As a new writer, Brexit is tainting all my ideas
I recently secured my first byline.
Writing for online feminism magazine LiisBeth, I boldly announced my exit from the anonymous world of content writing, setting out my intentions for a freelance future in which I was both seen and heard. I suppose you might even say that I was ‘taking back control’.
But, free of the shackles that shuffled me from one dictated brief to another, I now find myself bound by an altogether different kind of creative paralysis.
And yes, I’m blaming Brexit.
Because faced with a blank screen and a clear schedule (once the stuff of dreams), I’m stuck in a state of almost total torpidity; the headline “Brexit Fog Thickens” applying as much to my own internal repository as to the Bank of England’s steadily declining growth markers.
Ah, a simple case of writer’s block then.
Not quite. Thoughts and threads cascade in carefully themed Trello boards; post-its hide in every orifice of the sofa; I have 132 notes on my phone. Imperfect pitches and half-written prompts linger in my drafts folder. Some are potentially quite good, others destined for the self-assessed slush pile — a few would probably land me in defamatory deep water. Trouble is, it doesn’t seem to matter which is which anymore.
With the whole country locked in a never-ending monothematic monologue, it’s no surprise my own decision-making has become a little stagnant.
This week, my 19 month old has started talking. His word-du-jour? “Stuck”.
The official advice for those afflicted by Brexit Burnout is to limit or remove exposure at source. But while I often practice flight-mode flow as a short-term means of Getting Things Done, I also worry about the implications of simply silencing troubling news in the name of ‘self-care’.
After all, sticking our heads in the sand was what got us here in the first place.
And, having publicly spoken out against the gender and pay inequalities in content marketing, I feel a sense of moral responsibility to make sure my first few pieces as a new writer strike a similar tone. If only I could just get started.
But this isn’t just about me and my procrastinatory tendancies. Week after week, motion after motion, locked in an impasse of purgatorial proportions, productivity is suffering a national defeat as we wait for news and absolution.
The omnipresence of BrexitThink and BrexitTalk has also introduced me to that other classic writing affliction — ‘nothing newism’. For what is there to say about the current what-the-fuckery that hasn’t already been expressed by somebody more eloquent and experienced than I (oh hi, imposter syndrome).
I’ve tried taking the least political piece from my ‘to pitch’ list (about families who live on buses — I don’t know, it must have been a George Clarke night) and applying my normally foolproof mantra “just keep writing”. But, alas, even static, long out-of-service roads halt screechingly to a backstop.
Perhaps because I’m incapable of thinking of non-parenting metaphors, but I imagine my particular echo chamber to be a bit like the cave in Julia Donaldson’s ‘The Highway Rat’ — no matter what I put in, the only thing bouncing back is “Brexit. Brexit. Brexit”.
I try all my old block-unlock tricks but nothing works.
Beach walks invariably prompt a reminder of the environmental impacts Brexit will have. RightMove dreaming isn’t quite the same when you realise you recognise that idyllic North Yorkshire farmhouse from a Daily Mail pic of one Nigel Farage’s ‘Brexit Betrayal March’. Even the hallowed #vanlife hashtag has lost its escapist appeal amid rising European nationalism.
Earlier this week (because life can be funny like that), two content writing opportunities landed at my door. Tempted by their easy prescriptivism and billable hours, I almost said yes.
But as I lay in bed — Trello-tabs open all over the shop and Theresa May addressing the nation in the background — I finally realised my mistake.
And started writing.