To add to my seemingly endless list of things about which I should feel guilty, I have added “not writing regularly enough on my writing blog”. I started it with one aim in mind: to describe the ups and downs of the processes of writing and self-publishing. But since, well, you know what I’m talking about, things have ground almost to a halt. I have good days – that weekend immersed in old newspapers was a corker – but the default setting seems to be “meh”. I’ve been kicking myself about it, as the set-up is theoretically brilliant. I can’t go anywhere or meet anyone (and have no children to home-school) so I have long stretches of time that I could fill with writing. But I just can’t get myself going. And – thankfully – it seems that I am not alone.
In her most recent newsletter to readers – which you can subscribe to here – the fabulous and perennially bouncy author Marian Keyes admitted to her own low mood: “And it’s been interesting (one way of looking at it 😉) how I (and I think lots of others) are coping: I’m no longer angry or hopeful or anything really, instead I seem to have managed to muffle most of my emotions and have selected a state of joyless low-level-depressed endurance as my default setting.”
I am a great fan of David Gaughran, who produces marvellous tutorials on self-publishing, and he too has been hit by the bleurghs: “More serious, is that I’ve been unable to read a novel for around a year. I just can’t focus on it. I can gobble up non-fiction, dry marketing posts, technical guides – it’s really bizarre. But give me a good novel and I’ll struggle…. Definitely more concerning again is the effect this has had on my fiction writing. I’m sure these two things are linked, but I’ve really been finding it difficult to make any progress on a number of overdue fiction projects. The words are less of a flowing river and more of a dripping faucet. They are coming… but… in… the… most… annoying… manner… possible.”
And perhaps the best description I have read of the whole sorry situation, which stifles creativity and makes us feel even more guilty about wasting time, was this piece by Alison Flood in the Guardian, called – perfectly – “Writer’s blockdown”. In it, she pinpoints the heart of the problem: to write, particularly fiction, we need both internal mental space and external stimulation. My mind buzzes with anxiety, like low-level tinnitus – it fills up every space, unless I distract myself with utterly mindless telly (I’m re-watching my “Dallas” DVDs – that’s how mindless I need to be). And as for the external stimulation, well, what can I say? I’ve been nowhere and seen no-one. (Each day my biggest decision is: shall I do the boring walk or the tedious walk or the familiar walk or the quick walk?) I meet no-one new and see nothing new – so external stimulation is a goner.
Dismal though that all is, I do take comfort from knowing that I am not alone and that many other writers are battling the same inertia. But the schools have gone back today (I’m in the UK) and my husband is getting his jab next week (I’m a couple of years younger so won’t be far behind) and the daffodils are out, so I feel the stirrings of optimism. And once I can move more freely and think about something other than a virus, “Plank 7” will be back on track.
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