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August - September 2022 : Creativity READ ONLINE


Creative writing

May 01 2021

Confronting and (gradually) overcoming grief and writer’s block,
by Mat Amp

Over the last year my creative muscle has withered and shrunk like my nad sack after a dawn dip in a Swedish fjord. My Instagram feed features one post in the last year and writing feels like digging glass out of my foot with a blunt spade. Before you start reaching for your tiny violins, rest assured that I’m not launching into some sad song or looking for sympathy either.

During the first lockdown, feelings from the traumatic shit that happened to me in my past rapidly overwhelmed me. I’d be curled up in a ball sobbing, thinking about my parents. My mum was two days short of her 30th birthday when she died suddenly. My dad was run over by a drunk driver a few years later when he was 48.

Growing up, (it would probably be more honest to use the term ‘getting older’) there was nothing but love in our home. While it was tragic to lose my folks at such a young age, I’ve always felt lucky to have had them at all. It’s something I’ve accepted, so it was surprising to find myself so intensely connected to that loss again. Even more surprisingly, I’ve gradually started to feel less and less. Now I find myself unable to cry.

Facing up to hurtful emotions, problems and difficulties we face can be a daunting prospect. We can and do come out the other side better for it.
© Poppy Burnley

The major reason for writing this column is to share this type of experience in the hope it makes others feel less alone if they are going through something similar, but it also helps me work out what’s going on in my life. As I’m writing this, I realise that feeling less about everything is probably some kind of survival instinct. It’s easier to deal with a detached world when you detach yourself from your feelings.

The silver lining for me is the thing my nan used to bang on about, yer know, ‘that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’. With her words still ringing in my ears (she died nearly 15 years ago but she was very loud) I’m determined to make the most of what’s been an utterly shit year by never taking my friends, or the things I do with them, for granted ever again. I’m gonna roll this lesson up and smoke it like a Bob Marleyesque baseball bat of a dooberoony.

When I was at my lowest point five or six years ago, I pencilled in a date and time to take an overdose. Things started to change for me when a few positive things happened in quick succession. The most important of them was my case worker booking me on a course run by this magazine. I turned up only because she’d gone out of her way for me, and I felt I owed her that much. How screwed up is that?

That course and my subsequent involvement with the Pavement directly led to supported permitted work and then a full-time job.  I’m really not saying that’s what everyone should be doing, but it’s what I wanted. All I had to do was say yes.

For a while after that I said yes to everything. I got into yoga and volunteering, and helped people with odd jobs, like walking the dog, feeding the goldfish or whatever. It was a total pain in the arse for a while because I ended up doing everything for just about everyone, but it worked.

Over the past year though, I’ve gradually withdrawn emotionally and writing this column, something that I usually love, has really been like digging glass out of my foot with a blunt spade. Only, this splinter was in my head and the keyboard has effectively been the tweezers I’ve used to deal with it.

Anyone need their shed painted?