Get fit, brush up on French, update the kids’ scrapbooks, publish my play, experiment with other forms of writing, be grateful.
That was the list I wrote after the shock of the first lockdown settled, somewhere around April 2020. It was part ‘When life gives you lemons’ and part ‘If I stay busy I won’t have time to think about seismic changes in the world.’
Most people will tell you that a blog is meant to offer something of value to readers, the idea being to satisfy, and grow, one’s following. Many blogs read like a recount (‘What I’ve been up to…’), usually underpinned by a healthy dose of self-promotion, admittedly a necessity in today’s industry. I’m not really interested in these things. So why the hell am I blogging?
When I was in my final year at Duke University, I pushed a pram from Durham, North Carolina to Washington, DC as part of a relay team to raise funds for long-shot US Presidential candidate, John B Anderson. The year was 1980 and Anderson was running against the incumbent, Georgia peanut farmer, Jimmy Carter and Hollywood movie star and former California governor, Ronald Reagan – a race that, after 2016, no longer sounds absurd.
Over the past few years I’ve logged about thirty reviews for CBCA’s Reading Time. I take the role of reviewer seriously – maybe too seriously 😉 – and always aim to be thorough and fair. This means identifying a book’s weaknesses in addition to its strengths. Readers have told me they appreciate my candour, but I sometimes worry that I’m a lone (grumpy) voice in review-land.
If I ever write a memoir, I’d probably title it Survivor. When it comes to my, ahem, eventful life, Grateful Dead sums it up best: What a long, strange trip it’s been. Perhaps that’s why I haven’t written one. I’m not sure I’m ready to hop back on the trauma train. But I’ve been ‘dabbling’, a somewhat cavalier reference for mining my memory banks, occasionally jotting down snippets. And I’ve been thinking – lots of thinking – trying to connect the dots. That was B.C. – Before COVID-19.
Writing for me has always been confessional. So, perhaps it’s only fitting that I confess: I don’t particularly like blogging. It has always struck me as being somewhat self-indulgent. (Let me share my musings … as if they are universal truths.) Plus, ‘blog’ sounds uncannily like the sound one makes when vomiting. And I can’t help but think that’s a metaphor of sorts.
I’m still prone to procrastinating. Like now – blogging when I should be writing … or at least editing. That’s because I’m a moody writer – always have been, always will be. For me, words splatter onto the page with sweat, tears and occasionally a bit of blood. Deadlines and word counts are necessary evils, ones that occasionally mess with my muse. Yet despite this intuitive approach, I still manage to churn out an enormous amount of work, perhaps because something deeper, darker, is driving my output.
January usually comes and goes in a frantic ‘How could summer holidays already be over, where’s that damn school supply list’ kind of way.
But this year it was different. Very different.
As writers we often play detective – probing, investigating, discovering, each step bringing us closer to the truth. But what if the subject of your investigation is mysterious, surly, contradictory and often inaccessible? What if the person you’re trying to understand is standing on the other side of a locked door, with a mad dog at their side?
What if that person is you?
Many people with mental health problems don’t seek help — hardly surprising, given the stigma that still surrounds the issue. In fact, rather than ask for help, we curate our lives, presenting our best selves online and face-to-face, creating the illusion…