Why I haven’t been writing (or have I?)

This is writing. It is. Shut up.
This is writing. It is. Shut up.

Since writing about my writing process, I haven’t written anything. Of the novel, I mean. I’ve written blog posts, I’ve written notes (for this novel and future novels), but I haven’t actually done any of the writing I was hoping to do.

And I know why. I’m currently out of contract and while that’s scary, it’s also been freeing. At the beginning of the year, I told myself to write whatever I wanted and immediately became more productive than I have been for ages. And, more importantly, I was enjoying writing more than I had done for ages. I was actually choosing to write, rather than sitting at my desk thinking “I’d better do some writing…”

Then – brilliantly – I heard from a couple of people who may be interested in the novel I’d been writing. Perfect! Not only was I enjoying writing, but there may actually be some reward at the end of it. I finished the first draft and told the people when they would be able to read it. I said “Oh the second draft shouldn’t take too long…” and that was it. I jinxed myself. I haven’t been able to work on it since.

I told myself it was fine, I was making notes and then I’d get on with the actual hard work. We had a week away planned and I knew the house we were staying in didn’t have a TV so obviously that would be a brilliant place to get on and do it. But when it came down to it, it still didn’t feel right. I didn’t want to do it. And I know it’s because I’m worrying about other people reading it. I’m second-guessing their comments. As I’m reading over my writing, I’m hearing their voices questioning me about the characters and the setting and the plot. And it makes me not want to write.

But in the meantime – while I haven’t been writing – things have popped into my head that are perfect for the book. They seem to come out of nowhere – it’s not like I’m having a good think about one of my characters and suddenly I get an insight, no, it’s more likely that I’ll be in the shower or watching TV or out for a walk or having a glass of wine and all of a sudden a little voice in my head says something like “Grayson’s scared of cheese!” and I go, “Oh! Of course he is!” (Grayson isn’t actually scared of cheese. Yet.)

Still writing...
Still writing…

I’ve also read some stuff that’s incredibly helpful for the book. Some things in books I’ve been reading for research, other things elsewhere (like a blog post a friend RT’d* that was exactly what I needed – thanks, Anne-Marie!).

One of the things I read was Deborah Moggach’s Rules for Writing in The Telegraph and this one resonated:

Don’t be daunted. Writing a novel is a huge adventure; when it’s going well it’s more fun than fun. When it stutters to a halt put it aside. Go for a swim, go for a walk, take a week off. Don’t panic or be afraid; you and your characters are in it together. Trust them to come to your rescue. Of course it’s a long haul, but you always knew that, didn’t you?

I did know that and I’m fine with it most of the time. But when I know someone is waiting to read it… Not that I think anyone’s constantly refreshing their inbox, desperate to hear from me. I think it’s more that I said “La la la, it won’t be long” and my natural praise whorishness wants to get it to them quicker than quick. So they’ll be impressed with me. Bleh. Also, I feel a little bit like I’m letting my characters down too – like they’re standing in the novel, looking out and going “Get on with it, woman!”** – and god knows I want them to like me.

Another thing I read while not writing was Prosperity Pie by Sark. She writes: “In India, there is a concept that the timing of a thing is more important than the thing itself. If you do something at a prescribed time, you will not be successful if the energy isn’t right. If you set off on a trip at the wrong time, or with the wrong energy, certain things may occur that wouldn’t have had you waited.”

And I think that may be exactly what it is for me. If I try to force my writing, I resist. If I relax and just let it come, I find the whole thing much easier.

And now I think I may be ready to start writing again. Possibly. I’ve just ordered myself a new laptop – “I can’t write in the house! I need a laptop!” is absolutely one of my procrastination stages, yes, but I figure if I buy one I can’t use it as an excuse anymore. Plus I got it on a Buy Now Pay Later thing, so I’m hoping I’ll be motivated enough to at least earn the money to pay for it. I’ll get back to you on that.

* So often I see the perfect thing at the perfect time on Twitter and I think “How lucky that I was on Twitter right now and saw that, I could easily have missed it.” But then I wonder about all the perfect things I’m missing when I’m not on there. You know, when I’m asleep.

** Is this mad? Do I even have to ask?

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7 thoughts on “Why I haven’t been writing (or have I?)

  1. As always, Keris, it’s as if you peered into my mind and wrote down my thoughts and feelings, but with, you know, more eloquence… (Do you actually share my brain? I am starting to seriously consider the possibility.) I am writing under contract (for the first time ever) and knowing that people will definitely read what I’m writing makes my – always tricksy – ‘process’ even harder. Thank you for writing this and for letting me know (again) that I’m really not alone. xx

  2. Oh, that “people are waiting on you” thing is a killer. I haven’t had it yet for a book I’m writing, but I have for other writing, even book reviews and interviews, and it just completely makes me go on a go-slow. Last year was a complete nightmare because of it. I drew back from all of that towards the end of last year and said that this year, I was just going to do my own thing. Result: much better year (so far!) and a much happier Kath.

    If you’ve been coming up with things that are perfect for the characters and the book on your downtime, I can’t help thinking that you needed it – and, if you’re out of contract, you may as well enjoy the fact that there is no pressure on you to deliver by a deadline, surely?

    1. It makes such a difference, doesn’t it? I think I’d forgotten because I’ve been under contract for four years, so I’d got used to it… sort of. But then having a break from it was so nice (while I of course appreciate how lucky I was to have the contract)…

      Yes, I do think I needed it, but I also know myself well enough to know I’ll keep telling myself I need it when it’s really just an excuse not to write, you know? Gah!

  3. I froze up like mad when it came to doing my first big rewrite for my last novel (which was out of contract). I knew I should be racing to get it done while people were interested in it…but then people would READ it! And MAKE DECISIONS! And what if they didn’t LIKE it? What if what if what if – ? There was actually so much weighing on it, for me, that it completely paralyzed me.

    I finally got over it, but only after I’d taken more than a month off, and then only in a blind rush, so that I couldn’t take the time to think about things and get scared again.

    Sooooooo much empathy! You can absolutely do it.

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