… but it’s already half way through January and I haven’t written a thing until today. I haven’t written anything new since before Christmas, probably since before autumn half term if I’m honest.
I’ve got ideas (lots of ideas). I’ve got interested people who want to read what I’ve written (even if they aren’t publishing type people who want to pay me for the pleasure). I’ve got time (well I have now that Christmas is over and the children are back at school). My desk is tidy. The house is quite tidy. The washing’s on. Tonight’s dinner is sorted … I’m running out of excuses.
For some reason I just can’t get going. So I’ve decided to start by reminding myself why I write and then by trying to understand why I’m suddenly so reluctant.
Why do I want to be a writer?
I suppose I like the sound of my own voice – on paper at least. And I like making up stories and playing with words, maybe I really want to be back in primary school.
Or perhaps I’m a frustrated psychologist. I use my stories to explore motivation and feelings through my characters, to test out the outcomes of their actions in a controlled environment. Of course the best stories are the ones where control is wrested from me.
Most of all, I like the act of creation, of bringing into being something that wasn’t there before – people and places that wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for my imagination and perseverance. Perhaps it’s a sort of Frankenstein complex … The Creature Lives!
The main thing is that I find it enormously fulfilling to develop a story, to put it into my own words, type it up, and then to work and work at it until that story is the best I can make it. So that I can make my reader really feel for my characters and their predicaments and share some of my own emotion, be it joy, sadness, horror or just a wry amusement.
So what’s going wrong?
Why am I so reluctant to get started again?
Last year I finished my first full collection of short stories. And I am very proud of them, both individually and as a whole. My original intention was to publish them myself on Kindle, but I was persuaded that I should try to find a ‘proper’ publisher as this would mean I had a ‘real’ book to my name. So I’ve been trying, because something small and shy inside me agrees that if I can’t find a professional third party who wants to publish my stories then maybe I should just keep them to myself.
I also started writing something bigger, something that started life as a short story, grew into a novella and that I secretly hoped would become my first novel. This felt more serious than any project I’d previously undertaken. So I decided to put a lot of work into planning. I have the whole thing plotted, the characters mapped out, settings visited and described. I read a pile of books for research (see earlier blog – Research: the Ultimate Displacement Activity?). I tried out different sections in different tenses and points of view and I’ve worked on the voice until my subconscious has ear-ache. But, even though I love this story and I dearly want to tell it, I dread every time I sit down at my keyboard and try to write the damn thing.
My children’s writing has been running a little more smoothly. The StoryVine writers’ group is going from strength to strength – we ran two lovely storytelling sessions at the Warwick Words Festival last year and have just been booked to appear at the Stratford Literary Festival in April. But the search for a publisher for my picture book stories and the steady stream of rejection letters (three in as many days just before Christmas) is sapping my enthusiasm.
I could give up. The house hasn’t been this tidy for years, my children are properly equipped for school each morning and mealtimes are considerably more predictable and appetising. I’m not unhappy now I’m not writing. In many ways I’m calmer and easier to get along with.
Perhaps I’ve just been playing over the last few years and now it’s time to move on to something else. Perhaps I could be something else. Or end up like the title of my collection: The Woman Who Never Did.
If I still want to be a writer then I need to rediscover the joy of creating for its own sake. I need to remember the pleasure of sharing my work without bothering so much about pleasing the professionals. And I need to seek out the fulfilment that comes from making my stories as good as they can be without worrying about whether or not they will be judged ‘marketable’.
Am I a writer?
Time to find out.