After a brief reprieve, my recent technical woes have continued. I have been trying since last Thursday morning to blog each day from my office as usual, only to find my system (Safari) crashes each and every time I attempt to come to this page to write a new post. It’s driving me insane. Everything else is working normally. I’ve been in touch with the lovely people at WordPress to ask if the problem is at their end, but so far we haven’t been able to figure it out. I have emptied the cache, and then emptied it again. I have forced a refresh. I have rebooted. I have rebooted twice. I have reset Safari. I have cursed and cajoled. All to no avail. So now here I am up the road at an internet cafe wondering if this is to become a daily occurrence. Certainly I know you demand more of me than two posts a week, and I do not like to let you down. Ergo, my apologies for the gaps last week, believe me when I say I am trying to fill them.
So what did you miss? Well, a few things, some of which I can share with you, and some of which I can’t. I’m still in the midst of trying to sort myself out – myself in the world, and how my actions affect others, and the degree to which I am responsible for the failings of my friendships – and I suppose I always will be, because I don’t think one’s identity is immune to change, and I certainly believe one’s relationships alter over time. Of course, I spend an awful lot of time alone, and in my own head, and I have wondered before if it’s an entirely optimum mental health scenario especially for someone as social as me. I am incredibly happy spending my professional life sitting at a computer writing – there is such an easy rightness to it – but there’s no question this quite intense isolation is an occupational hazard. And now it appears it might be a personal hazard too. So that’s one of the things I am trying to manage. Re-entry.
One of the others is repeated assaults on my self-esteem by way of total failure. I don’t know about you, but I find rejection after rejection really knocks my confidence around. It’s not an easy thing, not getting anywhere. I am used to making progress once I put the effort in, and I am finding it very confronting not getting any traction even where I am digging with all my might. In sales parlance, I need a win. Yes, thank goodness, the freelance career is intact. I have writing work I get paid for, and my work appears in national newspapers and magazines. That fact keeps me at least this side of sane. But I need a win in the fiction writing. I am sure I wouldn’t still be here doing this were it not for the success of my freelance work, but that’s all non-fiction writing, all of it. I have never had any fiction published. And perhaps others are made of sterner stuff, but I do feel like I just won’t be able to hack it indefinitely without some small encouragement. I’m honestly not sure how deep my reserves of ego and dogged determination really are, what with all these constant depletions. It’s like a bank account I keep dipping into but am unable to top up. I need to believe I can do this in order to keep on trying, but how long can I continue to believe when there’s no clear reason to suggest that what I believe is real?
Melanie Ostell suggested I step away from my MS for a little bit and write a few short stories instead, and I think I am going to take her advice. I wrote a very short (only 1,000 words) draft of a story on Friday that is deliciously unrelated to my MS and everything else. I’d like to see a few more of those on the page. It’s like taking a little breather. A spin around the block. A day in the country. Perhaps the air around my MS has become a little stagnant and oppressive. Yes, I took a break from it whilst it was being assessed a second time, but perhaps I need a longer sabbatical from it than two weeks. I have my week at Varuna coming up in September, so the difficulty is in trying to decide whether to have a push toward its due date prior to that where I try and do another draft, or whether I just walk away from it now and use the time at Varuna to rejuvenate and re-evaluate. Well, these things must be decided, and this is the thinking you’ve been spared in the last few days. I’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime, I must say it’s amazing to hear music playing here in the internet cafe. Right now is Sinead O’Connor’s ‘Nothing Compares to You.’ This song brings with it such a rush of nostalgia and sweet memories of far-flung teenage friends that I can barely breathe. This particular tune was such an anthem for my friends and me when we were young, highly strung teenagers living on campus at an international college in Canada. Whenever I hear Sinead’s dulcet tones, I think of Ingrid, my Norwegian roommate and dear friend who was a year below me at college (where we completed the equivalent of senior high school). I haven’t seen Ingrid since her wedding in England in September 2001. We probably haven’t been drunk and sung ‘Nothing Compares to You’ together since 1991. And yet the feeling of impossible nearness that the song just managed to produce in me, all these years and so many miles away, just makes all else fall away, and I am there with Ingrid again. And suddenly some of my sadness and heavy heartedness has cleared like the slowly improving day outside. I don’t know who to thank – Sinead or Ingrid – but it does make me wonder if I should interrupt the silence of the office that waits for me at the end of the street. And if I can’t whistle while I work (trust me, no one would thank me for that), perhaps what I need to keep my solitary spirits high is music. Let’s give it a shot.