Quiet Desperation

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” – Henry David Thoreau.

While I tend to protest very loudly about any form of discomfort or desperation, I can see what he meant. It seems the more I reconcile myself with who (I think) I am, the more lost I become. I spent so many years writing fiction because I thought I couldn’t actually be the person I wanted to be. But then, as that myth fell away, I struggle to write – even for work. This is often dealt with by howling at the moon and then finally writing the minimum required.

If as a teenager I had a checklist of what I wanted to do when I grew up (whatever ‘growing up’ means), finding myself was not on it. I seem to remember being quite certain of my place in the world – it wasn’t easy to make decisions about what to study, or about my future, but I had no idea I would actually give in to my urges as a writer.

When it first happened, in 2011, it felt amazing. Writing felt like coming home (the good kind of ‘home’, not the place where people embarrass you for being a ‘writer’). In retrospect, it is clear that was the turning point.

3 years later, writing takes up only a fraction of my time – although I think about it quite a lot. I suppose having achieved ‘writer’ status and becoming an ‘editor’ didn’t really help. My duties involve helping others hone their skills, which is not something I am particularly good at, but I try to support them and attempt to stick up for them (I have learnt that having someone to back up your critical opinion is quite important – regardless of whether the piece is as good or as bad as you say it is).

I am currently at what can be called the ‘now what?’ point of my life. Having managed to keep myself writing – sort of – I wonder what I am to do next. Obviously, I am still writing, but surely, it has to be about something that interests me, and not just something I label ‘work’.

It’s quite terrifying and refreshing to think the world is my oyster, so to speak. At 25, I feel I have wasted a great deal of time trying to figure out what I am doing with myself. Finding a freelance job is no mean feat, but still feasible. So is writing a book. The problem with the latter is that I wouldn’t know what to say – and of course, it is important to say something. But then, while I recognise the value of saying whatever it is I want to say, it would be my first book if and when it came into being; I could just fuck around with format, content and all that jazz.

Although I’ve only studied philosophy and literature superficially, I am particularly fond of Oulipean ideas for writing. They might be slightly out of date, but any book I try to write that is my first would just be an exercise and learning curve. So why not learn about stuff I am fascinated by? In this reasonably infinite time that I seem to have between my theatre-related work and sleeping, I am reading up on my philosophy and history. Admittedly, part of me just wants to know about this stuff, and part of me has decided I have to grow the fuck up and find out about things for myself, since the man who is my mentor works for a rival publication and I can’t (shouldn’t) badger him for fun-facts all the time. If knowledge is power, then I want in – I shall equip myself as best I can, and see what happens.


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