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Day one

November 1, 2016

A blank page (screen). Oh, goodie. Once upon a time I would have had little (no) difficulty filling the space. Granted, some of my most prolific days did involve a sheet of paper in a typewriter, not a computer screen. But I’ve done just fine on the computer in the past.

This then is my black dog diary – an attempt to get myself writing something (anything) every day. The goal is to write for at least 15 minutes every morning. Longer would be lovely.

I know I am (or at least used to be) capable of doing this. One winter, some years ago, I sat at this very same window working on Unethical Practices. I would get up in the morning, switch the computer on, make myself a cappuccino and sit down at the desk. The words flowed. I’d stop to have some breakfast, stop again for lunch, stop again for dinner. I had  CBC Radio 2 as company. At that time it played classical music all day until 10pm, when the two-hour jazz show started. Usually the start of the jazz show was my cue to stop for the day, although sometimes I’d still be at it at 11pm when my partner Mike (working at the university during the week and here for weekends) rang. Some days, if I was really on a role, I’d get back to it after Mike’s call ended. The midnight start on Radio 2 of Brave New Music was discordant enough to get me into bed. Get up the next morning and repeat on the four days a week I was here on my own. The first draft of Unethical Practices was written in three months.

Oh, the good old days. Where did they go? Well, for one thing, the computer I was working on at the time might have had an early days, excruciatingly slow dial-up e-mail connection, but it didn’t have the goddamn internet with its infinite bloody distractions, including stupid fucking spider solitaire (or SFSS as I’ve come to call it). More on this anon.

Anyway, anyway… I’m not going to broadcast the existence of this diary. No links to entries on my Facebook page or the seldom used Twitter feed I was told writers must have. If people stumble across it, that’s fine. But post daily I must, because tangible proof is required that I am writing something (anything) every day. If I just keep it on my computer it would be too easy to backslide. Perhaps it might help people like me. Who knows?

And just who are people like me? For most of my life, from a very young age, even when I wasn’t actually doing it for a living, I would have said, first and foremost, “I am a writer.” Can a “writer” who isn’t actually writing anything (other than the odd rant) describe herself as a writer? Tough call.

So we’ll put that to one side for a while, too.

I am a woman of a certain age who lives alone (with two cats) and who is likely to be alone for the rest of her life. (“Oh, no!” do I hear people exclaim? “You shouldn’t say that. You never know what’s around the corner.” Perhaps not, but, seriously, as people are constantly trying to explain to Republicans, you can’t argue with facts. After a certain age there simply aren’t enough men to go around. Certainly not enough with whom you’d want to spend any time. Fact.)

I am a woman of a certain age who has been suffering with depression for quite a while. It is a condition far more common than many people realise. It is not, as I have discovered to my cost, something you can simply snap out of with a stiff upper lip. It is incredibly difficult to admit to others, despite medical professionals insisting there is no shame in it.

I am a woman of a certain age who has spent most of her life cultivating – and defending herself with – a fuck you attitude. It has been surprisingly effective and leaves no margin for any admission of vulnerability.

It seems I’ve got past that, because I’ve just admitted it: I am a lonely, depressed woman.

It’s funny (in an ironic sort of way). From a fairly young age (probably my teens, certainly by my early twenties) I anticipated being alone most of my life. I certainly couldn’t imagine growing old with a partner. Meeting Mike when I was in my thirties took me completely by surprise.

The third weekend of March 2011, he and I were in Vancouver. He took me to the Pear Tree for dinner to celebrate the publication of Unethical Practices.  (The first draft of Rum Do, written over the past year, was almost finished.) On the Monday morning – March 21st, the first day of spring, so easy to always remember – we were getting ready to come back to the island. Mike went into the bathroom to brush his teeth, had a massive heart attack and was dead before the ambulance arrived. Not surprisingly, I was in a daze for months.

Here’s the thing. I thought there’d be more Tilly and Roger novels. One was partially written before Rum Do took hold of me. Ideas for others had made it onto the page. Back in the days before Mike, in the days when I took it for granted that I’d be alone for most of my life, I didn’t really think I’d be alone. I thought I’d always have plenty of company: wonderful characters springing forth from my previously fertile imagination who would keep me entertained for as long as I lived or my marbles held out.

But since Mike’s death I’ve struggled to string a fictional sentence together. In a moment of unusual and now unfamiliar inspiration, one of my Tilly ideas magically turned itself into a one-act play a few months ago. That and another one-act play, written three years ago, represent the sum total of my creative writing in the past five years.

Like Jessica in Rum Do, I am well and truly blocked.  Now that’s irony for you.

Okay, the 15-minute minimum is long since over. I’ve been writing for an hour. Enough for today. If you’ve stumbled across this, tune in tomorrow. It may be a snippet of fiction (wouldn’t that be nice?) or it might be nothing more than “I simply cannot face this today”,  but for the next six weeks (apparently this is how long it takes to establish a routine) there will be something.

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From → Black dog diary

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