Thursday 8 December 2011

I probably shouldn't be saying this in public, but ...

I'm worried. About my writing. Should I admit stuff like this in public? Probably not. But I know that the reason you come here and read my blog is because of my blatant honesty. So here goes ...

I haven't done any writing since I finished the final revisions on my second novel. That was -- GASP! -- six months ago now I think. I'm so desperate to write. SO DESPERATE. It's not that I don't want to, it's just that I keep putting everything else, and everyone else, first. And I keep validating those things as excuses.

I suppose I could just put my foot down and choose to write instead of reading blogs, or choose to write instead of doing a guest post for String Bridge, or choose to write instead of reading Vine Leaves submissions, or choose to write instead of keeping up-to-date on social media, or choose to write instead of reading an ARC for the sake of providing an endorsement, or choose to write instead of critiquing and/or editing others' work for free ... I could go on. But the truth is ... all those things are important too. They are all a part of my "job" now. They are all a part of what an author needs -- AND WANTS -- to do, to stay in the game.

And now there's another factor. I've just signed a 12-month contract for a position as Editorial Project Manager for an English Language Teaching company, which I will be doing from home. FULL TIME.

I'm scared. I'm SO scared, that another year is going to slip by, and I still will not have written another word on my third novel, Muted. I only have the first chapter. Six months. Sitting on a first chapter. That's. Not. Good. An what's worse? This time I need to do research. RESEARCH. Never had to do much of it before, other than a few Google searches to check my facts. But the research for this is extensive. And it has to be done, for it to reach its full potential. But can I even bring myself to open the books I bought for this very purpose? Nope. I'm being muted by MUTED! What the hell is wrong with me?

You people with kids ... how do you do it? How do you take advantage of that spare half an hour and write? I can't do that. I need at least 3 or 4 hours to really get a rhythm going. I'm slow. And I think a lot. Maybe too much. But that's how I do it, and it works. Well ... did work. Will I ever have that time slot again? And if I do, will I choose to write, or watch TV snuggling up to my partner on the couch, because he and I both know, we need that, too. To stay sane. And to have us time.

I didn't think I would be like this. I never thought life would get in the way.

But it is. Life is being one big mother-f#@%ing obstacle right now.

And I'm afraid. And worried. And afraid to be worried, because that just makes this whole thing too real. So much for keeping my head high this month ...

I need a way out of this hole.


  1. Is there pressure on you to produce this novel? If not, try to stop worrying about it so much, if that's possible. Sounds like the research aspect is a bit daunting so it's hard to get started. Why not work on something more manageable for now like short stories, that can be done in short bursts and don't require the commintment of a novel. You can always come back to it when the time is right. Hope my comments were helpful!

  2. I wouldn't worry about it, Jess. The writing will come back to you. Sometimes the inspirations ebbs. I've gone months without writing a thing before, and it always comes back, eventually.

    As far as time, you just have to make it. Get up early on a Saturday. Stay up for another half hour. Skip TV, or reading, for a day. Whatever works for you.

    Otherwise, we're here for you, if you ever need to talk.

  3. Tell me about it, I'm way behind too. Still, I wouldn't worry too much about it. I'm sure you'll find a way. :)

  4. Like Matt, I come back to the writing too. I just started writing again after a break since the end of July. I finally wrote the words "Chapter One" and started.

    With working full time (I do), you have to squeeze the writing in. But it can be done. So don't worry and congrats on the job.

  5. Yes - congrats on the job. Sounds awesome. And maybe your mind/body just needed a break after the huge rush that was STring Bridge. You'll find a way when the desire returns.

  6. It's painfully hard to balance all the things you're talking about. Believe me, I struggle with this every day. You are SO not alone. (And my novels are all very research heavy). But one thing I've learned about myself as a writer is that, if I think I can only write in one way, I'm usually wrong. I'm flexible. I can make it work. And I have faith that you can find the way to make it work for you too.


  7. Oh, Jess, I worry about everything, all the time... you know what? I bet if you were writing, like, 5000 words a day, you'd be worrying you're writing too much! There are no rights and wrongs in this game. It's all about finding our balance... in the current time of life. So give yourself a break and just let yourself be for a bit. I bet once you take some of the pressure off, you'll be itching to write again. xx

  8. Jessica, I think there's nothing wrong with being honest. Most writers go through dry spells. Don't forget you were doing tons of promotion and coordinating all that in advance. And through Vine Leaves, you're doing writing-relating things.

    This summer, you wrote the short story for Literary Mix Tapes. That wasn't a whole 6 months ago.

    I've learned I write about a book a year. Some people write more. Some write less.

    Do the best you can.

  9. As someone has already said, there is nothing wrong with being honest. I have exactly the same problem as you do. There are so many things I do and this gets in the way of writing.

    I think what I have come to realise is, that writing a novel or anything for that matter takes time. The process is slow, it's sometimes tedious, but the art is to stick with it. Write what you can, WHEN you can and slowly but surely, the words will grow.

  10. I don't want to scare you but...I've had years of breaks from my writing before. BUT I've still come back to the writing!

    I think that the more you worry about this the more pressure you put on yourself, the harder it's going to be for you to get back into it. So maybe you should go with the flow for a bit, and let things take their natural course.

    That's the problem if you've got a deadline can't really just go with the flow on that.

  11. I'm in the "force yourself to write no matter what" camp. I know it goes against the grain for what might feel right, but I think it works. If I'm not feeling it, and don't have the energy to write, I write anyway.

    As for finding the time. I've been writing for about two hours and it's 5:37am - that's right, drugs ... oh, wait, no... just kiddin. I happen to not sleep more than a couple hours a night, so I'm sort of lucky in an unlucky sort of way. But perhaps you might try waking up an hour early?

    Don't stress about writing. You've written a book before, you'll do it again. Hang in there and know we're all rooting for you!

  12. Life is more important than the writing sometimes....give it a bit...things will settle down and you will find a rhythm.

  13. Jessica, I'm sorry to hear about all the things crashing upon you. And I hear what you say about leaving your writing in the dust...I haven't worked on my FIRST novel since before the school year started. And my boys always want to wrestle, of course.

    To be honest, I've accepted some of it as the natural course of things. And I've accepted that that means fewer times to commit to large chunks of writing. And when I was writing that 1st novel, I was doing it in 20-40 minute bursts - in the early morning hours before my REAL job started.

    It can be done!! Keep your head up!

  14. I think it is about choices and living with the ones we make at the time. You can only do so much. You've chosen over avenues and given them more weight.Go with it:) You will write again!

  15. You are probably writing more than you realize. Muted must be in your mind or it wouldn't be in your post.
    You seem to want the book to jump out and you know it isn't happening like that. When you're on the couch, close your eyes, put your head back and soon the ides will flow.

    Face the research in small chunks. Stop telling yourself how daunting it is. One small step at a time.

    Best New Year ever for you.


  16. my thoughts are that maybe adding the full time job onto everything else, will actually make it easier for you to write. Because you'll have to get organized to fit everything in and you can block off some time every day to fit in some writing.
    That's my prediction and i'm sticking to it.

  17. *hugs* These gazillions jobs are hard to juggle, but I wouldn't begin to know which ones to let go or lessen to bring about that valuable writing time. I know my writing slacks off terribly when I have editing work to do. Maybe start small. A little research. A few words here and there. I'm sure you'll find the time once you get a little more used to the many hats we writers wear. And if you do find the secret to this mysterious time thing, please do share. :)

  18. Dare I point out, you just wrote a blog post? That is writing. Many of the things you do for your job will also fall under the description of "writing." Words will keep flowing and if, for the time being, they are not flowing into Muted, that's okay. Things happen when you're ready for them to happen. Sadly, life does get in the way, but life is what provides you with stories, so hang tough.

  19. I love your honesty. while I haven't had your obvious success, I have had dry spells in my writing. I know the feeling of putting everything first. No one can rationalize like a writer. In my experience it wasn't anything that I did that got me back on track. I think I just needed the time. The story continued to play in my head and when I DID sit down to write and knocked off the rust the story flowed.

  20. It has been a year since I finished Left and all I have written in that time are a handful of poems and about 350,000 words in book reviews, interviews and articles not counting the thousands of words I write in comments and e-mails every day. It does kinda put things into perspective. I am a writer. I write every day. I’m writing now. It all counts. But it doesn’t feel as if it should count. I have hardly sent out a single submission in the last year and yet every day – every single damn day – I spend hours and hours in front of this computer trying to do what I think I need to do to promote myself. And it feels like I’m getting nowhere. I’m not. My blog has just passed the 7000 hits per month mark and my followed are increasing (at a painfully-slow rate) but I would gladly pack it all in, go into my office, slap on a nice CD and do some real writing.

    A year is not long. And in all that time I have been thinking about writing and don’t let anyone tell you that thinking about writing is not writing because it jolly well is. The gestation period – for me, certainly – is desperately important. I have actually started the next project. I have about a page of dialogue done. Not sure who is talking yet but that’s not a big worry. It will come together. Thinking, of course, comes in two flavours: conscious and subconscious and I’m starting to trust my subconscious more than I used to and not force things. It knows what’s on my mind.

    Personally I find I work best in clumps which means setting aside a period of a few days with no distractions (which I will be able to do over the holiday period). I’ve never been good at grabbing the odd fifteen minutes here and there. It takes me that amount of time to make my coffee and settle down to write. I wrote four of my novels while working fulltime, had two breakdowns (due to overwork) while I was doing it mind. That’s how I did it. But it’s like childbirth – so I’m told – you forget all the crap quickly once you have that scriking little brat in your arms.

    Set aside some time over the holidays. Stay offline. Write. Once you have a few thousand words down – which you can fiddle with in those odd fifteen minutes live throws at you – you will feel happier.

  21. I understand getting to overwhelmed to write. I've been struggling to eke out the time lately, too.

    Since you only have the first chapter of your wip written, and need to do copious research, why not forget about that tiny little Word doc for now and start notebooking?

    It's easy to grab a notebook for jotting down snippets of story or voice, and it's a good place to keep information you research. Writing things down helps me remember what I've researched better than just saving web pages and photos to folders on my computer.

    That way, you'll still be working on your wip, just saving the actual typing for when things slow down after the holidays.

    Good luck, Jessica!

  22. Hi Jessica -- I used to think I needed that 3-4 hour block too, but this year I participated in NaNoWriMo and discovered I could do one-hour sessions just fine. Try it -- even if you only add 500 words to your new novel, it's still 500 words you didn't have before.

  23. Oh Jessica, I so hear you. I sat in front of my computer screen last night and just stared at it for an hour. My fingers never even hit the keys. I am spent and all I did was a cookbook with a few family stories! I am even having a hard time commenting on blogs at the moment. I will only say to you what I keep telling myself. It will come. It will come when it is ready and when it does it will be great!!! Do I sound convincing?

  24. Crap, I don't have kids but I still lack time to write! I haven't written anything since the final revisions on CassaFire this past summer. Although with me, it's more that I don't know what to write next, where the story should lead - if anywhere.

  25. omg omg!!! There we go again: you + me = same person! I haven't written a THING new since April, and I feel my throat closing up and all my momentum gone. I've GOT to get more paying jobs going, but I've GOT to get back to WRITING.

    My solution, cutting the blog back even further. It's heart breaking, but I know it's not forever. ((hugs)) hang in there. You'll find your solution. <3

  26. I have just found the courage to continue wading through *my journey* in YOUR post. A season for everything, right? Thank you, btw.

    Yeah, I have kids that suck every last bit of writing-energy out of me on a daily basis, but by the comments above, so it seems, does everyone else have *something* that does the same.

    I SO agree with GigglesandGuns on clearing out all of the self-deprecating thoughts and giving yourself time to readjust to writing your second novel. Your SECOND novel. Awesome-ness!

    If you haven't before, perhaps with your new job and marketing responsibilities for String Bridge, you should set a writing schedule. Once you find your rhythm you can adjust as necessary, devoting more or less time where needed.

    Do not be afraid. You are a writer. No need to prove *that* anymore. Looking forward to both of your novels!

    ~May the force be with you. (;

  27. As a fellow slow writer, I also feel thirty minutes isn't enough. But if you get an hour... One hour here, another there, and soon you start to get into a rhythm again. It may not be the same rhythm you had before, but it'll keep you going, and who knows? It might turn out to be the ideal rhythm for Muted.

    Never mind that I'm still slogging through novel #1 using this method; after all, when I had the time pre-baby I already lacked for discipline. Whereas you've finished two books. The third might take a little longer, but worry not. You shall prevail.

  28. I am always afraid of writing when I've been away from it. I'm afraid I'll suck, or I'll freeze with fear, or both. Once you get a few sentences down, you'll be fine. I promise!

    As for the rest of the juggling act. Ugh. It's so hard. I've lost sleep just to have that four hours of writing time you talk about--then make up the sleep deprivation the next night. Sounds horrible, but that was a routine for a while. I get time on the weekend from my hubs for a good bunch of hours too. I stopped watching TV. You'll also learn to be very efficient with your new home job and make time for writing too. I know you can do it. It won't be perfect, and it'll be crazy, but then again, we all know a writer's life isn't all peaches and cream.

  29. How do we mothers do it? Well, we just don't sometimes. I think we all have seasons. As much as that stinks.

    Still, you are amazing and you will write another book. I'm certain!

  30. I would say write for 15 minutes a day in a notebook. When you wake or are about to fall asleep. Just try it for a while. You might find you can force 3 hours of flow into that time when you've trained yourself to.

  31. Jessica,

    What you need is some dedicated writing time -- once or twice a week. An hour or two that is reserved solely for writing on your new works.

    I know that halfway around the world, your schedule might not mesh with sessions of The Practice Room, but check the schedule anyway.

    I host a session every Monday night, and I find that I save up ideas for that time. I'll be thinking all day about how I'm going to spend that writing time, and when it happens, I tuck myself into my writing cave and go at it. Then in the chat after the session, I report on progress to the other participants.

    You can set up your own times, of course, or connect with other writers to do something similar.

    Hope this helps!

  32. When one's in a hole, it's best to stop digging. Relax, lie back, look at tv, enjoy walks and conversations with your partner, and in the process, the rain will fall and you'll float to the top. Since I've got a few years on you, trust me on this one. (And perhaps "Muted" isn't the story to write right now - just float to the top and let come what may. All will work out; there's a branch at the top of the hole.)

  33. Welcome to my world!
    Jessica, if it's important, you will find the time. You will keep writing.

  34. Yeah, I see this happen to almost every published author I know, so you are not alone. Why do you think it has taken me a freaking 10 months to write 26,000 words on SCALES? I mean, COME ON. The only reason I have other books contracted right now is because they were already finished - except for SCALES, and I'd better finish it dang soon.

    Anyway, I just want you to know that I really appreciate you reading THE BREAKAWAY. I know how crazy, crazy busy you are. I am busy, too, busier than I have ever been in my life. I wonder if I should quit the Lit Lab anthologies, but I don't want to. If I should quit my blog, but I don't want to. However, I do choose to stay up 3 hours later than I would like to so that I can write, and I do choose to not go to this gathering or that party or that lunch with a group of friends so that I can write. It's all about compromise and choices, and those can constantly change, too. Some weeks I just don't blog at all. My blog doesn't get as much traffic as it used to. Another compromise. I still love it, though.

    Anyway, you are so not alone. :)

  35. You have accomplished so much, perhaps it's Mother Nature's way of telling you to slow down and relax. When the time is right your writing will return I'm sure.


  36. Congratulations on the job Jessica. I believe that it is probably just a stage you are going through and that your writing will return.

  37. Take a small notebook with you and when a snippet of great dialogue occurs to you -- write it down. When a great plot twist pops into your mind - pop it down as well. Before a week has gone by, you will have done more than you thought possible on MUTED.

    Just dropped by to say thanks for having always been my friend, Roland

  38. One tip I was given was to write just 10 words every day. It might seem like a rubbish idea at first, but don't knock it until you've given it a go.

  39. You're a deep thinker, and you also wear quite a few hats. Don't feel guilty for stewing such a long while.

    When you do get to work on it, you'll know the time is right, and nothing will stand in your way!

    So look forward to that!


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