Practice. Practice. Practice.

Ah practice. I am out of practice. I need to practise. I am practising. Say it often enough, and like all words, meaning falls away and you’re left with a bunch of useless syllables rolling around your mouth like copper marbles. The aftertaste isn’t great and you can’t even remember why you put them in your mouth.

The question I’m facing now is why I have left it so long. Why have I not written in years. I’ve not been idle – there was another blog, there were other (self-imposed, other-directed) preoccupations, and most encompassing of the lot, I had a child. But among all of that clamour for my attention I could still hear the small voice that said ‘you really ought to be writing, you know’ and inexplicably, I reached out and turned the volume down on that voice as low as I could get it.

The trouble was, it was still there, however faint, and starting to make me feel crazy.

Perhaps you’ve done the same thing. Turned your back on the thing you do best, like most. I’ve always known that the written word was my thing, and by thing I mean the way I communicate myself best. Some people are great speakers, some people draw, some are patissiers. It’s how it is. If you’re lucky you find your thing, pursue it and feel less mentally unwell. (Although note I only say ‘less’, since I still hold with David Mitchell‘s notion that writers are ‘mentally not very well’, what with the whole isolation, lost in a world of their own creation thing. Not to mention the general writerly antipathy to the telephone.)

Recently I lost my grip on the volume control. The buzz was getting louder, but at first I didn’t hear it properly – I simply felt out of kilter with my life. Not a new feeling, obviously. In the past I’ve always been able to respond to it by immediately taking up a japanese class or learning to use an old slr camera, but this time I was slow on the uptake. Perhaps it was having a child that did it – in the beginning everything is pushed to the edges, and when you get some time to yourself back you naturally try to do the things you did before.

Only it wasn’t working. None of it was working. I felt as if I was forcing myself to have hobbies, rather than doing things I loved whenever I had a spare minute, and then I simply started to feel a bit bonkers, and incapable of doing anything. I’d like to say I had a big ‘ah-ha!’ moment when it all became clear, but in truth the idea crept up slowly.

I needed to write again.

There is, unfortunately, no other way to do it than to do it. It’s called practice. If your writing brain is rusty from lack of use you might have to practice long and hard before anything good comes out of it, but I can tell you right now that if you don’t write at all, you won’t have anything, let alone anything good.

You can find some of my practices at Five Minute Fictions.

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