My theme from the 365 journal for today were scars. I wondered wether to tell you about my measles scar that reminds me of the first time I finished reading Emily of New Moon, or the story of the scar on my brother’s forehead which has been told so many times in our family gatherings that history became legend, legend became myth, and for two and a half thousand years… Wait… What? The real story has passed out of all knowledge.
But instead I’m going to write about a matter that’s been in my head for many months now. It was touched upon in the StoryCraft pep talk webinar that I mentioned.
There are many kinds of distractions in this world. Especially for writers. An interesting meme on Tumblr. A monthly group challenge on Instagram of poetry about goldfish memories. A shiny piece of paper on the floor that you compete for with the cat. It makes a wonderful crinkling sound and rattles when it falls.
These are the smaller, momentary distractions. Then there’s that gnawing feeling when you look at your bank account and realise you can barely afford the rent and the cat food. Though, I find that lack of money works well focusing your attention on the things you really need. I’ve got so much writing done because I couldn’t afford to go somewhere and do something else AND because I can’t afford a monthly payment to Netflix or Viaplay. I could barely afford internet and that was pure luxury (also necessary as my writing website is online).
Now that I’ve been working, there are even more distractions! With income I can afford to go places, buy books, go to the cinema etc. I can invite friends over when offering them a splash milk and biscuits with their tea isn’t an extravagance I don’t even want to admit.
I’m also starting to plan vacations in places which require saving money, and saving money means making more of it than I spend in a month which cuts heavily back on writing time because travelling from Finland to anyplace that isn’t… Estonia or Sweden, is expensive. Hell, travelling within Finland is pretty expensive if you don’t reserve the tickets in plenty of time for the cheapest bus imaginable.
So yeah, distractions.
But what keeps me going is what I like to call the “reluctant suspension of disbelief” (referring, of course, to Coleridge’s “willing suspension of disbelief”). It’s that mad, insane, totally based on false narratives, bonkers, utter nonsense belief that one day, one day this text will be something joyful. Will be finished and make sense and will have readers.
Being a writer is sailing between those two lines. The suspension and the disbelief. I call it reluctant because it really require’s a lot of work and madness and faith and insanity to sail those seas. And the biggest distraction of all is when that suspension falters.
I’ve been teetering on the edge of disbelief for a few days now. The task ahead seems enormous. No, it is enormous. On the other hand I could choose to take a safe cushy job where I could earn enough money to travel and see friends and do fun things and not skimp and scurry around the edges.
And it even feels selfish to choose to be creative. Yes. My friends and family have to worry about me more. People have to extend their brain power over the normal amount when they hear that I’m not actually just doing manual jobs because I’m getting back into gear. I’m doing them because I’m writing a book and these kinds of jobs won’t take too much of my creative energy. It feels selfish to demand that attention.
Yet, I can’t seem to be able to lie about it. I read an article where an author wrote about how they always told people anything else but the truth. True, it’s easier to say “I’m working here part time now” and leave it at that. And I do, if it’s a person I barely know. But I don’t want to tell that to my friends. Even if the dreaded “oh yeah, what kind of a book are you writing” follows. It’s so much of what I am. Of what I do. Of how I behave and react and live. No one expects my friends who are at home with their kids to deny they are mothers, do they?
So yeah. And yet there’s the little voice telling me that maybe that new cushy job wouldn’t be so exhausting and hard that I couldn’t write as much. And that maybe I could afford that new computer that wouldn’t leave me in a lurch every once in a while. And maybe…
I don’t know.
I write to find out.
I strain against the reluctance.
*The photo at the top is from 2003 on a hilltop in Abergavenny, Wales, taken by my good friend Hanna, who would never doubt I can do this.