I’m a writer.
At least, that’s what I call myself. I studied writing – journalism, to be specific – and graduated with distinction. But since I moved out of home and began taking those first crucial steps into adulthood (read: paying rent and bills), the most writing I’ve done has been paperwork.
Don’t get me wrong, I do genuinely love my job, and I’m grateful to have a stable source of income at all. For the most educated yet least employed generation of kids, having a job is a privilege. Having a job you actually like is a fantasy for many.
It’s just that being mentally ill, I don’t have a lot of energy to begin with. Combine that with a job that requires high levels of emotional labour, and the most I’m capable of doing when I get home is meeting the basic requirements for taking care of myself such as eating and showering.
Writing just isn’t a viable option. This article took me an entire week to write, and I fell asleep twice trying to edit it. (To be fair, that might say more about the quality of my writing).
Keeping a roof over my head (and the heads of my girlfriend and cat) means 20+ hours of work per week. I also volunteer to edit (not write) a magazine, which takes up the rest of my concentration.
And it’s taking its inevitable emotional toll.
Writing is second nature to me. I’m most content when words are flowing straight from my brain to my fingertips. I’m most comfortable writing down my thoughts than I am speaking them out loud (and I’m a lot more eloquent when doing so). During my studies, I was able to churn out three decent poems a night, depending on my levels of angst and/or inspiration.
Now, even getting one measly (and badly written) line out per month is akin to pulling teeth. Most of the time I give up and just delete the document, and save myself the embarrassment. To not be capable of writing is one of the emptiest feelings I’ve known. It’s like perpetual writer’s block. I have more pent-up emotion than I know what to do with.
There’s also the fact that admitting that I’m not currently living off my writing feels shameful. After all, it’s why I’m thousands of dollars in debt to the government. But how can I “get my foot in the door” without the financial ability to intern or freelance? The world just isn’t that kind.
I’m not self-centered enough to think that the world needs my input. It will turn on regardless. But when you think of the sheer amount of people who are in far worse positions than mine, it has an undeniable effect. The world will never hear the words of kids who were never taught to read or write at all, or the kids who had to drop out of school to support their families, or the kids who didn’t make it past adolescence. How many great writers are out there who currently struggle just to survive? How many talented minds have been smothered by a world in which the majority starve on the streets, while the 1% hold enough wealth in loose change to feed and clothe them for the rest of their lives? We’ll never read their words, or see their art, or hear their music.
A more intelligent writer could make some astute connections about the way in which capitalism kills creativity and chokes the arts to death by assigning a dollar value as the highest form of worth for a product and therefore making anything that doesn’t fetch a price redundant. A more intelligent writer would make a comment about how your hobbies don’t need to be financially viable to be worthwhile, but under capitalism selling out your hobbies can be the difference between having a roof over your head or not.
But I’m not that writer. The most intelligent word-play I can muster at the moment is a well-timed pun that makes my girlfriend glare at the ceiling. It’s still something.
So this is directed at everyone out there editing and re-editing and doubting their own skills. This is for everyone who has the time and energy in their day, or week, or month to sit down and write, and doesn’t realise how precious that is. This is for all the “creative me time” that is taken for granted every single day.
So please. If you have the privilege of being able to do something you love just for you – don’t take it for granted. And write a few extra poems for those of us who can’t. The world needs it.