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Panic writing

August 01 2022
© Faranaz © Faranaz

At times creativity, like nature, thrives off of necessity. Backed into a corner with a deadline looming, our deputy editor’s creative faculty springs into action. Words by Mat Amp

OH FUCK. It’s 5:30am on a Monday morning and the hard print deadline for this piece is this morning. The editor has already held up my submission deadline for a couple of days. If you end up writing for this magazine, please remember this isn’t regular protocol.

I first submitted an article for the Pavement about six years ago (It’s probably more like eight if you use the pandemic rule that everything happened X amount of years ago, plus two years that you forgot to count because nothing happened during the pandemic so that time just kind of disappeared). I’m occasionally late with soft deadlines but in that six (probably more like eight) years, I always get my piece submitted in time for the copy to be sent to the designer, who does the layout before sending it on to the printers. This morning was the hard deadline so yesterday, I pulled up my sleeves, gave my typing fingers a good crack and got on with it.

It’s cooler in my bedroom, so I worked at a desk I have in there and instead of unplugging one of the decent computers that I would usually use from the large monitors they are plugged in to on my desk in my living room, I used a crappy old one that I occasionally use for watching telly in bed. I should have abandoned the idea of using that computer when I couldn’t get a stable connection to the internet, especially as I had two other reliable options on the desk in the living room several yards away. Using either of them, by giving me access to the cloud, would have saved every word off-site and ensured against the potential loss of my article if my computer hard drive malfunctioned, or even if my flat had got hit by a stray meteorite.

When I woke up at 5:30am, ready for a bit of last pass editing only to find the hard drive cooked, I kind of wished that there had been some type of natural disaster to hang this on.

Right now it’s about 7am and I discovered this disaster at around 5:30am when I got up early to finish editing the piece that is now trapped inside a Dell Computer – you know the type of junk laptop that Cost Convertors would sell for 40 quid after giving you a tenner for it. In that time I’ve experienced the five stages of grief. Denial: “I’m going to have a coffee because I don’t believe what is happening”. Anger: The longest string of expletives my neighbour has heard since I dropped an old large 4tb drive on to my toe three weeks ago. Bargaining: “Oh please God, if you turn my laptop on now I won't be horrible to Jehovah’s Witnesses that bang on my door at 8am in the morning.” That’s funny, I’m sure I heard a loud echoing voice from the clouds saying “knock yourself out son, I find them incredibly annoying myself”. Depression: “Writing this article seems to have pulled me out of that one”. Acceptance: There is only so many times you can push an on button before you have to accept that it ain’t gonna work.

If the tone of this piece gives you the impression that I’m not taking my plight seriously right now, then please don’t. I was frantic when I found out this morning that I had lost access to it but instead of folding I took my own advice, for once. Anyway, I advised someone last week to get over their writer's block by writing about having writer’s block. By applying that advice to this situation it seems to have given me another article.

Why didn’t I just rewrite the same piece? I hear you ask. Well, it’s difficult to find that creative spark when the fire has already burnt out. It needs something fresh to reignite it and this is that something fresh.

And the process of writing about this situation has been positive for me as well. I’ve been struggling to write at all since the pandemic started and it’s only recently that I’ve got back to a place where I could write a piece like this before I start work on a Monday morning. But it’s not just that. In writing this I’ve put the stress and fear that I’ve been feeling about hitting my deadlines into context. The world won’t stop if I don’t get it done on time (it helps that with every line I write I’m closer to fixing the issue). And in the meantime there is so much I have to be grateful for. When I started writing for the Pavement six (or eight) years ago, I was in a supported living hostel, with no living room or desk in my bedroom. I didn’t own a computer or a smartphone and I felt utterly cut off from anything worth living for.

When I think about it, writing for this magazine has been a major part of my recovery from homelessness. It certainly helped with building the foundation and led to my move in to full-time work.

A few hours ago I was in the depths of a raging panic and you can take your own lessons from anything I’ve written as a result of it. Personally I feel okay now and that’s because I’ve written about it. In fact every stage of my recovery has been helped by reflecting on it in writing. I love sharing these pieces through the magazine but that is only part of it. If you feel like you need to figure something out, write about it. It may just help.