A Writer’s Journey

Writing

And so we wrote.

Didn’t we, Matty? Yes, indeedy. After all, there was nothing else for it…

We were living abroad, in Spain, and we were hating it. We were hating it so much, for so many reasons. And so we woke up early—we had to, anyway, in order to catch the train, in turn to catch the bus, which got us to work for five to nine. We set our alarm to go off twenty-five minutes before we needed to get up, and we cursed the alarm, and hated ourselves more than we hated anyone else ever, and told ourselves we’d do anything—anything—to stay in bed today. To not go to work. “I’d cut off my right arm for another day off,” we said, on Monday morning. But we didn’t. Instead, we sat up in bed and reached for a pen and a pad of paper and we rubbed the sleep from our eyes and squinted at the page and we wrote. We wrote it out for no-one to read. All the pain and hatred, and love and regret, and all that other clichéd nonsense. All the drivel and detritus, poured out onto the page. Oh, the shit we wrote! We wrote about her, and we wrote about him, and we wrote about them. We wrote about the tiny, trivial things—things that caused us great consternation. We wrote about things that had happened to us, way back when, and we pined for those days. Good times. We wrote about our friends and family, and we saw them now in a different light. We saw them for how important they are, despite their flaws and all the ways in which they drive us mad…

And so we wrote. We wrote until it was time to stop, till we had reached the end of the page, or till the time was up and we had to go shower and put on those clothes and leave the house. And then we had to walk to the train station, and wait for the train, and talk to Amber. Or maybe not. Maybe we didn’t talk. Maybe neither of us were in the mood that day. Maybe we sat in silence—in silence but next to each other, on the smelly Spanish train, our earphones in until Chris and Christine got on. And then we arrived, and our day began and it sucked so badly.

But! We had written.

That, at least, was something. Whatever else the day might bring—whatever shit they shoved our way—we had written, and that was something to hold onto. When we remembered that we’d written, we felt good, even if we couldn’t remember what it was we’d actually written.

So, the next day we got up and we wrote some more.

We wrote about the same things and different things. We wrote about all the ways we’d fucked up, were still fucking up. How we’d lost our way, or at least perceived to have done so. We wrote down our doubts, our insecurities. We wrote down mission statements. We wrote down song lyrics we’d had in our heads when we awoke. We wrote down Simpsons quotes that summed things up better than any philosopher ever could. We wrote love letters that we’d never send, to people we’d never see again. We wrote it fast, uncensored. Cheesy, sentimental, and embarrassing. We wrote prosaically, clumsily. We used the wrong words. We wrote in the style of the authors we were reading, and sometimes it was a conscious decision and sometimes not. We toyed with syntax and sentence structure and we broke the god-damn rules. We aimed high, and we got down low. We wrote ugly things. Sometimes we wrote something good, something pure, but we didn’t always notice. Sometimes we made ourselves laugh, and sometimes we cried because of what we’d written.

And so we wrote…

Over time, the routine evolved. After we’d finished at that place we hated and stopped having to get up at stupid o’clock, we started going to little cafés to do our pages. We sat in the corner, and scribbled away, our scribblings now fueled by caffeine. There was that one place, in particular, at the end of the street where we lived. That was our favourite spot. A real gritty little bar for old men and construction workers, who brought their own food in and sat underneath the wall-mounted TV and spoke in harsh, gravelly tones, as they crunched on long, foil-wrapped bocadillos, and drank beer at eight-thirty in the morning. Ah, we felt like Ernest fucking Hemingway…

And even after things got better, even after we returned to the motherland—o, glorious England!—we carried on writing. Even after we went back to Spain, and tried again… and again… and even after everything fell apart again and the doubts and self-loathing returned, we still wrote.

Then, one day, an idea appeared. A story idea. We started to write it. It wasn’t the most original idea, granted—just your typical boy-meets-girl kind of story. The same story that’s been written a billion times before. A story as old as time itself. But it was a story, and it was ours, and we liked it. In any case, it wouldn’t leave us alone. Every morning, we returned to it—or, rather, perhaps, it returned to us. Every morning we wrote a bit more, even on the days we didn’t want to write (and some days we didn’t write at all). But, like, Mrs Krabappel’s butt, it just wouldn’t quit. Some days we wrote about other things—the usual drivel and detritus—and some days we only wrote one or two good sentences. Some days, we wrote feverishly, obsessively. After all, this is what this was. An obsession…

And so we wrote.

By this stage, we’d kind of stopped caring what other people think. At the same time, we valued other people’s opinions—people we respected, who we’d learned to trust. We were reading a lot more, and picking up ideas on how to tell our story in different ways. We’d gained confidence in our own voice. We knew how to write from the heart. What’s more, we had lived things—things we couldn’t, in our wildest dreams, have imagined actually living. Small, insignificant things that nevertheless had made us glad to be alive. We’d seen women so beautiful we wanted to drop to our knees and pound the ground in gratitude and frustration. We’d experienced moments so exquisite we had genuinely believed there is a God, or at least some higher being. (We’d experienced plenty of moments, too, where that definitely did not seem true.) The whole time, though, the story never left us. In fact, if anything, it grew stronger. It was a mess, no doubt, and all over the place, spread across the pages of dozens of notebooks, stored away in boxes, in various locations. And we left them there, for a long time, and got on with other things. Important things. Unimportant things…

Ultimately, though, just things.

One day we took all those notebooks from out of all those boxes, and we laid them out and looked at them and took a big deep breath and thought, we have a decision to make. Don’t we, Matty? We can either put this story together. Really try to make something of it. Or, we can take these notebooks, filled, as they are, for the most part, with drivel and detritus, and we can dump them. Chuck ‘em away. Really, it wouldn’t matter. There are plenty of stories already—more than any one person could possibly read in a lifetime, even if they were to read every single day, from the moment they awoke, to the moment they went to sleep. Why do we need to add to that? Especially when we could spend our time doing something else entirely—something far more noble and worthwhile. Far more lucrative, even. And for what? For some asshole to tell us it’s no good? That no-one wants to read another story about a straight white male blah blah blah. Okay, fine. Maybe. More than likely, in fact.

And yet! We still wanted to do it. To go on this journey. To see where it would take us. To get lost along the way, perhaps, or even to find a new way.

Because, ultimately, that was the only way we knew.

And so we took another big deep breath, we braced ourselves, and we dived in.

After all, we were just getting started…