Stringing Words Together Through Sleepless Nights

I became a nighttime writer over the summer. I spent days staring at empty word documents, or staring out the window, melancholy and inadequate feelings pounding in my head and stopping anything decent from coming out onto the page. But after dark the words were forming again. Inspiration would strike at most inconvenient places: in the nightclub, forcing me to leave the dancefloor mid-song to look for a pen and a piece of paper; while cycling back from a friend’s place, having to repeat the piece of text in my head for the rest of the journey so I’d remember it when I got home; or, proverbially, just when falling asleep and too far in to be able to turn on the light and write anything down. As these scenarios suggest, it was not the most practical pattern of inspiration and I didn’t bring very many pieces to completion. I also spent much of daytime with manual tasks, depleted of intellectual challenge and speaking a language other than the one I write in, so it’s no surprise the words I wanted weren’t always there at the right time.

Then the summer ended, I returned to the UK, and began to reconstruct my social life one lunch date at a time. I’ve started my Master’s degree, met wonderful new people and drank lots of wine at post-evening seminar receptions. Learnt new words from lectures and set texts, bought poetry books, attended launches and readings. My main goal during the summer was to get my life together, improve my health and lose the extra weight I’d gained while studying in London (and am happy to be able to say I’m back in a healthy weight now, after several months of daily cycling and wheat-free diet). It was all very positive and required, but life also became a little too ordered. When I had enough sleep, ate healthy food and drank hardly any wine, I felt happy, balanced and organised. And utterly uncreative. Now I’m swiftly changing from the state of absolute boredom and loneliness on some days to being fully booked on others; I’m confused, anguished and occasionally hungover; I have many new projects, goals and friendships under way all at once. I’m anything but organised, a bit worried about how I’ll get everything done and make ends meet, and I’m having a lot of feelings; in other words, I’ve allowed my life to tumble into a little bit of a chaos.

And now the text is flowing off my keyboard like blood from an open wound. Only this afternoon I earnestly cried tears of joy when I realised I was still capable of writing sentences I was happy with. I’ve been at my laptop three days straight, continuing a story I started aged 19 and was a bit freaked out to find I’m becoming a lot like a character I invented all those years ago – it’s one of those instances of life imitating art. I’m pouring those confusing and agonising feelings onto the page in the form of a story of a woman living an exaggerated version of my life. I don’t know where the story’s going, what the protagonist does for a living, or what role each character plays – but I don’t mind. So far it’s an exercise in stringing words together, and the pleasure I experience after each sentence on the screen that eloquently expresses the abstract thought in my head is worth all the confusion, all the anguish, all the mess and the hangovers the creative process has been dependent on.

And I’m thrilled to announce I’ll be reading fragments from my story in progress at a reading at the Poetry Café. Unfinished is organised and hosted by Anouche Sherman and takes place on the 24th October at 7.30pm.  Click on the flyer below for all the details! The event is a celebration of unfinished work, a chance for writers and artists to showcase works in progress or pieces that may never be finished. What matters is not a completed work of art or a coherent story, but the enjoyment of the journey, and the pleasure of creation. Please come along if you’re free.



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