Tuesday, 16 March 2010

***?!***

My name is Susie. And I'm a blocked writer.

I'm even blocked for blogging. Sitting here in front of a square of empty screen, due to post tonight, and no ideas have come. This is scary and disconcerting, and it's the second time it's happened in a month.

The last time I worked on my novel was 18th January. I know, because I have a list of days and word-counts I kept to encourage me to keep going. So what happened?

For a long time, I've been pushing energy out into my writing and nothing’s been coming back. I've been watching friends and colleagues succeeding in their writing lives (which is thrilling and inspiring) but failing miserably myself.

I have this theory: Creativity, in its best and healthiest form, is a circular process:-

- Someone (or something – like inspiration) says: Here’s a thing. Can you do
this?

- You feel excited. Yes, you say. Yes, I can.
- You go away and do it to the best of your ability.
- When it’s completed, you hand it over. Thank you, they say. I like
that
. Or they pay you for it.
- And that pleasure in receiving, or acknowledgement, or financial remuneration, is a boost of energy. It fills up the space where the creative object used to be, all ready for a new cycle of creativity to begin.

This cycle happens naturally in every creative act. Trouble comes when the cycle is interrupted, or uncompleted. And especially when this happens lots of times. You start to feel a certain tiredness, a certain emptiness. You watch other people receiving their boosts and a childlike whine begins to hum through your brain: What about me? What about me? it goes. So you redouble your efforts. You send out a few more creative babies into the world. Again, nothing. You retire to lick your wounds. There’s not much energy left now. But you push yourself doggedly onwards. This may be the point at which you realise that you are attempting to get out of a hole through the act of digging.

Maybe that hole needs a bit of filling instead. And maybe the world can’t fill it.

I know I’ve got off track because I’ve so badly wanted the publishing world to want what I do. And that’s dangerous. In hoping or expecting this, I put myself in a very vulnerable position - especially if that’s where ALL my hope resides.

When a neighbour heard about the latest rejection, she said: ‘I think you should just enjoy your retirement.’ Retirement? I haven't reached that age yet. It felt like an added blow. You’re old as well as useless. But perhaps she had a point. Sometimes we need to retire. Retire gracefully from the one-pointed need to be published at all costs. At least for a bit. Work on filling that empty hole I’ve been so busy digging. Remember that what I do has worth, to me - even if not to ‘them out there’.

And maybe, one day… hell, you never know.

30 comments:

Fionnuala Kearney said...

Pah and Pffft to that neighbour of yours! If it's any consolation Susie, I and most people reading this, know how you're feeling...
But look at it another way, as Nelson Mandela once quoted, 'Who are you NOT to shine?' You certainly shine in our lives and I find your writing a beautiful thing, something that the world would miss, even if to date that publishing deal has remained elusive.
Keep on shining Susie!

The Virtual Victorian said...

It hurts me to read this - because I know how much it is hurting you.

As Fi says, your writing is beautiful and you do shine.

Retire!!! More like have a lovely long holiday somewarm warm, take lots of your favourite authors to read - forget all about writing/courses/reports for at least 6 months* (during which time, you're brain will be sorting a new story out - I'd bet on that) and then... pick up your pen again.

*But don't stop writing Strictly!

CarolineG said...

Stupid neighbour....

Susie, I know how you feel. But I honestly believe that a certain peace comes from writing and that if you can gently find your way back in, your creativity reserves will start to full up again.
Small steps and small goals - these might be the gentle way back in?

SarahSiddons said...

That neighbour clearly has no idea of the frustrations you're experiencing. If you were a tradesman waiting for a job their attitude would be different - wouldn't it? Makes me angry on your behalf.

As for yourself: try to look upon this as a time to recoup your energies. Sometimes we need to step back in order to go forward. I wish you luck and joy

Bernadette said...

What a touching post, Susie. I could feel every word with you. I hope things turn out the way you want them to.

Helen Black said...

I have a friend who is in exactly the same position as you. He is a damn good writer but that publishing contract just hasn't been forthcoming.
He has for some time now, been telling me he is going to give up and just enjoy his life. He has an interesting job and a fab family. He doesn't need, he says, to introduce the pain of rejection again and again.

I understand. And yet...where there's talent, there will be success.
To paraphrase the wonderful Elizabeth Gilbert, people say that being publihse dis like finding a cheap apartment in New York. Impossible. And yet every day someone finds a cheap apartment in New York.

HBx

Old Kitty said...

Hi

Awwww come on now - LOOK!! You've written a blog entry!!! And we're reading it!!

:-)

Take heart, take a break, have kitkat, deep breath and love yourself and your writing again!! Of course you can do this - and we'll all be cheering you on all the way!!

:-)

Take care
x

CarolineG said...

Brady on Writewords has just posted this brilliant quote from writer Elizabeth Gilbert:

As for discipline – it’s important, but sort of over-rated. The more important virtue for a writer, I believe, is self-forgiveness. Because your writing will always disappoint you. Your laziness will always disappoint you. You will make vows: “I’m going to write for an hour every day,” and then you won’t do it. You will think: “I suck, I’m such a failure. I’m washed-up.” Continuing to write after that heartache of disappointment doesn’t take only discipline, but also self-forgiveness (which comes from a place of kind and encouraging and motherly love). The other thing to realize is that all writers think they suck. When I was writing “Eat, Pray, Love”, I had just as a strong a mantra of THIS SUCKS ringing through my head as anyone does when they write anything. But I had a clarion moment of truth during the process of that book. One day, when I was agonizing over how utterly bad my writing felt, I realized: “That’s actually not my problem.” The point I realized was this – I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write. So I put my head down and sweated through it, as per my vows.

Roderic Vincent said...

Susie, your words resonate so strongly. I found this post very moving and the ideas uncomfortably familiar.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to just quit? Enjoy the the way the sun seeps through the blinds on this birthday of spring. Forget writing, it's shit.

Michelle said...

You are very brave and honest to bear your soul in this post. I share your frustrations and heartaches. Delighted for friends I see succeeding and struggling to remain inspired and motivated in my own writing.
I posted on my blog recently about reviving inspiration and motivation and some of the things I did. If it helps please have a look.
Keep writing and keep sending - any amount of rejections will be paled into shadow by the acceptance offer that wil come I am sure.
Michelle
x

Susie Nott-Bower said...

I am SO touched by your responses and suggestions and understanding. Thank you so very much. Thought I would be seen as a depressed whiner. Moments like this it's like the sun breaks through.
Susiex

Lizzie said...

Susie, I think you summed writing up in your last sentence:

'And maybe, one day ... hell, you never know.'

It's not easy, but keep writing, don't give up and don't beat yourself up too much.

KeithHavers said...

You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you're working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success – but only if you persist. - Isaac Asimov
I have dozens of these little snippets to keep me going. Hoping to share more of them on my blog.

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Thanks, Lizzie. :)
Keith, that's a great quote.
Susiex

Gillian McDade said...

Gggrr - what an idiotic neighbour. Maybe she is just resentful of the fact you have achieved more than she has? You wouldn't be the first one to have heard these words though. I think at some point all writers will have encountered this phrase. Never give up!

Rosy T said...

Oh, Susie, I feel for you. Your post was painful to read because it is so true. But keep on writing and the self-belief and pleasure in writing will come back. It always does!

Debs Riccio said...

Oh Susie - I can so empathise with every-blinkin'-thing you say here. It sucks at times, doesn't it, this writing malarkay? And that "what about me" is such a shrill little voice that half the time you don't even want to admit you can hear because you don't want to sound like a whinger... I have another voice, though, that keeps my head above the slushy water we're in. My lovely writerly ( and bestselling-but-she-was-once-here-too) friend Claire Allan told me once "It only takes ONE yes".
((Hang in there))

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Thanks - it's such a relief to know it's not just me. What a lovely supportive bunch you are. May we all know the joy of that 'yes' very soon.
Susiexx

Derek said...

Well Susie, needless to say I know where you're coming from. The guinea-fowl of despondency (a distant cousin of the bluebird of happiness) comes to visit every writer from time to time. First the good news - you did in fact write something so the writer's block isn't universal. Secondly, maybe you could just write something else for a bit - a short story about writer's block? A chance to puncture the balloon, so to speak. And thirdly, in the words of Churchill, "Never give up; never give up; never give up." Repeat daily after meals.

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Derek, you are indeed the peacock of persistence and the ptarmigan (!) of tenacity, and an inspiration to those of us who know you. :)
Susiex

Nicola Morgan said...

Susie - I have been there and it's horrible. Or, of course, it's different for everyone and different circs etc, so I won't presume to say I have been exactly in the same place. But, like the others reading this, I felt your pain and have every sympathy with you. I was 21 years unpublished and it hit me hard every time I got another knockback. If you're anything like most/all of us, you'll pick yourself up, a new idea will come and suddenly you'll be burning to write it. I can't get the writing muse to join me either at the moment and i worry it won't come back - but in my head I know it will.

That was a brave post you wrote and I wish you huge strength and luck.

CarolineG said...

Susie, I hope all these responses will give you a boost to keep going.

I'm especially liking the ptarmigan of tenacity.
But shouldn;t it be the ptarmigan ot ptenacity?

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Thank you so much, Nicola. I can't tell you and everyone else what this response has meant. Have just said elsewhere how very welcome it is to hear that none of us are alone with this, that most people have and do encounter this hard and challenging stuff at times. I do hope your muse will begin to whisper again very soon.
And Caroline, of course - ptenacity it is! :)
Susiex

Lydia said...

Oh, Susie - haven't we all been there? Such a brave post, but you know in your heart that you can't give up. If you could you wouldn't have begun in the first place- this is a hard path we have all chosen to tread. Not needing to write would be much easier, but you can't do it, can you?
Be as kind to yourself as you would to any writer friend experiencing what you're going through. You wouldn't say to them: you're rubbish, why don't you just give up? You'd say: you've got talent; just hang in there; keep going and one day you'll get the recognition you deserve. So say it to yourself and know the truth of it.
Write tiny unconnected snippets just for the sheer joy of doing it and you'll remember why it was you couldn't stop yourself from doing this weird thing in the first place.
Good luck and a cyber hug!
www.lydiajones.co.uk/blog

Emma Darwin said...

Oh, Susie, that was such a brave post and I so feel for you (not least because I've been there many times.)

I think Elizabeth Gilbert is right - one thing which depletes the well more than almost anything else, is beating yourself up for feeling like this. When you find yourself sounding childish, it's because some fundamental need isn't being met: in your case, your need to be heard (which is something we all have) is being thwarted by an assortment of things which are not your fault, such as the current economics of the book trade. That's a frustration you're entitled to be sad about. There's nothing worse for creating blank-page terror than simultaneously wanting This Piece to be the one which works by whatever magic formula the book trade is telling you has so far eluded you, and 'knowing' that it won't be.

Telling someone to go forget about publication and go back to doing it for fun can sound like telling you to retire, but you might find it's more positive than that. Letting go of an outcome has the most powerful and peculiar effects on your creativity. But you need energy for creativity to have a chance of flourishing, and it does sound as if everything has conspired to make yours leak away. It will come back, though - it's in your bones, so it just needs food.

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Thank you so much, Lydia and Emma.
What you say about beating yourself up is so true. I always know when things are really bad because I see that I've turned against myself instead of 'staying faithful'.
And Emma, yes - absolutely the 'retirement' angle, when viewed without the frustrated emotion, is very important. And necessary. I think it leads to equanimity.
Susiex

Linda Strachan said...

Susie, all the comments here let you know that you are not alone.

I blogged about a similar feeling recently in from the casket-of-insecurity, a writer or a fraud?

Sometimes the pressure of trying to get things accepted makes you miserable, we've all been there, and as difficult as it sounds I think Emma's advice - Letting go of an outcome has the most powerful and peculiar effects on your creativity - is worth thinking about.

Keep writing but most of all enjoy it. Oh, and try wearing earmuffs whenever that particular neighbour is around!

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Linda, I just read your blog - isn't it terrifying how easily we can convince ourselves (at certain times) that we 'can't' and 'aren't'. Well done you for continuing across the garden and into your study!
And yes, I know from experience how letting go of outcomes seems to revitalise creativity. Sometimes one has to get mad enough to cut the cord between oneself and one's desires. Then it's as if something says: 'Great - now you've got out of the way of yourself, I can take over.'
Susiex

Colin M said...

Emma Darwin said, "Letting go of an outcome has the most powerful and peculiar effects on your creativity. "

I couldn't agree more. It's certainly frustrating getting rejections but ultimately, you have no control over that. All you can do is focus on what you can control. You have total control over your writing, editing and your submissions. Let the other stuff be someone else's problem and while they scrape their feet, keep writing and keep submitting.

If you chuck enough balls at enough coconuts, you'll win a fish.

Colin M

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Hope you are right, Colin! :)
Susiex