I caught the moment it took hold. That sharp tightening of the back muscles, making them rigid, iron-like, an armour of resistance. I’d suddenly thought of a writer that he used to know. He writes for radio and TV mostly. A kind man, a modest man. I used to see him too. I’ve been listening to one of his adaptations over the last few days. It’s rich, funny and cleverly crafted. And warm. I was running my bath when it came in, that overwhelming feeling of awe at another’s skill. To have made it. To be in the lime-light. And yet. How good it is to write it out. I should do it more often, every day in fact, over and over. It is abstract this. All of it. This imagining-up of other people’s lives and then using those unrealities to judge mine. It is all about accepting. I accept. So easy to write, so easy to say. Is this enough? What is it that you want? To be valued, to be heard, to be noticed? Or is it more about valuing yourself? What would that take?

I talk to myself endlessly when I walk. Not out loud by internally. Weighing it all up. Shedding. I want to shed this skin of ego-wanting. I wanted to shed my sense of an artist self. I wanted to make anonymous work. To step out of the lime-light. Remember? What has happened? Why the seeking still? What is it you are after?

Will it always be like this? Or is this a crossing point? I lay on the couch succumbing to the massage and began to compose a poem. Well, it wasn’t quite like that. That sounds far to grandiose. I am not a poet. I just want to form a series of words. Its been bugging me for months, years, I need to write it out. A morphing of mother into daughter using the images of wasps. I began that short story at the start of my course, what was it three or four years ago. It cooks away inside of me. It needs to come out. You see that is part of it. I don’t know where it is destined. I’ve always had a destination of sorts. I don’t now. So can’t you work with that? That blankness. I think of other artists who’ve reached this stalemate. Michael Landy burning everything and then making those drawings of London’s weeds. So simple. So different from what he did before. Art for art sake. The work is it. Why not just do the work? Why do you need an audience? Why do you need an audience, Ellen? Is it really about the work?

I did my seven times table as I walked. Fifty-six and I am nearing my eighth period of experience. Can I shed? Can I shed my ego skin? What would it be like to be skinless, to be free of it? The glory will never come. It is unreal, it is not real. There is just this, this internal experience of being. That is all there is. And it is enough. Therein lies the richness, the wisdom, the yielding to the not knowing and being grateful for that. Think of your death, he says. Summon it up. See the unreality of it. The fiction of it all. You are nothing. No thing. Just experience. A minute spot. A thought. A moment.

Perhaps there is nothing to understand. Do the work. Write it, write the poem. Sew, write, perform, walk, eat, and breathe. Or if you like just breathe.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.