Thursday 3 February 2011


A few people on Twitter and by email have asked me to say something about how emotional upset or a serious setback can throw a writer into stress, meltdown, inability to concentrate. Is this feeling legitimate, normal, curable? Why can it sometimes be such a problem and what are the solutions?

Interestingly, I think what we're specifically talking about here is writing fiction. It's as though fiction, coming as it does so strongly from the emotional parts of our brain, can be more affected by intrusive emotions in our personal lives. It is also likely to be the case that more emotional people - and I count myself proudly amongst them - can be knocked more painfully off track and have our concentration more deeply affected. (Positively as well as negatively.) My brain is like a swarm of bees and is easily agitated.

For most of last year, I could not write fiction. When I say "could not", doubtless I exaggerate, in the sense that if you'd held a gun to my head, chained me to my desk and removed food (and wine) until I wrote a chapter, I'd have managed something. But, in effect, I couldn't. I didn't. I failed. It was frightening and lonely. Something had happened - several things, actually - which wrecked my ability to be creative for that period. The small amounts of fiction that I did manage - probably 10,000 words of a novel I'd started the previous year - seemed to be dragged from me painfully and unsatisfyingly. (Fortunately, I didn't have a fiction deadline to miss, so I didn't fail there.) Strangely, when I read that material now, I think what I wrote last year was pretty good, but at the time I had no emotional connection to it. I thought it was rubbish and several times I decided to quit writing teenage fiction entirely. I tried writing other stuff but that wasn't working either. I messed around, hurtling through tasks, blog posts, talks, admin, housework, anything but "proper" writing. Anything but writing from the heart because my heart was elsewhere.

Non-fiction was no problem, which is why I managed to get Write to be Published written and met my deadline. If my deadline had been a novel, I'm not sure what I'd have done. (Probably, actually, done it.) I wanted to write a novel, but I couldn't get my head around it, couldn't get my heart to engage. Lots of people were telling me different things: "Write an adult novel," "Write for younger children," "You have to stick to YA."

Some people actually find they write better during these times. A friend of mine - reader of this blog, too, and she may well identify herself because I'm guessing she knows I mean her - finds that the more furious and upset she is, the more she needs and wants and manages to write, as though her amygdala drives her on. My amygdala just paralyses me.  

What sort of triggers cause this emotional state that can so dramatically affect our writing, for better or, more often, worse? I can think of a whole range. If you don't mind, I won't say which one/ones apply to me, as the whole thing is still unresolved and raw. But here are some of the things that can hit us hard and which I know some of you have suffered:
  • bereavement or serious illness of a loved one
  • or serious illness in yourself
  • real worry about someone very close to you
  • redundancy or job loss, including being dropped by a publisher
  • betrayal or deceit by someone else
  • enormous loss of self-esteem and self-worth, which can be sudden or gradual
  • failure to do something which you took for granted
  • major financial fears
  • anything which causes deep and prolonged anger, sadness, fear. Or all of them.
All of us will face at least some of those things at some point and sometimes we can move quickly through such periods. Sometimes we can put our writing aside and wait to get through whatever the awful situation is. Sometimes we don't realise that we need to pause and wait for it to pass - though sometimes we can't do that anyway.

Now, let's not make too much of a special case for writers. These things can affect everyone and most people can manage to function at least somewhat throughout traumas. But merely functioning is not the same as accessing creativity. I functioned, too. I carried on blogging, buying and preparing food for my family, socialising, smiling, getting up in the morning, doing all the things that we're supposed to do. I didn't go under. But my fiction writing was a mess. It felt horrible. Dead.

So, what are the solutions? Look, I'm no psychotherapist. (Luckily for all.) All I know is what I've learnt from a bad year and from talking to others. Some of these strategies might help you as they have me. I hope so, as I am now sailing away from the problem on a fast wind, even though the underlying emotion is nowhere near fully resolved.

Here are the small solutions or strategies that I learnt. And I'd like to point out, lest you consider yourselves uber-rationalist, sceptical, old-fashioned and stereotypically British: I'm of that ilk, too. But we're all human and if you're lucky enough never to have been rocked to your core, never to have been knocked off kilter, fine. I hope you are never tested.

Solutions and strategies - pick yours

Acknowledge what's happening - reassure yourself that this is quite normal, but that it feels like shit.

Accept that it's a phase - nothing is forever. Soon, you will feel better about it and you will process what's happened and move through appropriate stages.

Realise that there will be stages - shock, anger, sadness, loss of motivation. Each trauma and each person will be different but the way you feel today is not how you'll feel next week or next month. You may not be able to reach F until you've been through B, C and D. But you might miss out E. Or not.

Step back and take a break. For a day, a week, a whatever. Perhaps you have rushed at everything too fast and done too much and filled your days too full. I had and I'd left no time to think. Thinking is essential and sometimes we just don't give ourselves time for it. So, go easy on yourself.   

Analyse what you want from your writing. Sometimes emotional upset can make us lose our way and our focus and we wonder what we're doing and why. Think it through; talk it through; explore the possibilities in your mind. Ask yourself, "If I did this, or this, how would I feel?" Be logical.

Take control in small ways, as soon as you can, but don't beat yourself up when you slip back. Control is what you need to get back. We simply must not let circumstance and emotion destroy us. We have to win if we believe in free will. So, fight and win back control, in small ways first. Set small targets, such as a modest word count - more than you did yesterday. Then reward yourself for achieving it.

Walk. Walk to live and walk to write. Get out into the natural world and feel the raw wind on your face, the sun in your eyes. It's uplifting and will change you. Find high places, bright places, empty places. But while you're walking, think of your writing, your WIP or your next idea: don't waste the wonderful outdoors on thinking about your fury or your sadness.

Create strategies, not resolutions. My post on New Year's Day was written with this in mind and I'm proud to report that I'm still going strong: writing is now the top of my list whereas last year it was a terrifying task that found itself at the bottom of every to-do list. I still have the unresolved emotion. I'm writing over it. Maybe it can even make my writing better.

Yes, consider that emotion, being essential for fiction-writing, could make your writing better. Harness it and channel it. If it makes your writing angry, or sad, vitriolic or devastating, so damned what? My current novel is called Brutal Eyes. It's the most shocking thing I've written. I'm glad. I want it to be shocking. As I said earlier, some people write better when their emotions are heightened; heightened is good, but only if you can control them. I am. Hooray!

Write. Just bloody well write, OK? Once you've tried everything you think might work on the list above, just write. No one's going to do it for you.That's the scary bit, the bit we can't avoid.

Just don't let the buggers bite. Take care, good luck and remember: all this shall pass.


Sulci Collective said...

Fascinating post so huge thank you for that.

I was particularly interested in the last two strategies. Emotion is key to any work of fiction and yet if you examine our language, it seems particularly poorly served in terms of pinning down emotions through words. That's why as fiction writer we have to find metaphors and images to help us pin down emotions. I think a huge surge or injection of raw, part-processed and maybe part-resolved emotion in your life as you describe, may just offer a paradigm shift to one's writing; ie no jump leads, but a whole new supercharging if you'll forgive the lame motor analogy (I can't even drive). I wonder if this is what you are describing with your latest novel, how brutal it strikes you as? I can only see this as a good thing writing wise, maybe taking oneself to a whole new level. To me, all writing is striving for emotional intelligence. To bring out through words, that emotional flurry of thoughts that overwhelms us and somehow translates itself into sharable words for a reader. Through the personal experience reaching out towards the universal.

Again, many thanks for a great post

marc nash

Jenny Beattie said...

Thank you so much for such an honest post. It's very very useful.

I wish you well for the rest of the.... recovery?

Alison Morton said...

As you know, I recently had to sort out a family crisis which sucked up all my energy: physical, emotional, mental, intuitive, spiritual. My entire time, experience and resources were poured into this problem.

Writing? Ha!

But I hung on and did a little editing. It kept me linked to the thing I love doing and quite frankly, kept me sane. So, yes, do something, however small, and recognise you won't be at the height of your creative powers at this time.

Now I'm back home, and tweeting, emailing writing friends, I am recovering. This circle of friends may not realise how healing they've been.

I have something terrific to look forward to the Festival of Writing at York in March. The preparation work for the one-to-ones has galvanised me into writing.

Lastly, when I was immersed in teenage angst about something, my mother quoted (from goodness knows where) this at me: 'There's nothing so inevitable as the passing of time.'

Ain't that the truth?

Welshcake said...

Very thoughtful post, Nicola. It's brave of you to share what you were going through. I hope 2011 is a better year for you writing wise and otherwise.

Stace said...

Thank you for an interesting post. I'm glad you mentioned that there is no special case for writers. I think it can affect any job in which creativity or self-motivation is necessary. (Many of them.)

I find that at such times my *reading* is affected. ie. I don't do much of it except what's necessary for work, and this is now my barometer to mean life-balance is out of whack. I hope this doesn't mean I'm super nervy! What it might mean, for the future of reading in general, is that if people's lives don't slow down, reading may well suffer, even when pastimes such as watching movies, playing computer games and mucking around on Facebook don't suffer in similar fashion.

It seems fiction is a special case, whether writing or reading it.

lacer said...

Thank you for that post, I (like I'm sure quite a few others) needed to hear that.

JO said...

Two additional strategies that have helped me in the past:

1. Allow friends to help. They will want to, but you may find that hard to believe. I mean, who wants to spend time with a snivelling wreck? They do; that's why they are friends. And accept help in whatever shape it takes - food, wine, company on walks, or simply talking.

2. Be kind to yourself. And that includes forgiving yourself when you behave badly (drinking too much, waking up with a hangover - sometimes it's fine to crawl back into bed and leave the computer to simmer all by itself.)

and - once all the seasons have turned - you will wake up and realise you are still here; and the writing might even be enriched by what you have been through.

Unknown said...

Thank you. I'm glad you found your heart again.

catdownunder said...

I went back and read what you wrote on New Year's Day - and what I said then - and I still agree with both of us.
And I think I would add that friends are also very important. It took me a very long time to learn I even had any.

Dan Holloway said...

Wonderful post, Nicola. Everything you describe sounds so familiar. Thank you for raising the subject. More people need to talk openly.

I'm lucky that I haven't had any particular setbacks throw me into this kind of state (though the current round of depression has been exacerbated by my wife's total breakdown, my best friend's attempted suicide, and impending redundancy), but I've been bipolar for 25 years now and the depressive episodes cause very similar effects. From that perspective, of course this paralysis is legitimate and normal. Whether it's curable depends on a number of things, but for all but the most severely chronically depressed, the state is episodic.

I'd like to add a couple of things from my experience in the hope they're helpful. But I think the main thing is that everyone is different. As Nicola says, some people find they write more, and more connectedly, at such times, while others find themselves utteerly disconnected from the little they write.

As some of you know, a wonderful writer and my best friend tried to kill herself for the fourth time last summer. She has always found writing about her lowest times essential. About, rather than at, because for a month or so either side she was too ill to get out of bed let alone write. I know lots of people disagree, but her approachto writing has always been that the best fiction has to start not with facts but with a truth that comes from within the writer, and has to embrace the whole of that truth, light and dark. It mustn't shy from the very darkest times, but always contextualise them. Of course, she writes very different fiction from many of us, but I find her approach always lifts me - she somehow manages to face things head on and write in a way that reflects, builds, and never wallows - she always keeps a space for the warmth, the humour, and the absurdity of life - which makes her writing even more unacceptable to many than it would otherwise be, because some situations "shouldn't" contain warmth or humour. I think what I'm trying to say is that when things feel almost impossible, sometimes you have to accept that you put creativity on hold, forget about "the market" and lose the self-censor altogether. Just - as Nicola says - write, without a care in the world for commerciality or consequence.


Dan Holloway said...

...I haven't been able to write "proper" fiction now for 18 months. I have a book that's a chapter from being finished but I can't write it. It seems utterly pointless, frivolous, meaningless, and a needless drain on the already stretched resources of a world that could be doing better things. It's good. I'd even say it's very good. But in my current state I don't know when I'll finish it. On the other hand, I've written what I could. A series of three short stories fictionalising Cody's suicide attempt, a few poems that read more like primal scream therapy than literature, and two stories that are, in Nicola's words, shocking - I still don't know quite where they came from. Like Nicola, they felt more like automatic writing than creativity, and looking at them, although I've no idea where they came from they're far and away the best things I've written. Having written them makes me feel it's more likely that I will return to my "real" creative writing at some point. Interestingly, for all they're the best things I've written (a couple even won some minor accolades, and I regularly perform them live in part because I think audiences should be exposed and in part because I know it's important to Cody), and I would like to be able to produce more of the same in a controlled environment, I don't think I could. The moment has gone.

I would, as an aside, thoroughly endorse what Nicola says about exercise - be it trauma or chronic depression, one thing everyone seems to agree on both medically and anecdotally from experience is the beneficial effect of exercise.

Thank you again, Nicola. You've no idea how much I needed to read something like this today.

Miriam Drori said...

A very timely post, coming exactly two weeks after the death of my mother. Thank you.

Another possible strategy (which obviously wasn't possible in your case) is to blog about your emotions - to let them out so they're not clogging up the creative pathways. I think that's going to be my next stage.

Nicola Hulks said...

Thanks Nicola, great to hear that professionals suffer with this too. I always thought it was just the crippling anxiety of being a novice!!

Anonymous said...

Nicola, this is so true. Emotional upheavals of any kind can just knock you for six.
I experienced this some years ago and found I couldn't write anything of any substance. Just couldn't concentrate long enough.
So I wrote poetry. Probably not very good poetry but into it I wrote all the things I was feeling, everything I would like to have said but couldn't. I never intended anyone to read it so I could bare my soul and be completely honest.
Just putting it down on paper helped to rid me of all the anger and misery I'd been bottling up inside.
It worked brilliantly.

Ellen Brickley said...

Thank you for sharing your experience, Nicola, and I appreciate your tips. Great ideas all.

I hope things improve for you!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this post, Nicola.

I had a tough time of it last year which left me dejected, lacking in confidence and completely unable to write fiction for months.

I had started to wonder whether I wasn't just too weak to cut it as a writer - if I loved and needed to write as much as I claimed, surely I should have snapped out of the Mean Reds and got back to work sooner?

It's so reassuring to know that this happens to others too, and that it goes away eventually.

You deserve copious amounts of chocolate and sparkly wine for blogging about this. Thank you.

David John Griffin said...

Terrific post Nicola, thank you. Yes, creative writing (and any other sort of creativity) isn't a tap that can be easily turned on and off (unfortunately ;-) and the many ways a writer can be knocked off course affects the surprisingly fragile writing experience, as you insinuate.

Certainly the emotional aspects affect the emotions needed for creative writing but also, "life gets in the way" too often. Making "space" in day-to-day living, emotions aside, can be difficult enough as we all know.

You've given some really good advice and if I may add to those: don't feel guilty – any guilt at all – for not writing after an extended period. Writing involves thinking anyway, so perhaps our subconscious is working away through these dry times...

I'm allowed a bit of guilt though, because there are limits ;-) – what I mean is, after my agent let me go after only a year, back in the 80's, I gave up creative writing for almost 20 years! Sensitive soul, me... (at least, I was then, I'm toughening up a bit as I get older!)

"Older": just reminded myself and hope it's OK to mention here even though it's off-subject, I'm still half-seething at that guy's comment a month or so ago. He was called "J" I seem to remember and his comment was along the lines of "when you reach 50, give up writing and make space for younger writers".

Everyone was surprisingly polite towards this comment, rationalizing and analysing it. All I can say is, if I had met him and he'd said that to me, I'd have replied: "How selfish, ageist and arrogant of you. Novel-writing isn't a beauty contest or a sport; age can bring experience and quality to writing. Now - (excuse me, Nicola) – bugger off."

Got that off my chest, thank you!

Back on track, a year or two not writing can actually sometimes be beneficial. It could be a creative "recharging of your batteries" as well as conscious/subconscious thinking mentioned, concerning your next piece of writing the year after, say.

I think I've babbled on long enough now, sorry Nicola, got carried away! Now to get back to my novel writing with the same enthusiasm...


Marisa Birns said...

Well it seems that my amygdala paralyzes me.

Fear. It's fear that needs to be tackled after being knocked for a loop. Just a number of years ago, I was feeling so wonderful about writing. Lots of self-confidence.

Then I lost that happy state of mind and perceived myself as a silly hack to think I could write and be published one day.


But, I will follow your advice here. Especially the last bit.

Thank you.

Nicola Morgan said...

What a lovely response - I'm so glad this struck a chord with so many, here and on twitter and by email.

Marc- interesting. I had actually started this novel before all this happened. And it already had its title, Brutal Eyes. It was already shocking. But now it's as though the anger I feel while writing it is more legitimate, more honest. I don't know if that makes sense.

Stace - you are absolutely right about it affecting reading too. Good point.

Jo - you're right. I did and do have good friends who know everything that happened and how it affected me. I should also point out (and will edit this into the post because I should have said it) that without the fantastic support of my agent, it would have been incomparably worse.

Dan - yes, and I should have included depression on my list, though I suppose i was focusing on external influences (as indeed your comments do). A friend has just emailed me and recommended (partly in response to your comments) a book called Nature Cure by Richard Mabey.

Dan - regarding your one chapter left to finsh and not feeling that there's any point: that sounds to me like the depression talking? Depending on what stage of the cycle you're in at the moment? I hope you finish it! Though is it possibly also a frightening thought to finish it?

Miriam - I am very very sorry about your mother. You must to take all the time you need.

Nicola and Gemma - oh yes, it can happen at any time and I think you'll be surprised to know how many published writers go through it. In some ways it's easier because at least we know we got published, but in many ways it can be harder, because everyone expects us to be producing something.

Gail - sounds like a very good strategy. Well done.

David - um, yes, 20 years is too long to wait for it to pass! I am glad you're back on track now!

sheilamcperry said...

Thanks Nicola, this is a brilliant post, while a bit heart-rending too. The same things apply to the comments.
Like David G., though not for the same reason, I had a long long 'rest' from writing, as I worked through a series of family problems - I would say they deadened my emotions rather than heightening them though. Or at least I squashed all my emotions down as I didn't think they would be at all helpful in dealing wtih the family stuff.
When, a few years ago, I was actually forced to feel something for the first time in ages, I found that very good for my writing.

Catherine Hughes said...

Heh, heh, I'm the one with the overactive amygdala!!

It's just that I find writing to be cathartic, even though my fiction isn't at all about what I've had to go through.

As Nicola knows, I almost quit towards the end of last year but instead found myself completely two first drafts, one for NaNo and then another, based upon a previous novel, during december and November. I'm still going at full pelt, because the circumstances that were distressing me are ongoing.

For me, the achievement is my way of sticking two fingers up at an illness I refuse to allow to beat me, and also at the very nasty people who deliberately caused me significant pain towards the end of last year.

I can't really analyse it, I just know that working really hard at my writing helps me to feel better. It keeps me sane.

Cat x

Leila said...

This is a brilliant post, Nicola, thank you. This, in particular, is exactly how I was feeling for much of last year:

"Something had happened - several things, actually - which wrecked my ability to be creative for that period. The small amounts of fiction that I did manage - probably 10,000 words of a novel I'd started the previous year - seemed to be dragged from me painfully and unsatisfyingly. (Fortunately, I didn't have a fiction deadline to miss, so I didn't fail there.) Strangely, when I read that material now, I think what I wrote last year was pretty good, but at the time I had no emotional connection to it. I thought it was rubbish."

And I too have come back to that material that I thought was rubbish, and have found to my surprise that I am loving writing the second draft of it, and feel it's pretty good. That first draft was hard, hard, hard to get down - but so worth it in the end.

I also agree that functionining is not the same as accessing creativity. I remember when I was at university and upset about a boyfriend (to put it mildly), a friend of mine who was a scientist said "Can't you just throw yourself into your work?". I couldn't! :) I couldn't even imagine doing so. People are so different.

Angela Ackerman said...

Great advice. Thanks Jessica Subject for passing this on.

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

adele said...

Really wonderful post, Nicola and I agree with you 100%. Very helpful too esp the advice to WALK! I find it impossible to write at all if I'm feeling awful and slightly envy those people who use writing actually as an aid to getting through bad times. I have to wait till I feel better....but the 'this too will pass' thing is true and we should cling to it as we walk and walk! And very good comments too, for which thanks.

Shauna said...

I was interested in the comment on how emotional trauma might impact on reading. When going through the grief of a family bereavement I found I couldn't settle to read, which is something I have always been able to lose myself in.
I also found it impossible to multi task things, even a list of jobs was too much. Going to work and one job such as taking car for warrant (equiv of MOT) was the max I could cope with.
A good friend told me be kind to myself and to just go with it, and like all things it would pass (much abbreviated!!).
For my reading I rediscovered short stories. I had just about enough concentration for one short story.
Like you Nicola I was able to cope with non-fiction writing, but not fiction.
Through the worst of it I rarely even looked at my fiction writing let alone considered writing. But after a period of time the feeling of wanting to write returned.
Writing then helped me work through some of the emotion, but I also found that my writing was richer than it had been.
A friend's advice was not to beat yourself up, go with whatever you need to do to get through the tough times. You are unique so don't measure yourself against how someone else deals with emotion and stress.

Catherine Hughes said...

I am grateful, actually, that writing is for me such a release. Such an affirmation of who I really am underneath it all.

And I've also feared that what I wrote in distress would be rubbish when I came back to it, but that has not been the case. It needs a lot of work, but it's not rubbish.

None of that is to say that it has been easy, though, to keep writing despite so many things going very wrong in my life. It hasn't. Sometimes, I sit here and I stare at the screen and I can't think of anything and I panic that yet-another-idea will languish partly-written on my hard drive as a result. I have a lot of P W Languishers!!

But I tell myself that, if I just write something, no matter how rubbish, then I know I will feel better. And I always doo - in the end!

It's defiance, you know. Stubbornness.

Emma said...

Thank you so much for sharing your experience, Nicola. At the beginning of last year, a family member of mine became seriously ill, and the worry of it all had a huge effect on my writing. My concentration was shot (and still is to an extent) and I couldn't summon up any enthusiasm for my work at-all. Trouble was, I was working to a deadline, so had no choice but to plough on through.

The one thing that really helped - as you so wisely suggest in your second strategy for getting through times like this - was telling myself 'Things won't always be like this', and although my word count dropped dramatically (from 2000+ words daily to, on average, less than 500) I managed to get the work done.

Even so, I felt like a failure because I had to drag the words out of me, and achieved so little day-to-day. However, since then, I've come to realise that perhaps we (as writers or otherwise) can push ourselves too hard, and as a result beat ourselves up over things which are really not worth beating ourselves up over at-all. Now, I no longer set myself a rigid daily word-count goal (which I only gave myself because when I was first starting to write, it was the only way to make sure I got my bum in my chair and worked!) and have found that as a result, I enjoy my writing far more than I used to. So I guess every cloud has a silver lining somewhere!

I hope 2011 brings you and all the other commenters here who have experienced difficult times better things.

Carolb said...

Thank you for sharing this Nicola. I recognise so many of those issues myself and your strategies and solutions.
I hardly wrote any fiction in the latter half of last year and it was only writing my blog that kept my brain from locking up completely.
Some of the stresses are still ongoing but I'm finally ready to start writing fiction again-or at least trying to.

robertsloan2art said...

Thank you for this post. It is so true and so hard to take any of that into account when I look back and feel ashamed of lost time.

Anonymous said...

Thank you SO MUCH for this post! I've just been diagnosed with a grave and potentially terminal illness and discovered I couldn't write a single word. I'm fighting it exactly as you say, making small steps every day, and it actually works. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your post, it's exactly the word of support that I needed. Thank you very much!

Anonymous said...

Hello. I have come to this via the person you know as "Catdownunder" who told me, "Go and read Nicola Morgan's post. It will help."
I was feeling about as low as you can get without actually feeling suicidal until I read this. You are right. Things do get better. They have to get better.
Jan - from flood/cyclone hit Queensland, Australia

Anonymous said...

I've heard it said that you can't write comedy unless you have experienced tragedy (or words to that effect). Having read through these comments, I wonder if something similar could be said about writing fiction. That in order to write it well and with feeling you need to have experienced life's depths as well as its highs. In which case, I wonder what true life stories successful authors could tell.

Nick Cross said...

I'm just coming out of a period of intense and unexpected depression and I have to put myself in the camp of those who can't write when they're anxious. I tried, Lord knows, but I just couldn't concentrate sufficiently to get the words on the page. There was one deadline I had to hit, late last year and that almost did for me.

Nicola, It's interesting what you say about writing emotionally intense material. I actually began a very intense book and then decided to scale it back, to make the material more accessible. That wasn't a market-led decision as much as it was a way of giving myself some room to breathe, giving myself some "fun" material to balance out the darkness. I was already so fed up of feeling bad, and I couldn't bear the idea that I would need to get myself into that state on a daily basis to finish the book. But it is a balancing act - I blogged about it here if anyone's interested.

Gillian Philip said...

So incredibly helpful and resonant; thank for this, Crabbit. I too seem to be one of the ones whose amygdala is sadly uncooperative, and I've been dragging words out, kicking and screaming, for what feels like the last year. I always thought of myself as a bit of a loner (a polite way of saying 'antisocial cow') but now I know friends are indispensable - what I'd have done without Facebook and Twitter I do not know, because friends are there whatever the time of day or night. I shall take your advice today and WRITE. Well, drag some more syllables out... I can hear them protesting already... ;-)

Unknown said...

Thanks Nicola. I hope things continue to look up for you. Very useful comments, too.

Nicola Slade said...

In bad times I do what I call 'writing one one in front of anotther' ie literally dragging out words one at a time. Sometimes works.
At present I have practical difficulty: badly broken left wrist,with metal plate put in on Monday. Plus badly wrenched rt hand and foot. May have to buy draon to help write/type.
Yyou'd think creative urge would shut down but no:it's fizzing!

Anonymous said...

Very good blog post.
Aside from a few thousand words I haven't written for the past 18 months and am at a total loss as to how to finish my wip. All creativity seems to have dried up as the recession has started to bite. So many people I know have lost their jobs - I don't remember it being this bad in the last deep recession of the late 80s/early 90s. Money worries and the threat of redundancy has made it impossible to concentrate on something that seems just a 'silly story' in comparison. I'm keeping a hand in critting on a writers forum, but at the moment I just feel like chucking the whole thing in and taking up a new hobby, like knitting.

CC MacKenzie said...

Excellent post Nicola, thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year and had a mastectomy and all the rigamarole that went along with it.

Writing fiction worked as a displacement activity for me, I could immerse myself in the characters and the story, it helped me cope with the shock. But, once reality hit, I found I couldn't write creatively.

However, the editing side of my brain leapt in and took over. It helps, I think, to go with the flow. It is what it is and we are where we are.

Then life tossed a couple of other nasty things my way, it always does. The wonderful thing was that I had a support network surrounding me. Other writers who came to my aid and refused to let me give up. Who believed in me and helped me keep it together.

You're a special lady who has been a huge influence (in a good way) to my attitude towards the craft of writing. Your opinions are always valid and keep me 'real' if that makes sense?

I suspect you'll find that the emotions you've been dealing with will come to the fore at some point. You will use them for the benefit of your writing and your work will become stronger because of them. And your empathy for a character who is experiencing those emotions will shine through. In this game, nothing life throws is wasted.

I see your support network - the members of this blog - is now over ONE THOUSAND!! Woo Hoo! Now that certainly deserves a glass of wine Nicola!

Christine Carmichael. xx

Whirlochre said...

Nothing beats the sound of a p or an o or a b spinning into place on the page as if hooked on a quoit.

Nothing like distraction blots that out.

What a great post to chance across at 3.29am in the morning wandering round in your dressing gown with a stinking cold.

Stroppy Author said...

Thank you for saying all this Nicola. I've also had a terrible year (two years) and during last year wrote very little fiction, but did manage to keep writing non-fiction, journalism and blogs. I completed one picture book - all of 400 words! There were a couple of pieces I started by didn't finish, too.

But now I've started writing again it is very dark stuff - I understand why you are writing Brutal Eyes. Again, interestingly, the current WIP is something I had started previously (a long time ago) but on returning to it I'm making it even more brutal and dark than it was before.

Is it a matter of having to take it out on our characters, do you think? Make them suffer as we have suffered? Or is it more empathetic than that? I don't know...

Flowerpot said...

Excellent post, as ever. My husband died at Christmas and I have been woken up by words ever since he died - the urge to write is fundamental. But I know others i a similar situation who can't write at all. It's very individual.