The first one of these in January is the hardest one to do.

Much as I might like to pretend that it’s just another week to write a blog post, it isn’t. It’s the start of a new year. 52 new blog posts, with not a single solitary clue what even one of them will be about.

It would be so easy this morning to write nothing, to have a week off. I’ll do one next week. The number at the end of the year will still creep into the forties, even if I do nothing this week. 

Nobody’s out there waiting for this shit. Have some Corn Flakes, leave it out, start again on the 12th.

It’s pretty much the same thing on this day every year. But every January up until now, I’ve dragged my carcass to my desk and pressed the ‘On’ button and set to it.

So here I am. Happy New Year, one and all!

I don’t make New Year resolutions, not really. Truth be told, I don’t really know what a resolution is. But, like everyone, I recognize that there are things I could try to do a little bit better in 2020. My list will be much the same as your list, I’ll warrant. I could stand to lose a few pounds; some additional modicum of exercise would not go amiss. These two are not unrelated and, also, I am seriously understating the need for them.

As I said, you’ll probably have much the same aspirations. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you’re overweight or out of condition or anything. Hey, I hardly know you. I’m just saying we’re all human and, like it or not, we all have a lot of stuff in common.

I have one other aspiration. I can’t call it a resolution because, as I already said, I don’t really know what that means. It’s just something I’d like to do better. I’m not sure I will.

It’s nothing much and it's possibly not one of yours. I’d like to write more. That’s all. I’d really like that. I’m not looking for more time to write or anything complicated like that. I’ve got some time I can use; I just need to use it more.

Some people reading this might say, “Look at him, wanting to write more. He writes plenty.” I write a bit, sure, but this New Year contemplation has served to show me that what I do is not enough. It might be enough for you or for Mrs. Whatsername down the road but it’s not enough for me. It’s a very simple equation. I can be very happy and content when I’m writing, and I can be a little closer to the opposite of that when I don’t. Ergo, I should do more and be happier.

It’s kind of a no-brainer.

But, still, it’s also kind of hard to do. Have I become lazy? I don’t always fill my writing time with writing like I used to do. I can sit and watch telly or fall asleep in front of the fire when I could just as easily be sitting here, tapping away, making myself happier.

Why do that?

What if that wasn’t a rhetorical question? What if I tried to address it, head on? Why do I toast my feet at the fire and snooze when I could be doing so much better?

Truth be told, I think it’s a confidence thing.

And don’t get me wrong. This post is by no means a cry for compliments and plaudits and such. My relationship with my writing is such that nobody can really impact it except me. By that I mean, you can tell me that I’m great until the cows come home and it won’t make a blind bit of difference. I have to be able to tell myself I’m great for it to count. And, you know, sometimes I just can’t manage that.

In my head, always and forever, I’m a Patzer. As a one-time chess player, it’s a word that fits me perfectly in my head. In case you don’t know it, it’s a term describing a poor chess player. If you look it up, that’s the definition you will find. But I actually think it’s more subtle than just that and the definition doesn't really cover that subtlety. Well, it does a bit. Some definitions remark that the term is 'relative' and that, for me is the key. You see, a Patzer is not simply a poor chess player. It’s a poor chess player relative to someone who is pretty-darned good. And that’s me to a tee. I’m probably a better writer than you are, and you, and you. But if you’re in any way pretty-darned good, then I’m probably not as good as you.

I’m a Patzer.

Mostly, I’m comfortable with that. I can operate on that plateau with some level of success and satisfaction. But when the doubt-bugs come to call, as they sometimes will, the word Patzer can appear to be writ larger across your forehead in the mirror than it usually is and that easy confidence in your mid-level place in the world can falter a bit.

And, again, please don’t get me wrong. I have a considerable writing ego and when it’s inflated, it works just fine. I have no problem seeing myself as quite a good writer when I’m on my game. No problemo. But we can’t all be on our game all the time and getting back on that game requires something that is not easy to corral.

Resolution. I must have more resolution in order to write more, even if I’m consistently badgered by a feeling that it’s going nowhere and that it’s not quite good enough.

Resolution to write myself back to a more positive place. The writing will do it, I just need the resolution to do the writing.


So that’s what it means.


Emily Suess said...

Actually, I do look forward to your weekly posts, and I notice when you don't get around to one for whatever reason. If you don't want to take that as a compliment, maybe you could consider it motivation? At any rate, I want to write more too. Here's to our resolve!

Ken Armstrong said...

Here's to it, Emily.

Thanks. x

Jim Murdoch said...

Being a writer’s an odd thing. Having written is something else. Every now and then I stumble across something I wrote years and years ago and find I can’t find fault with it; it’s stood the test of time. Then I try to imagine writing it now and don’t know where to start. How the hell did I manage it in the first place? I have memories of writing and most of them aren’t much different in physical terms to what I’m doing right now. You’ve probably seen films about artists and sat there gobsmacked as they take a blank sheet of paper and make something wonderful appear—the one that jumps to my mind was watching Rolf Harris splash away for five minutes without producing a single image I could identify until he’d finished it and turned it upside down (or right-side up, I guess)—but can you imagine watching any writer you can think of hard at it?

I, too, want to write more this year. Last year I dug through my old notes and managed to finish off eighteen poems and eighteen pretty decent poems too I have to say but nothing new apart from an opening paragraph of a science fiction novel I’ll never write even though I’d love to. (For someone who love sci-fi as much as I do it’s always puzzled me why I could never come up with even a short story.) Carrie and I were talking a few days ago and she asked me, in the context of a much bigger conversation, what made me happy and there was no hesitation: writing. And it’s true. You wouldn’t be able to tell it from watching me because I look miserable most of the time but even now typing this comment is a happifying experience for me. So, if writing makes me so goddamn happy why don’t I at least try to do more of it? There lies the rub.

We forget. That’s the problem. We forget how we did it. How can we forget when we’ve written hundreds of thousands of words? And yet every time I sit down in front of a blank screen it’s like I’m learning to write all over again and there’s pleasure to be had in that, I’m not saying there’s not, but for writers as capable as you and I you would think we could simply sit down and write and have a bit of faith that what we’re producing wouldn’t be total shite?

I can play chess but would have no issues being called a patzer; it wouldn’t worry me. A wee while ago someone posted one of those lists on Facebook, ‘If You Can Tick Three of These Things You’re a Real Writer’ and the one that jumped out at me was: ‘Crushing Imposter Syndrome.’ I guess that’d be the writerly equivalent of being a patzer. I really don’t get it but I can’t deny it. Maya Angelou said. “I have written eleven books, but each time I think, Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody and they’re going to find me out.” You’re only as good as your last whatever is another thing that niggles away as me especially when I abandon something. That’s me, run out of steam. Can’t even finish a ruddy six line poem.

Neither of us as young as were once were, Ken, and the simple fact is most of us only have so much to say that hasn’t been said before by people far more capable than the two of us jammed together. That’s what stops me writing most of the time. What more could I possibly have to contribute? I’m jealous of juggernauts like Philip Glass who just keep on keeping on. The simple thing is that the list of acclaimed authors out there who’ve only written two or three books is not short. If I never wrote another word no one can say I’ve not done my bit. Same goes for you. And doesn’t that lake a load off your shoulders? We should write for the fun of it, for ourselves and if something great turns up, well, great.