Sorry. I can’t write this now. I don’t have the time. I’m too distracted and I’m too tired. I just want to sleep. If I manage to write anything, it’ll be a mess. So, if there are words below these, I’m sorry. I should have just drawn a picture. Or posted a photograph of my bed. That would have said it all. And I didn’t leave this to the last minute. Oh no. I’ve sat down here several times this week to try and write something. I wanted to write about William Hazlitt, but I couldn’t do it. I sounded pompous and I hate pomposity. And then I thought I’d write about Project Nim, you know, the talking chimp film. But I couldn’t arrange all the words in the right order to make any sense, or that didn’t sound clichéd. (I hate the thought of writing something that’s hackneyed and riddled with clichés.) (Is ‘riddled with clichés’ a cliché?)
No, you can bet, however much is written here, it took hours. I spent ages on it. But every time I sat down to write, I couldn’t concentrate. Not that I’m that easily distracted. (I am very easily distracted. Please distract me. Come over. Bring a bottle.)
Every day I try and squeeze out some writing time, whether it’s for a tweet, a haiku, or if I have long enough, to get on with my children’s book. Recently, however, I’ve found I’m so weary I can’t even compose a text. The pressures of the day job plague me with one psychosomatic illness after another - temporary deafness, Bell’s Palsy, skin rashes, palpitations – my heart is telling me to give up and do something less demanding, but I can’t because I don’t know anything else. I find fewer and fewer moments to write and even when I do I am so muddled and befuddled I can’t focus.
I know that I can never stop writing, so have to try and find a few hours each week to go back to my book, a masterpiece if you really want to know, editors will have pistols at dawn to sign me up, and so on and so on. But it gets harder and harder.
How do you lot afford to live? I need at least three incomes and I live frugally. I have two children about to begin tertiary education, and my calculations so far estimate that three years at college will cost about half a million pounds. And that’s just what they’ll spend on booze. Add the fees and all that, and we’re into billions.
We’re all going to have to keep working until we’re a hundred! No Saga cruises for us. A bag of Werther’s Originals will have to last a month.
Do most writers have rich spouses or some sort of inheritance? If so, boo hoo, it’s not fair. My writing has slowed to a steamroller pace. What I’m steamrollering I don’t know. But everything looks and feels flat.
(Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve seen a real steamroller for years. Do they still exist?)
Sleep is one great pleasure that’s still reasonably cheap. Those last few minutes of the day I savour more than ever, and just before I turn off the light, I read, I read, I read. I’ve never read as much. As if to make up for words I’m not writing, I have to consume words.
The less I write, the less I reflect. I become a half-wit. I’m already a one-third-wit. I’m not sure I know what I’m doing any more. As Bertie Wooster said, ‘Life, Jeeves, it’s just one thing after another.’ And so it is with me. One distraction after another, one obligation followed by another, and squatting over it all, the warty palpitating day job. Larkin called work a toad. And I think he meant his day job, not his poetry job. He was right, the old grump, work is a toad.
So what do I do? Do I give up writing, or the hope of ever writing anything any good, or do I give up my day job and spend the next ten years worrying that if I can’t support my children into adulthood they will resent my selfishness forever?
(Actually I already know the answer to this. I will not give up my job, and I will keep writing. So no need to consider this a real question.)
There we are. I’ve written something. And so it will be that I will eventually finish my book. It will be a triumph of hope over amphibians. The toad work won’t get the better of me.