It’s been almost six months since I posted on this blog. And it’s been even longer than that since I tried to write something.
When I say “write,” I mean really write. My own writing, not just the writing I get paid to do.
In February of last year, my writing motivation took a huge hit. This coincided with Europe slowly realizing the extent of the Covid pandemic and entering into seemingly unending lockdowns, but my writing de-motivation had nothing to do with that.
In general, I’ve been lucky during the pandemic because I continued to bring in a pay check, none of my friends or family were ever ill enough to be put on a ventilator, and I moved in with my boyfriend, E. Throughout the pandemic, Portugal allowed people to go out for walks, so my social life also wasn’t affected too horribly because I could always meet people in parks or near the beach.
The Struggle to Write
Instead of Covid, my writing motivation was taken down by something I will just call “The Thing.”
The Thing entered my life in 2019, but didn’t really start to beat me down until 2020. Before 2020, I naively thought The Thing was just a temporary presence and surely it would leave before the New Year. For a while, The Thing convinced me there was something wrong with me–either physically or mentally. I got an MRI, blood work, and multiple biopsies done, yet The Thing persisted. (Also, quick shoutout to socialized healthcare for making all of those medical procedures possible without bankrupting me!)
By February of 2020, The Thing was so ingrained that anytime I sat down to write I heard its accented voice in my head saying, “That’s not right. That’s not good. You’re doing it wrong. You’re choosing the wrong words. You’re not cut out for this and should probably give up and look for less-skilled work instead.”
Now, I grew up the child of artists and have two different university degrees in writing. I know how to take criticism. But The Thing was different than your usual critic because The Thing’s purpose wasn’t to make me, or any writer, better. The Thing didn’t even want to achieve anything with the written word. The Thing’s sole purpose was to wear competent people down until they felt as untalented and worthless as The Thing actually is.
Even now, while being able to see The Thing for what it actually is, and being able to see how much I should not give The Thing a single ounce of consideration, I still find myself frozen in front of a blank sheet. I’m frozen even in front of an essay I’ve already written.
For a few months, I sat in front of my laptop for hours each day and tried to overcome The Thing and just write, but each time I lost my nerve and distracted myself with TikTok, Instagram, or Netflix instead. Gradually, I just stopped trying.
So, for better or for worse, I am writing this blog post. I am writing it, then I’ll post it, and then I’ll try to make today my starting point for rebuilding a writing habit. The Thing’s voice is still crawling through my brain, but maybe this is like training for a race: I just have to keep trying to write again little by little. Hopefully I’ll eventually outrun The Thing.
Goodbye 2020, Goodbye Portugal
I will say it again: I was very lucky during 2020 and had an okay year. By the time December rolled around, I’d been able to visit France and Luxembourg, and Spain several times. E and I adopted a cat (re: the above model), and I solidified some truly spectacular friendships. I visited the US for a month, and the writing group I organize flourished with a wide range of steady members and multiple meets per week. I even got to a place with Portuguese where I could somewhat eavesdrop on people in the metro without context clues.
Then, at the very end of 2020, a longterm goal of mine suddenly fell into place: E and I made plans to move to Germany. We made this decision after E was recruited by a German startup. At the beginning of 2021, I was fortunate enough to land a pretty great position in the same city as well.
Because of Covid, it took E and me a bit longer than expected to get to Germany, but on the infamous Ides of March we finally made it.
I lived in Germany for a short while as a child, and being here is a bit like rewatching a favorite childhood TV show (like Wishbone or NYPD Blue): the characters and plot are vaguely familiar, but my mind can’t sift through my memories well enough to remind me what’s going to happen.
After living in Thailand and Portugal, Germany is the first country where I’ve lived once before, and have visited multiple times; I know the language (although I am super rusty); I blend in with the crowd; and my last name is super German, so I sort of confuse people into thinking this is where I belong. Also, this is my first time since childhood moving anywhere with someone. That in itself will deserve it’s own blog post, but it’s still too new for me to really ruminate on it right now.
You might be wondering now: Is The Thing gone? Are you going to actually say what The Thing is or are you going to just keep referring to it in an irritatingly vague manner?
I am going to write about The Thing some day. I have some notes and journal entries scribbled down, but nothing remotely worthy of sharing. Part of me doesn’t want to give The Thing anymore voice or attention than it’s already consumed. I also still gets head spins whenever I even think about The Thing (for example, right now my chair feels like I’m sitting on a kayak and a boat just zoomed by).
The Thing is technically gone (or, rather, it’s stuck in a rut it built for itself), but the aftershocks still remain. They still remain for a lot of people who had the misfortune of having The Thing thrust into their lives. But we will all move on. Eventually. Little by little we will comeback to our amazing, creative, vivacious selves, while The Thing festers like an infected wisdom tooth that you never needed anyways.