It seems to me that there are so many decisions to make. Decisions about my website, this blog – how it should look, what it should be about, who it should be for, and what I should or shouldn’t write… I can’t quite seem to decide. Is it a website advertising my freelancing? My writing? Is it a resource for writers? Years ago, it all seemed simpler… I would just write whatever the hell I wanted. But now, there seems to be this weight over it all. If I write about my personal fears and doubts, will it detract from my professionalism? If I don’t, will I come across as boring and ridged?
I’m never happy with the look of my site. And I think that’s linked to the fact that I’m never quite sure what its main purpose is, so it’s unable to reflect that. At the moment, it feels a bit cold.
The funny thing is, as I type this, I’m realising that all my website worries are probably unfounded. I’m probably reading too many blogs and ebooks about freelancing and small businesses. They’re all telling me to do stuff to my website, and I never seem to manage to get it right, which feels like a bit of a fail.
I would like to once again use my blog to vent my thoughts – as I am in this post. I would like to do that without worrying that it will make me look unprofessional, or ‘weak’ as a writer. Because it is obvious that so many writers and editors use their sites to publicise their successes, advertise their products and services, and demonstrate their knowledge, etc. But the sites that do that don’t seem to be the personal kind. They don’t really connect with people. There is definitely a distinction, and I’m caught hesitating in the middle of it.
So here are some of my concerns, laid bare. I’m 24 years old and I’m still freaking about what to do with this thing called ‘life’. When I was at school, from about the age of fourteen, we were constantly pressured into deciding what careers we wanted to achieve. Of course, I had no idea, but I decided that I would simply study the subjects I found most interesting and enjoyable, and hope that an interesting and enjoyable career would follow. So I studied English Literature, Philosophy and Art, and went on to study English Literature and Creative Writing at university. All of which I loved.
Then I got a job in a publishing house – but it wasn’t quite what I had expected. The real world had sprung up on me very fast. At first, it was cool. I’d broken into the publishing industry! But I quickly realised my entry-level position was more about spreadsheets, emails and admin than it was about creativity and literature. So I decided to go back to what I had enjoyed, and I returned to university to do an MA in Creative Writing.
Fast forward two years, and here I am. I occasionally do the odd freelancing job, but sometimes I feel as though I’m emotionally back where I started at school. Though now I can’t just study the subjects I enjoy, because as a ‘grown up’ in the ‘real world’ you kinda need money to pay the bills. I even studied how to live life homelessly because I hate the idea of conforming to a nine-to-five job that I don’t like, just so I can afford a roof over my head. It’s still an option I toy with, but the biggest thing stopping me is the issue of safety, to be honest. And there are so many sickening laws about land ownership. Otherwise I’d probably just go off and live in the woods, somewhere a bit warmer.
So now that I’ve thoroughly convinced you that I’m insane, what about being a writer? Yes. That. (Then again… ‘insane’ and ‘writer’ aren’t always distinct, are they?)
I’ve been feeling a little blocked recently, and I’ve been doing a lot of research into writer’s block – ironically managing to write over 8k words as a potential ebook. A lot of my research has changed my thinking about it. More on that another time, though. Back when I was a teenager, I would write loads. Quite a lot of this, I think, had something to do with an amazing writing forum I discovered called East of the Web. I loved it. It was so active and there were so many writers. You could post something and get lots of feedback – so much of it was encouraging, which gave me an emotional boost, and I also learned a hell of a lot from the constructive criticisms and discussions.
In a way, my ignorance of the subject gave me a lot of creative freedom. I just wanted the buzz of writing something, and someone else telling me that they enjoyed it. Now, after years of studying the subject – academically, but also through obsessively reading blogs, magazines and books on writing and publishing – I feel almost crippled with knowledge. Sounds weird, right?
I guess it’s because now that I have all this information in my head, I feel pressured to write Great Things… because I should be able to, after studying creative writing for all these years, right? Otherwise, what was the point?
I am also now signed to an agency (which, don’t get me wrong, I am totally thrilled about) but that, along with everyone who knows that I’m writing a novel, feels like all these eyes staring and me, expectantly, occasionally glancing at their watches and raising their eyebrows and secretly judging me at the amount of time that’s passed since I declared that I am writing.
And I know, I know, that all these pressures are silly. Totally self-inflicted. Without legitimate weight. But they’re there. And they’re not fun. And when something isn’t fun, I don’t want to do it. And that’s why the writing is going slowly at the moment. I’m freaking out because I should either be making some damn money or writing my damn novel. While I’m not making money I think I really should be writing, and then when I don’t manage to write, I worry that I should at least be using my time to make some money.
So my most recent plan at the moment is to apply for an Arts Council Grant. I’m hoping that if I can take money out of the equation for a while, I can focus on my writing. I’m also organising my first writing course. This, in itself, is very scary. I’m not sure I’ve given myself enough time to market it, but I know it is something I can do and I’m hoping that by combining some earning potential with my passion and knowledge of creative writing, I can get out of this head spin. Well, I won’t know until I try.
I’m hoping that the fact that I’ve finally turned to writing (i.e. this blog post) to try and work out some of these things is a positive sign. Now, I’m hoping that I’ve made the right decision to publish these personal thoughts, and haven’t just convinced you all that I’m an unprofessional armature, and likely in need of a long rest in a padded room.
I’d really appreciate it if you could offer your opinions on writer’s block by taking this quick survey:
Your input would really help me out. I’m actually in the process of drafting an ebook on the psychology of writer’s block, exploring practical and realistic methods for overcoming it – hopefully not the overly-simplistic reproduced stuff you see all over the interweb.
By filling out the survey, you’ll help me focus the ebook and hopefully make it useful to real, intelligent writers like yourself.
Thanks in advance.
Apologies for the lack of posts these past few weeks. I have been moving house, two hundred miles from my original location, so things have been rather hectic! Unfortunetely, this has slightly delayed the publication of Inkspill Magazine issue 7, but I assure you that it’s on its way.