I have nothing to write.
It is Wednesday afternoon and for the seventh time this week, I have had to tell myself that I cannot pitch a story on how I have no stories to pitch. That is not something people want to read about, and definitely not something publications would pay to publish.
I can’t remember exactly when the great drought started. I was luckily busy with other projects during the first lockdown, and the sheer joy of being let out over the summer was clearly enough to fill me with inspiration.
In any case, a new low was reached about three weeks ago when I got one idea for a feature — one whole idea! for a feature! — which I sent to an editor I frequently write for, and he told me he had already commissioned a similar idea. I nearly cried.
Yesterday morning I walked to Westminster, on the offchance that seeing Parliament in the flesh would somehow bring on some form of epiphany, that I would faint upon seeing Whitehall then wake up with an idea for some 1200-word piece that would pay for a quarter of my rent.
It did not happen. I kept walking until I reached Soho. Soho didn’t help either. Instead, I threw myself into a vague project two friends and I have started discussing. As far as I can tell, they are treating it as a potentially interesting long shot which they can ponder when they get a moment away from their full-time job. I, meanwhile, have been approaching it with the intensity of someone told they must invent time travel in a week in order to save humanity.
Sometimes I feel relaxed about the drought; I picture myself going on long walks, knitting, reading novels and generally leading the life of a person who has never had to worry about money. Then I remember I really do have to worry about money.
I have been doing a lot of budgeting; in a way, arranging and rearranging the little lumps of money I have and will receive from the state feels more like my job than my job does. Should this £75 go towards my 2022 holiday fund? Complement my salary in May 2021 when the Treasury stops funding my life? Be used to make my flat a little bit nicer, given how much time I spend there now? I guess I’ll have to take the afternoon off to think about it. I just can’t take these decisions lightly.
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I am aware that I should make the most of the flexibility freelancing gives me, so I have been thinking about what to write about that isn’t politics. I am furious I don’t have a live-in partner, children or pets — not because they would keep me company, but because I could milk them for content. I eye my plants suspiciously. Could I write about them? Could I write about my lamp? Could I write about the myriad of ailments I have diagnosed myself with? Like a funny list?
I like reporting because it is fundamentally quite lazy; you just have to find an interesting topic then find some people to tell you about it. I don’t mind the idea of more personal writing but I don’t know how to go about it. Should I write about my insomnia? The fact that my bathtub is too small? It would be easier if things were happening to me.
I don’t know what to write because I do not feel connected to anything at the moment. I worry I would be cheating editors out of money by writing about politics, given that what they usually pay for is at least a degree of insider knowledge. The only contact I have had with members of Parliament in the past month is when one MP messaged me to say he had found one of my tweets funny. I have no insider knowledge anymore. Maybe I should take the money anyway.
I have considered approaching more editors and tweeting more about being open to commissions, but I worry about the fine line between bravado and desperation. Someone who clearly really wants to have sex with you is good; someone who clearly really wants to have sex with you or anyone or two pillows sellotaped to one another is not. I worry the same goes for writing.
It is hard to explain but I am both incredibly stressed and incredibly relaxed about money. I know I’m in a dicey financial situation but purchases no longer feel real; I make them without thinking about the impact they will have on the aforementioned dicey financial situation. In the past fortnight I bought a big cactus for £35 and a big ceramic pot to put the big cactus in for £21. It was both irresponsible and inconsequential, depending on the mood I’m in.
I am writing this because I miss writing. It is my job but it is also something I enjoy doing. I wrote for free before I became a journalist and I suppose I may as well write for free now. I enjoy being productive but there is nothing for me to be productive about; at least, when I go to bed tonight, I will be able to tell myself that I wrote a Medium post. It’s better than nothing.
I have considered trying to find some form of job that is not writing but it is not clear what else I could be doing. Last year I thought I wanted to do something else on top of writing and I decided to get into organising events. You can guess how that’s going.
I decided I wanted to be a journalist when I was 7, because I told my grandmother I wanted to be a poet and she told me journalism would allow me to write but I could actually make a living out of it, which seemed like a reasonable compromise at the time.
Because I settled on a career at the age of 7, I have never really stopped to think about what else I could be doing. I don’t think I really want to do anyting else; I like writing and I like talking to interesting people, and it is still incredible to me that I can pay my rent by doing these two things. I do think declaring this the end of my career would be both dramatic and premature, because things will pick up again once the pandemic ends.
It is just unclear what I should be doing in the meantime. I am oddly relaxed about it; I think I managed to exhaust myself by panicking non-stop for weeks earlier this year, and I have now reached some sort of zen-like nirvana. I have nothing to write. There’s nothing I can do about it. Maybe I’ll buy another cactus. Nothing matters.
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