I feel restless.
I hate this feeling, this sense of urgency, of energy undirected that bubbles and bursts inside. I looked around my room today at a couple hundred books, some unread, and spurned them all. Nothing piqued my interest. Not the old, familiar books I know and love, or the new, the strange and unknown books I’ve bought.
This restlessness, this energy that plagues me is best dispersed by writing. I know this, and I’ve used it well before, but sometimes even that isn’t enough. And this day, I had nowhere to diffuse the growing creative bomb, no story to pour it into, no real motivation to even try. I decided to go to a secondhand bookstore, to rummage around old shelves, and even older books, to try and find those forgotten gems; books I’d read in high school, books I never quite got around to buying, or books I’d long heard about but never picked up.
I crawled around the floor, shuffling across the bottom shelves in squinty-eyed urgency. Forgetting to blink, straining past the burning sensation – and still, the energy refused to dissipate. Sometimes it’s more than just the need to write, or to read something that connects to a place deep inside, that salves the burn. If only for a few hours, or a day. It reflects a greater dissatisfaction I have with my life, my job, where I am, and where I need to be.
I often read it characterised as ‘itchy feet.’
This urge comes across, sweeps me up, and says: go somewhere else. Travel. See the world. Live.
And I think about the great writers, the artists, the creatives, the ones that tell you ‘dare to dream’, the ones that say you never get anywhere by being safe, by taking the risk-free route, by not trying. And I think about the things I’m doing, working 9 to 5, paying the bills, the slow, methodical building blocks of a mundane life, and it’s not the same thing. It might be one day, of course; it might be that eventually if I continue to do the responsible thing, and continue to dedicate my free time to this bug, this absurd disease that tells me to write, to tell stories, to be heard, to entertain, that I will get to where I need to be.
I’m not sure.
The struggle between practicality and dreams is one I have every day. Practicality tends to win. That mad impulse never dies though, it keeps coming back, eternal as the tides. In and out. Occasionally, it becomes a tsunami and I’m swept away. Which can be glorious; the adrenaline alone is worth it. It happened in 2010, in December, when on a whim, I bought a ticket to London. I didn’t have the work visa yet, hell, I hadn’t even applied. I had about $3000 at the time. But I did it anyway. A one-way ticket.
And I never looked back. It kicked me into gear, saving all the money I would need, actually getting preparations underway instead of endlessly dreaming. And I traveled. And saw the world. And lived. I didn’t, however, properly take advantage of it the way I should have. I didn’t use that mad rush to write, to network professionally, and I’m okay with that. I’m okay with it having been a purely personal, selfish joy.
Now, however, the storm winds are rising again, the waves surging and I’m about to be swept away. To Canada, this time, probably. I’m looking at scholarships and fellowships abroad, but Canada seems the best bet. I can get a two-year working visa available to young Australians. I can live and work in a different place, can travel and live and write at the same time, unburdened by this deadening office work, this mind-numbing, stress-inducing routine of mediocrity. The challenge will be to ensure I am infusing the adventure with discipline, with the rigorous application of the craft I want to make a living from.
To that end, the Bradbury Method, the challenge of writing a short story every week for the past 4 and a half months, has been invaluable. I’m glad I undertook it, glad it’s forced me into this place. I’m beset by doubts, naturally. Because the end of the adrenaline rush of traveling can leave you feeling empty, hollow, and at the same point in your life as when you started. With little money, and no place to live or go. That risk is both tantalising and terrifying – it keeps you on your toes. And of course, the memories and experiences you get while abroad are priceless, that should go without saying. So it’s not quite fair to say it leaves you at the starting point; it always changes you for the better.
It comes down to this: I have these huge, audacious dreams and beside them, I sometimes feel tiny. Dwarfed by their enormity, and the difficulty in achieving them.
And sometimes you have to take giant leaps to make even the smallest gains. That’s the way I feel right now, stuck in a rut, staring ahead at the gorge. I have to tackle it one way or another. There’s no avoiding it.
I just have to decide which way I’ll jump.