It’s amazing how easy it is to stagnate.
I’m like a body thrown into the dead zone of the Baltic Sea; the anoxia stops me from rotting but I’m not coming back to life either. I’m just stagnant.
Since I moved back to the UK from Canada at the start of June, I haven’t achieved much. I thought, I’ll take a month or so off to recover from back-to-back Masters degrees, then I’ll get a job. Because getting a job is so easy. This week, enough jobs were applied for and enough deadlines had passed that I finally got a couple of interviews (for which I’m eagerly awaiting the results of), but I’ve also started to feel really guilty about my lack of attempted freelancing. It’s not that I don’t have ideas – I have a Word doc full of questions and suggestions. But whenever I go to research them further I get distracted by facebook or the TV or BuzzFeed or something equally as mindless. It’s funny how quickly being out of a stimulating atmosphere, on my couch alone all day, can switch off the determined drive I usually have.
What’s the solution? Today I decided it would be this: practising creative writing. I’ll start with the one time this summer I did feel creative – when I was in Iceland. This country has always held a magical significance for me, and while I was there this time, adventuring with my best J-School buddy Gudrun, I was so happy and contented I even suggested I’d quite like to get drunk one evening. I’ve never been drunk, and there have been a few dark times where I’ve thought about tearing apart what it means to be me by getting wasted, but this time it was that I was so comfortable and carefree that getting drunk would only enhance the airy freedom I felt. Very whimsical of me.
I didn’t end up imbibing as we had other plans, but I did compose a short poem on that trip. I’ve never really felt I’m much good at poetry, but every so often I’ll invent some verse I’m fond of. This time, it was while Gudrun and I scrambled up a hillside behind one campground to investigate a small but beautiful waterfall that had probably had it’s name forgotten centuries ago, surrounded by glaciers and volcanoes as it was. As I followed clumsily behind Gudrun I began to formulate this, which I polished off on future ramblings:
Do her feet work differently than mine?
She stomps and storms so fluidly across the rocks
And streams; I stumble!
My shoes enlace so easily
Her boots slot into the landscape.
Icelandic woman spent her blond youth
Wading brooks and waterfalls;
She is at ease with her country.
What’s next? I remember these little exercises we used to do in my creative non-fiction writing class to get the juices flowing, and thought I’d look up a few of those. Here goes.
Random first line. When you click the button, a random first line for a story will be generated. The aim of this tool is to spark off a short story [from http://writingexercises.co.uk]:
They found his diary under his bed. It wasn’t the usual sort of diary for a suicidal teen. There was no angst, no unrequited love, no tales of bullying or secret admissions of homosexuality. It contained simply the records of what he had dreamed about each night.
October 15th (3 days before suicide)
I saw the castle again. Running over the hill, following the children, racing into the grand hall. Its orientation was different this time, the rooms didn’t fit together the same way. It’s a grey-brick old cold stone castle, but there’s something child-like about it. I like being there.
October 16th (2 days before suicide)
Last night’s dream was exhausting. There were bombs from unknown and unexpected enemies shredding the city. We ran for shelter in the woods and tried to decide where to go from there. What do people really do when there’s no more government, no authority? It’s not like the movies. We weren’t lost sheep, we had the guidance of the will to survive, but that selfish ideal struggled against our morality to protect those around us. In the end we looted, and hoped nobody would find us. I woke up anxious and unrested, receiving my first-ever scolding from Mrs Sage for dozing in class.
October 17th (1 day before suicide)
No dreams to report today. I know I had them, I always do, but the effort of the previous night weighed heavy on my mind, and nothing stuck come morning.
October 18th (day of suicide)
I dreamed I told someone about the castle. No-one important, just a relatively plain girl in my class that everyone will probably struggle to remember the name of at school reunions in years to come. But I described it to her in more detail than I’d ever even seen it before, so that it came to life in a thought bubble above her head, shimmering and real. I tried to climb inside it, but I was awake and she was asleep, like it was a lullaby I was singing to her. Once I read that if you die in your sleep you stay in the last dream you were having.
September 2nd (1 year, 46 days before suicide)
What a dream! It was so good I dreamed it twice, I suppose. There was a castle, a fairly run-of-the-mill somewhere-in-England kind of affair you visit on swift family holidays. It was surrounded by England’s green, rolling hills with shimmering grass and kindly cumulus clouds. It was a paint-by-numbers sort of scene, out of a children’s story book. Inside the castle I had marvellous Peter-Pan-style adventures with friends and fairies. Maybe it’s not the sort of dream for a 15-year-old, really, but it was joyful. When I woke up I told someone all about it, but really I hadn’t woken up, or I had, but into another dream. As I told this person about it it became real again and I had the adventures all over again, no poorer for a second viewing. When I finally awoke I thought about telling my parents about it over breakfast, but somehow I knew that wouldn’t make it real again. The only place it could be real was behind my closed eyes.
For a second, I think I’l do something I’ve thought about for a while. I got into sketching (poorly) last summer, and I always wanted to draw a picture of each of my friends and write something about them around it. Although I haven’t drawn them yet, I thought I’d write a little bit about one. Here’s a small ode to Julia.
It’s hard not to be a little bit in love with Julia. Her eyes are huge, and from them bursts her boundless, confusing, exhausting thrill for life. Her smile is equally as large. When she’s happy and carefree, which is most of the time, her smile almost is a laugh, it creates a sound in a silent room and fills your head with mirth. It’s easy to see her as a quintessential free spirit, always suggesting crazy adventures, and taking them whether you go along or not, but she does frown too. Her smile shuts and her eyes darken. But all she’s doing is thinking, having a serious moment, proving there’s far more than air in her head.
Julia is beautiful. She’ll frustrate you by always trying to go further, crazier, over your edge, but sometimes you’ll go there and it will be wonderful. She’s always on her own edge too, scrabbling to get assignments done, stories filed. What will she be doing instead? Going for a walk, checking out the thrift stores, reading a book, driving out of the city. You like being stable and organized and prepared and hard-working, you really do, but you sometimes wish you could be a little more Julia. Just to let go and get caught up in those lines you always thought were so cheesy, like “live every day like it’s your last” and “dream as if you’ll live forever; live as if you’ll die today.”
Yes, it’s hard not to be a little bit in love with Julia.
That should do it, I’m off to research satellites and museum collections!