I’ve been thinking about what drives a wedge of self-doubt under the door of the writing process. Depending on mood and circumstance – and every day brings different pressures and feelings – certain things get in the way of just getting on with the job.
For me, I plan my novels quite meticulously (this is for another post), meaning my agent approves the book idea first. This is a good thing, obviously, but on a bad day it can also feel a little, well, too organised to be a heap of fun to write.
When writing fiction you have to hammer out chapters from nothing more than polluted London air. You have nothing to go on but what’s inside your head and quite often there’s nothing in there to come out. There’s NOTHING THERE. It’s tempting to just force something out (that’s fine and actually that’s what writing a book mainly is) but instead you may just feel frustrated, or more dramatically, consider never writing again.
But I have certain tactics at hand for when I have no bloody idea what I’m doing. These are some of them:
*I read. Fiction or non-fiction, it doesn’t matter. I read writers who are better than me and there’s no shame in admitting this: it’s a fact of life. Are these writers humbling or inspiring? Both, actually. (While you’re reading, do make a note of unfamiliar words and keep a word book. Mine is bulging now and you’re more likely to remember a word you’ve taken the trouble to write down and contextualise).
*Blog. I blog to flex my non-fiction muscle. Writing features and reviews is my background. I miss it sometimes. Balance is good.
*Write flash. For a break from the discursive, I can’t recommend this enough. Sometimes I need to be experimental. It’s good for my soul and a reminder of how writing should stretch form and be quite fun to do. Shine a torch on a scene and then walk away.
*I stare. I stare out of the window and have a cigarette. Yes, I’ve had some of my better ideas doing this, so there.
If all else fails, I just have a day or two off. That’s fine too. Nobody’s going to nag me.
What do you do when you’re exasperated with the writing process?