The Elusive Book 2

So, you’ve got your first publishing deal. You’ve achieved your lifelong dream. From this day forth, you are an author – a real breathing bubbling bubble of brilliance author. You will write another book and another after that and another after that. You have so many ideas, you can’t wait to get back on that writing wagon.

After allowing the excitement of that first deal to subside a little – just enough to stop the squealing and jaunty dancing, you start up the laptop, take a deep breath, flex your fingers and … nothing.

You stare at the blank screen, you gaze in confusion at the keys – the letters now a strange Theban alphabet. The panic starts to rise. It snakes its way up from your stomach, slithers slowly and coils comfortably in your brain. You are useless. You are not a writer. Who were you trying to kid? You will never write another story, ever again.

For much of 2015, this is how I felt. I’d get up at 5am, start up the laptop and then the above. It got so bad that after a few weeks, I was too terrified to turn the laptop on. I couldn’t face the sense of failure any more.

Weeks passed in this void – an empty shell of nothingness. Waiting. Waiting for something, anything to lift this crippling curse.

It came rather unexpectedly one morning. A whisper as I scrubbed the bathroom … ‘Go back to the beginning.’

‘What?’ I shouted at the toilet brush. ‘What do you mean?’

The beginning. Where I took my first tentative step into writing. A short story.

And so it began. I sat at the laptop and was relieved to see that I recognised the letters on the keyboard. My fingers hovered. I took a deep breath … then I wrote.

Over the following few weeks I wrote two short stories (which were both shortlisted in writing competitions) and a piece of flash fiction, which I’d never tried before and which was longlisted in the Flash 500 competition. It was the fuel I needed – I can write. I can write words that form sentences, sentences that form paragraphs, paragraphs that fill pages, pages that create a story.

The snake uncoiled and I began my second book. At the end of November I had the elation of typing ‘ends’. Whether this book will ever reach publication is another story, but what mattered is that I had written another book.

Hop forwards to 2016 – my book is being published in September. This is really happening. It says so on my publisher’s website. I haven’t dreamt it (cue squealing and jaunty dancing to welcome in the new year).

After allowing this excitement to subside a little and brimming with excited optimism for this wonderful, magical year ahead, I started up the laptop ready to dive into the sequel to my debut book. I took a deep breath, flexed my fingers and … nothing.

I have written words that form sentences, sentences that have formed paragraphs, paragraphs that have filled a page. I have written a blog piece. Slowly, I can feel the snake begin to uncoil …

Hwyl am y tro x

 

 

The Wait

I am useless at waiting. I get agitated and anxious. I get horrendously grouchy. I sweat.

For example, when it’s the boys’ birthday parties and the party’s due to start at 2pm, at 1.45pm I have my face squished against the window having palpitations and whispering, ‘No one’s coming.’

I’m so grateful to my husband who made sure that he was at the church for our wedding an hour early and texted me to let me know this.

So from my very first experience of ‘The Wait’, I can only describe it as hell on earth.

I finished my manuscript. I had it critiqued. I edited. I clicked ‘send’ and felt euphoric. I danced a little jig and giggled with joy at my impetuousness – I had actually clicked the button … I paused mid-jig, my giggles came to an abrupt halt, I crashed back onto my laptop from my pink fluffy cloud. OMG! I had clicked send. What had I done?

And the alarmingly hysterical tears began.

‘What’s wrong?’ my husband asked.

‘I clicked send. What am I going to do?’ I wailed in a panicked crescendo.

‘Um … wait for a reply?’ he suggested innocently.

‘Noooo … I can’t face ‘The Wait’. I can’t. It’ll kill me!’

(Thankfully my husband is used to my dramatic outbursts and usually totters off to make me a strong coffee and suggests I lie down for a little while.)

And ever since that very first moment of folly (which actually turned out to be a bloody marvellous moment in the end), for me, ‘The Wait’ never gets easier. If anything, I think it gets worse.

‘Why are you getting so worked up?’ my non-writing friends ask. ‘You’ve got a book being published this year. It’s all plain-sailing from now on isn’t it?’

*Sigh*

So, this week, I decided to draw up a list of things I could do to while away ‘The Wait’. Now some of these I heartily recommend if you too are in the throes of ‘The Wait’. Others, I strongly advise against. I’ll leave it to you to decide which fall into either category.

Coping with ‘The Wait’:

  1. Become a recluse. Live in a mountain shack on a high mountain range, cut off from civilisation. Get some chickens for company.
  2. Smash up laptop/new MacBook to stop excessive e-mail checking.
  3. Fester in self-pity under the duvet (you need an understanding partner who will be willing to bring you bread and water, for this one).
  4. Eat lots and lots of chocolate/cake/biscuits.
  5. Spend a month’s wages on books and read and read and read. Leave real life behind.
  6. Go on long country/seaside walks – fill your lungs with crisp fresh air/get soggy from miserable wet drizzle.
  7. Stalk editor/agent on Twitter/in real life.
  8. Take up a completely new hobby, something calming and rewarding (no not reading or writing) … I don’t know, stamp collecting?
  9. Celebrate that you have completed a manuscript – I mean, what an achievement – with whatever celebratory shenanigans that tickle your fancy.
  10. Forget about the existence of your submitted manuscript – do not read it!! And start a new project … Get back on the writing wagon. Yeeha!

So if you are currently suffering ‘The Wait’, perhaps some of my ideas may be of use to you (or perhaps not). Or if you have your own ideas on surviving ‘The Wait’, I would love to hear all about them.

Happy waiting and writing,

Hwyl am y tro x

 

2016 – A resolution worth making

I’m useless at New Year resolutions. I always have been. Oh, I’m terribly good at making them; long lists of them. It’s the keeping to them that’s the problem. I tend to sit back and watch them drift away, like an early morning mist slowly clearing.

This year, I’ve had a re-think. Maybe it’s not me that’s the problem, but the resolutions themselves. Maybe they just don’t have a place in my life. And what’s the point of making a resolution that’s not worth making? For example, I have resolutioned (no such word, but hey) to stop biting my nails since the last century. And failed – year after year.

But what I’ve come to realise is that biting my nails is not the issue that needs addressing, but rather what causes me to chomp away like a busy little beaver. Worry and stress. Two biggies. I can’t possibly make a resolution to eradicate worry and stress from my life – I’m a mam, worrying is part of the deal. I’m also a teacher – say no more. But maybe, I could to try and vamoosh certain worries and stresses from my day-to-day life. This is a big ask for someone who suffers with anxiety. From the second I get out of bed, I start to worry about things, little things, big things, every type of things.

So  *takes a deep breath* here’s what I’ll try:

Resolution #1: Not worry about things which will not affect my immediate day i.e try not to dwell on ‘What if …’ because maybe, it’ll never happen anyway. For example, a large part of early 2015 was spent worrying daily about ‘What if I never write another book?’ It halted my writing; it caused misery.

I finished a new manuscript in early December. I have written another book – whether it will ever be published … now that’s a new worry which I shan’t dwell on right now, because hey, instead of saying ‘what if it never gets published’ I could say ‘what if it does get published’. And really, yes most writers strive for publication, but my aim was to write another book and I have. End of.

The resolution which always pops up and makes me sigh and groan is the usual ‘I will lose weight.’ *Yawns* So to my new analysis. I gain weight because I overeat, especially when I’m feeling down and stressed. I work, I have three young children to raise. I find it almost impossible to carve out time to join the gym (I’ll admit I don’t try really hard because I hate the gym and I hate exercise classes). I have gained weight since being on antidepressants, but when I compare myself to where I was a year ago in terms of my mental well-being, well, a few wobbly bits pale into insignificance.

Last year, a very good friend of mine convinced me to join a running club. On the first evening I pulled into the car park and almost did a U-turn when I saw the group of similarly aged ladies warming up in their professional looking running gear, chatting and laughing. I forced myself to park the car and walk over, beads of sweat already tracing tickly paths down my back. That was one of the best things I did. I loved it. As I ran, I forgot about everything; my mind emptied. It was just me, my legs pounding away the stresses of the day. I stuck with it week after week and enjoyed every 60 minute session. I didn’t lose weight but I felt good. Really good. And this I’ve learnt, is so much more important than what my bathroom scales tell me.

Having just had a hysterectomy, I won’t be running for a long time yet, but it’s definitely something that I’ll get back into once I’m able to.

So …

Resolution #2: I won’t worry about the bathroom scales (I’m cutting down on my worrying after all) but concentrate on doing something that makes me feel good about myself, because when that happens, I don’t overeat and that keeps those pesky scales happy.

My third resolution involves doing something for me – just me. Not parenting or working, but something to help me switch off from my daily anxieties. The only things that allow me to achieve that mental state are reading and writing.

So finally …

Resolution #3: Read and write as much as I can. And most importantly, I won’t shy away from calling myself a writer (there, said it). I have my debut book being published this Autumn, so I guess that makes me a children’s author *blushes crimson whilst typing*

I write every day. It’s a part of me. It’s what makes me happy, so why shy away from admitting that to people. Heck, I should be shouting it from the rooftops!  (Steady on, I hear you say) No, I’m no ‘rooftopper’ (Katherine Rundell’s amazing ‘Rooftopers’ was one of my favourite reads of last year by the way), but I am going to enjoy every second of my writing journey this year. I’m going to devour it and roll around in it like a proud pink pig in muck.

And there I have my three brand new, sparkly resolutions. And for the first time in forever I feel incredibly optimistic that I may actually succeed at sticking to them.

Happy New Year and Happy Writing

Hwyl am y tro x