Oh, the wondrous passages you would all be reading, dear readers, if only my memory could store an idea for more than a few seconds.
There’s a phrase, I’m sure you’ve heard it, “in one ear and out the other.” Well, “in one ear and out the other” could aptly describe the traverse of ideas for new posts I’ve had since last Wednesday.
(Incidentally, the very same phrase could have been employed to describe the journey of many spoonfuls of mashed pumpkin when my youngest brother was a baby and strapped into his highchair eating dinner.)
There is a distinct pattern emerging in my week since I’ve started trying to make a concerted effort to publish a post weekly. Writing is a creative activity, and creative activity staves off an existential crises, or so I find. Publishing is an outcome of that creative activity, so therefore, getting a post published at least once a week provides a huge, if temporary, reprieve from that endlessly niggling question, am I just totally wasting this minute/hour/day/life away? which, if not checked, is followed by the more insidious, what is my purpose in life?
(Publishing one post a week is a fairly unambitious goal for an entire life, sure, but it’s good to aim low and give yourself a reasonable chance of achieving your goal, or so I’ve always thought.)
So the pattern is that, once the post is published – lately this has been on a Wednesday – I sit back and relax. I can rest easy for at least 24 – 48 hours, only peering occasionally at my WordPress stats to see if anyone has actually read my latest post. (Where are you Mum??)*
Thus fortified with purpose, Thursday can come and go, bringing not the slightest niggle about wasting time. Next comes Friday, and I’m still pretty smug about having recently published a post. So much so that last week, I took a wild step and set some new writing-related goals for the day.
Never fear, I wasn’t overly ambitious. I only set more than one goal, because as each goal failed, I thought of a new and less challenging one.
Last Friday I first determined that, as I enjoy writing so much, I would find some freelance/contract work as a writer to supplement my part-time job. I scoured websites advertising writing work. Some were clearly scams looking for a sucker to exploit. Many were for temporary full-time contracts, which are no good for me, or for writing tenders, business contracts or real estate copy – things I’m not interested in.
What exactly was I hoping for, you may well be thinking at this point. To be honest, I think I was hoping that someone would be advertising for a creative writer with almost no publishing history apart from a personal blog, to write whatever they liked, in flexible hours to suit themselves, and offering a handsome sum for the work. The nearest thing to this was a job writing “content” for a bollard company. They need someone to work a few hours a week, writing the company newsletters, e-news, website content, flyers and any other digital and written materials.
As a side note, I must say that it came as a total surprise to me to find that the humble bollard generates so much interest that there are people subscribing to bollard company e-news in order to stay abreast of the latest advances in bollard technology. Sadly, however, the bollard company were looking for someone with formal qualifications in Marketing and PR, so my dreams of writing bollard-related content for a living have as much forward momentum as a car that has just been stopped short by a row of these bad boys:
Pic: Stephen McKay, sourced from Wikimedia Commons
But back to my attempt to use my time productively: Friday afternoon was passing by and I hadn’t landed a highly paid job writing my own column for the New Yorker, (in fact they were not even advertising on writingjobs.com!) so fear of wasting time, and subsequently my life, was starting to play at the edges of my mind.
By about 2pm, I decided to throw in that search and take a different track. My new writing-related goal was to find a magazine or other outlet calling for submissions. It didn’t even need to be paid, just an opportunity to publish something. I started out hopefully, and spent probably an hour or so on this search. In the end, I earmarked one literary journal, although only half-heartedly. I don’t hold very high hopes for my chances with literary journals as I’m sure my writing – and no doubt my terrible sentence structure – not to mention my severe over-use of the dash – is not literary enough. (Also they’ve helpfully confirmed this by rejecting pieces previously).
I guess I was looking for something more along the lines of the bollard company newsletters, if only they had specified “looking for a creative writer who will write weekly columns of about 1000 words on any topic they like and include reference to a bollard.”
(Surely some forward-thinking bollard company should do just that? I may consider starting an entirely separate blog dedicated solely to bollards.)
Anyway, I digress. At about 4pm, desperation was setting in – another day totally wasted! – so abandoned the submission idea, and developed a third writing-related goal. This goal was unambitious, administrative, and there was no question that I was capable of achieving it, only whether I could be bothered to achieve it. That was, to sort out the writing I’ve saved on my computer.
As of 4pm on Friday, my “Writing” folder contained about 100 unsorted Word files, all pieces of writing, (obviously) ranging from entire essays/articles, through to documents containing one paragraph, or even just one line that I had apparently deemed worth saving for posterity. It seemed I hadn’t bothered to file any writing for that last 4 years.
So my ambitions boiled down to an hour on Friday afternoon spent on “writing administration”, ie, creating folders and moving all that debris around so that at least now, on the surface, it looks as though there is some kind of system behind my, um, thinking processes.
And among the 100-odd unsorted documents was one called some idea that I’ve forgotten. It was an attempt to capture an idea I’d had a few weeks before, but forgotten the specifics of within hours. The notes were like those of someone trying to recall a dream “…something about Millennials v Generation X but NOT making fun of Millennials….the benefit of being slower…maybe to do with cooking?….” I had hoped that the process of writing would trigger the entire memory. Alas, it did not, and I still haven’t remembered what that idea was.
This has been happening more frequently lately, so the title of that document seemed to symbolise my life at the moment. An idea starts to formulate in my mind, I think I’ve got hold of it enough to remember it – and then rapidly forget it. I don’t know if it’s happening more often because I’m trying to develop ideas for posts more frequently, or because I’m getting older, and my memory is disintegrating. I should learn to write ideas down, I know, but they don’t always occur in circumstances conducive to doing so – especially now that I can’t write anything without putting on my reading glasses.
To illustrate: after Friday comes Saturday. By Saturday, I usually start, in the back of my mind at least, to try and formulate an idea for my next post. Since publishing a post on the Wednesday, at least 3 or four ideas will probably have occurred, and sometimes they may have been very quickly followed by a catchy opening sentence. When I’m on a roll, I’ll think through an entire first paragraph. But the results of these moments of lucidity rarely make it to the blog. (as I’m sure you can tell.)
I wrote virtually a whole opening paragraph to a potential new post in my head on Saturday evening, as I was rushing to get dressed to go out. As I pulled on and then discarded various tops, trying to find something to team with a pair of wide-legged pants that wouldn’t make me look like a pavlova, I was distractedly thinking of an idea, and sentence after sentence came to me. I even chuckled, no doubt impressed at my own wit.
Alas, I had no time to stop and write anything down, because when I’m going out, I usually allow about 15 minutes to get ready, and fail to allocate time for capturing ethereal concepts that will melt away into the air if not grasped and made concrete as soon as they are thought of.
So whatever Saturday’s chuckle-inducing idea was, it went down the gurgler and you ended up, instead, with this. Sorry about that.
*Mum doesn’t have a computer, let alone know what a blog is.