All of my anxiety goes into writing.
That’s an exaggeration. Not all. Most.
Writing—and by writing I mean the creative kind—is where my sense of self first came from, back when I was sixteen and trying to fail high school, back when one of my teachers asked me what drug I was on and I told her, ‘Emily Dickinson.’
Since then, of course, my sense of self has broadened. I’ve become a husband. I’ve become a father. I’ve become political (no, I was always political). I’ve become something other than a pair of ragged claws scuttling across a keyboard.
Yes, writing is the and yet.
Writing has always been there and—until I lose my marbles—always will be there.
What does that mean in practice?
It means that, every year or so, I begin to feel a need to write creatively. For me, that usually means poetry or fiction.
The last time I felt that need I wrote Year of the Wasp—my third collection of poetry.
For the last year, though, that need has involved fiction.
At first I thought that need involved a novel set in the future. Something dystopian and weird.
I was wrong. I abandoned that project. I hope to come back to it.
This happened around the start of the year and I was—for that and other reasons—feeling very anxious. very wound up. And, so, I did something strange (for me).
I wrote a short story. This short story was contemporary. It was set in Melbourne. And it involved middle aged people living with the accumulations of sins.
That triggered something.
Without planning to or even thinking about it much, I started writing another story.
And I kept writing.
And now that story is the almost-completed first draft of a novel.
Is it any good, you ask? It’s a first draft, so the answer is yes and no: I like it, but it makes me cringe.
I’ll be finishing the first draft in the next month or so. Then I’ll spend some time making it sing. Then, in a year or so, it should be out in the world.
The best thing? I no longer feel so anxious.