I feel like a failure a lot on this course. I’ve been reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I’ve also been watching her TED talks. I’m steeped in Gilbert. She writes in Big Magic that writing’s like going on a drive with Fear in the passenger seat, and Fear’s screaming, ‘You can’t do this! Give up! Turn back!’ and you just have to say, ‘Sweet as, Fear, you’re on this drive with me, but I’m not going to listen to you, as I am the one driving.’
And in this TED talk I watched tonight, she was talking about how success can feel the same as failure because they both fling you away from your home point. And whether you’re failing or succeeding (I guess I am doing both at the moment, by being on the course and by having absolutely no idea what I’m doing), the thing you have to do is return to your home. And she said home is the place that you love more than yourself. For her, that’s writing.
I don’t know if it’s writing for me. Writing has always felt like a part of myself, and sometimes I don’t like myself, and sometimes I don’t like writing. Besides, I don’t even know if I have a place I love more than myself. Oh God, I thought, as I watched this talk, am I just a giant, floating ego, locked in its own hellish echo chamber?
Mid-freak-out, I moved house. At least I gave the movers a good laugh when they arrived. I ran up to them as they pulled in, frantically shouting, ‘It’s too much stuff! I have too much stuff!’ I told them we might have to leave behind the bed. As it turned out, I had only just enough stuff to take up a very small corner of the delivery truck.
I sat wedged between the movers in the front seat, and they told me they sometimes delivered organic vegetables to my new address. We got talking about lifestyle choices. They both wished they ate healthier, but they were always too tired after their twelve-hour workdays, and had microwave meals instead. They asked me why I was moving. I said it was because I needed some more quiet. The younger guy told me that I had chosen well, because Northland was mostly full of old people. ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘I forgot, there’s a school by your street! You might hear schoolkids.’ I said schoolkids were all right.
The view from my room is mostly trees. When I wake up and look out the window, I see green, with this stripe of sky and power lines on top. And all I’ve wanted to do since I moved in is go for a run in the trees. But I couldn’t find the time the last two mornings. So I decided I would run today, after class.
I’ll admit I was not in a great place after class. I bought a caramel milk and drank it half-crying in the sun, sitting on the concrete step by the drainpipe outside our house. I felt like I was stupid, like I’d talked too much about stupid things, and like I shouldn’t be on this course, etc. But after all that, I did manage to put on my sports clothes and go out for a run.
Running always feels like I’m pressing reset, and I felt more like myself after I got back. Then I started thinking about Liz Gilbert, and how maybe running was my home. But I got fed up with that analogy. I wanted to call up Elizabeth Gilbert and shout, ‘Not everyone is going to have this thing in their life that makes them feel all transcendently like they are where they’re meant to be, Liz Gilbert.’
Then I started to think about how, when I was training for a half-marathon, running sometimes stopped being fun, because I had to do it all the time, and I kept getting scared about the results. But I could still enjoy it, if I managed to forget about why I was doing it, and just lose myself in the motion. So maybe that’s the trick. I’ll try to do that more with writing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
This year, Nicole Phillipson completed an MA in Creative Writing at the IIML. For her folio, she wrote a collection of stories about people trying to understand what it means to be happy and good and how to get there. She recently wrote a children’s picture book about the Christchurch earthquakes called Let’s Take a Walk.