For the first time ever in my writing career, I’m currently riding an unrelenting wave of bitterness. It’s exceptionally unusual for me: I’m ordinarily a happy, optimistic, resilient person who forgets why she’s mad (my husband loves this) and who never holds grudges, simply because they’re just not worth their weight.
But this time, it’s different. I’m not sure if it’s because my current emotional discontent is inextricably linked to something that usually offers me much content (writing) or if last year’s big changes to my body (pregnancy, childbirth) have also impacted my soul.
I just know that for the first time in a long time, I’m in an emotional slump. And it’s just not conducive to getting my second book out on the shelves. Hence the title of this post.
Let me explain –
For a book I am really proud of – even in its first draft form – The Yearbook Committee has given me a lot of grief. Some of it is my fault, like the fact that I decided to write five first-person fiction narratives when I’d only ever written one first-person story before. Creating and getting into the head of five characters – and developing different attitudes, ways of speaking and being, etc – is definitely more work than just worrying about the one.
Some it relates to a whole bunch of stuff that’s out of my control, like the fact that it took six months before I was given the editing notes on it and that commissioning illustrators for the cover art took way longer than expected, which meant that each delay on someone else’s part pushed me further down in my slump and impacted my own ability to work.
But most of it just me not being able to do what every writer says you should do. WRITE. Write even when everything is riding against you, when you have a billion other things on your plate, when life gets in the way and demands your attention – just ignore it all and write.
You’d think that having read this over and over, and shared it just as much via writer memes and interviews both here and on my social networks, that I would have been able to embrace this piece of advice by now. But I just can’t. I can’t do it, I can’t focus, I can’t prioritise. I just don’t know how to treat this job like every other one.
It’s harder to, admittedly. Writing books doesn’t offer regular payments as an incentive. I won’t get my next payment until the book is out on that shelf and my next payment happens to be my last. I’ve got the bulk of it already and the rest is just a little sprinkling of extra cash that I’ll probably use to fund something frivolous.
Also, it’s harder because it can get a little stagnant. When you are surrounded by constant stimulation, on social media and smart phones and TV, and you stimulate yourself by telling stories, you just want to move on to the next project. Tell the next tale, meet the next character, write a new setting. But you can’t, because even though that prior story is written, it’s not reading-ready. It needs to be stripped back, polished and told all over again.
I’m trying to remind myself that this buff-and-polish process is only going to make for a better book. I am also telling myself that everything happens for a reason and there’s probably a really good reason why my book has had its release date pushed back three times.
But really I need to be able to just tell myself that my husband can buy his own bacon and that I don’t have to save face by hanging out with everyone and that I will just have to deal with not having a proper writing space. You know, quit with the excuses and just do what I have to do, because I am the car taking the characters to their next destination and they have no other way of getting there.
Right now, I am not in the best working order, so there have been breakdowns on the road and no end point to the journey in sight. I desperately need a service, but it’s a catch 22. I am sad because I can’t write, and I can’t write because I am sad.
And all that does is leave my characters stranded, my heart a little lost, and my words wasted.