Inner musings on the pride and pain of writing – and why a fountain pen helps

Scheenagh Harrington tries not to whine about what she does when writing stuff doesn’t go as well as she’d like.

I’ve been trying to be a writer for most of my life (well, apart from the eight years I spent working in a cake factory, where my brain fell asleep for the vast majority of the day – though on the upside I did get to eat a lot of chocolate sponge). But it’s only been recently that I’ve tried to make a living doing it.

I’m no fool – I know it’s a bloody tough way to earn a crust. Quite apart from the millions of others out there getting gigs and penning stuff I can only dream of, I should weigh three stone wet through with all the worrying I do each time I tackle a subject.

There’s the fear of not being able to say what it is I actually want to say in any given blog post, article or feature. Which is nothing compared to the terror of a paying client coming back to me and saying anything from “it’s not quite what we’re looking for” to “what the fuck sort of rubbish is this?” It’s enough to make a girl want to curl up under her desk and never come out again.

Some days are more successful than others when it comes to output. If the muse takes me I can happily sit in front of the keyboard and tap away for hours, while other days I stare at the screen in front of me and feel as though I’m going to drown in that vast, endless white space. I’ll disappear without ever having said anything worthy of reading.

All of which is no doubt very familiar territory to everyone and anyone who is sitting where I am right now.

Not that I’m above taking all the advice I can get my hands on. I’ve digested hundreds of gently encouraging mails from people who claim to have made a small fortune from posting the odd guest blog here and there and assure me I can do the same thing. I’ve flicked through oodles of business sites and learned a fair bit, but mostly wondered why nobody speaks English that I can understand any more, and at the same time doing my best to stay positive, even when things have looked at their grimmest.

But what happens when you just don’t want to write anymore? When it physically hurts to read back at an hour’s work and find out not only is it going nowhere and is almost total bollocks, but it doesn’t even please the person who wrote it?

What happens then?

The conclusion I’ve come to is nothing new or revolutionary, but it is something that works for me. I turn off the computer, turn my back on the keyboard and screen, a soulless combination designed to suck the life from your very marrow, if ever there was one. I pick up my favourite fountain pen, hunt out some decent writing paper that hasn’t been covered in weird drawings by our children, sit down and write. I let my hand move naturally and fluidly across the page – even if I know I’m spewing out the worst drivel I can imagine. But I write.

The act of creation is like nothing else on Earth, pulling ideas and themes from my head and weaving them into something, anything gives me a thrill like very little else. Using words to paint a picture, bring life to an idea, fulfil a promise, entertain, delight, entrance and amuse – all of it is wonderful and captivating and makes me feel ALIVE inside my head.

It never quite banishes the grey wolves of my fears, my own inadequacies, the fact I could do this for years and nobody, but nobody will read a single word of it, and those few who do care not a jot, but for a moment, while I’m riding that wave of words, bringing a piece to a sane and sensible conclusion, I am the person I’ve always wanted to be: a writer.

That’s why, no matter how dark the dark days get, no matter how much blood I have to sweat over each tiny piece of work, no matter whether it finds an audience or not, I will continue to write until arthritis or death stop me. It doesn’t make me a glutton for punishment. I think it keeps me true to myself.

If someone happens to read it and enjoy it, well then, it’s all been worthwhile…