Writing, Stress and Escapism

Today my Facebook newsfeed is covered with posts about A Level results day. It brings back memories of last year, when I was receiving my results. I had been consistently  underachieving throughout my A Levels, but with some retakes and hard work, I had hoped to make it into my insurance university choice.

The day came and I didn’t get into university. As it turned out, I bombed the exam I had been least worried about and was one UMS short of the grade I needed in that subject. I sent off for a remark, and spent a week applying for apprenticeships, JSA and carefully avoiding all my friends who were celebrating their excellent results.

My remark came back, and I had managed to get the grade I needed. That, my friends, was the first time I cried with relief. Despite my shaky start, I’m loving uni, and managed to get a high 2.1 this year.

However, I felt the whole situation summed up my final year of A Levels pretty well. I constantly felt like I was being tested, (which I guess was true, we were assessed pretty much every week,) and I felt like I constantly had a teacher watching over my shoulder, telling me I needed to do better, like I didn’t already know that I needed to do better.

Add that to my three failed driving tests, various friendship/relationship breakdowns and I can say that year was horribly stressful, to the point where I felt ill. This was also the year that I really got into writing my novel.

Without a doubt, the two things are related. I desperately needed a project where I could escape, one that I didn’t feel judged on. Something that was completely for myself, and did not necessarily have an effect on my entire future. Eventually, I very reluctantly let my sister view my work, and the fact she was supportive meant so, so much at the time.

To be honest, sometimes blogging means I lose the feeling that my writing pieces are a chance for me to escape, but to be fair, I’ve not much to escape from these days, given how much I love my course and the environment at uni. It’s good to know, though, that if I ever feel that same stress again, I know where I can leave it behind.


The Library Book Project – 04 March 2008

For more information on this project, click here.

I narrow my eyes at the clock on the wall, calculating how long it will take me to finish this exam paper. It’s only been half an hour and I’m about two thirds of the way through my multiple choice question booklet. I know I’m in for a long wait at the end. I sigh, but not too loudly. The air in the sports hall is the kind of cold that goes to your joints, making the hard seats feel harder, the desk more unforgiving on your elbows.

When I’ve finished the questions, gone through them once and gone through them again, I take a sideways glance at my classmates. Most still appear to be looking through the paper, but a couple are idly arranging their stationary, clearly as bored as I am. I almost feel guilty for not going through my paper for the fourth time. After all, I’m a second year student now. This is the first round of exams that count towards the final degree result. This is my final exam of the season, and the stress gave way to weariness a week ago. Weariness bred apathy. I just want this over with.

When we’re finally released from the sports hall, my friends and I have the usual natter about how the exam went, then I begin to walk home. I pull my coat around me, but the chill is still nipping at my fingers. It’s mid-February, and spring hasn’t even stuck its nose out yet. The flat is much warmer, but I dread the think of the heating bill. My housemate, Sara, greets me. She’s playing with the iPod touch her parents gave her for her birthday.

 Sara’s the kind of girl who doesn’t have to worry about heating or electricity bills. That’s why the TV is still on, a commentary of Obama’s success in the Columbia and Maryland primaries running pointlessly in the background, while her earphones are still in. Her parents pick her up out of every scrape. I couldn’t believe it when she came home a couple of weeks ago with that iPod touch. It must have cost a fortune. I don’t know anyone else that has one. I’ll admit, I’m jealous.

I sit in my room and realize that I don’t know what to do with myself. I can’t get rid of that exam season niggle, the one that tells you that you need to be revising and making notes. I could drown it out with alcohol and pizza, call my friends and organize a little end of exam party, but the truth is I’m broke. Instead, I wrap myself up a little warmer, put my coat back on, and take a little walk.

The town centre isn’t far away, and as I weave in and out of the pavement traffic, I realize that I don’t exactly know where I’m going. I think about going to McDonalds. As poor as I am, I can afford a big mac as an end of exam treat. I walk down the street and noticed the library. I’d forgotten about this place. I’d signed up for a card just after I first moved in, but never took anything out.

I want to kill time, and since I can’t afford new books, I wander inside. They don’t have a large collection, and I feel awkward walking past all the shelves, knowing I need to stop somewhere and take a proper look at what’s on offer.

An orange spine catches my eye. The white writing reminds me of a coca cola bottle. I pick it up, interested.

Having Doubts About Everything


A “compliment” slip from Anatomicals. (Possibly the best skincare company I’ve ever come across.)

I went back to my parent’s house for a few days recently. I say I went back to my parent’s house. I saw them for about a day and then spent the rest of my time with a close friend. I had a really nice time overall, but one of the first issues I faced was that my sister also came home and essentially told me that my housemates had been saying things about me behind my back. (To clarify, she lived in the house as well until recently, so has known my housemates for longer than me.)

This really threw me off, as I would say that for a student house, we get along pretty well most of the time. Things aren’t perfect, but when you’re in a house with four other girls (and only one bathroom!), you’re generally just grateful that you aren’t screaming tearfully at each other or trying to rip each other’s hair out.

It made me feel like I didn’t really want to come back, but I realized that it wasn’t the end of the world. 1. My sister is one of those people who have a  tendency to take things you say and make them sound about one hundred times worse. 2. Yes, there was a period when I was ill, when I was busy with NaNo, when I was waiting for an appointment at the breast cancer screening clinic, when housework was not my priority. I can understand why my housemates may have been frustrated about that. If they said anything, it probably wasn’t personal.

And then, a few days later, I went out with my friend and got terribly drunk. And it was very fun at first. But then I kind of hit that moody, depressed state which I’ve never experienced before. The one where you wonder what you’re doing with your life because:

A. You still don’t have a job because you’re a lazy fuck and nobody wants to employ you and why am I so useless and oh god.

B. You’re really not that smart either. You’re not dumb, you got a 2.1 this year after all, but that’s still not a first.

C. You are surrounded by the absolute dregs of society, including some freaky stranger who keeps coming up behind you and putting his arms around you and trying to kiss your neck and arrrrgghhh leave me the fuck alone!

D. You’re a terrible writer. A real stinker. What are you playing at, spending so much time on wordpress and pretending people care about what you write?

E. Your housemates hate you. Maybe they’re right and you are a horrible, terrible person.

And, I’m absolutely sure that a lot of people on here can empathize with D. Not because they’re bad writers, just because they have doubts. Even famous authors have doubts about their work sometimes. 

I guess there’s no big secret to suddenly gaining confidence in your work. It takes time. I think it’s all about practicing and not giving up.

Oh mighty users of WordPress, what is your opinion?