I’m sat here, in the study, with only the faint hum of my iMac and the occasional patter of my fingers on the keyboard for company. Overhead, the distant thrum of another metal duck wheezing its way to Heathrow. Earlier there were a pair of magpies karakacking harshly at each other. And the builders next door were using their giant metal fart-machine to cut bricks. Perhaps the magpies were heckling the builders.
I feel anxious. Physically anxious. I haven’t felt fear in a long time. I mean, I’m neurotic, so I feel afraid a lot of the time, but I feel afraid. I can feel my bones. I can feel a coldness in between my fingers. I can feel a tingling in my shoulder blades. And I feel that vagueness in my stomach, as it tries to decide which way to evacuate its contents.
And why? For the first time in a long time I have to ‘mean it’. I don’t have excuses. Or I don’t have the excuses of old. I’ve got new ones – magpies, and dust, and the wrong type of biscuit and the BNP and feeling faintly disappointed with Neil Gaiman for reasons far too dull to go into. Its all sorts. Anxious allsorts that should be left in their heart-shaped box.
What if I’m not good enough? What if I’m not creative enough, or funny enough? What if I always feel like I’m working from home? What if I’m having one of those slave-feelings, when first set free they cling to their master’s house? What if I can’t write after all? What if all my stories end up trite and cliched and just…horrible? What if they start off like that?
What if it’s the moon? Or watching programmes about fucking poetry? Or it’s just Blindness, getting to me, eating away at my pathetic attempts to write something worthwhile? What if… the desire to simply tell stories gets eaten away by the desire to mean something. What if the battle must simply be replayed, endlessly, until no-one, not even me, listens any more?
Or is it simply loratadine? It’s hardly the opium for the noughties, but still…. What if this chewing gum loses its flavour? What if I really do want another cup of tea and have to go shopping and then I’m out of the house and might have to speak to someone oh god oh god oh dog.
What if I simply finish the story? What if I start another one? What if I stop whining and just get on with it? What if I remember all the little struggles to get to this point and stay strong, live strong?
What if it’s me? What if the duende within me simply won’t let me be… me? What if it worked while I could distract it with feeling miserable at work?
There are paintings by Hieronymous Bosch that describe my insides right now. I wrote recently about standing on the shoulders of giants. Well, today I feel like the giants have momentarily (I hope) stepped aside and have let me fall. Yes, that’s what it feels like, most of all. It feels like I am falling.
Perhaps it’s a metaphorical fear of heights. Now that’s a useful phobia to have. Like being afraid of words beginning with M or anything in a carton.
I had hoped that by simply tapping out some sentences that weren’t a ‘work’ email or a status update I would feel better. Perhaps I do. But I don’t know. It feels like looking out from within myself, like I have withdrawn a little into the safety of my inactivity.
I did not mean to write so much. But the fear scared me. The physicality of it. The emotion of it. It’s just my mind playing tricks on me. Like a phantom running injury. That’s all I’m doing. A training write. Putting one word in front of the other until the marathon is done. One word. In front of another.
Get in rhythym, stay in rhythym. One, two, three, four. And breathe.