Tuesday, 20 October 2009

A dangerous occupation

This morning my son said, when he caught his finger against the bell of the trombone as his arm slid down, that the trombone was a dangerous instrument to play. (I too think the trombone is a dangerous instrument, but that is connected to my eardrums not my fingers.)

I have also come to the conclusion that writing is a dangerous occupation. I admit, I haven't yet got any physical injuries to complain about. It is the mental trauma that concerns me.

There is guilt: guilt that I'm not writing when I could or should. And guilt that I am writing when I ought to be dealing with children/husband/washing/gardening etc. Either way round, too much time is spent feeling that I am doing the wrong thing.

There are the emotions, as I get carried away with my writing. As I mainly write about our time in Zambia, I get morose as I miss the place, or my friends; and as I write about wonderful memories I wish I could go back in time to re-live them. I get upset when I write about things that touch my heart: the death of a child, the injustice of food distribution, the inequalities of healthcare. It is not unknown for me to be typing with tears streaming down my face. (A dangerous occupation: water and electricity don't mix!)

There is the self-imposed stress of deadlines. I have no real deadlines, other than my own desire to get my story written before I forget it. Even so, I can feel bad when I haven't achieved something that I had aimed for.

There is the misery of editing. Perhaps this is too strong a phrase, but it is miserable to re-read my writing and think that it is rubbish. And to know I've got to re-write it all. Again. Or when I read a sentence (maybe aloud) and recognise that if I can't follow what I've written then how can I expect anyone else to?

Then there is also the joy: writing something that I know is good, that perfectly encapsulates the moment, vision and emotion. The joy of hearing someone else say they want to hear more, that they are thoroughly enjoying my writing. There is joy as I achieve a goal, a chapter end or a resolution as to how to express a complicated issue.

Writing is a dangerous occupation: a roller-coaster ride. I'm adhering to all the safety procedures that I can, firmly buckled in as I creep up to another summit. I anticipate the adrenalin rush as I hurtle back down, then the struggle at the bottom to get the carriages back in gear, back up to the top. I hold on tight, praying that (one day) the end will come.

My fear is, I may then just circle round and join the queue for another turn.


Maternal Tales said...

Well can I just stop to say how amazingly well-written that post was? You write beautifully (and I will never forget the post you wrote about missing your Mother - I cried when I read that). I agree with you about the guilt - but I'm trying to get over it! x

A Modern Mother said...

Yes, but it's all worth it!

Catharine Withenay said...

MT - thank you so much! You are doing my ego the world of good!! I'll get right back to that writing. Well, maybe tomorrow now ... (I have an evening of child-taxi duty and ironing ahead. I'd prefer the writing!)

Thanks, MM - I look forward to knowing that for real!

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