There is a thing I should be doing. Probably. There’s always something I ‘should’ be doing.
For example, right now, even though I allocated this morning for writing time, I am worrying about the thing I think I should be doing (which is anything that resembles housework, oh my god how do children make so much mess?!). And because I allocated this morning for writing time, what I think I should be writing is something useful and meaningful, something with purpose. I should write something important. Something that helps the world.
Because if I’m going to make words come from my brain and out of my fingers, I should at least write something that proper writers write, right? A proposal for an article, a properly structured poem, or a story with protagonists and a heroes journey and an ending that makes your heart hurt and your feelings all feel-y. Because ‘real’ writers don’t just write blog posts once every six months, or rambling captions on social media, or scraps of poems in the ‘notes’ bit of their phone, do they? Or do they?
Fuck, it might not be ‘real’, but this writing feels so good. It has no name and it has no form. It’s a flow of words that I know isn’t even properly organised yet, but it is a flow and it is mine. A beautiful, life-affirming flow. A flow that I will edit and re-edit and probably hate for a while before loving again and then posting into the ether never to be read again. But that doesn’t matter. I write like this because I have to, not because I should. I write because feeling the words thread together and sit in beautiful sentences and build satisfying paragraphs feels like coming home. And there is no feeling more real than that.
Sometimes I wonder if maybe I write this way deliberately because the idea of writing something ‘real’ – something structured and identifiable and formal – is too scary. If it’s just a rambling blog post, there’s no real risk, is there? Because by what measure can this be judged? It’s just a blog, right? No-one will even read the fucking thing. And yet. Still I write it. And I think maybe that’s the point.
In my daily life I’m surrounded by writers. Writers with published books, writers who write full-time, writers who get paid to write. Writers who don’t get paid to write but do it anyway. Writers who write to fill long commuter journeys. Writers with lives and jobs and families and struggles and words which flow in spite of it all, transforming their truths and experiences into things they can make sense of and share. And it’s all real writing. All of it. It’s real because they wrote it. Not because they should; but because it mattered to them to write it, so they did.
So why am I so insistent that this way of writing – my writing – isn’t ‘real’? Who says what’s right about writing and what’s not? I mean, to clarify, I’m aware that anyone can write and call themselves a writer, and that doesn’t mean that other people will want to read what they write. We can all think of books that should probably never have been printed. My point here is that the fear of writing something ‘wrong’ shouldn’t stop me from writing whatever I feel I need to write. And feel it I do.
For me writing is about feeling, and it’s a core part of the process of understanding and establishing who I am. Using words to talk about what I feel and experience and think helps me to understand what I’m doing and why I do it. Even if what I’m doing changes from day to day and I don’t always understand it (hello, humans are weird and confusing, and I’m no exception), at least I’m trying.
There is an enormous catharsis for me in writing. A release, almost. I’ve tried doing all of the things which are meant to help one de-stress, decompress, and live life more effectively and less like a simultaneously angry, confused, and startled baby deer. But I don’t get a big release from yoga (although I can’t deny that it does help with my neck pain). Walks in the woods? Mate, glorious. But not writing. The highs after an intense gym session are great, but they aren’t word highs. These words feed my soul like nothing else ever could.
So, I’m writing this. It feels good. It feels fucking good. It’s half-formed right now but even at this stage it feels better than anything else I’ve done today. My shoulders have lowered and my jaw has unclenched. With each sentence I feel a quietening of the chaos in my brain. My words give the chaos a name, they show my darkness to the light, and that is more valuable and more real than anything else I could imagine doing.
If you’ve found the thing that makes you feel alive, you should do it whether it feels ‘real’ or not. It’s real if you make it real. These are my words and I feel them and they are real, and I’m going to keep writing them because I can.
I suppose, then, that this really is what I should be doing after all.