I’m sure many of you have been in this position yourself; you’ve had an idea, you can’t stop thinking about it, possibly for years, and you finally decide to just get-that-shit-done! You then set yourself up, apparently for success with all of the over-planning, to find the blankness of your idea staring back at you with nothing coming from you to fill it. This is where I was with starting an unknowingly doomed blog this time last year.
For years I could not stop thinking about starting a blog and then last year, in a fit of “fuck it”, I’d decided to just bite the bullet and get it all started, with no clue as to what I wanted to write about. I had absolutely nothing planned and nothing, in particular, I felt I could conjure to write about. The blog ended up being a rather melancholy poetry blog, which was something I never wanted, so a few months ago I deactivated it feeling like a failure.
Over the past months of stewing over it, I’d managed to convince myself that I have no selling point, no niche, no central focus to write about or to share with the world. I know there will be those in my life kindly thinking “of course you have something to offer, Hannah!” For the faith and support that those people have offered all throughout my life – I am more grateful than you will ever know!
That being said, I need to admit to the fact that I am a generalist by nature and it really is to my discredit. I’m someone whose fear of missing out has meant that they’ve not become particularly skilled or knowledgeable about any one thing. I know a little about a lot – but not a whole lot about anything specific or useful. Sure, I have my interests, but I struggle to even engage with them for the most part.
I have always wanted “to write” but then have never actually completed a project that wasn’t for school, university or for work. For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be someone who used writing as their way of experiencing the world and sharing what they discovered along the way. I’ve wanted to have the freedom to explore my passions for history and literature through my own writing whether it’s through travel, scripting dramas or documentaries, or by publishing some historical novels.
Well now I have that freedom, though some might argue that I always have done, but my brain is struggling to get into gear whenever I decide to sit and write anything. My “passions” have lain pretty dormant in recent years and, ultimately, the thoughts that keep rattling around in my head are “what the fuck have I got to offer”, “I don’t even know that much about my own interests” and “why can’t I just pick one thing to focus on already?”.
The answer to the last of those thoughts is that I am an extremely picky person when it comes to committing to hobbies, projects or even career aspirations. I’ve dipped my toes into a lot of ponds and thought the water felt pretty nice but still had that twinge of “surely, there’s another one that will feel quite unlike any of these”. Then, predictably, I stop myself from diving in – or even going in waist deep to get a better feel of it.
Oddly enough, I am super committed when it comes to my personal relationships and what I promise to another, but I just can’t seem to commit to anything that might benefit me and only me. I can’t seem to pick one thing to pursue and I am pretty certain that it’s out of the fear of one day realising that I’ve put myself into a cage that I can’t get out of but I can look out at what my other possibilities could have been and then feel haunted by them.
I’ve wanted to try a great many things, visualised myself doing so much, received assurances from family and friends insisting that I’d be so good at this thing, or that thing and, even though I have given most of them a go, I’ve not quite settled into any of them, despite the enjoyment each of them has actually brought me in some way. It’s always the same, isn’t it? The perfectionist keeps on searching and never finds what they’re looking for and so never gets anything done. No perfection and, more importantly, no creation.
So what’s changed? What’s got me writing now? Where am I heading with all of this?
In all honesty? I haven’t a fucking clue! All I know is that I need to get out of the “constantly searching” trap, make the most of what I have and turn it into something, anything!
For those who haven’t read The Bell Jar, the plot follows Esther, a young and educated woman, on her descent into depression and her subsequent treatment in an American asylum. So much of the narrative reflects my own way of thinking, which wasn’t an entirely comforting revelation when I remembered that The Bell Jar is semi-autobiographical and that Plath had gone on to commit suicide.
It did, however, do something that I did not expect but was absolutely welcome! It forced me to acknowledge my non-committal way of thinking and to see what my options in life really are. It was one passage in particular that hit the nail on the head, Esther’s reflection on the fig tree tale:
“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar.
Once I’d finished that passage I immediately began imagining what my own fig tree looked like: one fig was a screenwriter, another fig was a stay-at-home novelist, yet another was a medieval studies PhD student, another was a mother and the final fig was an adventure writer. And then I began to visualise all of my figs, that I’d never picked, rotting and falling at my own feet. All wasted, none tasted. I had no intention of turning this visualisation into a rhyme, but I was actually devastated. I was devastated that the realisation of just how much of my life I’ve already spent without picking any of fruit on my very own tree – and I was already starving. Over the past few years, I’d already begun feel myself wasting away.
Despite having been told to simply choose one option and see how it goes many times in my life, I’d never quite read it in this context before. Admittedly, I’ve always been more impressionable to wisdom in writing as opposed to it being spoken directly to me, but this had hit me in a way that nothing else had. A mirror was put in front of me and it showed me the ugly truth: I have let my own indecisiveness paralyse me. As devastated as I was at this realisation, it was surprisingly liberating but it still presented me with a crisis.
What do you do when you can’t decide on which fig to eat, but you know you have to pick one to stay alive? My answer my sound exhausting and delusional but hear me out, and please try to hold in any fig-bowel-diarrhea related jokes for now.
I’m going to eat them all! That’s right, I’m going to taste all of the figs on my fig tree and see what comes of it. It may sound crazy and unmanageable but I’m actually serious. I may not be able to fully finish each fig – and in the literal sense I mean that I may never get a PhD in medieval studies, or travel everywhere, or write an award-winning script or novel – but I can make it part of my life to make the most out of each interest without fear of what might happen, or not happen.
My intention now is to give blogging another go and to share my journey of re-engaging with my curiosities, even if they don’t turn me a medievalist, a screenwriter or a novelist. Basically, I’m just going to start eating figs and keep going until I’m full, or simply start shitting everywhere…
This may all kick off and develop slower than your average blogger but, as another groundbreaking but tragic voice, once said:
“No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.”
– Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own.
Have any of you struggled with your own indecisiveness? Has the idea of “finding your niche” left you scratching your head? Let me know in the comments!