Maybe you haven’t noticed, but I haven’t written about writing here for quite a while, now. There’s a reason for that.
I’ve been having an extended period of drought. It’s like my brain is spread too thinly, or perhaps it’s as a result of having a lot of things, some of them unexpected, to think about and deal with. Then there’s the fear – you know the one I mean. The fear that everything I write is nonsense anyway, so why bother creating more of it.
I have half-created so many drafts over the past four months, novels which began reasonably, and which I felt had arcs and characters and a story to tell, but which still sputtered out. This happens to everyone at some point or other; I know that, of course. But when it happens over and over again, in succession, it’s bound to have a bit of a dampening effect, both on confidence and productivity levels.
It’s not that I’m not having ideas, as such. I get them, fleetingly, every once in a while. My Notes function on my phone is full of half-cooked flashes that might, one day, become stories, and I’m hopeful that’s a sign my brain hasn’t given up the fight just yet. In fact, one of these ideas has, over the past few weeks, taken on a life of its own inside my imagination – I can see a finished book, full of beautiful line-drawings, and the layout of the text on the pages, and I have a character with a heart-shiveringly lovely name, and I have an Enemy with a complex motive, and I have high hopes for this story.
But I haven’t written it, or even really pushed myself to think about it or plan it out. If the images float into my mind of their own accord, I let them come, but I don’t force them.
I also have another idea which is, at the moment, not ready for committing to paper, but I have managed to complete one important aspect of it, and that is this: a cracking first line. I also have a character name, which seems to be something I really need to get a story to hang together. Then, there’s another story which exists in scraps inside my mind. I also have a cool character name for this one, but I’m not sure yet who it belongs to. Maybe when I decide that, I can move forward with this idea. Maybe.
And maybe nothing will ever come of any of them. That’s something which haunts my thoughts.
So, for the past few weeks, I’ve taken a step back and I’ve started going through some of my other manuscripts, and my older ideas. I had entirely rewritten one book, based on the bones of a previous draft, and it’s far from perfect – but I’d forgotten that it’s actually okay, and there’s usable material here, and I did a lot of work on it before putting it aside which makes me less inclined to want to waste it. However, there’s loads more work still to do. About three-quarters of the way through, there’s a giant ugly weld-mark where the story changes pitch and direction completely, for instance, but I’m currently trying to smooth that out. The end is all wrong. But there are bits in the middle which are actually rather good. Now, of course, nobody has seen this book but me, and it might stay that way, but even if I do whip up a new draft from these old bones and it goes precisely nowhere, I’ll still have proved to myself that I can write another book.
I can write another book. There is hope.
I haven’t felt like much of a writer lately, despite everything. But until that feeling comes back, I’ll just have to fake it. Turn up on my writing days, face the desk, don’t shy away from the work, get the job done. Plough through.
Show up, and the muse will too. It might take her a while, but she’ll come.