My personal account: How I found my way out of the dreaded writer’s block
I’m often asked how I manage to write my books so quickly and the answer I give is always the same: stories and words just seem to flow to me naturally. They come mostly at the most inconvenient of times. As I’m snuggled up warm and cosy under my ten tog quilt, just about to drift off into la la land – BAM, my writing alter ego decides now would be a great time to give me that part of the storyline I was having trouble with earlier. It insists I get up and write it down. “If you don’t, you’ll regret it,” the voice barks at me. So I find myself scrabbling around for a pen and paper in the dark, trying not to wake my partner (and failing miserably may I add). I know common sense should have taught me to keep writing materials by the bedside but hey ho, who ever said I was sensible? How about when I’m lying in the bath, luxuriating in my Dead Sea salts, trying to think of anything but writing? Then, you guessed it – the voice seeps in again. So out the bath I get, dripping wet, slipping and sliding on the tiled floor trying to find anything to write on.
Despite it all, I’ve never complained (unlike my long suffering partner). I’ve welcomed it, grateful that it’s enabled me to write more lesbian fiction. I took this way of life for granted, thinking this would always be the case, but then something strange happened when I started to write Second Thoughts. Not only did it seem like my alter ego decided to take an unannounced long term holiday, but my ability to construct a sentence vanished into thin air. I swear, if you’d have seen me, I looked like one of those clichéd photos where the writer is tearing their hair out in total frustration; begging for those elusive creative juices to reappear. I literally felt as if I was going insane as I tried to force words onto the page. How could I, after years of writing dialogue, not be able come up with one line?
A week later, the situation was still the same – I scoured the internet for information, desperate to find a way out. They all said write even if you don’t want to, take a walk, don’t rush it, take a break. I tried all of this, but to no avail. What worked for others was definitely not working for me. I could have walked to the ends of the earth and I’d still come home and stare at a blank page.
Then the headaches came, not the ones that last an hour or so; my head pounded all day so I couldn’t even look at the computer screen. This was followed by dizzy spells, where I swayed when I stood and my vision was swimming when I lay down. Now I’m starting to think – hmmm maybe I’m ill. Maybe I have a bug which has somehow lodged in my brain where my ideas are parked (yeah right!). Or maybe I’m just not cut out to be a writer. I mean come on, what kind of writer can’t manage to form a simple sentence? Was it time to start looking for another job? I seriously considered it. After all, a girl’s got to eat right?
So, that’s what I decided to do – call it a day. No more novels. I put my (blank) papers away, as well as my special Jade Winters pen my partner had bought me, and retreated into a world of self pity. Believe it or not I’m actually an optimistic person, but somehow this time I couldn’t jump start myself.
Then it happened, out of the blue, my alter ego returned from holiday, all smiles and teeth. “There’s no point,” I told it. “I’m through. I’m not doing this anymore. I’ve had it – nothing is worth all the stress.” The word seemed to strike a chord – STRESS – but it couldn’t be, I wasn’t stressed about anything, or was I? After a few days of soul searching I found I was actually very stressed. A lot of stuff was going on around me that I thought I was dealing with pretty well – evidently I wasn’t. I was so busy trying to sort out everyone else’s problems that my mind was so jam-packed with worrying, there was literally no room left for anything else. I have a very bad habit of making a mountain out of a mole hill. I don’t know if it’s because I always view things creatively, but my mind tends to make videos of situations that might happen which then take on a life of their own. The truth of the matter is it never ends how I predicted it. I’ve since found out that this is called forecasting. So I learnt a technique to deal with it; I put an elastic band on my wrist. When I began forecasting, I snapped it to bring me back to the moment. Sometimes I found myself doing this several times an hour; it’s surprising how stubborn the mind can be. Days later, I found myself once again in tune with my alter ego, who now seemed to be flooding me with ideas, enabling me to finish Second Thoughts. It told me it had never left me at all, my mind was so overcrowded with unimportant stuff, I just couldn’t hear it.
So what lesson did I learn? To pay attention to what my body is telling me. Something was up; I thought I was coping when in reality I wasn’t. So if I ever get writer’s block again, instead of throwing my toys out of the pram – thinking I’ll never write again, I’ll look for the real cause of the problem.