Writing is like climbing a mountain twice as high as Mt Everest. Sometimes you don’t even need to look for a handhold. It’s right next to you, that jagged piece of rock stable enough to hold your weight. Sometimes it’s as easy as rock climbing – not quite the easiest thing in the world, but safer, and warmer. Tonight, at 8:46PM on the 8th of May 2015, I’m somewhere near the base of the mountain. I’ve barely gotten off the ground, but I’m terrified. Tonight I looked down. What I saw weren’t sharp press pin rocks sticking up at me, but soft plush snow waiting to catch me.
I’m leaving this metaphor and delving into the past for a little bit, but it’s cliche enough for you to remember for later. I started writing seriously under a year ago, and boy did I have high hopes. I knew I could write, in the sense that I knew where to put full stops and how much dialogue was too much dialogue. What I have learned since then is that I don’t even know that. I really. Don’t. And there is a whole trove of troubles that I have which I’m uncovering every single day, like lost jewels. This isn’t what I expected, but it’s what I want. If you can’t identify anything that’s wrong with you then you’ll stay stagnant; you’ll pickle in your own bad grammar and crappy characters. You’ll become one of your own crappy characters.
Really though, I wasn’t going into this with rose coloured glasses. I didn’t even have time to put them on; I dived headfirst into this thing without considering it fully. I’d compare it to taking a shot of vodka. Just don’t think about it. Just drink. But I knew I could end up having the time of my life or puking out of a taxi window.
So up until now I haven’t been looking at the world of writing with a pink tinge, or without acknowledging my faults. My issue tonight didn’t start with me suddenly realising that I wasn’t on the same level as George Orwell. For me, it’s the pressure of wanting to be somewhere within the same world, whether that’s a published writer or a published journalist.
I wish, every day, that I could be Stephen King with his rusty nail above his desk, where he’d stab his rejection letters repeatedly. Writing in the internet age brings with it so many added pressures. I have constant access to other people’s work, running critique on my own work, and hundreds of publications calling for submissions and hundreds of submissions coming back with a pixelated rejection stamp neatly in the by-line. And there are my teachers too, plus my own struggles when it comes to writing that I bring to my desk with me every time I sit down. Grateful? I am, most of the time. All these things have their positives, they’re all underneath me while I climb, pushing me further and further. But sometimes I just want to ‘stay home and write and figure things out for myself’, in the words of the beautifully tortured Kerouac. It’s how I feel when I’m being prodded a little too much, or when constructive criticism becomes overwhelming and turns into a well-meaning dark shadow cast over my head.
It can be defeating. This is why I tell people, only write if you have to. You’ll be happier if you can find something safer to love, that gives a little more and doesn’t take so much. Tonight is one of those nights where I glimpsed down at the ground below. I’m still at the point, though, where if I fall I’ll land with a soft thud. It wouldn’t kill me to jump off and become an…architect, or an accountant. Actually, I had to think for a minute about what job I’d rather have than this. It is neither an architect nor an accountant. Maybe I’m higher up this mountain than I thought.