Creative Slumps

Hello once again,

Yes, I’m still here. I’m trying not to flip between the two extremes of writing every day to writing on no days, so I’m writing a post about feeling unable to write while feeling unable to write.

Writer’s block, creative slumps, written fatigue, whatever the Hell we want to call it, it’s a phenomenon that’s affected everyone to put pen to paper and keystrokes to screens, so I doubt I have anything particularly new to add to this discussion.

But one relatively original aspect of this literary lethargy is how it’s affected so many aspects of my life. When I was younger, writing was my escape from the mundanity and relentless boredom of school, where subjects like maths and science, at the GCSE level, encouraged blind fact-learning, rather than creative thought. Writing was never boring, it was always the thing I did for fun.

A few years later, when I started blogging and writing some journalistic pieces for the ultra-serious world of student magazines, writing occupied this weird middle ground of being a big enough part of my life that I could be burned out, but not quite big enough that I could ever fully get into it. I still had to study, and go to work, and figure out how the hell to cook vegan meals.

Now, writing is edging towards being the one big thing in my life, encompassing The Game Shelf, a dozen university magazines, social media and my novel that I’m actually still working on; but the weights of university are still there. I can’t abandon studying entirely because I’m still a student.

This is where problems arise; as I encounter the creative slumps all writers do, this has a knock-on effect on both the platforms I write for, and my life outside of writing. First, if I’m struggling to get a match report out, it knocks my ability to write fiction, or blog posts, or Game Shelf pieces, and slowly all of these mechanisms grind to a halt. Then, my studies suffer as I settle into feeling stressed that I can’t write, and angry that I’ve not written, and afraid that I won’t be able to write in the future. Writing is a big deal for me, and now it’s starting to play with my emotions too.

Obviously, this can be dangerous, but I’m also having the most fun I’ve ever had with my work. I write for a magazine that is mine, and that I’m insanely proud of; every dumb tweet and dodgeball email brings me closer to my preferred, and even likely, career of juggling a few social media posts while working on novels in my spare time. There are structures in place – The Game Shelf, my social media roles on societies – that provide exactly the backbone and linear progression that I’ve personally lacked for years, and that many ‘creative’ people lack in general. Things are starting to fall into place, dragging my mood along with it; when I’m down it sucks for me, and the poor bastards I call friends who have to put up with me, but it’s totally worth it.

Hopefully I’ll snap out of this soon and start writing regularly again.

Until then,
Casey

*touch*

Hello all,

I like touching things.

Ahem.

I was making some notes on poetry today, and these were annotation-type notes, colourful scribbles and circles dragged across a page of verse. I’ve not made these kinds of notes since year thirteen, when we’d be given a big anthology of poetry and be expected to trawl through it for the exam like searching for a needle in a stack of slightly larger and more painful needles.

University, however, appears to not believe in anthologies as a general rule. All my other notes on verse have been made on lined paper, which requires the painstaking process of writing-out quotes of value rather than simply underlining them. There’s also the far less important point that having the poem printed in front of you makes it easier to get a handle on the geography of the poem, but it’s mostly the I-can’t-be-bothered-to-copy out quotes thing.

Most of the work at uni is conducted on computers, as is to be expected in this century. But there’s a glaring lack of tangible resources, and using them is often unweildly, or just difficult: handouts might be printed out for your convenience, but you’ll probably just be directed to some dark, unnavigable corner of Moodle instead; seminars take on a weirdly Wall-E-esque feel as students peer over the tops of their laptops to register the existence of their peers, before scuttling back behind their screens to their Word documents and Football Manager windows. And this isn’t a holier-than-thou boast (honest), as I do it too; this is merely an observation that for a course that was, until say twenty years ago, conducted almost entirely on paper, it’s alarming how quickly such tangible media have been phased out.

The obvious exception to this is the library, a wealth of ideas and confusing Middle English verse printed on actual sheets that one can touch and spill coffee over and attempt to sneak back to the reshelving box without alerting the nearest librarian to the new caffeinated aroma emanating from them. Honestly, one of the reasons that I love the library isn’t that it’s quiet or “feels” like the place to do work, but that it’s a place of learning being literally at your fingertips, rather than everything being wrapped up in the ether of the Internet. I love the Internet, but it always feels more random and spontaneous than reading a book with a single topic, written by someone with a particular goal in mind.

Also, places like libraries remind me of my Sixth Form days, when I was at my most focused and academically productive.

I think that’s why I prefer some artistic media to others. Painting is fun, but I’m less interested in that because the intellectual and artistic merits of it can be somewhat diluted by the fact that you’re gonna hang that painting behind some glass in a corridor somewhere and only use it to show your acquantances how bloody cultured you are. Meanwhile, books are a thing that must be held, and manipulated with the hands; there’s even a certain amount of challenge in deriving meaning from a book, as ideas must be interpreted and, in some cases, language deciphered to get to the heart of the piece. It’s no surprise that my favourite medium, therefore, is the video game, a form that demands engagement from the audience to reveal its secrets, and is entirely meritocratic in its approach; if you want to fully understand what Golden Sun has to teach us about perspective, you’ve got to play both games in their entirety yourself.

While the information era has brought far more advantages than disadvantages – not least the practical concern that if we print much more crap on physical paper there will literally be zero trees left on the planet – there’s something about physical media that excites me. It might be the nostalgia of reading books as a kid before the Internet was really a thing that children had access to, or my scholarly ideal of sitting in an office, drowning in Old Icelandic manuscripts and Skyrim players’ guides.

Either way, I got to hold my latest seminar prep in my hands, and it felt great.

Casey

The Nisa Supermodel

I’ve seen her,

It was a Tuesday night, the cold air drawing itself into puffed columns around my lips and nostrils as I walked into that chilly Nisa, the oh-too-convenient convenience store where I buy bread at a two-minute walk from my house instead of proper ingredients. My purple dodgeball hoodie was pulled over my head like a fabulous, yet serious and athletic cowl, clashing with my dark grey waterproof in what could be a bold fashion statement, or a hangover from my old ambivalence towards clothes that has left me with one too few coats, and one too many garishly-coloured hoodies.

Then she was there, strutting her proverbial, and indeed literal, stuff around the sleepy shelves of that local purveyor of pasta. Dressed in a colourful, panelled onesie, or a jumpsuit, or a body glove, whatever the term is for such a garment of artistry, she was confident, yet carried a skulky, shuffly air about her. Her hood was pulled over her head, her feet wrapped up in white Vans.

Back at it again?

Almost certainly. With her was a pair of onlookers, plainly-dressed, slightly-built men with large spectacles and an expensive camera; they pointed it at her as she crept around the store, a tall woman dwarfing yet not overwhelming the aisles of Super Noodles and OK! Magazines.

They took a photo. She stopped. They looked at each other. She walked back to the entrance to the aisle she had just walked out of, and the scene replayed again, her accomplices bending immediately back into their hunched, camera-toting attentiveness. This repeated another two times.

Then I stumbled into the scene, almost walking in front of the camera as this hoodied celebrity graced the Nisa floors with her presence. Yet the camera’s wielders were unfazed by my aspect, and continued to gaze upon their model, not allowing themselves to be distracted from such an artistic individual by one so base and fraught with wardrobe malfunctions as I.

They took another photo.

As the scene reset itself for a seventh or eighth time, I took my chance. I scarpered across the polished floor, struggling to hold in my arms my precious cargo: two Ribenas, a four-pack of vegan chocolate yoghurts, and a pack of those chocolate-filled Oreos that look like they should be sold only in the event of a national holiday, yet are strangely more plentiful, and far more satisfying, than their white-creamed companions.

I reached the counter, loot in tow, and quickly bought it, and the quiet, stoic man behind the Nisa counter narrowed his eyes and handed my a carrier bag. He was aware of the scene unfolding around us – he possessed greater mental wherewithal than the two camera-cronies – yet was unable to stop it, or breach the barricade of his counter and escape from a backdrop of concealed tobacco and those signs that are all passive-aggressive when they say ‘Don’t be offended if we ask for your ID’; I’ll choose when I’ll be offended, while this poor clerk cannot even choose where he stands.

I, however, had such freedom, and scampered out of the Nisa and back into the cold March night. I shot a glance over my shoulder, and saw the supermodel begin yet another stride down her catwalk, the two photographers stare at her with a strictly professional admiration, and the clerk roll his eyes, evidently weighing up the social benefits of letting a bunch of student photographers shoot in his store, versus the economic drawbacks of forever being known as the owner of ‘that place where the girl in the onesie posed for photos’.

In many ways, such a dilemma is beyond the cognitive mastery of one such as myself.

In many other ways, I kinda don’t give a shit.

Casey