Reading and writing are hard.
They shouldn’t be hard. They’ve never been hard before. Why are they hard?
What do you do when the things that make you the happiest become so hard to do that you begin to wonder if they are worth it?
Who I am
I’ve been a reader all my life. Compared to many people, I’ve devoured books. My childhood was spent in a house filled with them. In my teen years I would spend entire family holidays ignoring everything with my face in a book. Not a room in my childhood home, other than the bathroom, doesn’t have at least one bookshelf.
I wrote my first book in Year Three. It was about a child in a haunted house. I’ll admit there followed a bit of a gap in my career, then on my 25th birthday I was given the gift of a Moleskine notebook and decided it was far too nice for random notes. So I started writing what became my first attempt at a novel. Since then holidays, lunchtimes and free weekends were dedicated to writing. I booked expensive writing courses. It was how I wanted to spend my time.
What I’m trying to say, is that reading and writing have been an integral part of my life.
The battle to read
For the last few months, each night has been the same fight to try and pick up a book rather than Instagram or YouTube. And when I did read, focusing on the words was next to impossible. I’d read a page and take nothing in, or find my mind wondering away from the story.
When I arrived to stay at my parents last month I started rereading some of the older Terry Pratchett books. The Discworld books were the first real grown-up novels I read, and the full collection of Pratchett’s books take up an entire shelf in my old room. The earlier ones are so familiar they are essentially the comfort food of literacy. I thought these, if anything, could let me sink back into reading, it would be them.
Yet I just couldn’t get into them. It was the same battle to pick them up. The same battle to stay focused.
The lack of creativity
I haven’t written anything, other that notes from therapy sessions, for weeks. In the first month of furlough I managed to finish the first draft of my current WIP, and put it aside for a break. Since then the entire idea of brining it out and getting to work on revisions seems alien to me.
I’ve managed a couple of blog-posts on books I’ve managed to get through, but they’ve felt more like filler than anything self. Something I could put up in an attempt to prove to the world I still existed.
Or maybe to convince myself I still existed. Maybe if I posted something, anything, it would be a sign I wasn’t completely lost.
Free time, wasted
In lock down, without a full time job, part of my brain keeps yelling at me that I should be making the most of having so much free time. Yes, I need to spend a good chunk of my days job hunting, and training, but those still leave me plenty of hours in the day. And without a 9 to 5 I can decide what I do and when.
I should be filling it with the things I want to do while I have the freedom to do so. I should be throwing myself into my writing. When has there ever been a better time to hide from the world? To recharge the soul my losing myself in the pages of a book, and then using that energy to build worlds of my own?
I don’t want to be looking back at this time, far in the future, and feel like kicking myself for not doing all things I won’t be able to do in the future when I’m back to work.
Last time I was unemployed, seven years ago, I spent entire days writing. It was bliss. Why can’t I have that again?
Loss of small joys
Is this why reading and writing have become so hard? Are they so intrinsically linked to my happiness that my depression wipes away any connection I have with them? Is this what makes it impossible for me to loose myself in those things that give life colour?
Or maybe I’m just being dramatic.
Will these skills, these joys, be something that will come back to me in time? Do I simply need to be patient and wait out the storm. Wait for the depression to lift to lift in its own time, and there they will be there waiting for me?
Or do I push myself. Force myself to read. Make myself write. Do I look to trigger that joy by feeding it, reigniting the fire, and letting it slowly grow and banish the darkness?
What do you do? Accept and wait, or push and encourage?