Glorious is the thought going through my mind as I face a week and a half of “free time” (well, not entirely — there will still be mornings here and there of work in the office, but I get a blessed week off from the major lifting). It has been such a busy summer for me that I welcome a slowing down of time, long afternoons in which I can write.
A few months ago, midway through my current work of fiction it occurred to me that the book needed to undergo a rather significant change, from third person into first. I ignored that inkling and continued working on it, noticing that my enthusiasm and pace were slowing. Even though what I had written was good, deep down I knew it wasn’t what it was supposed to be, but I was not certain how to change it, or what it should become. Inspiration abandoned me and left me in despair. Fortunately, though, breakthroughs are inevitable and liberation came with my total acknowledgment that the book had to be abandoned. Not entirely, as it is going to be rewritten into the revision, as much of it as I can salvage, but enough that in the course of a single afternoon I went down from 150 pages to 2. That 2 is now 10, thanks to a few afternoons of focused effort. The problem seems to be fixed — I figured out what was wrong (third person, not a good plan for this series, and my main character is now much younger, so I can ease into the young adult genre with this book as well) and set about remedying it. I even managed to be satisfied about the opening line, which normally is the bane of my literary existence.
I’ve always thought that being an author was a little bit like playing God, and that as such, it should give us greater understanding of Him. After all, we are creators of our own little worlds and characters and sometimes must let them suffer the consequences of their choices. But the plain fact of the matter is that God never has writer’s block, whereas we do. I’m of the surly sort of writer who if she cannot write, either through a lack of time or a lack of inspiration, the entire world becomes a dark abyss into which no glimmer of light penetrates. My lack of creativity rapidly turns into a form of depression and I cease caring about the world in general, other than the people who irritate me most (and they tend to be more annoying in those times… hmm, wonder why?). This summer was a yo-yo of such emotion, because I knew the book wasn’t working but plugged away at it anyway because I hate to admit defeat. So I would have an afternoon of tremendous success and literary genius that left me feeling good… followed by a week of dread at returning to the manuscript, because I had no idea what to do with it. Not only that, this literary befuddlement spread into other areas of my life — it left me disinclined to write much of anything, which for me is a disaster, considering that 70% of my time must be dedicated to writing in some form.
You may hear in creative writing classes that the best thing to do when you have writers block is to push through it and write anyway. If you are anything like me — don’t. That is how you end up miserable and dissatisfied with your work. If it isn’t working, leave it alone for a few days and go back to it. If it still isn’t working, seriously consider whether or not this is what you are meant to be writing right now. Because either your initial idea wasn’t good enough to carry it through or it has become apparent that there isn’t enough inspiration in the angle you were working from to make something decent out of it. There are times when the idea simply works, it clicks and almost writes itself, and other times when I approach a topic with the best of intentions only to have all my creativity fail me. Anyone else could read the result and think it was good, because in a purely writing sense, it would be good. But I always know if it is or isn’t working, and in the cases when it isn’t, I sometimes am forced to abandon it. This makes me a compassionate editor and not inclined to bite anyone’s head off if their submission comes in from a different angle than they intended. It happens.
Speaking of writing, submissions are flooding into my inbox for this issue of Femnista, and I have most of the ones I have received formatted already. What a wonderful exploration of literary and cinematic sleuths! My only concern at the moment is doing the subject material justice with decent layouts, but I’m happy with the layouts I have designed thus far. I am also stocking up on reviews for this weekend. I finally managed to make it through Gormenghast, a miniseries I tried watching multiple times in younger years and couldn’t take it. (Pratchett, I think, has changed me in that regard, and I’m not so keen to dismiss outright absurdity as I once was.) I also freaked myself out right and proper this afternoon with Michelle Dockery’s version of The Turn of the Screw (with Dan Stevens… same actors, same time period, I’m shocked no one has incorporated any clips into Downton Abbey music videos yet). I’m totally behind on all of my shows this week, having spent the last few evenings diving into new costume drama discoveries but… who cares?