Get to work, really. That’s most likely the answer.
It’s been a difficult week, interspersed with a lot of feelings and panic and wondering how on earth to keep kicking myself onwards. It’s much easier to kick yourself onwards when you’re doing things for a loved one, or working for something you believe in, like, say, Martin Sheen as the President of the United States. I think that’s part of the trick, isn’t it? Having something, someone, for whom you do things that you believe aren’t just worth doing, but that you will do better than anyone else.
I find it difficult to do things for myself. I find it difficult, for example, to believe that there is sufficient universal value in my novel ( The Pulse Buy it here, buy it now! )to promote it in any way less than panicky, flippant and daft. I will, I will, I will try. I do have a plan. And I do think it’s a fine read, I genuinely do. Not for everyone, but for me, and that’s, with the first self-published thing I’ve done, more than enough for me.
But back to the post. I find it difficult to knuckle down and arrange things, fix things, make things that will benefit, in the first instance, only me. Even when I know that in the long run they’ll have an effect on me that will be more than desirable for those around me, I still can’t quite turn away from everything else sufficiently to get on with the Me Things. It took a lot to cut stuff off and write, and in the end I realised that the trick was to be able to write without cutting everything else off. That writing wasn’t one of those superselfish things I did that needed me to behave in a particular way. That writing can just happen, by the by, as and when, that yes, it’s better if I’ve a clear morning and no commitments, but that also that’s when I’m most likely to put the washing on, cook up some food for the rest of the week and do the hoovering.
I wonder what C.J.’s flat looked like? I wonder if she cooked for herself, or survived only on takeaway and whatever they actually have in the White House? I wonder if we just didn’t see the nights she actually got home before midnight and threw on a set of old pyjamas and sat in front of the telly covered in crisps…but I suspect there weren’t too many of those.
When you’re doing something that matters, you’re busy. Your brain’s going. You can learn a thing, do a thing, write a thing, because you have to. Objectively, the world is going to improve when you’ve finished it. Or at least started it.
It’s when you don’t have anything that matters that it’s tough. When you don’t know if something will matter. When you’ve got into the habit of convincing yourself that maybe it’s the next thing that matters, or the one after that, so you’d better give yourself the space to be ready for that thing, rather than knuckling down to this one, which might come to nothing after all.
That’s the trick of it, really. There’s no better way to make sure that you’ll never make anything, contribute to anything, or do anything important than to not do anything at all. I get stuck sometimes because I worry I need to be ready for the big thing, the important thing, the moment when Martin Sheen asks me to be White House press officer (let us count the ways in which this is madness, for they are many), and the truth of it is that you have to do things, make things, be things, in order for the worthwhile, objectively necessary, brilliant or wonderful things to come along.
If you’ve written five books for yourself, there’s a very real chance that the sixth book, whilst also for yourself, can change lives, by being brilliant in new ways. There’s a chance that you’ll have learnt something that’ll actually be worth passing on. That someone might ask you, for your demonstrated brilliance, or even just persistence, to be a part of something.
I have struggled to try, sometimes, because I’m scared, because I don’t think it’s worthwhile, because I can’t see the end of the project or because I’m worried to put down a first line that isn’t 100% perfect, even if the second and third lines might be, even if I can change it later. I’ve been scared to ask questions I don’t know the answer to, because I don’t, by virtue of the asking, know where that’ll take me. I like to know what’s next, not to ask, or to start out on the unknown road. And that’s another blog in itself.
What would C.J. do? She’d do something. I think that’s the thing. Just get started. I’ve done it before. It’s really time to do that again. Downtime is great, recharging is important, but if you don’t get back on the horse before the fear creeps in, you’ll miss a trick, and then Martin Sheen’s never going to call…