16 February 2008

Exhausted and priorities

I have hypothyroidism. A.k.a. ‘an underactive thyroid’. It developed during our six-week stay in the US and now, despite the fact that I’m on thyroxine, I’m not better. In fact, I was worse until yesterday. I had to go back home early on Wednesday, couldn’t go to work on Thursday and couldn’t even work from home.

I know it’s a blessing in disguise. I know that this is happening for a very good reason. To make me think, perhaps. To make me take a pause in my life and reflect on it. Or just to let me see that if I do too much, or even just try to do too much, then my body will let me know. It’s keeping me in check. So I must stop striving to do so many things all the time, in my life in general, but also daily. That’s the general message. Loud and clear.

Ironically, on Thursday and Friday, during my self-imposed rest, all I could think about was writing. Writing writing writing. I was exhausted, I couldn’t function, I could barely get out of bed let alone walk, but all the while, one thought persisted in my head: W-R-I-T-I-N-G. I even got a new idea. It’s based on the same idea I’ve had for ages, but now the concept has evolved and I’m going to build a completely wild story. A real departure from what I’ve done so far, with that idea and with all the others.

It might take me 30 years, but I will write that story. I keep going back to this idea – there must be something in it...

So, in brief, despite my most definite commitment, back in October, to stop writing and stop thinking about potential stories, and to simply be happy, every day (it was clear that thinking about writing but not writing was making me miserable), this hypothyroidism is awakening my sense of priority again and so, despite this October decision, I now realise that I really must write, simply because it is still my passion. It is still the thing I go back to, no matter what happens in my life. It’s inexplicable. It is unfathomable. Tomorrow, I might decide, again, that I’m really not cut out to be a writer, that I REALLY must quit trying, but today (and often recently), as so many times in the past 20 years, I feel the irresistible quality of my desire to write.

The other day, I realised with great clarity that what I need to do is change my approach. That’s all I need to do. I can carry on thinking about writing, I can carry on writing, but what I need to do is incorporate it into my daily life, as I do with everything else – brushing my teeth, taking a shower, doing a bit of gardening (weather permitting), working, doing a few yoga poses, going for a 30-minute walk or bike ride. The way I do all these things every day (or most days for some of them), I need to do just that with my writing: a few sentences at a time. Because even if it’s just a few sentences, it’s still a lot more than I’ve been doing in the past few months. Years. And that’s what I want to achieve – build a story over time, not forcing myself to write it all in one go, in one year, day in, day out, three hours a day, as I’ve been trying (well, dreaming of trying to do!). If I do it this way, making this HUGE decision one day For The Rest Of My Life, there is too much pressure to do it, finish it, polish it and do it perfectly, and so I despair too quickly (because of course nothing is perfect straight away – or ever?). Whereas (I think, I hope) if I just write a few sentences each day, on my PDA or my computer, with no pressure at all, as things come to my mind, just scribbling, the way a visual artist might doodle in her notebook, then I won’t have enough to despise and despair about. These will only be a few words.

I think that, overall, this will practically require me to ignore the fact that I’m writing. I’ll have to see it as typing up words rather than as coming up with a story. I will have to stop myself from thinking about it as writing.

Of course, this doesn’t preclude me from becoming all horrified and in total desolation and hopelessness when I come to edit the damn story (the hardest bit, I know that already), but I will try not to think about this part of the process until it actually needs to be done (simply because I may never even get there!).

At least, maybe this story will still interest me in a year’s time, in 10 years’ time, even. Maybe with this one, I can stay the distance.

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