Wednesday, 29 May 2019

May 2019- Signing off....

So initially the holiday did exactly what I wanted, and got me writing in some way. It was a new story idea, set in the Lakes, where I just happened to be, so hardly surprising! But I managed to scribble whilst on a walk as well as in the evenings and in the car on the way home. I even bought a book for research purposes, becoming more invested in the idea. It was just so nice to feel inspired, which is just as I had hoped I would be. It may not yet be for a novel, but it’s a start. But then I came home, and as I was pulled back into the humdrum of work and normal life again, so my spark diminished. And that’s just what’s happened with all my story ideas recently.

There are moments when I just think about giving it all up, this writing malarkey. Go back to just enjoying reading for the sake of reading. I’m sure I could too, I managed before when I hadn’t really discovered writing, well properly anyway. And then I think of all that I’ve done and learnt over the last few years since I put pen to paper and think that maybe, just maybe, it would leave such a hole that I wouldn’t be able to fill. That however pressurised I find it, and that’s often my own doing, it really was the thing that was missing in my life. It’s a hard one and I don’t think there is a simple answer. Maybe I need to go back, to where I started, with poetry and short stories, and try and build my confidence back up that way. Maybe its just not meant to be and I just have to accept that.

I need to be so much kinder to myself. I had a message from an author friend when she asked how I was getting on and it really made me think, and know that I’m not alone, and I just need to share what she told me- that most writers probably struggle with confidence, but to enjoy what I’m writing and take pleasure in that as an end itself, that anything else is a bonus. And she’s right, and I’d lost that pleasure. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about myself and how I feel- about work, my writing, my worth. It sounds deep I know, but I felt it needed to happen. I feel so lost, with no sense of direction in anything and I really feel that its affected my state overall. I need space, to work out where I’m going next, in different aspects and so I’ve made a decision. I’m going to stop writing this blog. Maybe not forever, but certainly for a while. I want to completely take the pressure off, rediscover my love for the things I do. And unfortunately this outlet has become a sea of negativity for me more recently and its not helping. I’m not yet saying my journey as a writer is ending before its really even begun, but more that I don’t know where I am and I need to find that out. And that means stopping my log too, which is only fuelling my guilt at not writing enough at the moment. They have both had their positives and their place, and may well work for me again in the future, but I have to get there first. I want to continue and build on the idea of journaling, I still need to get into the habit of doing it but I think it will help to sort through my muddled head.

Am I still passionate about my story? Once yes, as with most of my ideas, but not at the moment and that’s where the problem lies. The fear and self-doubt as well as the daily grind of life has taken over and I feel like a light has gone out of me. I know I’m not quite ready to give up on it, but I need the space, the lack of pressure, to try and find again what excited me in the first place. And it will come, just not when I’m expecting it.

Believe in the stories you want to tell and don’t give up hope. Miranda Dickinson, you’ve done it again, thank you! I won’t give up hope, just keep looking for it. And since I’ve taken just a little pressure off, made my decision, there are little sparks creeping back in. The random ideas for stories, one line here, a short paragraph there as well as notes for a couple of works in progress (including my novel), so it was definitely the best thing for me to do now, and I will continue to hope, and see what happens. I still have my columns to write, and two or three new ideas playing around in my head, so I’m not giving up yet. Hopefully I’ll see you on the other side.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

April 2019- Trying to see the wood for the trees…. and failing

It’s very much an unpredictable time at the moment with work and its almost certainly having an impact on other things too, especially my confidence in my abilities meaning I’m struggling to move forwards and holding back on my novel, in getting it sorted as the fear takes hold and won’t let go. I’ve bought some books on structuring in the hope they might help me but I’m still putting off the inevitable. There have been moments where ideas have been sparked and duly noted down, but I still need to take that leap and it feels so long since I’ve written anything substantial.

I just have this feeling of being stuck right now, both in my work and writing. Like I said, there have been a few tiny sparks, but not enough to produce very much. Its days like these (and today has been one of those) when I’m completely at a loss with what to do. The emotion builds along with the frustration, and with it, the threat of tears, at the boredom of work and the haunting empty page to match my empty imagination. The whole month has been pretty much like this, it’s like the passion has gone, been snuffed out. I can’t remember the last time I wrote any of my novel and I’m struggling too with my other ideas. Don’t they say that if you’re not excited by your idea then the best thing to do would be to leave it, that the reader won’t like the story if you don’t. I can’t seem to get over this all-consuming fear- that I can’t finish my novel, that nothing I do will be good enough.  I listen to other authors as they tell their stories, share advice and for a few moments, I feel better, that I can do it. But then it all comes flooding back, that fear. I can’t even find the motivation at the moment to read those books I mentioned, the fear is crippling me more as I realise just what a daunting task I’ve set myself. And I know I’m not even saying anything new, just repeating myself time and time again, in the hope that things will change, and yet I still can’t seem to shake this awful feeling of dread. Is it a sign that it’s just not meant to be? I hope not as that just upsets me more, so that must mean something right??

Walking has been great for my general wellbeing, but not so much for my allocated writing time, cutting it in half most days and not inspiring anything as I make my way around the route as I had hoped it would. So maybe I need to adjust my routine a little, stop making excuses. I’ve also just had four days break from work and some stunning weather, as well as a little time to write and yet only a few scribbles made it to the page and they were column ideas rather than anything else. There has been a little writing and research over the course of the month and I’m not belittling it in any way, but I still don’t seem to be any further forward, in anything and my goal just seems unreachable. I just feel everything is squashed to a point that nothing comes out and that goes for my creativity as well as my skills, I’ve lost faith in myself.

I’ve got out of the habit somewhat and I really need to find my writing purpose again, my passion. The fear has taken a strong hold and threatens to overwhelm me. So for now, the novel is put to one side as I work on finding my purpose again. I’m not giving up though, just taking small steps to build my confidence back up and exploring other ideas, creating plans and giving myself space to play around with short stories, columns, to get that habit back. I need to stop reading and just write, anything, go back to basics. I’m not encouraging creativity if I’m squashing it by pressuring myself or beating myself up. (thanks Emma!)

So I’ve started journaling and I have to say I feel already only after a few days that its helping a little. It gives me that chance to vocalise my thoughts, both good and bad, and about anything. Much like this blog for all writing related woes (and celebrations, sometimes). And it’s a form of writing too, if you like, clearing my head of all the muddle.

When I sit down to write, I want it to feel like I’m coming home. It does sometimes, but not all the time. If I’m forcing things, writing does not deliver. I need to find a way to hear myself, let my emotions out. I need to get out of the way of the words and let them come. Listen and do not interrupt, and whatever is in my head will transfer to the page and I will once more find my voice.

I’m writing this month’s entry a little early as I’m off on holiday at the weekend and I’m looking forward to the break, a proper break. Who knows what inspiration it may bring? I’m not expecting much given my current state of mind, but if I continue with the journaling and in an attempt to find just a small positive in what looks like a sea of negativity, you never know, and I have to hold onto that.

'Even if some days you have to dig a little deeper, we all have the strength, courage and bravery within us.' The Lion King

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

March 2019- No more excuses

Reading, crafting, walking, singing. These are all the things that I’ve been doing instead of writing. Are they worthwhile or just another way of avoiding the issue? I would argue that they are important, to me. To my wellbeing and state of mind overall. I just need to include writing in that mix too, and learn to use my time to fit in all that I want to do, and not feel guilty.

Towards the start of the month and probably up until at least halfway through, I could count on one hand the number of occasions that I’d written anything. So why am I even documenting this? Because its all a part of the process. Okay so I may not have done what I thought I would have done by now, but the important thing is that I will. I haven’t given up. I still have a story to tell. I just need to get it completely clear in my head what that is, and I know I may have got a little lost along the way, but I’m determined to get there. Has the break done me any good? I suppose only time will tell. Currently the fear is resurfacing at what to do next, where I even begin. Small steps. I know one thing at least, from the books that I’ve been reading for this literary prize long list, that I know I still want to write my story. And I’m much more critical as reader, because I write. Its not about being better, I’m not that conceited, but more about writing the book I want to read, and having the belief in myself to do that. So you could say that I was still inspired, just in a different, unexpected way.

And so, once all the books had been read and reviews submitted, I could no longer use them as an excuse. For the first time in weeks, I picked up my pencil and opened my notebook for my novel. Beginning by writing up some notes I’d previously made on my phone, but it got me back into thinking about my story and building on those scribbled ideas. It was a nice feeling. And as the month draws to a close, that has continued, both from research notes and sections inspired by a variety of things, something in front of me, or an overheard sentence. It just feels good to finally be working on it again. I’m still not 100% sure where I’m going and I have the task of getting down to the nitty gritty, but it’s a start, a small step in the right direction at least. And I’m not putting the inevitable off either, but asking for help in order to get me to where I need to be, from those that have already been there. And this has been invaluable, a book recommendation and a few pointers might not seem like a lot, but for me, they will be the difference in getting this book written, and I’m finally excited to get things sorted. And from this, I know, moving forwards, not what to do with all the other ideas I have, just waiting in the wings. I’m not ready to give up yet.

It’s a mind-set. I’m the same at work. I get stuck, fed up and then negative, unmotivated and distracted. Then I achieve nothing. I need to work on, and am beginning to, shifting my mind-set, starting the day in a better way, in a more positive frame in order to assess where I am and what I need to do, or be doing. Breaking down the goals to more manageable steps that then feel more achievable. I need to do the same in my writing. Instead of looking at it as a big mess that I can’t wade through, break it down into smaller chunks, thinking about it all first, getting down the bare bones without even looking at the larger document. Only then will I be able to look at it again and see where it fits. And I’m trying to do this now, getting into a writers mind-set. I’ve been scribbling other ideas down, and whilst they may  not come to anything, or even be my writing style, there is sometimes a need to just get the words out, whatever they may be. Even if you never look at what you’ve written again, its all part of the process, of ordering the mind. And with these scribbles, another column done and work on-going  with my novel, the last two weeks have turned out much better than I had expected. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next.

So, no more excuses….

‘Your words have worth and your ideas matter. Be kind to yourself and believe in the stories you’re telling’ Miranda Dickinson

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

February 2019- Fighting through the fog

‘The hard part about writing a novel is finishing it’ Hemingway

So true! When I look back on my many notebooks from the last 4 years , at least that’s how long I think it’s been, and my scribbled thoughts, the way ahead is murky and confusing. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just done. Keep creating, keep learning, keep gaining  confidence. Don’t sabotage the creativity. Thank you Helen Redfern (@bookishbaker). Fighting through the writing lulls, sometimes winning, sometimes losing, but still keep fighting anyway. When having a bad day, its too easy to focus on the negatives and question of you’re doing the right thing, if you’re good enough.  Its all too easy to keep forgetting all the good stuff that’s gone before. I have to keep reminding myself of that. And also of the importance of having the time and space to see and think, to work things out in my somewhat fuddled head.

I’ve been feeling disillusioned with it all… with work and writing. I’ve barely done anything on my novel recently, is that it, gone and to never be finished? That’s certainly how  it feels and I don’t know how to get myself out of these place. Work is the same, is it time for a change, a re-energisation? I’m stuck in a vicious circle and fed up of feeling like this. I think too much, I know I need to stop procrastinating, or I will never get myself out of this black hole I’ve put myself in.  I have a plan of sorts to help me, but I now need to pull myself up and start attempting to put it into action. I need to find and chase my dreams, no-one else can do it for me. In terms of work, of course I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given, but I need to find what is right for me, what will make me happier in the long run, and then maybe the feeling will reach other areas of my life, and I’ll find the motivation and belief in myself that I need, instead of the feeling of being underwhelmed that currently plagues me. I just need the right frame of mind.

‘Just keep swimming….’

A turn of thoughts…. as I’m not writing, but not beating myself up over it, or at least trying not to. I will finish my novel, I have t keep believing that, but I know I will just mess it up if I force things. And so I made the decision to take a short break and undertaking some reading for a literary prize, which the university are working with. It’s a learning curve in my reading repertoire, and also in types of writing. And maybe this is what I need right now. And that it’s okay, because I will write again.

Have belief in your right to be a writer and be read, that is paramount.

And then it happens, when you’re not expecting it. A new idea comes and with it, inspiration. This is followed by notes and research, forming something. It’s the first time in a while when I have felt excited about writing, and that includes the short story that I finished and submitted for the Writers and Artists Yearbook competition. I know now that I shouldn’t have probably even sent it, seemed little point when I don’t have the faith in what I’m putting to paper. But it was still good to give myself the job of writing something and finishing it, as well the process of just writing what came to me, once my notes had run out, something I could do with doing more often, instead of thinking too much. But I’ve learnt too that I have to both believe in what I’m writing as well as myself as a writer, or there is little point, the reader will see through the words straight away. In terms of the new story idea, I will keep open minded, but need to be careful that it doesn't make me lose sight of my novel. It may just be the blessing in disguise that I need to get back into writing properly again.

Three years ago today I was lucky enough to attend ‘Discovery Day’ at Foyle’s in London. It was an amazing day, lots to take in and learn, as well as making the most of a day in town, absorbing sights and culture. But one of the biggest things was the opportunity to pitch my novel to an agent. And its just got me thinking and inspired to get writing, to finally get my novel finished and submitted. Like I said, its been a while since I felt like this, a small spark of something, which is much needed and I intend to hold onto it. It’s also made me realise just how long and how much I have invested in this story, too much to give up now, however hard the task may feel. I just need that different mind-set…

Saturday, 26 January 2019

January 2019- Facing the Fear

January has been a hard month, in a number of ways. Feel like I’m facing the fears in more way than one. Fear that I’m not good enough, that I can’t do this anymore. But then a small moment of magic comes and puts the bad stuff into a corner. I had a light bulb moment  whilst reading a book, a good book but not one I was reading to help me. It just shows that inspiration really can come from anywhere, when you least expect it, even when you’re not thinking about your story. And so followed a whole load of notes and thoughts as I could see, finally, just how my story should be, how it should be told. And this was right at the start of the month. A break can be a good thing, but also a struggle. I’ve spent some time working on some short story ideas which has been good and at least I’m writing something. But I’m scared that if I get too distracted, I won’t be able to pick up my novel again, that the story will somehow stall too much for me to carry on, to do what I need to do. And that really worries me. Maybe it’s not about writing something new, more that I need to begin looking at my novel again, against my rough outline, seeing where things go and what I already have.. But finding the time and motivation, to look at it, when I’ve been staring at a screen all day at work is a struggle. I need to find a different routine to adopt, one that works best for me and then sticking to it. It’s all there, waiting, I just need to let myself in. I need to get over the fear and start to believe in myself and my story, otherwise no one else will. And sticking to my plan too, instead of keep changing things too much. Reading other stories has been good but there is a danger  that others ideas will influence too much on what I’ve already done to the point that I’m feel like I’m starting all over again and all my work up till now will have been wasted. STOP and THINK. But not too much. Thinking is why I feel I’m no further forward and this elusive draft feels like it will never be finished. It’s about getting the balance right. And slow progress is better than no progress.

‘The key to writing is to write, not to think.’ Finding Forrester.

Working on my short story ideas for the competition has been beneficial, the feeling of just getting the words on the page and sparking the love of writing again, the excitement of a new story. It can only be a good thing and help with my novel in the long run. And I’m not saying that my novel doesn’t excite me, that I no longer like the story I’m telling, because I do, I just need to rediscover that feeling. I keep coming up with different story ideas, inspired by things I’ve seen, how I’m feeling. Only sometimes I end up going in the wrong direction and I have to stop and bring myself back to who I am, the kind of writer I want to be. Hiding that piece away in order to be able to focus properly instead of getting distracted. Words are on the page, so that’s a good thing and all my work has not been in vain, so something I’m grateful for, but the words actually written are not me. I have to treat it like an exercise of exploring and sparking new writing but I have to keep bringing me back each time to the place I need to be.

At the start of the year, I said to myself that I hoped that 2019 would be healthier and happier for me. If there was anything to put paid to that, it was promising myself that. It may still be January, but I can honestly say that it hasn’t been the best of months, with one thing after the other making me feel I’m taking a step back each time. I’m still using my lunch breaks to write, but only after having a walk, trying to build a new routine. And then I got the flu. And I’ll honestly say that it’s been a struggle to get back into everything again, the motivation and energy lacking, both physically and mentally. I’ve been trying to write though, even when I’ve not been 100%, in a bid that having something else to concentrate than just the yuck feeling will  help, as well as the need to get back to normal. It’s about knowing my own limits, starting small. I’ve found a new place in the last couple of days at work where I can sit and write, surrounded by books and inspiration, and scribbling story ideas and columns in order to bring me back to where I need to be. Hopefully there will be a little bit of magic waiting for me at the end, it’s the one thing I’m holding onto.

Sunday, 30 December 2018

December 2018- Not Giving Up

And I’m not giving up, despite my last woeful post. I’m just trying to gain some perspective. Taking time out to refocus on the task ahead of me and how best to tackle it. And to help me do that, I’ve been reading some writing books and other novels to gain insight and spark that love for my story again. There was a need for a different type of motivation to help me get to where I need to be and overcome my fear. I can’t and I won’t give up, I’ve worked too long on this and invested so much and the the most important point of all, I still want to tell this story. And so the last few weeks I’ve given myself the time to think and really see my story, making notes of how I will outline, all without looking at the large saved document that is my WIP, which is just too confusing too look at, the pressure too much. Once I have a completely clear idea in my head and noted down, only then will I look back at my first draft and begin to see what fits and where and what still needs to be done. So I’m taking a small step back until it all becomes clearer to me, it is the only way I can then be able to move forwards again.

I received two writing books for Christmas from my ever thoughtful and understanding sister, she knows me so well, and they are much needed right now as I pick up from where I left off before the festive break and attempt to start the new year as I mean to go on, in a better place. As I read either, fiction or indeed non-fiction, I’m thinking and seeing how I need my writing and story to go, slowly moving forwards and feeling much better about things. Notes and scribbled thoughts as I go, all helping me along the way.  To some, it might seem a convoluted route to the end, but I really feel that it’s lifting me out of the hole that I put myself in, so that can only be a good thing as far as I’m concerned, and we all have our own funny little ways of dealing with situations. I’ve done things all the wrong way round with this novel, but I’ve learnt my lesson, albeit the hard way, but I know now what to do for the next time. And I have so many other ideas just waiting to be explored, that I’m planning on there being a next time, but I have to finish this one first. I’ve looked back on my year and what I’ve achieved and I can’t complain, even if I feel like I’m repeating myself a little, so my main goal for 2018 was to finish my first draft, and I may not have achieved that just yet, but it was a big ask. But I am closer, I know and feel that. I’ve come a long way in some respects, but there is still a way to go and I’m determined to get there.

As I submitted my final column of 2018 (actually being published on 1 Jan 2019, ironically!) I did wonder if the time had come to finish contributing, wondering if I had any more to say after 4 years and around 40 submissions. But then I thought about it more. It  is a way of me having an opinion, of others reading what I have to say. And although it’s unpaid, all writers have to start somewhere. So with that in mind, I’ve decided to try and list 12 different ideas that I could write about and submit as and when it is relevant. Not only would that take the pressure off a little (with only two regular contributors, I submit nearly every month) but I’m hoping it will highlight, mainly to myself, that I do still have something to say. I’m also planning a story story for a competition that closes in February, which not only is a way of exploring other ideas, but I hope will be a way of helping me to bring back my love of writing. Plus this blog too, a good way of ordering my jumbled thoughts and worries. So with all that in mind, I’m making a promise to myself as  I plan to start the new year with fresh eyes and being able to see a way forward with my writing.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

November 2018- Drowning

I’m crying as I write this, just feeling so overwhelmed by it all.  It’s not a good place to be and yet I keep ending up here, hating my writing, the world. everything. And once I’m in that mind-set, I find it extremely hard to get out of.  Everything is a negative thought, hard to pinpoint even one small happy thing amongst it all. Today was not a good day, with anything. I got scared and ran away, the fear got too much and I didn’t even want to try .The smallest of things was just too difficult to do, to concentrate on and I gave up. I’m good at doing that. I can’t get my head around something, become impatient when I feel I can’t do it and instead of trying to keep going, I stop and bury my head in the sand. There have been small glimmers this month, but they are forgotten for a moment as I dwell on the place I’m in now. And maybe that’s a good thing in a way? I’m using words to try and explain my emotions, in the hope that it might make me feel better and take me to a happier place. Anything is better than this.

It sounds so over dramatic I know. So what if you can’t do it, just do something else, who cares? You become your own worst enemy. But I do care and that is why I feel like this.  I’ve reached a point recently where I’m beginning to wonder why I’m even trying to write this novel. It’s just too big a challenge, I can’t overcome it and I’m not sure why I even bother. It’s all taking too long and because I didn’t get things right at the start, I’ve only made it worse for myself.

As I started to read through my first and very messy draft, it became glaringly obvious. It was a daunting and mammoth task, of my own doing, and I realised that I had an awful lot of words that won’t become the final story. Was it just a huge waste of time, all that toiling and scribbling? I’m beginning to wonder. It was hard to stomach as I scanned over the first 100 or so pages of type face knowing deep down that most of it won’t be used and wondering where my story really begins. It’s a huge learning curve and I’m firmly stuck at the bottom, not able to get out, drowning in what I thought I wanted to say.

All novels manifest themselves as you work on them, I get that and I can see that’s what’s happened the longer that this story has taken. It’s evolved so much since I began that I don’t recognise some of it. Even as I read over and attempt to jot down events and where I see them now, a good thing, I still doubt myself and that I will ever finish it. But if I didn’t care so much, I wouldn’t get so upset. I know what I need to do, it’s finding the courage to do it.  And that’s the part I’m struggling with. I feel I’m not good enough, as I follow my peers and see them doing well, and I’m cheering them on, but also jealous as I feel left behind. It’s one of my worst character traits, my impatience and that of constantly comparing myself to others. It’s a vicious circle that is a constant struggle to try and break out of.

There are small windows where I have a good day, some weeks, months are better than others. For me, this has not been one of my best. Okay so I’ve finally caught up with myself, but it only leaves me with more words to wade through, and a frustration that I haven’t put pen to paper for a while, not really. Does that count as writing? I keep telling myself that it does, that as I type I’m thinking, discovering new words as I build on scenes, ones that maybe I had forgotten about. And it is a good feeling, as the story unfurls at my fingertips, not from the pen, as it’s not a way of writing that I am used to. There have been scribbles, ideas and longer parts too, but then I have realised as I work on a scene that the way it is written doesn’t work for my story, is not my voice. I’m getting carried away with something that is not me, not what I want to write. But at least I have realised that, and am trying to put it right.

I’m constantly inspired by other writers, in different ways. A tweet that has so few characters but yet says so much, or an article that tells me I’m not alone. I just need to keep those moments of clarity from when I read or hear those words and bring them to mind for times such as these. I’ve been lucky enough to attend two literary events in the last couple of weeks, in fact two consecutive days. Both were very different writers, both inspiring me in different ways.  But one thing that stands out from all of the writers that I’ve met, chatted to or just followed online, is that they didn’t give up, even when things were bleak. So I may be in a bad place creatively at the moment, but hopefully if I just keep showing up, I’ll come out the other side. Slow progress is better than no progress after all.