THE PURPOSE OF THIS BLOG AND WHY I stopped writing
Look at me, all fancy and millennial with my own little website! I've actually had this thing sitting around for a couple of months now, but I've not been entirely sure what to do with it. Personal blog? Weekly reviews of my bus commute to work? A new dating site for singles living in student cities that has a strict ban on actual students? Might be a market for that one, actually.
You might be wondering why I even own this website. Initially, I made it to hone my non-existent web-building abilities, which is something I realised I should probably get to grips with after tricking a marketing agency into hiring me. I reckoned that if anyone were to approach my boss and inquire as to whether we have a completely inadequate Wix specialist on the books, I could put myself forward with unjustified pride. At least, that was the plan until my boss announced our agency would no longer be using Wix, an announcement that naturally came about seven seconds after I bought this domain. Figures.
Seeing as I paid a budget-busting twenty quid for this website, I thought I might as well make the most of it by learning some HTML and building myself a little online portfolio for my writings. After all, I keep telling my relatives I'm a writer, it's about time I have something to show for it. Thing is, despite having spent most of my adult life either studying the art of writing or being paid to do it, I don't actually have much to show;- nothing worth sharing, at least. I handed in my final university project in mid-2015, and by doing so I also handed in my desire to write. Studying things to the point of scrutiny has that unfortunate side effect, apparently.
The months that followed the end of my degree were spent floating between night shifts at bars and lonely afternoons at home while my housemates were out tending to their careers. It was tough coming to terms with the real world, especially after the four years I'd spent in the liberating bubble of student life. At university, I'd been free to express myself in every manner possible. I joined and lead an a cappella group, performed in musicals, read my writings at open mic nights - things that I'd never done before, yet ended up defining me. Except for that brief stint in the Frank Sinatra Appreciation Society. Not sure what was up with that.
I took these outlets to express myself for granted, and, upon graduating, I lost them. I'd always imagined I'd be able to find a community theatre or writing group to fill the university-shaped hole in my heart, but I guess I didn't take into account the sheer amount of time and energy that would be consumed by the fresh horrors of entering the real world. I reckon I can safely say that a good chunk of my apathy towards things I once loved can be specifically attributed to the day I realised I had to pay council tax.
Pictured: the exact moment I (far right) realised I was no longer a student, but rather an unemployed tit in a cape.
Gradually, as my income increased and the likeliness of my landlord booting me out of the house decreased, I started to find the time to enjoy things again. My love for literature made a very welcome return, and with it returned my old creative self. At any given moment, my mind would be positively buzzing with unwritten bestsellers and viral articles, but whenever I put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard (or, more realistically, Sharpie to back of Tesco receipt), nothing would come out - and that's how it's been ever since.
When you're out of practice, it's understandable that you might lose some confidence in your abilities. Unfortunately, I also have the fun addition of a somewhat broken brain whose active skills are self-sabotaging, dissociating, and constantly playing Africa by Toto. Mental illness can be fun like that, you see. I might have days where I can't get out of bed until it's dark outside, but at least I have the whimsical rhythms of 80s bops to keep me company.
For me, mental illness is a bit like having a very disgruntled Amazon customer living in your head who leaves one-star reviews on everything you've ever thought, said or done. The reviews are poorly written and are based on little to no evidence, but that doesn't stop you from reading them religiously. They tend to be along the lines of YOU ARE GENERALLY BAD AT THE THINGS YOU DO or YOU ARE FUNDAMENTALLY AN AWFUL PERSON, but can get weirdly specific with things like YOU WENT OUT IN PUBLIC WITH YOUR JEANS TUCKED INTO YOUR SOCKS THEREFORE YOU SHOULD DIE IMMEDIATELY.
Don't worry, I don't believe most of these things - the Amazon customer in my head is pretty dumb and therefore not the most credible of sources. Unfortunately, negative thoughts are much louder than anything else going on in the brain department, so it's not always easy to ignore them. It's incredibly difficult, in fact. That saboteur inside of me rarely takes a day off, and though I try not to pay any attention to them, some of their insidious beliefs have gradually managed to slip into my sense of self and attack the things by which I once defined myself. Whether I'm writing a big chunk of copy for a client or just updating my personal, strictly-my-eyes-only journal, all I can hear is YOU ARE A TERRIBLE WRITER (and Africa). Hell, it's even here right now as I write this post, and I'm fighting every urge to delete everything I've written thus far - something I once did three days before a huge deadline. Classic me.
Turning out to be a professional writer who's scared to write is a bit like spending five years studying to become a doctor, only to walk through the hospital front doors on your first day and realise you've got a debilitating fear of Jeremy Hunt. It's embarrassing, really, but when it comes to overcoming hurdles, you must face them before you can beat them - preferably literally in Hunt's case - and that's what I'm doing with this blog. Overcoming my weird fear of writing, that is. Not beating up Jeremy Hunt.
If I really am such a TERRIBLE WRITER, then not writing isn't going to help things. It's counterproductive, if anything. If I want to move forward, I need to prove that snide little voice inside my head wrong, and that can only be done by writing. As much as I love Instagram-worthy desk set-ups, pretty notebooks and camping out in idyllic coffee shops, they won't make the anxiety go away, nor will they make me a better writer. Inspiration may strike, but intent is something you must find for yourself, and now I have it in my grasps again, I won't be letting go anytime soon.
Also, like I said, I paid for this domain, so if this epiphany doesn't get me writing again, the thought of wasting twenty quid definitely will. This blog will hopefully chronicle the gradual return of my ability to write for myself again, and will probably feature some short stories and biographical shenanigans of mine. Of course, if you know me at all, you will be very wise to keep your expectations low, because asking me to regularly update a blog is like asking a drunk baby to manage the whole of NASA, or Toto to not bless the rains down in Africa.
Oh, and I apologise if my website is a bombsite at the moment. A drunk baby made it.
● Mared Jones is a writer and doughnut enthusiast whose hobbies include dissociating, luring cats into her garden, misplacing her tea, and writing about herself in the third person.