? Nevermind, nevermind, forget it, keep going, keep going. Rubbish! Despair! No, no, no, shhhh, keep going, keep going…

Water break. Water break is necessary, as one has broken into a sweat and is panting very hard, and needs to re-centre oneself. Alright. Drink. Think. Why do you write? The joy of it, of course. Reconnect with that joy. But how can I, when such joy is tainted by my incompetence? I’ll never succeed, I’ll never be anything, I’m delusional, talentless, disgusting, hopeless—I can’t write, I can’t leave the house, I can’t talk to people without wanting to run away—

Back to the desk. Plant your buttocks in the chair: now, you are not moving from this desk, even if you get hungry and thirsty, for the next hour, at the very least. You will sit, and you will write, until the end of this scene. Remember, this is your job. Your job, is to write. Other people build houses, grow food, teach children—your job, at the moment, is to write. You are a writer. Writers, write. That’s it. Let’s get started. Come on, no-one gets a free ride in life, you’ve got to work for the roof over your head and the food on the table. Hm, getting rather hungry—no! Forget the hunger. You are not hungry. Well, you are, but I don’t fucking care: no words written, no food; that’s the way it goes, bitch. Why is that the pep-talk voice inside my head always swears like some graffiti-bespattered gangster?

Focus. MY GOD, this is bad. Nevermind. Keep going, soldier, you can do it, soldier, yes sir, yes sir. Keep on going, keep on going, keep on going—yes, a paragraph! No, wait, you dolt, a paragraph isn’t enough, don’t congratulate yourself when you’ve done the equivalent of shoveling one teensy pile of dirt out of the ground. Patting yourself on the pack only fifteen minutes in, pfft. Idiot.

Ugh. Ergh. Bleugh. Agony—agony—oh, the blood, the pain, the terror—nothing is going right, I’m doomed. Do you hear me? I am doomed. I am sitting here, writing words that make no sense, swirling my fingers through the dirt making mud-cakes in the hopes someone will eat them, when in truth—my God, even my internal monologue has writer’s block! Now blockages are springing up even in the formation of my thoughts! That’s it. Where’s the gun? Where’s the noose? Let me at it. There’s a reason so many writers killed themselves, and if I kill myself, I’m sure it’ll be a mark of my genius later down the line, when they discover all my notebooks and publish what is written in them, post-mortem.

No, you ninny, you’re not some Sylvia Plath, no-one will care if you kill yourself or not—least of all the world. Hey, if you want to be a writer, then you just have to suck it up, and write. Okay. Good. Good. There we go. Just keep on going, it’s terrible, what you are writing makes you want to claw out your eyes and tear out the eyeball of the universe from its socket in a bleeding burst of dark matter, I know, I understand, just keep going, though, just keep going…

My characters are dead. They have been dead for some time. In fact, I’m not even sure if they were alive in the first place. So basically, what I’m doing here is just fiddling with corpses. I am fiddling with corpses! That’s my job, folks, to bring corpses back to life with my magic necromancer pen—ah, the laughter, the hilarity. Oh, my God, really, they are so dead. They are so dead that I can barely work with them. Never mind a relatable protagonist—mine isn’t even alive! Stupid woman, why can’t you just create your own personality, oh please, Character No. 4, won’t you say something and do something of your own accord, you lazy, silly creature, just give me anything I can work with, I’ll take anything at this moment, don’t just stand there slack-jawed like some lollipop-head—ah, God…

Wait a minute: that’s quite a nice idea, a good bit of imagery: snatch it out of the ether, right this instant, before it vanishes, and write it down! Oh, no, it got ruined when you tried to write it down—again. For, like, the thousandth time. Why is it that whenever you try and translate something from your mind onto the page the material ends up mangled-looking, like some beautiful animal floating in some other realm plopping down on your page looking as though it went through some grinding machine beforehand? All guts and blood; no shining horns and wings. Horrible, horrible—you are useless! That’s it. Where’s the gun? Oh, right, you hid it from yourself. You’re so useless you can’t even find something you hid from yourself, that’s how useless you are, pathetic slime-ball, who will never get published and die alone, poor and unloved.

You know, in life, we’re all alone, at the end of the day, and never does this fact become more clear to me than when I am writing. With a crazy noggin like mine, it is likely I shall never get married, never have children, and live alone, for the rest of my days, with cats, if I’m lucky. Sob. I hate the world—I hate everyone in it, and I am scared of everything in it, and most of all, I hate life, and you, writing, well, I don’t hate you, but you’re the one thing putting the greatest damper on my mood at the moment, so I hate you, in a sense, too. Wait. Back to writing. New rule: whilst writing, you are not allowed to feel sorry for yourself, or experience any existential angst; that kind of business is reserved for when you’re sitting on the toilet, or showering. Are we clear? Good.

Oh, my, the scene is coming to an end. Somehow, you made it, oh, by some miracle, the finishing line is drawing near! Now, end it, tie it up, all neatly packaged—plenty of loose threads trailing from it, but nevermind that, at least you finished, you finished! Of course, you don’t know what’s going to happen after this scene, and the terror of the Unknown is already begin to suck away at you like some black hole in the corner of your eye, but that is a problem to be addressed another day; today, you have done something, you have written something, and I congratulate you for it—even if it is dreck, nonsense, disgusting, despicable nonsense, at least you wrote something. At the very least, you put down words, and there they stayed, on the page, indelible, eternal, a mark of your blood and sweat, and, oh, Lord, what if you died tomorrow and these were your last words, messy ramblings, not even coherent enough to form a proper story seeing as you haven’t edited it yet?

Wait, don’t think about that. Just focus on the present. Look at the clock, well what do you know: it’s time to see your psychologist, whose smile is glacial and whose eyes are, you’re certain, made from hailstones enchanted to look like actual human eyeballs, only the enchantress didn’t do a very good job of it. And when you come back, you’ll eat, and perhaps you’ll go outside for some more exposure therapy, or perhaps not—and when you come back, guess what?

It’s back to the desk. Now, where is that gun?

On Art, Creativity, Identity, And Trusting Your Heart

being you

Creativity tends to be something as unique as a fingerprint, in that no two people, if given a creative task, such as to write a book about two runaways, or paint a crab, would churn out the same thing.

Often this is noticeable in artists who have made several works over the course of their careers, filmmakers with several films under their belt, writers who have half a shelf at home dedicated to their own books. Some of them, if their creative “touch” is particularly original, can be recognised simply from their work. For instance, Studio Ghibli films all seem to have that special something, an idyllic twinkle and exquisite artistry, which a viewer instantaneously associates with Miyazaki, and his unique vision. The same goes for writers. If you are very observant, and have read several books by one writer, you’ll often find similar imagery popping up in different books written by them, and often, if you get very familiar with them, you can pick up a book without looking at the cover and know it was written by them.

This is why, when it comes to creating Art, you can’t play copy-cat. To be a true artist, your work has to be different, and in order to be different, it has to come from within you—not without. If you’re a writer, for instance, you have to hone your craft, yes, but you also have to discover what lights up your imagination, and develop your own writing “voice”.

These are not easy things to do. As a writer just starting out—and in the profession, it is rare for even the talented and lauded to feel as though they are truly comfortable in the medium—the urge to copy is tremendous, because you grow up reading all these books, adoring all these authors who you see as idols (while their counterparts worship Taylor Swift and Beyonce, young writers genuflect before the likes of Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton), so when it comes turn to put pen to paper, oftentimes their voices, and their stories, spill out instead of your own. Eventually, however, you must write your own stories, in your own voice, as imitation does not a career make. In essence, all the places are already taken; the only spot left is your own, and it is there for the taking, if you’ll put in the effort and the time.

There are many ways to do this. It helps to have a very clear, good sense of self, as that means your personality is stronger, and the more stronger a personality the more easily it expresses itself through Art. This is especially true for writers, who are eternally drilled on the importance of developing their own voice. I, myself, struggle with this a great deal. To be honest, half the time, being so introverted, it is hard to determine whether I even have a personality. Other times it feels as though my personality changes, depending on the weather, or the day, or my mood. I feel like a cypher, ready to be filled by whatever comes my way, whatever strikes my fancy, and though this might be a good trait in an actress, it is anything but for a writer. Often, in one piece, my voice will alter two or three times. Even on this blog, I feel as though I haven’t developed a true “voice”–though, from my viewpoint, it can be hard to tell.

I liken it to my writing having multiple personality disorder, and so far, treatment has been difficult, and tiresome. I have come across some techniques, however, ranging from not thinking too much as my pen scrawls on the page so that whatever comes out is pure and undiluted, and writing the words as I would speak them to a friend, or at least an imaginary one. The best solution for problems like this is to write a great deal, write reams and reams; then, eventually, your writing voice will have no choice but to surface.

Writing on subjects from your own heart is far easier. All you have to do is create what you would like to consume—in other words, if you’re a writer, to write what you would like to read. In my experience that is the single best way to locate just exactly what excites you, and gets your creative juices flowing. You are the substance flowing through the filter to create the Art; whatever is inside you, will be inside the Art, too, and if there is something within you you don’t want spilling out, then you better figure out what it is and unplug the blockage. Art is the most pure expression of the self: no room for shame or concealment allowed. So perhaps another way to develop your writing voice is merely to figure out just why, exactly, you’re trying to hide behind a voice not your own, and to fix that.

I mean, it’s tricky, none of it is the least bit easy. As a writer, or any artist, you are basically a professional daydreamer, and when anything becomes professional, even something as fun as daydreaming, it gets hard. It becomes work, and no-one likes to work. When it comes to something like a writing, a lot of components come into play, and though a lot of it is craft and practice, a lot of it is innate ability, too. Characters appear out of the blue, speaking and thinking, certain scenes just “feel” right, and some writers even speak of their books as being pre-existing artifacts, which must be dug out from some ether or other realm, over the course of slow, painstaking months. Sometimes, you’ll read a book, and it will feel so right, so true, it’s almost like reading something you’ve seen and experienced, that actually exists, no matter how fantastical and strange the premise. That, I think, is when you are encountering true Art. There is always an element of magic to it—call it what you will, God, the Muse, or just two disparate ideas fusing together to make something new—and that is what makes it fun, even when it’s not.

Creation is not something you can do using the mind alone. Heart plays a very big role, heart, and intuition, that inner sense of knowing, inexplicable to everyone but yourself; and to trust your heart, to trust the bursts of excitement and joy when you encounter something, even if it is too strange or impractical, is something I think everyone can apply to their lives, not just artists.

To Read, Or Watch A Youtube Video, That Is the Question

books

Reading and writing, springing though they do from the same source, are nevertheless unequal institutions. The first requires few qualifications for membership, other than a good level of reading ability, and some spare time on the weekends; the second often needs many years of practice and toil, as unrelenting as a blacksmith hammering away in his forge day and night.

To consume is a thousand times easier than to create—and that principle seems to apply to everything in life, from the food we eat to the gadgets we use; but, in particular, to books. For instance, as a reader, when you read a book, if it is a good one, your mind eventually falls into the story without paying much attention to the words and sentences themselves. Scenes play out to their conclusion in your mind’s eye, characters engage in dialogue and tussles and more, settings piece together, with the aid of good description, like rapid jigsaw puzzles. It is usually enjoyable, and easy.

Writing, however, provides an altogether different experience, and since it creates something from nothing, is far more difficult. Several tasks are entangled into one: the act of writing itself, the visual envisioning of the scene, the expression of the characters’ unique psychologies through their words, expressions and mannerisms, how different personalities interact to produce interesting interactions—all while keeping in mind the structure, the pace, and the flow of the story. A writer lives in a strange laboratory, where myriad flasks and tubes, brimming with brightly-coloured fluids, need to be mixed and heated and condensed and distilled, one after the other, to create a single, rich concoction. It is hard. And, just like in every laboratory, accidents occur. Flasks explode. Acidic substances spill on the floor to eat its way through the concrete. What you thought would create a nice heady brew instead makes a dark lump hard as a rock that blinks up at you with strange eyes. Retort stands fall, tubes crack, smoke billows. Chaos created in the hopes of scrabbling across some fragment of beauty in the madness.

Unequal, indeed. To read a sentence often takes only a second or so, less if it’s just a passing glance without absorption. Writing the same sentence, however, might have taken at least thirty seconds, with time taken to put the right words together, re-arrange them, to shave bits off and put other bits in. As a writer, there is something slightly horrific about the fact that a 700-page novel, which might have taken, at the very least, a year to write and edit before it was of publishable quality, can be finished by someone in a couple of days. There are some authors who spend ten years working on a single book, only for that book to be finished by people in a few sittings, before they yawn and stretch and get on with their lives. A writer’s oeuvre, spanning fifteen works, and which took an entire lifetime to create, can be devoured in half a month, if the reader is disciplined. 

But there are thousands of other activities which require even less effort than reading, a thousand times less effort than writing. Food, for instance, though it does take time and effort to grow or prepare, often can be consumed very readily and easily. The act of eating is automatic, pleasurable: it doesn’t require any thought, or personal effort. Books, on the other hand, require the reader to mentally exert themselves, to employ their imagination to bring the words and sentences to life. Reading is not a passive activity—and in a world dominated by eating, shopping, watching and playing, books are at risk of being sidelined in favor of other, less taxing, forms of entertainment.

Today, it is far more common for people to put aside a book after a couple of pages, either because it was too tiresome to wade through the sentences, or the story began on a dull note. Books are getting shorter, the sentences more simple and understandable, especially in the realm of YA fiction. When once children’s books like The Secret Garden held pages and pages of words, we now have incredibly popular modern books like Coraline, around 30,000 words long, accompanied by pictures, each page sparsely covered in words. More people go to watch film adaptations of books than they read the actual books themselves—all following the principle that the easier it is to consume, the more there will be who consume it.

It’s worrisome. I worry whether the children of this generation, who grew up with smartphones and tablets, apps and games, would even want to read, and develop their imaginations and a love for reading. As technology advances, allowing for even greater immersion and enjoyment—the proliferation of virtual reality devices, for instance—without any effort on the consumer’s part, it is likely great swathes of humanity will no longer want to read, children in particular. There are just so many other “fun” things to do out there, Youtube videos to watch, social media sites like Tumblr and Instagram to browse, virtual realities to live in; and the books of old, which children once occupied themselves with when there was nothing else to do, might become obsolete.

Or they might not. Maybe the act of reading will just change, more E-books consumed rather than physical copies, less pictures, more words. Yet I can’t help but feel that libraries, especially the children’s sections, where, in my opinion, some of the best books exist, are not visited so often anymore, the books less well-worn, beautiful works languishing on in their multitudes on the shelves. One of the reasons why I make it a point to finish any book I come across, even if there are dull parts, and take time to marvel at the sentences and the imagery, is because I want give back, through my appreciation, some of the effort the author put in to write the book. Remember, behind all the hundreds and hundreds of books on the shelves in a library is a person, who most likely devoted months or years of their time, their blood and tears, to write it. Wouldn’t it be a pity for any of them to be unread, and unloved?

Of course, there exist too many books in the world for any of one of us to read them all in our lifetime, even if we did nothing but read. But that small fraction of the books of the world we can read and appreciate over the course of our short lives will shrink even further, if we don’t encourage reading in the first place, and short videos of men and women playing pranks on each other in the street supplant works of imagination, artistry and wit.

Be Yourself, Trust Yourself, Love Yourself

pumpkins

Whenever I read or watch an interview of an established writer, I can’t help but feel a stab of envy and despair in the pit of my stomach.

There they stand, on the other side of the golden bridge I wish to cross, and they seem so powerful, disciplined, talented and capable, buoyed up a bevy of family and friends. Appreciated. Liked. Secure in their nest. Sure, I’m young and only just getting started out; and perhaps, one day, I will somehow form my own strange support group of writers, most likely online, all as equally strange and awkward as I am, who will cheer on the sidelines as I grind towards the finish line of a novel—but for now, I’m all alone, and full of self-doubt.

One of the things I do, to assuage this doubt, is to also read advice from established writers. Inevitably, this leads to further despair. For one, their minds and the way they write and the kind of stories they write seem entirely different from my own. They also always seem exceedingly talented, good at painting, drawing, funneling their muse into other artistic pursuits–and I can’t draw to save my life. What’s more, there’s a sense you need to be a certain way, spit out drafts or outline meticulously, plow forwards until the deadline, be inspired by certain things. And I can’t help but find it terribly alienating, somehow, in a way that I almost can’t explain.

What I have found to help soothe this feeling is to realise that what “catches fire” in one writer’s mind will not in another. Every writer, just like every person, is different. So just because one book about devils and angels, which I find to be a well-worn trope and wouldn’t dream of touching with a beanpole, seems to ensnare the imaginations of so many writers, as well as hundreds and thousands of readers, doesn’t mean that I must explore devils or angels, in my writing. It doesn’t mean that I have to include steampunk, love triangles, grand destinies and fates, and all the things in contemporary literature I find irritating and lifeless, either because they do not reflect reality, do not light up my imagination, or have been done so many times it’s a wonder readers are not a little tired of it.

But these books are popular, sometimes very popular indeed. These books seem to be the ones the general public likes. It makes me wonder if the stuff I am writing is too otherworldly and strange, too “weird”. If I had to describe my work, it would be the equivalent of young adult fiction characters tossed into a pot of Miyazaki mixed with horror and dark fantasy. I wonder if I am wasting my time, puttering away at work no-one will ever want to read, let alone like.

And then, as always, as with everything that bothers me endlessly, I realise it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if I write these books, essentially strange fiction and fantasy geared towards teenagers, who are, as a demographic, not known for their appreciation for the weird and odd, and some people don’t like them. Maybe even lots. I think that, as long as I write what I love, and write for myself, first and foremost, the best books I can, then when I send my Art out into the world, the readers will come.

Also, I don’t particularly need to feel as though I don’t measure up as a fiction writer. So many fiction writers out there are very socially adept, good at interviews, with large fanbases whom they meet at conventions like Comic-Con, are married and have children, and go out with friends on the weekend, live healthy lives. I, on the other hand, being naturally socially awkward and only happy when I am alone, don’t see myself doing any of those things in the future. Not even the ones useful for furthering your career, like literary conferences, though interviews would be bearable. I’m a loner, through and through—and I like being one. I’m solitary, introverted, reclusive, sensitive, nocturnal, all traits unsuited towards the public life many writers have these days. Well, unsuited to modern life, really. I feel no need to interact with people; I am perfectly happy just observing them. Based on what is socially acceptable in society, I’m not a fully-functioning human being, and in the future, if all goes well, I see myself living in a small house filled my cats and books, and writing, from morning until night, rarely venturing outside except to walk by myself in the nearby woods–I love trees, the silent hush of nature; living in the city, as I do now, throttles my soul—or tend to the garden in the shade.

Sure, perhaps, if am very lucky, I will meet someone who is “weird” and understands me and is as inclined towards isolation as I am, and we will fall in love and have children and have our own strange little family in our lonely little house in the middle of the nowhere. It’s not an impossibility. But it’s unlikely. And even if that never happened, if I died, unloved, childless, friendless, with only my siblings to mourn my passing, and perhaps my mother, my life would still have been a happy one; for my first and only true love is imagining worlds and characters, and to spend a life dreaming and imagining and preserving those dreams on paper, to me, is a life well-lived.

If there’s anything you get from this rambling post, it’s that it’s fine just to be who you are, and do things that feel right to you. It’s fine to feel inadequate compared to other people, and it’s fine to be scared. You should always, however, have faith in who you are, and in your dreams, and how you will get from where you are to where you want to be. You are the only one in charge of your happiness, steering yourself at the helm of your own boat across the choppy seas of life. If you drown, no-one cares. If, one day, the boat’s hull scrapes against sand, hailing the discovery of an island, which you then live on for the rest of your days in golden bliss and joy, no-one cares, either.

In life, you’ve got to be your own advocate. You’ve got to trust yourself, and your own intuition, without letting the way others treat you or think of you determine how you think or treat yourself. For many years, I didn’t learn that lesson, and spent many a bitter night sobbing into my pillow because of what someone said to me, did to me, acted towards me, when all I wanted was to be liked and accepted. Listen: in life, if you are different, you will suffer for it. Outwardly, despite my depth of feeling, being deeply introverted, I can come across as cold and aloof. And sometimes, the strangest things pop out of my mouth, and I get excited by the strangest things, too. And people will hate you for it. Oh, boy, do they. They will hate you because they don’t like the way you act, it goes against what they’re used to encountering in people—you’re too strange and too quiet—and deep down, the more acute can’t help but feel that you seem to see and feel things they don’t, which irritates them to no end. And unless you trust yourself, and love yourself, and stand up for yourself, the world will eat you alive, spit out the bones and lick its lips. Wolves walk away from chewed carcasses without the slightest twinge of guilt, my dear, sweet, sensitive child, and that is a good lesson to learn.

So trust. Be your best friend, and hope when there is no hope, and lift up a hand to the world and say, “No, I’m not going to listen to you, thank you very much, you’re quite full of shit, and I will be my own advocate and trust myself,” then get back to work making your dreams come true, come rain or shine, misery or happiness, loneliness or company; and that way, in the end, you will die happy, knowing you did what you had to do, and that is all that matters.

When Everyone Seems To Have Their Place In The World, Except, Well, You

lost

Perhaps it’s the warm summer evenings. Or the fact that I moved homes, and am still trying to find my footings, re-gain the familiarity that comes from living in the same place for an extended period of time. Or it could be just hormones. Anyway, what I’m trying to get at is, recently, I’ve found myself growing more and more melancholy about, well, myself. And, well, life, and stuff.

It started with a seed of inadequacy, sprouting from a book I was reading filled with illustrations by the author. The illustrations were exquisite. Not only was the man talented with the pen, he was also a dab hand with a paintbrush. And I just thought to myself, sitting there in the room I now share with both my mother and sister, removed from them in my own little bubble, I just thought to myself, over and over, “I can’t draw to save my life.”

Which was true. I can’t. Only pens answer to my hand. The few times I’ve tried have been a complete and utter failure; it’s simply an inability to create size, detail, three-dimension, to translate what you see in your mind onto paper. Words are thousand times more easier to construct than pictures, at least for me. This then led onto a score of inadequacies: perhaps my imagination was not powerful enough, seeing as I couldn’t draw anything I saw through its lens, perhaps I was a writer deluding herself in regards to her talent, perhaps I was wasting my time, and would continue to waste my time, for years to come, penning stories no-one would ever read…

Down the whirlpool of thoughts continued to spiral, until I felt sick to my stomach. Literally sick. My own thoughts had somehow transformed into a physical reaction. I wanted to throw up. Nothing of the sort had ever happened me to before. I went to the bathroom, bent over the sink, and dry-heaved, but nothing came out. And then I went back to my room and sat down. Here I was, all alone in my room, scribbling away as the days fluttered away too quick for me sometimes to even examine them, writing terrible story after terrible story, unable to inject any life into any character, trying to make plots fit together like a blind man trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle—who was I? What was I doing?

You see, the awful thing is, it feels as though everyone else has their “place” in their world. They have found their little niche, within which to secrete themselves, safe and happy as a chick bundled into its nest. Either they have a job, or they’ve found success in their calling, or they have their own spouse, their own children, their own family, their own successful, beautiful, little lives. And every time I read about them, about this artist or this writer or this somebody, who is married and established, showered with literary accolades, my insides turn grey. I feel acutely alone, actually lost and adrift. Everyone has something, everyone has somebody, everyone has some place to call home, somewhere where they can lay their head and smile, while I sit here, writing and thinking in the dark, with only the voices in my own head for company.

In a world so filled with talent, how can you not doubt yourself? In a world where everyone seems to have their own little lives, all packaged and tied-up, even if they’re a little lopsided, what do you do with the junk scattered across your own desk? To keep on going, when you are lonely, wracked with self-doubt, destitute, unloved by people who actually understand you, and, frankly, a little depressed, takes a mammoth leap of faith, a mountainful of grit and determination. I always thought the idea of the starving artist slaving away in her little garett and every now and then traipsing out onto the roof to look over the city and watch the sun set and feed the pigeons was a lovely, romantic notion. But now I realise that to chase your dreams, and believe in yourself even when every part of you screams to do otherwise, is a path riddled with potholes, covered in shadows. It’s not fun. It’s dark, and it’s scary, and it’s hard.

What if this gamble doesn’t pay off, in the long run? As much as I adore writing, adore the imagination, what if it’s a case of loving-something-but-it-doesn’t-necessarily-mean-you’re-good-at-it-or-will-succeed-at-it? Plenty of people enjoy books without feeling any urge to pen one themselves. Maybe I am one of them, caught in a cloud of self-delusion.

Nevertheless, I can’t give it up, not even when the overwhelming sense of inadequacy gives me the urge to bash my head open with a rock, or at least crawl under the bed for several centuries in a dreamless sleep. Writing is all I have, all I am; it is as much a part of me as my own physical body, my veins words knitted into sentences, my blood flowing dark with ink. When I cry, letters trickle down my cheeks, and each time I wake up in the morning, the world inside and outside is splotched with stories, stories for me to read, to remember. To write down.

I’ll just write, I guess. I’ll just write.