Fishing for mojo

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For the first time in over a decade I am struggling to write. Even this blog feels like it’s being ripped out of the deepest agonies of the soul and the words don’t want to come.

It’s not just the Major Life Event. It’s also because I’m between projects; I finished my latest draft of my latest novel just before Christmas, and don’t know what I’m working on next. My attempts at a new novel have stalled, and whilst I have plenty of ideas circling manically around my mind, I can’t seem to latch onto anything. If I were in the middle of something I could snatch half-hours to add odd words and I wouldn’t feel quite so much like I was failing.

This is a torment. I love writing, love creation, and right now I don’t seem able to grasp hold of anything. I know it’s just a phase, a passing moment of enforced downtime. But that fear is constantly buzzing in my ears: what if I’m burnt out? What if I’ve lost the spark? Major Life Event notwithstanding, this is the ideal time to write: I’ve time at home; the MLE’s at her sleepiest; the wife is taking frequent naps. It’s not going to get any easier than this. This is prime writing time. Why aren’t you using it?

I am my own worst enemy.

Intellectually I know that this will pass. Things will get clearer. I will carve out a new routine. But emotionally all is doom and despair. I have no writing career from which I can take a year out. I don’t want to let down my social media followers (which is massively ridiculous; I’m hardly that egocentric. But I don’t want to lose any momentum I may have gained. Which may also be ridiculous, but still).

I need to take a proper break and let my spiralling mind settle. Things will get better. I just need to go fishing for mojo and then I’ll be feasting on productivity again.

With apologies for the random, half-formed images and metaphors.

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Rewiring

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Baby Lyra is home. The sleepless nights have begun. And I find myself facing a new challenge: how to abandon all old patterns of production and learn to write afresh.

I’ve written before about the value of routine, and habit, to creativity. I’ve waxed at length about how I’ve trained myself to sit at my desk at this particular time and crack on, to get down to it; to shape my brain to operate with the parameters of work and wakefulness. The more you do it, the more you expect to focus at a certain time, the easier it is to pick up and run.

Now I have to retrain myself to take opportunities as they present themselves; in those blissful snatched moments when Lyra is asleep but I’m not. I have to forget the years of mental discipline and work out how to be ad hoc, to be ad lib, to take my splintered moments and make the most of them. Because every second spent thinking of a project is a second you move further forwards. I’ve been advocating a way of working for years. Now I have to forget all that and start again.

I hate not working. To put it another way, I enjoy idleness so much that I fear not working. I now have the perfect excuse to sleep in, to prevaricate, to put everything else first. I have to say to myself that will not do that – whilst at the same time not being so hard on myself as to not give myself the much-needed leisure and relaxation time that everyone needs.

I’m sorry if this post is seeming rambly and unfocused: if it does then at least it’s an accurate representation of my mental state. The important thing for me is to write something.

Maybe next time I’ll be able to write something good.

Lyra

By the time you read this my carefree childhood days will be a thing of the past. Adulthood will have taken a good, hard look at me, scowled and kicked sand in my face before leading me off into the great sunset that is Responsibility. Because of this:

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Lyra Sibella Keynton Triggs. Despite appearances, she is not The Pope. Yet.

You can’t say the hints weren’t there: all the talk of ‘taking six months off work’; of ‘becoming an adult’; of my life changing. Something’s been a-brewing but I’ve not wanted to talk about it directly – partly for fear of jinxation, partly because I’ve maybe possibly been in denial, but mostly because that’s not what this blog’s about.

They say that everyone’s allowed one parenthood post. They can have one opportunity to gush; one chance to say how their kid is the best – better, even, than all the other ‘best’ kids out there. Well this isn’t it. This blog’s to talk about writing. Thing is…

Thing is, how can you talk about writing when you don’t know what shape your life will take for the next year?

Lifestyle affects writing. It’s obvious and it’s true. You can’t sleepwalk your way through a novel: you can’t (yet) download your thoughts directly onto paper or video your dreams. You need time, you need a certain degree of consciousness, you need routine, focus and direction. A wee bub challenges all these things.

Of course, it’s perfectly possible to write a novel with a small child in proximity. I’ve read a good handful of interviews where the starting point for the novelist was the sleeptime of the child. I had a Twitter exchange with Aliette de Bodard where we jokingly mooted writing an article on the problem/opportunity of writing with a smallrus in tow.

I know nothing of this yet. That it will affect me and my writing is not in doubt: the question is whether it will prove boon or bust.

In the short-term all I ask is that you be gentle with me. I don’t know what’s going to change. Maybe this blog will become more erratic. Please understand that I’m not abandoning you, that I’m still out here, across the cyberverse, doing my damnedest to produce wonderful words and wilful witticisms.

But Lyra comes first. And the wife. And sleep. After that – well, after that we’ll have to see.

The ruts

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If you’ve been following this page for a while you might be wondering where all my posts on ‘real’ writing have gone. I’ve been blithely blithering on about proofreading, world-building, and all sorts of tangentialities and not once getting to grips with my own work. There is a reason for this. It’s because I’m stuck.

Just before Christmas I finished the fourth draft of Oneiromancer. It is as good as I can make it – or, at least, as good as I can make it right now. I’m under no illusions that it’s perfect (whatever that means) but I can’t work on it further without feedback and without a decent break.

Next on my mental ‘to-do’ list was to go back to the ‘problem child’ novel: Australis, the second in my Antarctic trilogy. But I just can’t face that right now. I need to move forwards, so January found me playing around with a new project: a cyber-thriller that, as yet, has no title. Also no plot, characters or direction.

It should come as no surprise to hear that I’ve got nowhere. I need to have at least an end-point in mind – something to write towards. Without that I have nothing.

There’s been litres of ink spilled on the subject of writers’ block. I’m not going to add to that here because I don’t think I have it – hell, seeing as no-one can actually agree what it actually is and whether it even exists, adding my own tuppeneth seems somewhat superfluous. But I am stuck, or at least stalled.

My problem, as I see it, can be interpreted in two ways. Either I’ve been lazy, not really applying my mental faculties to working through my storyline, or I’ve had so much on my mind that there’s not much room left for creativity.

The good thing is that there are far worse things in life than taking a month out. I don’t have deadlines. I don’t have the pressure to produce: I do what I do because I want to; because the joy of writing is transcendent, the kind of high that I imagine elite athletes get when they’re in the ‘flow’, when instinct lets you do things that you’d never be able to if you sat and thought it all through beforehand.

The other thing is that I’m working through obstacles in my personal life: things that have been filling my brain, that are important but not conducive to creativity. I’m slowly clawing my way into becoming an adult. I have my driving test on Wednesday: at the moment my dream-time – when I lie in bed awaiting sleep – is full of mirror, signal, manoeuvre and fantastic worlds have been squeezed out.

I am hard on myself. I consider time spent not writing as time wasted. This is not the case. Things have been tricky recently but they will resolve soon. If you’re in a similar position maybe you need to reprioritise, reassess, reboot. The ties will release. Things will get better. You will write again. Believe that.

I’ll have had my driving test by the time this is posted* and we’ll see where we stand then. Then there’s just the small matter of –

No, I’m not going to talk about that. That’s for next week’s blog.

 

*Failed. Cloud not lifted. Bugger.