So much so, when I emerge I have to remind myself what season we are heading into – is it Spring or is it Autumn? Because for just a fraction of a second I am still in the land of my Scottish ancestors, heading for a 19th century winter of hardship, tatties and neeps.
I have learnt from experience, that an intensive bout of writing can leave me feeling blue and far away from the image of myself as an uncaged bird (epitome of freedom) wearing a crown (symbol of healthy self esteem). That picture of myself as that bird – if indeed I did hold such a self-image – fractured into tiny pieces today when I suddenly felt like mud.
This can happen when I’ve spent too much time tunnelling down into what I am writing – a necessary thing in order to enter a world that is not real, yet feels real, but isn’t real. So much so, when I emerge I have to remind myself what season we are heading into – is it Spring or is it Autumn? Because for just a fraction of a second I am still in the land of my Scottish ancestors, heading for a 19th century winter of hardship, tatties and neeps.
Earlier this month an outbreak of the delta strain of Covid forced our country into lockdown for two weeks. It is still on-going for our biggest city, Auckland, but the precautionary measures have gone down to level three for the rest of the country.
Selfishly, it provided an opportunity I grabbed with both hands. I entered into an intense writing phase, because suddenly there it was – time, space and no interruptions or outside commitments. Perfect. And so it has been. The days quickly fell into a peaceful routine which I took to like a duck to water.
Robert continued to lecture to his structural engineering students from home, via video, finding his own space in the upstairs part of our home, and each day I wrote and wrote and researched and wrote – until it was time to go for our daily walk, or until (as happened once) I had a sudden urge to bake a batch of scones.
Weekends were, I decided, for housework and reading. This also provided a nice break from all the writing and research I was filling my head with in order to best describe and place my characters in a foreign country. Prose is a lot more like heavy lifting than poetry is.
It was all going swimmingly. Semi-regular family catch-ups via video calls or texts assured us all was well with everyone else, meaning there was no over-riding anxiety to deal with. An introvert, I am happy working away on my own, with no interruptions. In fact being on my own, in my own space, energises me. It’s how I re-charge my batteries.
And then – today – after a bout of writing I suddenly felt as if it was all useless. Reading stuff on social media (never helps, don’t do it is my advice) and falling into the trap of comparing myself to other writers – and, yes believe me, I know, this is a mine field where no sensible person will dare set foot. Especially comparing yourself to far better writers, cleverer, younger, more confident, more successful, sharper, slicker, faster off the mark, wittier, more woke, smarter, more connected … you get the picture. I certainly did!
I just wanted to throw in the towel. Give it all up. Take up pottery. Or weaving. Or become a fashionista.
A few things pulled me out of this slough of despond:
Photos of my son and grandchildren sent from a neighbouring city and ‘out of the blue’, from my daughter-in-law. How did she know? (But then she’s like that. Intuitive as hell.)
A photo taken four years ago turning up at tea time in an email site another daughter-in-law set up to timeline her child’s growing years. Seeing again our four-year old kindy-attending granddaughter when she was just a little baby of six weeks, was a precious reminder of the swift passage of time and how important to treasure the present moment. Remembering back to yesterday’s video with that granddaughter, singing her heart out while drumming. Her father’s patient smile. Her mother’s wise comments.
Bolstering texts tonight from my sister and my daughter, also pulled me up out of this self-imposed slump. My recently widowed sister who has it much tougher by far, telling me I am NOT the world’s worst writer. My daughter describing a family walk I could easily picture; other people’s dogs running up to them, but they can’t pat them because, covid. Telling me to wrap up warm in readiness for the queue outside the supermarket when I finally venture out.
Thinking of my son and his family in Berlin, envisioning them having breakfast, the two kids getting ready for school and kindergarten, their parents readying themselves for a day’s work on the last day of summer, while we hunker down for the night on our last evening of winter. And remembering how just two days ago a moment of magical synchronicity flew across time and distance between me and my daughter-in-law.
I thought of how much I love my daughters in laws. My daughter. My sons. My one and only son-in-law. And all my nine grandchildren.
How can I despair?
Before long I could feel the blood rushing back into my writing veins. I could feel the strength return. The desire to keep on to the finishing line with this novel I have started, returned.
Like the pansies I have growing outside in plant pots. Every so often their heads droop. Way down. So much so I can’t see their little faces. But after I rush off for a jug of water and give them a drink, within an hour there they are again, the darlings, smiling at me.
I just needed a drink of water. To reset my priorities. Writing is only a part of my life. Family is everything.
I will continue to write. Experience from the last twenty years as a published author has taught me that there will again be times when it won’t seem worth it and I’ll just want to give up.
But when the book does get finished, it will be a concrete thing. I will hold it. Smell it. Caress it. Weigh it in my hands. Some lovely people will want to read it. And some will get back to me and tell me how much they enjoyed it. Even to the point of showcasing it, giving the it ups – personally, publicly, verbally. Telling others about it. These people are gold. These people make writing a book worth it. Appreciative readers. Generous readers. Hell, let’s face it, readers – appreciative and generous, either or both or neither. They are readers. To a writer, readers are gold. Simply. Gold.
This wee fellow bless him, is a sometime-visitor to my sister’s garden. He lives at the bottom of the road where there is a pond and bulrushes. He (and I know it’s a male because of the beak colour) is my desktop image and muse.