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Day twelve

November 12, 2016

It’s the quarter way point in the Black Dog Diary project and something quite exhilarating is happening.

Let me describe most of my mornings (unless I had a guest) in recent years. I would get up, make a cappuccino, get back into bed and pull out my journal and my good pen. I’d try to write something (anything) every morning. Sometimes it was a few lines of dross. Sometimes it was several paragraphs of dross. Occasionally I’d remind myself to get my head out of the murky bubble and acknowledge the rest of the world – a horrible “natural” disaster, the shooting of yet another black man in the US, the atrocity in Orlando. On rare occasions something outside the bubble enraged me enough to get me to the computer writing a rant/column for my website.

With the exception of those rare mornings, as I was sitting in bed with my journal, I’d find my eyes drawn almost compulsively across the room to the computer. It was as if there was a voice saying, “Psst! Over here! There’s a big black hole waiting to suck you in. Come on over. You know you want to!”

And sooner or later (usually sooner) I’d get out of bed and switch the computer on. There was always a slight sense of dread in doing this, knowing I was opening up the great rabbit black hole. I’d click on Firefox and, first, check my emails. If something was particularly important, I’d write a reply, but mostly I’d read them and think, “I’ll get back to that later.” (As often as not, I wouldn’t get back to it.) Then I’d open Facebook, not to see how my friends were doing, but to play the moves in my Scrabble games.

Then I would go onto the Guardian site, ostensibly to catch up with what was going on in the world. Granted, I would skim the headlines, maybe even open a link or two, but mainly I was there to do the crossword puzzle. This isn’t too bad, I’d say to myself. The Guardian and its crossword puzzle were always part of my commute in London, when I was a functioning person who went out to work every day and earned a living.

I’d finish the crossword puzzle, but it wouldn’t be enough. There was a long empty day spread out in front of me. Of course there were always many things I could do with that day. I could write a letter to a friend. I could clean the bathroom. I could go for a walk. (Ha!) Or I could just sit down on the sofa to read a book. But none of these things offered what I craved, which was mindlessness.

So, I’d go on from the crossword to a code cracker and a word search puzzle. At some point during all this I’d usually get dressed and have some breakfast. Then I’d come back to the computer, have another look at my emails, check Facebook again for more Scrabble moves. I’d tell myself that if there was even one move to play, that would be enough, that I’d play that move and then get on with doing something with my day. Usually there were no moves. The friends with whom I play go out to work. They are not sitting at their computers praying for someone to save them from themselves by playing their damn Scrabble moves.

And so I’d sit here, telling myself I had to walk away from the computer. Willing myself to walk away from the computer and fucking do something. Anything. And then I’d start playing Hearts or Freecell or Stupid Fucking Spider Solitaire. And then, somehow, three or four or five hours would have disappeared from my life. Lunch had been missed. Most of the day was gone. (So not just my mornings quite often.) And still it would be hard to make myself stop. When I eventually did, I’d give myself a mental slap. Tell myself this had to stop. Swear the next day I would get something done before I even switched the computer on.

The next morning I would wake up, make my cappuccino, pull out my journal and the fucking siren call of oblivion would start up again and somehow I could not ignore it.

I know I’ve already written about the good old days, when I leapt out of bed in the morning, got on the computer (which, at that time, did not have internet) and just wrote, the words flowing from my brain to the keyboard, all day. The days when my computer (like my typewriter before it) was my best friend, the tool with which my creativity was allowed to flow.

Somewhere along the way my computer had turned from my best friend into my worst enemy. (Thank you, bloody internet.)

And now we get to the amazing, exhilarating thing. At some point during this six-week black dog experiment I’ve gone from approaching my computer in the morning with dread to approaching it with anticipation. The first couple of mornings I consciously disconnected the internet before I started my entry, fearing the worst. I’d only reconnect when the entry was ready to be posted. I’m not sure when I stopped doing this, but it was early on, because I knew the internet wasn’t going to suck me in before my day had even begun.

Words are pouring onto pages. They may not be part of a new novel. (That may or may not come.) But they are words strung together and they are flowing. There is an almost forgotten sense of satisfaction, of accomplishment when an entry is completed. It is, as I said, exhilarating.

I have no idea what will come out of this experiment when it was over, but I can tell you one thing that has happened already. I haven’t played a game of Stupid Fucking Spider Solitaire in twelve days. More to the point, not once have I felt the craving to do so.


As the line suggests, that was going to be it for today, but I’ve decided to add a postscript to yesterday’s short entry. I said that I had hoped ranting about the grumbling cast members would get it off my chest, but it hadn’t. After that entry I wrote an email to the cast about various things, including the grumble rumour which had reached my ears. I patiently explained (more patiently than I had done in the rant) that my choice of songs to be eliminated had been limited. I said I would have been happy to explain all this to anyone who’d taken the trouble to ask me about my decision. But here’s the thing, the thing I did not say in the email, despite thinking it when I was ranting here. I did not say, “Oh, and FYI, I’m the director so you can keep your bloody opinions and go fuck yourself.” Apparently the rant did work.

As a dear friend of mine (a man struggling with bipolar disorder) once said after writing an alarmingly bleak message to me: Better out than in. Much better to get the dark thoughts out in the light. Which is exactly what the Black Dog Diary is all about.

From → Black dog diary

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