Back on the Competition Horse – or Why am I so Pathetic That I Can Only Write When I’m Told to?


Francesco Hayez

I was sat perched on the end of a sofa Saturday evening wondering what to do with my night. If I leant back into the sofa and allowed myself to relax I would probably have inadvertently caught up on 6 weeks of shitty sleep and that would have resulted in the sack, obesity, and sub consciously getting addicted to a soap. But, if I stood up I would have to look as though I had some sort of destination. I was rapidly getting my head around plan A.

Then my phone beeped at me and told me that there was a competition deadline on Sunday.
For poetry.
On the theme of love.
In particular, romantic love, or the absurdities of love.

Now, other than writing technical manuals (Oh, wait, that’s my day job – what was so wrong with plan A after all?) there is nothing I want to write about less than love at the moment. I’m even starting to wonder whether perhaps it wouldn’t be too much trouble to take a Stanley knife to my book collection and meticulously cut around the word love in every book so that I can just get on with reading about war, misery, and political exile instead.

Perhaps it’s from my schooling, during which we weren’t allowed to take our blazers off until the whole class, in alphabetical order, had answered a math’s question correctly (sucks to be a Williams), but I now couldn’t contemplate anything other than meeting this deadline. P.S. Sorry sir, I chose words over numbers in the end.

And as though I was still stood there in the maths class sweltering under a blazer I started to panic at what was going to happen to my brain when I started to quiz myself on love. I think I actually shook my head from side to side a bit while I was writing, to avoid looking at my own words. I decided that the least input from me the better. And so it happened. I gave the guard of my self-preservation door a wink and told him to come back in a couple of hours, and let myself cough up some memories of absurd romantic love stuff.

If the judges are also looking for ‘absurd’ in terms of writing style then I may be in with a chance, but if they want decent content then I may be lacking somewhat. I’m a little out of practice but if I do happen to get placed then I may invest in a door stop and see what else comes out.




Enforced writer’s block, or ‘Going against everything I’ve said about freewriting’

I only get 30 minutes break in the working day where I can indulge in some creative writing, taking a break from the Technical documents that I am paid to produce. As soon as the clock starts on my break I grab my pen and pad and get to work, writing anything and everything that comes into my mind. When I first started to study Creative Writing I could no sooner freewrite on demand as I could stay at my desk through lunch, but it’s been very true that if you do it every day then you get better at it. If only that were the case with my job, but that’s another post altogether. And now I take just a few seconds before something comes out and I am well practiced at not self-editing, or stopping to think too much about whether any of it makes any sense. I just get my Virginia Woolf head on and keep producing a load of dust that I can sift through later when looking for a gem to polish up.

Today has been really sunny. I have been at my desk swiveling round on my chair every half an hour to look at the window, counting down the time until I could go outside and write. I have a big deadline for this weekend and need to be writing every minute that I have spare. But when the time came to get going I just put the pen down. I am exhausted. I have been writing so much at speed in work that I just can’t do it today to order. Not even when those orders are my own. If someone else had told me all this I would have said fine, just write about that then, write slowly, write in the tone of someone who feels like they are walking through quicksand (although I would have tried to avoid that cliche), and I would have said the end product will be a good account of a character who is shattered. But I was beyond self-discipline today.

Today I had more progress with my writing by not putting pen to paper on my lunch break than I would have had I scribbled away. I think.

I have been telling the folks in my little writing group all about freewriting recently, and how you need to push through the writer’s blocks and just keep writing regardless, writing out the silence and writing out the repeated words if they are stuck in your head until you move on to another one. However, today, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Instead I just stared ahead into the sun and let all the words dart about wanting to get out but not being allowed to. In the end I think what happened is that they all settled their arguments with each other and found a place to go and sit still for a minute, sulking that they couldn’t come out. Then, when I got back in from my break I was ready to write in a slightly more logical way than I would have done. I’m normally quite the fan of the garbled mess that freewriting produces, and would never normally try to reign in the rearing sentences, but today I was just too tired to open the flood gates. Some emotionally draining stuff has been happening around me for a while now and I was just too tired to let it all spill out and found it easier to just keep the moat up and sit with my back against all the thoughts, and then, once a bit refreshed, let them come out one at a time.

This goes against everything I have been encouraging people to do in my little group but it worked today and I may just try it again. I think the only way I will allow myself to indulge in this absence of writing on my lunch break is if I make sure that I still write later as well.

I read a tip for writing once which said that you should always stop before you want to, so that you always want to get back to it. Perhaps I’ve just taken it a step further and not let myself start when I wanted to.