I had a writing meltdown in April. I was, and still am, frustrated with the lack of output and progress with my fiction writing. Strangely, the meltdown was caused by my non-fiction writing after I submitted an article to Divine in mid-April. The editor immediately replied, wanting a few changes. Most of the changes were due to restrictions imposed on Divine because it is run by the state government. These restrictions would not allow me to mention the name of the website the article was all about.
I had hoped that I would be on safe ground mentioning this website because its creator – who I interviewed – had, what I considered, a great deal of credibility due to her advocacy in the disability field. The website had also been written about in mainstream newspapers.
My initial reaction to the editor’s request for changes was that the article would not work without mentioning the website, so I should just scrap the idea. But then what would I write? I had no idea. Coming up with ideas for Divine is becoming harder and researching and writing them seems to becoming less enjoyable and fulfilling.
The last article that I had enjoyed writing for Divine was a review of the movie The Theory of Everything. The unsentimental and unsensational movie combined with some knowledge of Hawking made it easy to write. But since then I have had various issues when researching and writing articles. I thought that with the problems my recent submissions were encountering, maybe I should just take a break. So I shot off an email to my editor saying I was going to scrap the article and take a break.
When I finally had a look at the article again, I found it relatively easy to remove the website name and make the necessary changes that came with that to still have a reasonable article. So I sent another email to my editor saying that I could make the changes if she still wanted the article. I had real doubts whether the editor actually wanted the article. I also had real doubts that it or anything I had written for Divine were any good. I feared my enthusiasm for Divine had more to do with my articles being published than my writing.
I then began questioning whether anything I had ever written was more than just misguided enthusiasm. And whether my Master of Creative Writing was more a Master of Creative Delusion. On top of that, I thought my writing had improved little over the years, and might even have gone backwards due to my constant tiredness.
Anyway, I decided to take a real break from writing and get away for a few days. I went to Melbourne for four nights. I went to the footy, Scienceworks (including the planetarium), the zoo and the museum. I almost expelled writing from mind for four days except when I came across two ideas for articles for Divine.
But then came the day I was due to return home, and I checked my emails. My editor wanted to speak to me. She wanted to “renegotiate” how I wrote for Divine. This sounded ominous to me, like she was going to take the opportunity to get rid of a crap writer. Unfortunately/fortunately, she was not in the office that day, so I could not contact her to have my fears confirmed. Instead, I had all day, including a three-and-a-half hour train trip to ponder what renegotiate meant. As it turned out, I did a lot more than ponder Divine, I spent a lot of the train trip thinking about my writing goals and why I was still standing alone at full back, a long way from my goals.
I concluded that I was more in love with the idea of being a writer and trying to appear like one, rather than actually being one. I had written 46 articles of varying quality for Divine, and I had written a post for this blog nearly every week for the past seven years, and I had done a number of writing courses, and I had completed Nanowrimo three times, and I had connected to 100’s of writers through social media and some of the published ones actually commented on my posts. I even write every day, but precious little quality fiction.
I am still yet to have any fiction published. I have three novel scripts, a novella, and numerous short stories all filed away in first or second draft stage. Although I write every day, I don’t write much and on many days writing is the last thing I get around to doing. I don’t read much either. The way I am going, when I die the sum total of my fiction writing will be a dozen first/second draft novel manuscripts on a USB stick which no one else will ever read.
Something had to change. On the train trip home, I felt I had two choices, either get stuck into fiction writing or quit. By getting stuck in, I mean writing a lot more quality fiction, and improving as I learn more about the writing process. To help improve my writing I need to get it critiqued.
I need to make changes in my life to help me achieve my writing goals. The big one is to overcome my constant tiredness. I am sure one of my chronic illnesses has a lot to do with it, so it’s time to finally try everything to get it under control. To help with this I decided to reduce some of the stress in my life, part of which I achieved by negotiating a two-month break from Divine. I have no doubt that my reaction to the Divine editor’s changes and my diminished enthusiasm for writing for Divine have been influenced by my tiredness.
I decided to get off social media. There are a number of reasons for doing this, including using that time to write. But primarily I wanted to get rid of the delusional satisfaction that I am a real writer because I associate with actual writers, many of whom are published authors. In reality, I am just a wannabee writer. So I quit Facebook a fortnight ago. The lack of contact with people I care about, and many who I am curious about, has been very hard, and I really miss playing Word with Anny during my afternoon coffee break.
I decided to get some quid pro quo going for critiquing. I re-joined critters.org, and I also joined the Australian Writers’ Forum. I need to find other science fiction writers for mutual critiquing. My search for trusted critiquers and beta readers begins.
I also have decided to spend less time blogging. Some of the posts on this blog have taken many hours to research and write, time I could have spent writing or learning about writing. From now on most of my posts will be book reviews. I figure reviewing books will get me thinking about what works in writing.
So what did I actually achieve writing wise during the month? As I didn’t write for 14 days in a row, I only added 3766 words to the novel. I read a book, Robert Swindells’ nuclear apocalypse young adult novel Brother in the Land, review pending.
PS. I seem to be writing more fiction since I quit Facebook. And I also find myself thinking more about the novel I am writing and not about some status update on Facebook. But computer problems have not helped. First some malware, then a product recall on the power cord for my laptop, where they recommend not using it until a new cord arrives. Toshiba told me that they will “process” my registration for a new cord within five working days. Does that include mailing the thing out? As I was also having trouble with the laptop’s DVD burner I decided to buy a new computer. Now I have to get use to using Windows 8. In between fiddling with the new computer and transferring files and trying to remember all those passwords, I did make the time to critique a story for critters. Yaa, one whole critique this year.