As another year draws to a close, I am once again thinking about the novel I never wrote. A new year brings with it a fresh start, a renewed promise to myself to write. But that song is starting to get old, and I’ve let myself down time and time again so that I no longer trust this hollow, hopeful resolution I make to myself.
I started my first novel a good few years ago as part of my creative writing MA. I probably wrote about 40,000 words in total. Most of it was backstory and me figuring out the world and the characters I was creating, though I didn’t realise that at the time. A few agents were interested in what I was writing, and I signed with one.
As soon as the MA finished, I no longer had the structure of the course and instead had to fill my time building a business and earning money to pay the bills. My writing was pushed down on my list of priorities. And then it became this Big Thing. This weighted, heavy bubble of potential bloated into fragility by other people’s expectations (or my projections of their expectations). My heart would beat hard and fast when I thought about it. It still does.
Tonight I sat down to write again for the first time in a long time. I decided it was best that I start a new project from scratch. It was time to put that old novel idea aside for now and start afresh with something new, something that would excite me. But I couldn’t think of anything.
I’ll just brainstorm some ideas, I thought. But still, I couldn’t think of anything.
What’s happened to me? Where’s my creativity gone?
Writing used to be fun and effortless for me. Now I feel like a deer in the headlights, frozen under the blinding gaze of an imagined collective consciousness with malice in its silent judgement. And I’m both the deer and the headlights. I’m paralysing myself through self-expectation.
Normally by this point I would feel crappy about myself and close my laptop, telling myself I’ll come back to it another time, when I’m in a better headspace. But I’ve come to realise that’s never going to happen. I’ve not exercised my creative muscle for too long, and yet I still expect to be able to do the heavy lifting of creative work.
I need to start small and ease myself back into creativity, back into writing for the joy of it. How, exactly? I need some concrete methods. I took a moment to consider what fires up my imagination and how I could harness and intensify those things, and here’s what I came up with:
I will …
- Write down my dreams, because I have some batshit crazy dreams.
- Write morning pages (stream of consciousness), because that will get me into the habit of writing again.
- Read more poetry, because poetry is like alchemy with words.
- Listen to more music, because it fires up my emotions. (I can’t listen while working, so I don’t listen to music nearly as much as I used to!)
I guess in some way these are my New Year’s Resolutions, though I’m not going to officially label them that. I’m going to do all this for the month of January and see how I get on. I’ll report back at the start of February.
Tell me: Does any of this resonate with you? How do/will you deal with it?
Leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hey, let’s stay in touch.
Never miss a post. Sign up to Liminal Letters – a monthly insight into my life as an editor.
Plus, receive my ‘Project, Profit and Efficiency Tracking’ spreadsheet to help you run your own editing business. Honestly, it’s one of the most useful tools I use as a professional editor.