Expectations vs Reality
Despite living with me for ten years – six of which I have been a professional writer – I am not sure my husband knows what it is I do or how I do it. He definitely doesn’t know what it is I need… but he doesn’t need to – he’s not the one who’s writing. There’s also a difference between the circumstances I can accept when I’m up against a deadline, or stuck on the couch with a broken ankle, compared to my ideal circumstances. I would prefer to be in my specifically decorated office, surrounded by reading materials, art and plants with a view out over my city but just because it is a preference does not mean it is a requirement.
I have dreamed about being a writer since around the age of 7. So the world of professional writing came as a big shock because it wasn’t at all what I expected. I was a ‘good’ teenager – I didn’t drink, do drugs or have loads of sex – I didn’t need to. I spent half an hour to an hour most mornings writing. And the high of being in the ‘inspired zone’ when writing, those of you who have been there know there’s nothing like it. And so I wrote plays, and at least one novel, and the starts of several more. So, I naively believed that the inspired writing of my youth would continue into my professional career. I mean, why wouldn’t it?
I had underestimated the demands of having my own house (a whole house) to clean, maintain, pay bills for. I underestimated the amount of emotional work that being in a long term committed relationship requires. I did not realise that children, bills, depression, disability, undiagnosed neurodiversity and general adult life affect the writer; specifically, this writer! But I saw people with different realities and perfectly presented social media lives so I refused to cut myself any slack.
It took far too long for me to forgive myself for not being that super productive teenager. It took too long for me to realise that the high of inspiration is a lot less frequent when it is what you do all day every day – and your paycheck or grade is reliant on you turning in something of a reasonable standard to a deadline. It took me too long to learn how to slog through patches of no inspiration, how to recognise when it was an idea that just needed abandoning, and how to structure and form my work. If I’d have recognised these things sooner, I would have been so much better off. I’d have dealt with less anxiety and produced more work, more consistently.