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Writing So That Loved Ones Don’t Have to Kill You

“This isn’t really a smile, it’s the lid on a scream.”
– Julie Goodyear, Coronation Street

If I don’t write things I wilt.

I get moody. I don’t sleep well. I’m pretty sure I get more colds.

It doesn’t have to be anything good, and it usually isn’t. It’s usually the kind of thing that would cause an overnight guest to sleep with a heavy object to hand.

And I don’t mean writing – as in a berets-sporting, turtleneck-clad, I’ve-never-farted-in-my-life kind of writing. I mean waking up to a napkin on your bedside table with ‘growing suspicion of voles’ scrawled in crayon.

But I must write something.

Without it I am a bag of advertising slogans and incomplete thoughts. I can’t process what I’ve been reading. William Zinsser summed it up in Writing Well: “Clear thinking becomes clear writing; one can’t exist without the other.

Unfortunately, writing is hard. I don’t know whose idea that was, but we’re stuck with it. Often it’s a Catch 22: you’re a talentless fraud if you write, and you’re a lazy uncreative sack of shit if you don’t.

Writing Process on an Index Card
The (not totally healthy) process…

Even being an advocate for writing is hard. Performing the act isn’t necessary to dream of living in a cave and terrorising hikers instead. As Lynn Truss says in Eats, Shots & Leaves: “It’s tough being a stickler for punctuation these days. One almost dare not get up in the morning.

Some days I can barely face it.

But I sit and I do it. I do it so that I don’t end up keening on the ground, while loved ones beat me to death with sticks – because it’s kinder that way.

Anne Lamott’s effortless words from Bird by Bird do the heavy lifting:

… I tell my students that the odds of their getting published and of it bringing them financial security, peace of mind, and even joy are probably not that great. Ruin, hysteria, bad skin, unsightly tics, ugly financial problems, maybe; but probably not peace of mind. I tell them that I think they ought to write anyway.

Published inWriting