Once upon a time, in a (not very) far away place, a writer and a raptor curled up together on a cold January evening and watched Revolutionary Road.
The inherent story was nothing remarkable: a young couple buy a house in the suburbs, start to feel trapped by 1950s urban life and plan to emigrate. You can watch the trailer on IMDB. But the atmosphere…
Imagine you are watching a 1950s version of yourself and your partner, holding jobs, buying a house together and settling down. Still (to a greater or lesser extent) the expectation of everyone’s lives. And slowly, layer by layer, your ideas about that life are stripped away. Your job bores you. The dreams you had as a child will never come true. You will never be the person you thought you would become. You will never be special, your life will never be interesting, and any happiness that you might be experiencing comes from desperate self-delusion.
Reaching for the razor blade yet?
After the film had finished, we spent half an hour or so reassuring each other that yes, we genuinely were happy being a couple with a house in the suburbs. Then I burst into tears and confessed that I’d stopped writing some months ago because I didn’t believe in the childhood dream any more. I would never be a writer, would never have the skill or talent or faith to make it into publication. And without that dream – an identity that I have had ever since I remember – what the hell was the point?
It was at this juncture that the raptor demonstrated the depths of his genius. He didn’t pat me on the back and say ‘of course you can write’. He didn’t hug me and make soothing noises. Instead he set me a challenge: productivity hour.
Every evening, for an hour, we would sit down together and do something productive. He would turn off the computer and do some leatherwork, or some whittling. I would write. I was only allowed to write on one project – anything else was fine but didn’t count towards productivity hour. It didn’t matter whether I believed that it was good work, so long as it got done.
The first couple of days were probably the hardest I have ever found writing. To write against the conviction of your own inability is a tall order. The raptor was sympathetic but prepared to use emotional blackmail if that’s what it took. And in the end, after about a week, I came across a shred of the faith that had once been my bedrock.
In the past two months I have run a poetry prompt competition, started this blog and written over 40,000 words of my book. I believe in myself as a writer again. Last night I got home to find a present waiting for me – a copy of On Writing by Stephen King, described by Amazon as ‘a tough-love lesson for aspiring novelists’.
All this is to make three points:
1) Writing is hard.
2) Raptors are awesome.
3) Don’t watch Revolutionary Road if you’re feeling depressed.