Monday, December 12, 2011

Sink or Swim

A short post from me today, but that's better than no post, which is what I've been managing lately. Apologies for my general absence!

I tend to find that there are times when I am, as a writer, either sinking or swimming. By that I don't mean the actual writing itself, but rather the ability to think, to focus, to concentrate, to create. To immerse myself in another world and put myself inside somebody else's head. Most of the time, given a little work, I can do that. Even if I'm in a dry spell, or just lacking time, I can get back to it if I put in the effort.

But there are other times, fortunately much more rare, where no amount of extra effort is going to help me. They're the times when life is being too much of a bitch to give me the mental space I need- the times where I'm so focussed on getting through each day that there's no chance of me being able to step outside my own troubles and create more for my fictional characters.

I'm in one of those phases now, caught up in the last few weeks of stress and anxiety before my second baby is due. I'm too busy putting all my energy into that to even contemplate writing. We have high risk monitoring going on, and plenty of other drama to take up our time. And as ever when you already have something to worry about, life seems intent on throwing down extra obstacles and dramas, until the day-to-day becomes something a lot more intense, draining and scary than it otherwise would be.

But more than any other dry spell, these phases always remind me that as writers we can pull purpose from the hard times. We can take a step back and let life carry on as it will, knowing that this too shall pass, and a few months down the line we'll be better able to process it all and spin it into a greater depth of human understanding through our words.

As a result, one day, our work might end up being the thing someone else reads when they're at lowest ebb; the thing that makes them understand something about themselves to help them get by. We might change someone's perspective- in a sense, we might change their life- because (not in spite) of the fact that we as writers have been through the wringer and back.

In a weird way, I think there's benefit in giving up the struggle and letting yourself sink now and then. When you hit the bottom, you can push up, and when you break the surface again, if you've taken the time to observe the journey down and back without simply fighting it all the way, you'll have something of consequence to describe.


  1. Dear Claire ~
    Mother, Writer, Philosopher Extraordinaire

    Well thought. Well said.
    Sometimes it's easiest to observe the journey, by simply, floating in the belly up position. Time to rest your body, your mind and to soak up the sun. There will always be time to write about the burn.

    "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." ~John Lennon


  2. Life lobs us more than enough curve balls, and sometimes you just get plain tired of batting them away. I think it was David Lynch who said if you want to get an hour's decent painting time in you have to have three hours of uninterrupted time. It's like that for me. If I want to get some serious writing done it's not something you can do when you know the kids are going to come bursting in any minute to show you a funny cat video on YouTube, or call you from the station for a lift in the driving rain.

    Often I selfishly crave a lighthouse job where I can avoid all interruptions for months on end. But then I would lose out on my rich family life. I guess you have to admit when you can't fit writing into your life and be realistic about what you can and can't do. The phrase "now is not a good time" springs to mind.

    I guess you'll make time when you have time. :) good luck, and all the best to your growing family!

  3. That was a beautiful post, Claire. Which just goes to show, the writing will be there when you return with your well full up :-)