I used to adore writing. It was all I wanted to do, and I used to make bold claims that I’d be the next J. K. Rowling. I eventually grew out of that and decided that instead I would be the next me and people would love my work.
I wrote every day; I’d use writing prompts or write about my day. I’d write about my feelings or a random fantasy world. What was important to me was that I exercised that creative muscle. I joined a writing programme called First Story that worked with UK schools to give children the opportunity to improve their writing and be heard. Through that programme I won a writing competition with one of my short stories and eventually had it published in a small anthology. It’s something that I’m very proud of, and I treasure the copy of my first published work.
I continued to develop my writing throughout my time in secondary school and eventually took an A-Level in Creative Writing. I loved it, I loved writing and then having the opportunity to justify myself in a rationale or commentary. I wrote poetry and scripts and articles and short stories. I fleshed out my writing style and was proud of my work. I didn’t only write for school, I also wrote for myself, and I still have countless notebooks and an old USB stick full of files of countless unfinished novels.
Slowly, things started to change. There was less joy in writing. Did I want to do this as a career? Would anyone want to read my work? Was I good enough? Did I enjoy it anymore? It was daunting; the idea of letting go of a dream. It was a dream I held onto for years, one that burned in me for so long that when it finally sputtered out, I felt lost.
It wasn’t something that I consciously let go of. It was a slow process. I stopped trying to finish my novels. I stopped writing short stories. I stopped looking up new writing prompts. I stopped talking about my writing. I disguised my lack of writing by being more vocal about my reading. And the more I focussed on that, the more I realised how much more I enjoyed reading books over writing them.
With writing, and being a creator in general, there comes a level of pressure. A pressure to have a steady, constant output of quality. A pressure to improve and share and be vulnerable. Maintaining that was exhausting. Pair that with a lack of motivation and it’s the perfect recipe for putting that ambition to rest. For a while.
I started to prefer consuming art. Reading as much as possible, going to galleries and exhibitions, watching films and shows. I was much happier and that really had an impact on how I enjoyed what I was consuming too. I didn’t read with the intent to inform my own writing anymore; it was such a nice change!
Last year, I met one of my favourite authors, Madeline Miller, (author of The Song of Achilles and Circe) and discussed this with her. She understood my sentiments and told me she had experienced something similar. It was comforting to hear that a published and seasoned author understood.
All I’m trying to say is that if you are a creator, and especially if you don’t rely on it as a source of income, it’s ok to step back and enjoy the art surrounding you. There’s no pressure to create!
This is not to say that being a writer is not a part of my identity. Maybe I am ready to delve into creative writing once more, and perhaps I will share that journey here on Coffee at Nine. But for me right now, there is more pleasure and freedom in consuming art rather than creating it.