One thing you see a lot in writing advice is an emphasis on writing every day. Fifteen minutes, half an hour, get up early, go to bed late, whatever it takes. Stephen King does it. Jerry Seinfeld does it. Ray Bradbury insisted on it. These are people worth emulating. So I tried.
I didn’t used to be this way. When we moved into this flat, I really thought I’d pared down my collection. But I still kept ten boxes of books stacked in the corner of my bedroom for almost four years. (I also had a full bookcase next to that and a steadily-growing pile on the window behind my bed.) I took them for granted as part of my bedroom, stuff I just had to have.
Remember that episode of Friends where Monica leaves her shoes all skew-whiff on the living room floor because her friends bet her she’s too anal to not put them away before bed, then she lies awake obsessing about them not being tidy? Yeah, that’s my personality.
Years ago, when my doctor thought the only thing wrong with me was a light dusting of depression, I was referred to a service provided by… the council? I’m not sure, but it was in a room above the local library, which was all the enticement I needed. So once a month, on a Monday morning, I met with an increasingly pregnant dungarees-wearing woman who tried to entice me from my cocoon of illness back into the world.
The trouble was, everything she suggested sounded too scary.
One night a few years ago, a friend called to invite me to her birthday party. She was gathering a large group of people, none of whom I knew, and going for a meal. She wanted to book a table the next day so she needed me to tell her right there, right then, if I was in.
Was I in?
A while ago one of my friends tweeted that she’d woken up feeling full of dread and had been anxious all day for no apparent reason. I sympathised, of course, but my initial reaction was, You mean… you don’t feel like that every day? ‘Cos I sure do.
I used to follow a blog written by a woman in her mid-twenties that was funny, moving, and finely-crafted. Then one day I clicked on her latest post and discovered that this blogger who was younger than me (!!) was telling me how to eat.
With no knowledge of my circumstances or tastes, and no qualifications in nutritional counselling, she’d decided to forgo her usual personal stories in favour of lecturing me and the rest of her readers about saturated fats. I can’t be the only one who clicked away thinking I’ve already heard of vegetables, thanks.
She may have been my first, but she certainly wasn’t my last.
In so much of what I see and read — from the newspaper giving advice on working two jobs to the blogger saying absolutely anyone can take up running — it’s assumed that I’m one of the “normal” people, too: able-bodied, independent, mentally and emotionally stable.
But my life stopped being “normal” when I was 19, and since then I’ve become less and less connected to the outside world and to what real life is like. I was shunted into this parallel universe where I’ve forgotten how it feels to have the stamina to walk to the nearest bus stop, or to not have a head full of cotton wool.