Having had roughly 6 weeks of no writing, aside from Theatre and book reviews, I’ve started to feel the effects. I’m every so slightly on edge, feeling the pull of something that I know is my creative muse wanting me back at the keyboard. There are a million little projects I have on the back burner, not to mention the growing and unfinished second novel. I think about it every now and then, with a little impatience, a little guilt and a surprising amount of attachment. I want to get it finished. It wants me to get it finished. Yet every other form of procrastination seems to get in the way. I know I’m not alone in this and have had this conversation before with many other writers. Yet I feel a horrible sense of my writing and my writers self slipping away from me, and I can’t let that happen. I’ve grown and changed over the years and yet my writing has remained a constant, a thing that ground me and settles me. Like a kind of therapy with often beautiful results. Even now, I started writing this with the worry that there was nothing to say. Turns out my fingers are leading me on the keyboard once again, the writer is taking over.
So, I’ve taken a week off work to try to remedy the ‘no writing’ time and to organise a new schedule. I need to figure out the writer I am now, the time that I have to put into my work, (which I am hoping will now be more since a few other commitments have come to an end) and to have a final plan to complete my novel. After all a rough draft that needs work is better than nothing. I feel that once this is done, I can take a breath and focus on other projects and new ideas. Until then, I’m being held back by this huge thing that I’m yet to complete. The sense of achievement will be incredible.
Another thing to focus on, in that week, is to get my first novel entered into a few competitions and to outline some new agencies and publishers to try. Something that has also been pushed to the back of my mind when other things have disrupted my time and attention. Having re read the opening chapters while preparing for one such competition, I became engrossed in the story again and realised, although I may have lost faith in myself, I had never lost faith in my characters and my story. I still believe in my work and believe people would like to read my novel. This also made me realise that it’s entirely possible for me to create something just as good in the future. It just means getting back to that mindset, of hard work and self belief. Avoiding the numerous distractions on offer. Maybe I can join a writers group again, attend more open mic nights, vary my reading material.
During the opening of an opera I recently attended with my friend and colleague, I had this awful feeling come over me, that the best of the arts had passed. What if the modern world, with all its distractions, temptations and opportunities for plagiarism and imitation, had no place for genius? What if we had no Shakespeare, or Hardy or Puccini of our time? Is this possible? Is this just my brain in overdrive at the first time exposure to a critically acclaimed work by a talented composer?
Sure we have some fantastic authors, screenwriters, directors, artists, but do we react to them in the same way? Are we in awe of them? Maybe it has something to do with the amount of choice on offer, the competition with so many other distractions. Or the fact that these days, everyone’s an artist, or a blogger, or a director of their own videos.
It got me thinking about my own situation and the need I have for quiet and stillness to create my work. A need which might now need to be artificially created, as opposed to the times when there was no TV, social media, mobile phones, traffic logged streets, but could surely be created if the desire was really there?
So my mission is to re-create this space. To settle back into a writing routine. Also a reading one too. I’ve given up on the current book that was proving a chore to read and not inspiring or exciting me. I’ve turned to a collection of short stories by Daphne Du Maurier, who I’m discovering was a brilliant suspense writer. I’m hoping her work might inspire an idea for a new short story, a project I’ve been meaning to return to for a while. The form would suit my busy lifestyle and challenge my tendency to exceed a planned word count every time! I’d also like to return to poetry, reading and writing it. A recent poetry review assignment, gave me access to a great new poet called Elizabeth Parker, whose debut poetry collection, In her Shambles, really inspired me to return to this genre. Her use of language and often quite simple subject matter reminded me that poetry doesn’t have to be niche or high brow at all. It can and should be completely accessible to all ages and backgrounds. Then, when the idea are flowing, I can perhaps return to a new larger project, a third novel.
Most importantly I’ve learnt that I need to persevere. To listen to that internal voice, that uncomfortable push and pull, and to keep writing. To make time, to relax and enjoy it, because it feeds me, it inspires me, it’s part of me and always will be. Writing is good for the soul, and right now, I need it more than ever.