I have never fallen out of love with writing. I don’t think I ever could.
Last year, I wrote three books. For some, that might not seem like much, but on top of my masters degree studies and a full time job, it was a lot for me. I was overworked, burnt out and irritated with myself.
I have always been able to get stuff done. When I was self employed, I needed to be doing three or four jobs to make ends meet, to allow myself to write, and I did it. And then I’d write a few chapters and go to the gym at midnight.
Sadly, age, and a newly discovered love affair with my bed, means I can’t really do that any more. I needed to slow down in order to stay inspired, be creative and come up with new stories.
I loved the last series I wrote, and I had new ideas, lots of them, but nothing fired me up.
The problem was the world.
I could carry on writing the same stuff I’d always written, stuff that I believed was funny and bittersweet and nostalgic, but the world just seemed more horrific than usual. Some horrible things happened last year, and the world seemed like it was moving too fast. That technology was increasing at a massive rate, whilst our levels of empathy and human interaction were decreasing. We are a nation of Facebook commenters, passive-aggressive Tweeters, shouting into an online abyss. It felt like nothing I could write would express the important things happening in the world. And did I even want it to, if the world seemed so dark and dismal? Why write about boy meets girl when there were kids dying in Aleppo? Why write about a woman discovering she was pregnant, when Planned Parenthood was under threat from Trump? Every story seemed to be contradicted by reality, being made small and insignificant in the face of the terrors of the news, and the state of our planet.
When Amazon delivered their first package by drone, I actually cried. Because I was scared. That sounds silly, and it is. But I have a feeling we’re walking straight into the plot of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie, and it’s scaring the crap out of me.
The answer would be simple: write the same happy chic lit you’ve always written! Write to make people happy! Ignore the outside world, provide an escape for people feeling the same way as you! Write to escape, read to escape!
Yes, this would be the answer, if it didn’t feel inauthentic. Write something happy and cheerful, where everything ends up okay, set it in a tea shop and put some bunting on the cover. Stop feeling scared. Live in pastel colours, give everyone a happy ending and put on your blinkers. It didn’t feel right to write that. I wanted to do more.
I wanted to acknowledge the world, I wanted to write something important that would bring people joy. I wanted to write something beautiful, and meaningful, and true.
And that right there is how you get writer’s block.
You pile on the expectation so high that you’ll never achieve what you set out to do. No one sits around thinking they’re writing something ‘important’. Even the most genius books of our time were created by someone who was just telling a story they thought needed to be written. Or they were enjoying writing. Or, more likely, they knew they would only get the relief from that endless cycle of words and thoughts scrolling around brain if they wrote the damn thing down, so they did.
So I’m writing something. And it’s not brilliant or important, and it’s not going to change the world. But writing it is making me happy and giving me purpose, and maybe when people read it, it will make them think, and remember and wonder.
And in the meantime, I should put down my pen and get out in this world that I’m so scared of being destroyed, and try to change things, and make them better. To engage in joy, and see the beauty, witness empathy and kindness and try to cultivate some of that. The pen is mightier than the sword, but it might not be mightier than a little kindness, a little action, a little intention.