Hello. It’s me.
I know, I know, I’ve been away. For AGES.
But now I'm back.
Oh, where have I BEEN?
I’ve been . . . elsewhere. Here, and there. And nowhere.
Mainly, I have been afraid.
Afraid, for a very long time, of . . . everything.
I’ve been afraid of writing; and afraid of not writing.
Afraid of publishing any of it; and afraid of not being published.
Afraid of starting anything; and afraid of never starting anything again.
I’ve been scared that what I write will be changed by an editor, thrown under a misleading headline and accompanied by a hideous photograph (if a photographer takes 100 lovely photos of you, the Law of Publishing says the picture editor will the choose the ONLY ONE where you look like a smug serial killer), and no longer be what I wanted to write. But have my name on it.
Afraid of the person at home in their dressing gown, reading these altered words and, in a moment of personal anger or annoyance, boredom, sexual frustration (the dressing gown doesn’t help here), professional stagnation, existential confusion or just having nothing better to do and a laptop in front of them, deciding to write something scathing about my words, or about me, on social media.
Afraid of the judgments and harsh words of others; the Tweets and comments; the bitch-pit of online chat forums and Facebook threads that unravel self-confidence in strings of easy, inconsequential nastiness.
The late-night, below-the-line verbal punches.
(Yes, they hurt. Think, before you click ‘send’. We are all only human.)
For many reasons, personal and professional over many years, I have become completely and utterly blocked by fear.
Fear of making the wrong decision. Fear of making ANY decision.
Fear of wasting a good idea by throwing it away in the wrong medium.
Is it a blog? Is it a column? Is it an article, a tweet, or a book?
Hang on, maybe it should be a collection of blogs about one thing.
Yes! That would work.
Or…no. No, maybe just random stuff that occurs to me. That would be better. More ‘me’.
But…no. Maybe that’s too messy.
I’ve been afraid of writing anything in a blog in case I should wait and send it to an editor, get it published in a Thing, and get paid for it.
Or maybe I should wait further, and work it up into a book.
Yes, a book!
(Like most writers I have at least 18 unfinished books in my laptop, and folders within folders within folders called ‘BOOK IDEAS’.
I think I have a folder somewhere called ‘BOOK IDEAS #38.’ Probably hidden in a folder called ‘BOOK IDEAS #37’.)
And what if I want to write things, which aren’t directly linked to my work?
If I’m a ‘social and parenting commentator’ (which, apparently, I seem to have become, though more on this in another blog . . .), can I post….photos of coffees??
Even if I really, really like photos of coffee. A LOT. And they make me happy?!
Can I write about the things I love; running, photography, travel, films, little things I see as I cycle around town, moments that amuse me, words that feel nice in your mouth when you say them out loud?
I became precious and frightened of my thoughts and ideas, my words and my work, stung by countless bad experiences of publishing and in Life; defensive and in a constant state of high alert to battle more dreadful things waiting to come my way, and terrified of sharing any of it in case it was…a Bad Thing To Do.
Afraid of criticism.
Afraid of shame.
Afraid of failure.
Afraid of being hurt.
Afraid of being afraid.
So I have worried and waited, held my words, my thoughts, all of my ideas and plans in my head, weaving them into one structure or another, re-working and re-worrying, re-pitching and re-proposing, repeating and relapsing, and losing all sight of what it is I actually want to do.
And write. And be.
And the result is…nothing. Hundreds of thousands of words written, thousands of thoughts and ideas unfinished. Hundreds of hours of recordings made.
And nothing to show for it. Just exhaustion.
Exhaustion, frustration, depression, anger, defeat, hopelessness, and fear.
Those seven ingredients we all know are essential for a beautiful, radiant complexion, and internal happiness.
Eventually, due to this fear, and to many other Things That Happened In My Life, I became too frightened to breathe, eat, speak, move, write, do, or believe in anything.
Frightened to the point of being afraid to exist at all.
These things – many things - changed me. They turned me into someone I am not.
Made me think things I wouldn’t normally think.
Feel things I wouldn’t normally feel.
Do things I wouldn’t normally do.
Not do things I normally would.
Eventually, they made me lose everything. Including my mind.
And then all the shit in the World of Shit hit my life fan, and I became very ill indeed.
I have much more to write about all of this.
And I will.
I’m not sure how much I’ll share. We’ll see how it goes.
But this blog, encouraged in me by someone who knows me very well, stayed with me through the lock-down, held my shaking hand and said, 'ELIZABETH, JUST WRITE!', marks the first tentative step.
The start of The Unblocking.
I’d love to say something spectacularly inspirational and mantra-like at this point, stand in Trafalgar Square in nothing but my pants, wave my hands in the air (breasts always look better when your arms are above your head) and shout,
“From now on I shall be fearless!”
Then we could all high-five each other (maybe after I'd put some more clothes on) and talk about The Sisterhood and Girl Power and #yeswecanbecausewehaveovaries, and have ‘I am A Fearless Woman!’ T-shirts made, drink cocktails and CHANGE THE WORLD.
But that would be a massive lie. And anyway I don’t really drink cocktails much because I’m 41 and if I drink two G&Ts it takes me five days to coordinate my eyeballs again.
So no. No T-shirt. I am not fearless.
I’m still terrified.
But I can at least…START.
I don’t know where it goes. I don’t know if it’s right or wrong.
If there is a point or a purpose.
If anyone will read it, or care, or be helped by it, amused or bored by it.
For now, it’s just some freedom, some breaths, in words and pictures.
No editors. No ‘structure’, theme or plan. No worrying about whether it’s ‘right’ or clever or perfect. No order or strategy.
Just STUFF I WANT TO PUT HERE.
The girl at the top of this blog is just me. Elizabeth.
Stripped back, off-air, off-brand, standing in a field with no make-up and no shoes on, just the way I am.
Flawed. Anxious. Honest.
Oh, and here is a photo of a coffee. Because I think it’s beautiful. X