Tag Archives: feeling like a failure

Nightmare

I woke last night at about three thirty a.m. straight out of a terrifying dream. For long minutes afterwards I was convinced that noises I was hearing in my room, and from the road outside, were part of the dream-vision I’d just been wrapped up in, and it took me a long time to separate them out into their constituent parts. My own breathing. The thud of my heartbeat. A single, trilling song from a solitary (and early rising!) bird somewhere outside. A distant motorbike engine.

Not voices screaming for help. Not the boom of an explosion. Not the cracking of bones.

I’d dreamed I was in the middle of a warzone, and I was being followed. There were guns. There were rocket launchers. There were bodies, and downed planes, and a man with a wide-brimmed hat, his face in shadow, who was everywhere. He had a low-pitched voice and a sardonic tone, and he knew I could never outrun him. There were razor-topped fences too tall to climb, dotted with gates too far apart (and which were locked, in any case), which led me, funnelled like an animal to slaughter, down to the killing fields along with hundreds of other people. Our fate was sealed.

Photo Credit: Takeshi Kawai via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Takeshi Kawai via Compfight cc

This dream was too easy to picture. I see images like this every single day. The news headlines, the papers, the internet, even movies; all of them fed into it. I know having a dream about a situation like this pales in comparison with actually living through it, and I’m not trying for a second to suggest they’re the same thing, but I wonder in some ways whether we’re not all under siege, no matter where we live. If we’re not experiencing these terrors first-hand, we’re experiencing them through our media, 24/7, burning out our minds as we attempt to come to terms with what’s happening in other parts of the world, wearing ourselves thin as we realise that there’s nothing we can do. People are dying, every single day, in abject horror, and there’s nothing we can do.

And I wouldn’t want to swap with them. Not for anything. And that makes me feel like the worst sort of human being.

It took me a long time to fall back to sleep. I was afraid of re-entering that same dream; this happens to me, sometimes. I preferred to lie awake, listening to the night, than to slide back into that dark world. As a result, I’m a bit less than my best today, but at least the dreadful terror passed with the rising sun. The world is back to normal, now. I am lucky, and I know it. For many hundreds of thousands of people the nightmare never ends. I wish, with everything I have, that it wasn’t so.

I’m not the kind of person who thinks dreams ‘mean’ something (as in, they’re not prophetic, or in any way significant, of course – they’re just a by-product of the processes of your mind), but I do think they can reveal a lot about how you’re thinking and feeling. In my case, then, I shudder to think what my dream reveals. It’s strange how you can be living your life, feeling reasonably okay (and having had a great weekend, during which your country felt like Carnival, with the beautiful weather to match!), and yet your mind finds a way to tell you that there’s fear, and doubt, and anxiety, deep inside you which needs to be expressed. I feel rather like a fraud these days: I’m not particularly happy with most of what I’m writing, and the bits I am happy with are going so slowly that they’re practically glacial. My other work is better left unmentioned. I’m worrying about my future, again, and where I’m going – not to mention where the world is going.

Perhaps this dream was a useful wake-up call, in more ways than one. It’s not good to keep trundling on regardless; it’s not good to squash away your fears and stresses, expecting them to just go away. I’ve seen before that this doesn’t work, and I have no idea why I keep doing it.

So, here’s what I’ve learned: I don’t have to write at the speed of the wind just because other writers do. I don’t have to compare myself with anyone else. I don’t have to work in a particular way. I don’t owe anyone anything.

Well, that’s not quite right. I owe myself the sanctity of a peaceful mind. I owe the world my best self. I owe my work – all forms of it – my utmost effort. I owe my mind its best chance at uninterrupted sleep. But I don’t have to explain myself or account for my existence, or feel like an unworthy person. I am not being hunted.

And now. I all calmness and control, it’s time to get back to work.

You Can’t Win ‘Em All

It’s almost time to hang my ‘Gone Fishin” sign on the front of this blog and take a short hiatus for the festive season. I am officially ‘on holiday’ from today; I’ve retreated to my parents’ house, I’m on commis chef duty in the galley, and all those last-minute things that always manage to slip your mind until it’s (almost) too late are starting to pile up.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – but it sure is busy.

And also, stuff like this tends to happen. Image: staceygustafson.com

And also, stuff like this tends to happen.
Image: staceygustafson.com

In some ways, running around trying to get everything done at this time of year is a huge hassle, but in another it’s the best thing imaginable. This year, I think it’s a blessing in disguise for me. My brain needs a break from routine, and I’m glad to be able to give it a chance to refocus.

Maybe you’ll recall me saying that I had a task I wanted to complete before I declared myself off duty for Christmas; that task was to finish the first draft of ‘Emmeline.’ Sadly, however, I did not manage to complete that goal. Over the past few weeks I’ve been hit by two bouts of illness, which knocked me slightly sideways, and even though I’ve been doing my best to work through them I seem to have run out of steam, just a little. I have over 69,000 words of the book written – of course, that’s not to say 68,999 of them won’t be scrapped when it comes to editing time – and I’m happy with my progress, but I’m not happy to have fallen short of my aim. I really wanted to have a conclusion to ‘Emmeline’ written, saved and put away by the time Christmas rolled around, ready to be eviscerated by my editing brain come January.

Now, instead, I have to get myself back into writing mode as soon as my holiday period ends – and already I feel like I’m behind on next year’s work before it even begins.

I like to hit my targets, and I don’t like to make promises to myself – or other people – which I do not manage to keep. So, even though it feels silly to say so, I can’t shake the thought that my not getting ‘Emmeline’ completely finished is breaking my word, albeit only to myself. Having said that, I can honestly say I did my best to get the book finished. As well as that, ‘Emmeline’ has been tying up my mind for weeks now – which is why, in some ways, I think having to take a break from it is a good thing. It doesn’t feel like it right now, but I hope in the longer run it’ll pay off.

I reserve the right to look like this in the meantime, though:

Image: aspirekc.com

Image: aspirekc.com

I’ll probably be too busy over the next few days to even think about my little heroine and her bunch of erstwhile friends, and the fact that I’ve left her hanging in a perilous situation, and the fact that I’ll be sending off a new round of queries to agents in the new year, and entering another competition, and trying to plan my next project (already in the pipeline); at least, I hope so. I think I’d like my head to be filled with baking dilemmas and seating arrangements for Christmas dinner and parcel-wrapping and all those other seasonal disasters that one expects at this time of year. Maybe then going back to ‘Emmeline’ will seem like a welcome change, and the book will be the stronger for it.

The past year has been a crazy one, for me. I started it in the throes of a book which will now never be read by anyone – neither human nor machine – and I finish it with (almost) three other books to my credit, and some encouraging feedback from a few very knowledgeable sources. I started it in a total panic – and I’m pretty much ending it the same way – but I do feel like I have a slightly better handle on the terror now than I did this time last year. I started 2013 wondering if I had the gumption and the grit to see it through, and I finish it safe in the knowledge that I have, and I did, and I will (one day, somehow) prevail. I guess that’s progress, by anyone’s measure.

And so, as I pull the shutters down over ‘Clockwatching…’ for a few days of rest, I want to say ‘thank you’ for reading, commenting, following my faltering progress, and cheering me on. If you’re celebrating Christmas, I hope you and your family have a wonderful time; if you’re not celebrating, I hope you have a fantastic Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. I’ll see you all again next week when I’ll be back to the drawing board, and (hopefully) the Muse won’t have forgotten about me over the Christmas break.

Image: justhappyquotes.com

Image: justhappyquotes.com

And who knows – perhaps Santa Claus will bring me representation and a publishing deal for Christmas… I’ve hung my stocking up, just in case.

Have a peaceful, happy and joyful Christmas, and let’s hope a bright New Year awaits us all.