My brain is tingling with phrases that bump into each other, colliding, exploding. I write as fast as my fingers can tap, grab ahold of a pen and scribble words on the pad, hoping I will remember what I wrote and why I wrote it. The rational side of my mind tells me to keep the phrases short. Don’t cross the 1,000 word threshold. Put everything in the first paragraph. People only read for the first few seconds and then they skim. But the more dramatic, emotional, sometimes irrational, side wants to ramble. Punctuation is my friend, the adjective my sidekick, we roam hand in hand through a cloud of nouns, falling in love every few steps.
A few months ago I realized just how tired I was of writing for others. Of creating content that is a filler for a website, of puff pieces whose only role is to drive you to a website, a product, a deal. The money is OK when you can get the work, and if it isn’t a ghostwritten piece even better, but, in all honesty it’s terribly boring. I’m picky nowadays, I only take on projects that have my name attached to them, that pay properly, that are somewhat interesting, but still I am restless. I can write 2,000 words in one go on my phone while nursing a child, but for an 800 word puff piece I spend hours hovering over one word. I’m just tired of writing things for other people and watching my own work slip into oblivion.
Which is why I am also tired of seeing exact phrases I have written or said to someone reappearing in their work without being quoted. To be honest I doubt people even realize that they do it, although the paraphrase should be your friend if you are going to lift other people’s work... I finished my thesis nearly 20 years ago but the fear of plagiarism still worries me, I always double check my own work before I publish, even though I know full well it is mine. Sometimes I feel like people are not so worried about plagiarism anymore though. Words, photos, ideas, all ripped from someone else, copyrights removed, new names stamped on them. We put it out there for others to read or see, with the hope of touching another human being, making them feel something, but at the same time are we also putting it out there for public use? Is it my own fault for being kind and nowhere near ruthless enough? I don’t think that should be considered a fault or a downfall, and I am certainly not going to change that about myself.
I have therefore been taking some time this summer to renew my faith in myself, left a little unstable by multiple online and offline distractions, little children who need my attention, and a constant clash of anxiety and determination fueled by the state of this world, and the world that my children will be living in. Stepping away from social media (apart from Twitter which I’m not very good at anyway), has carved away some of the anxiety and the blurry landscapes, and I have been delving into projects that have been waiting months, or even years, for me to touch and complete. I have been walking miles and miles every day with my three children, looking for art, for smiles, and learning moments for us all. We have been discovering other parts of the city together, and I have fallen back in love with my photography. I have been reading and writing, playing and laughing, and in general feel like I have a better overview of what I want to do with my work and my talents nowadays. First of all I am unique. Second of all, I am not a marketable entity and the idea of marketing myself, even after all these years, makes me feel like an absolute fraud.
My blog views have taken a nosedive since I stopped sharing on social media, but that is what it is. I refuse to let social media rule my life and my work. My writing speaks for itself. I doubt I will enable my Facebook profile again, but I will post on Instagram as it’s a great place to keep up to date on new book releases, and share what I have been reading too. I’m working on a new, much longer, collection of poetry, on a collection of autobiographical and semi-autobiographical short stories, and also on having the content I love writing published rather than the puff pieces that people want to see written. If people can’t read more than 1,000 words anymore, and they click through after the first paragraph, that’s their prerogative. I don’t write for those people. I write for me. I write to make a change. I write to make myself heard amongst the riot of voices surrounding us all. I write for you, if you have made it this far, and I write for my partner and my children.
I shall finish this now because I let myself get distracted by the new Interpol album and the book I am currently reading (Beneath The Lion’s Gaze by Maaza Mengiste). Both are brilliant, and inspiring. The quote at the beginning comes from a journal I started in 2011 right after I quit a job I hated and was at a crossroads in my life. It can also be found in Home, my first poetry collection. And it still holds today. It’s so important to live, and to also do what we can to be the real change in this world. There is so much more to all of this than just us.