So this is going to mostly be about me trying to put things down on virtual paper sheerly to straighten them out in my head. You know when you can’t understand what’s happening, but when you have to explain it to someone else it becomes clear to you? It’s one of those times.
Where do I start? Hong Kong. I do think about what life would be like every morning if I’d never left; if I hadn’t been told my work visa would never be stamped again and given seventy-two hours to leave; if I’d continued with the same job(s); if I were still living in the bright centre of the universe. It hurts, most days. Because I have friends who have left, and they’ve experienced the same thing I did when I came back to England; there is no life outside of cities, here. And I live close to the New Forest. It’s kind of like Bumblefuck Nowhere, UK style. It took me nearly a year to get a car (and the stimulus for that was me having to get 200 miles up the country for a writers’ conference, and public transport being fucking shocking) and longer than that to move out of my little sister’s spare room into an actual flat. There’s an entertainment complex just 10 minutes’ walk from where I now live. Which is nice. Restaurants, bars, even a 10-screen cinema. There’s a gym and a pool and a 6 day supermarket. It’s all good. But I don’t use it. The cinema is a go-zone on Tuesdays because they do cheaper tickets, studios allowing. At other times it is just amazingly expensive. My job is pretty cushty, but it’s not the best paid in the world. I’m lucky to even have one, and one that pays for my rent, my car, and a little extra on the side (it keeps me in vodka, for example). But there’s no atmosphere. Unless you want gentle Sunday afternoon drives in brilliant sunshine to places you can picnic and then go home again, there’s not an awful lot to brighten your week. It’s boring. It’s monotonous. And I’ve never been good with monotonous. Three of my friends have gone back to Hong Kong. I think, more and more, that I would if I could.
I have a friend, living still in Hong Kong, who has a bit of Jerry MacGuire syndrome; she cannot be alone. Not in a needy, scared way, but in exactly the same way as I find this country boring: she needs constant stimulation, fun with people you know, a break from the routine - this is why she needs company, and as more time passes, I find I need it too. But if I did get that, if I did manage to get a quick trip down the pub for an alcohol-free beer three nights a week, I’d then be upset that I don’t get time for my own obsessions.
I have one, and that’s writing.
Ah yes, here we go. How much writing have I done since I returned to England? Well, not an awful lot. And the stuff I have produced has all been fanfic - not one word of original stuff. And I know why. Everything I write now is Changed Me; suddenly there are boundaries, suddenly there’s a need for more realism and less imagination, suddenly my writing is turning into what I hate most about me - boring, life-by-numbers. The narrative is dampened, simplified, reduced to the mundane. The plots are starting to all sound familiar, the twists predictable to the point where they’re not twists, and the dialogue is all same-same. I can see it, right there on the MacBook screen in front of me, and it hurts.
I used to look back at my earlier writing and cringe, because it was weak, it was flawed, and some of it was downright awful. But that was stuff I’d written seven, eight years ago. When I look back at stuff I’ve written just three years ago, I cringe. But now it’s because that was a time when my brain was obviously enjoying its freedom from the boring and mundane, and producing fresh, exciting stories with funny, genuinely good narrative. Every time I look at a Scrivener screen now, the blank white is awash with knowing that whatever I’m about to write will never be as good as the novel I completed (that I still can’t get published), the seven sci-fi novels I wrote pretty much for my own amusement, or the fanfic about the knife. The empty page is already too crowded before I start. It’s full of failure and trying too hard, of all the signs of a writer having lost ‘it’ - the ‘it’ that made them good. The magic has gone. And I don’t think it’s ever coming back. I’ve never had a more pressing need to be able to block out the world and get into my own writing headspace - and I’ve never been less able to do it. It’s just not there any more. Daydreams don’t bring me plot ideas. Waking up with a small hangover no longer makes me realise what’s missing from the scene I’ve recently written. (Partly because I haven’t written a scene, and partly because I don’t think the hangover section of my brain cares any more.)
My friends did return to Hong Kong, and I’m happy for them. It’s where they should be. I just don’t know where I should be, but something tells me it’s not here. I grew up in a small towny kind of place. I’d never lived in a UK city. I moved to Hong Kong and the city life grew on me. When I came back to the UK, I lost all of that cityness, and 90% of my friends, in one fell swoop. I do have family here, which obviously made it easier, and my very, very close friend from way back. But I miss the randomness, the absurd fun, the ‘whacky’ adventures I’ve had overseas. They just don’t have the capacity to happen over here.
I’m still confused with what I’m supposed to be doing in life. I mean, people get hobbies but is it just to fill up your days? It is supposed to be giving yourself something to do during that time you’re not at work or sleeping? In that case, does it matter what it is? People say ‘get a hobby, go out and see the sun or something’. But time will move along anyway, the day will still end and I’ll still get to bed so I can go to work the next day - so what does it matter how I fill that evening time? It all goes the same way, right?
Part of me is aware that I’m on the brink of an episode where I cannot mentally or physically get out of bed. Part of me is aware that I should be getting up and going to my archery club, or just standing outside in the sun (because feeling sunshine on my skin makes me feel better for no reason whatsoever). But the rest of me is saying ‘why conform? Why do what you’re supposed to? Why both going to archery or going outside when you’ll just have to come back - what does it change? What difference does it make to anyone, anywhere?’ I do want to go to archery, but I also think it’s too planned and I can’t make myself go through with it. And yet I miss doing archery. It’s there, ready and waiting for me, but I can’t make myself plan the day to work by taking my archery stuff, so I can go and do it straight from work, because all day I’ve got this plan that suddenly I’m a slave to, and I hate that feeling.
Pretty fucked up, right? Right. Thought so.
And behind it all, there’s that nagging feeling that you haven’t written anything, that you won’t write anything, and it’s all over. Oh, you’ll get some scenes on paper, but you’ll proofread each part and find it’s just not grabbing you, it’s boring, it’s normal - and you’ll never finished it. Once upon a time, I had one single solitary story that was started and then archived as never finished. How many do I have now? Five, at last count. You get to guess why.
That’s about it, I think. Talking it through hasn’t actually made it any clearer - other than convincing myself of the inevitable. Maybe that’s why I’ve been downgraded from ‘gets letters from agents rejecting her book’ to ‘agents can’t even be bothered to reject you’. I was going to continue sending out my book to agents on my list, but really, when it’s so bad they can’t be arsed to respond to you at all, then why bother? Each time is a three month wait for a response that will never come, so you rewrite parts of the book and you rejig ideas and you agonise over a perfect cover letter and you send it all out again - to wait three months and hear nothing, all over again. Why do I waste my time? Someone please tell me, because I’m losing the will to do much at all these days, much less send out letters that will never be answered.
And then there’s the whole ‘dating’ thing - people will tell you you’re just stuck in a rut and you need to date someone. Why? To what end? I have friends to take up all my time - what else do I need? If the whole point of a date is sheerly to interview someone to see if they are a good fit with you, and you can be friends, then why don’t I just keep my friends and not bother? And how can someone be a good fit with me, if I’m not a good fit with me? The dating rant I could go on would be massive - so I’m not doing it right now. It will get its own blog entry, in time.
But not today. Today I’m done.