Diary of an ex-ex-writer: Departure for Derbyshire

It’s been ten months since I’ve sat down to write. Which is an exceptionally long time for someone who has pretty much written every day of their lives since they can remember. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly why I stopped. I told everyone it was because I was working hard on my masters degree, and somewhere between that and my job I had neither the time nor the energy for writing. I recently realised that was actually a lie. I have never had the time nor the energy to write, but I have always done it. Not because I particularly want to, but because I have to, like breathing. 

     I recognised I had been lying to others and myself a month ago whilst sat on Brighton beach watching a woman sniff (what I can only presume was) drugs off some man’s chest as the early summer sun beat down on us. We were being treated to the background noise of fifty or so mini beach parties, dominated by one man and his boombox, who whilst holding a microphone in one hand and a bottle of gin in the other, shouted towards the sea about how we should all look him up on TikTok. 

     I had spent the day wandering around local artists open houses, having a generally delightful time. I’d seen everything from gorgeous paintings to shocking photographs and had conversations about many things, from sculpture to honey. Train strikes had struck again so I found myself leaving later than expected, which gave me just enough time to get an ice-cream before the bus came so I’d continued my wander down to the seafront. 

     All day I had been enjoying other people’s wonderful expressions of their creativity, and yet, I had some tiny thought harassing me somewhere at the very back of my mind, which had meant the day was tinged with a feeling I couldn’t really identify. 

     It wasn’t until I was sat on that beach, watching the drug snorting, the “DJ’ing” and the lap of the waves, that I realised what that feeling was. It was the feeling of longing. I was longing to be creative. To do something, anything, to get out of whatever head-space I currently found myself in. 

     The space I was in, was not great. I had been over-worked and over-stressed for months, leading me to hand in my notice at my “proper” job. I was two months into a three month notice period, and facing looming uncertainty at the end of month three. 

     Sat on that beach as I rapidly licked my overpriced 99 Flake ice cream, trying to make it last long enough to feel worth the money, whilst also not letting it melt – it’s a fine line to tread – I thought about what creativity meant to me.

I came up with a long list of why I love to write, and top of the list was because it helped me figure stuff out. I’d got it into my head that because I’d always wanted to write a book, and now seemingly had a shot at that, that me using writing as a means of processing, was no longer relevant. I had started to think about it in terms of what my writing meant for others, how it could be marketed, how it could be made into something to make me money. And funnily enough, that had made me stop. Right when I had my biggest opportunity, I could no longer do it. 

     Somewhere between chocolate and cone I realised that actually there was no difference between the sculptor who talked of fighting gender norms, and the couple with the drugs, or the guy with the mic, or me with my ice-cream. We were all just trying to figure stuff out. Sure, we were going about it in different ways, some more palatable than others. But essentially we were the same. A tiny spec in a huge world, trying to figure out our place in it. 

     I wanted to start writing right there and then. But I still didn’t. I wanted to sit with the thought of what my creativity meant to me. I wanted to wait until I really, really wanted to do it again. For all the right reasons that meant something to me, rather than whatever I thought they could mean to someone else. As I type those words I feel like that sounds selfish, but for the first time I think that’s OK. Not too long ago a literary agent asked me why I wanted to write a book. I couldn’t really answer. And the fact that I couldn’t really answer has haunted me. I think it’s because I thought the answer should be because I want to help people. Because that seemed like that was the right answer. Because I was after all translating cyclists’ stories into something that everyone could find inspirational. But that’s not the primary reason. I do want to help people. But it’s not why I want to write a book. I want to write a book because I want to understand the world better. Because that’s why we read right? Or it’s one of the reasons. Because knowledge is power. It’s the only true currency I’ve ever been really motivated to accumulate.

     So here I am. Tapping away on my little laptop. Trying to find answers, with a smile on my face again. 

     Yesterday I finished at my “proper” job. I’m now in Derbyshire with my bike and my laptop, alone, writing, and smiling. It’s funny what a difference a day makes.