Just occasionally in my pursuit of displacement activity I find a few moments of peace. I forget that I should be writing or querying, I forget that there are chores that need doing, I forget that there’s a reality TV star in the whitehouse and that the British Prime Minister called a snap election to avoid fraud charges and that Britain is leaving the EU and that the NHS is heading toward full privatisation and that basically we are all fucked.
Whenever I question the value of my writing I remember those moments of peace. Because it’s reading a novel, or a comic, or watching a TV show or film that gives me those moments. One purpose of art, any art, is to give us peace.
There are other purposes. Sometimes art tells us truths that are too unpalatable to learn by another method. Sometimes art turns pain and loss into beauty to memorialise what should never be forgotten. Sometimes art elevates our soul and gives us hope that we are something more than just unusually violent, hairless apes. Sometimes art is a distraction from pain, or boredom or fear.
So I am going to write my stupid stories without feeling that I need to apologise because I’m not solving world hunger or saving the environment. I’d love to do those things but I don’t have the skills, or the knowledge and I don’t have the first clue how to get them. If I can create something that gives other people a little peace then I will have done something worthy with my life.
A few days ago I wrote about my feelings of guilt at not working hard enough towards my writing goals. I wrote about how I’d been playing a lot of World of Tanks rather than writing. I said it was fun but it wasn’t taking me anywhere. Turns out I was wrong. It was taking me in the direction of pain.
One of the problems caused by Fibromyalgia is muscle spasms. Sometimes they come on without an obvious cause but they can be triggered by any repetitive activity or maintaining a the same position too long. Apparently when I play World of Tanks I grip the controller too tightly with my right hand (I use the right stick to aim and the right trigger to fire).
As a result my right arm is now, to use a highly technical medical term, fucked. I can’t feel my fingers, my hand is tingling, my forearm feels like it’s on fire and my bicep feels like I’ve been arm wrestling Thor. My typing speed is a quarter what it usually is and I need help to brush my hair and put a bra on.
It’s so bad I’ve had to break out the painkillers. Let me put that statement into perspective. I have a chronic pain condition. That means I’m always in pain. There’s no point medicating the pain all the time because I have to rely on synthetic opioid painkillers and the more you use them the less effective they are. My aim in using them isn’t to kill the pain but to reduce it to a level that isn’t a constant distraction. Thus I don’t bother with pain medication at all unless the pain is consistently worse than standing on a Lego brick.
To summarize: I’m too sore to write, too high to do chores and I can’t distract myself with video games because that would only make the problem worse. I would really like it if my life could stop sucking for a bit.
My computer is a Zombie. It suffered some sort of catastrophic error and wouldn’t start up properly so I had to roll it back to an old restore point. And when I say old I mean 2012.
It’s now running windows but it won’t run much else because it’s stuck with Windows 7, Service Pack 1 which is hopelessly outdated. And it will not allow me to update it. The Windows Update Installer just hangs and any attempt to track down the updates and install them also hangs. We even spent the best part of two days re-installing Windows from a disk only to end up back where we started.
I’m typing this on one of my Mum’s old laptops. She has a surprising number of old laptops. This one is really, really terrible. The processor is pathetic, the 2GB of ram is barely up to running Windows and Chrome simultaneously and the action on the keyboard is appalling. As I type this it feels like the keys are held in place with soggy newspaper. It lags every time I hit return twice. I’ve spent more than 5 hours trying to get Dropbox and chrome and Scrivener working only to discover that I can’t update Scrivener because I don’t have admin privileges.
So instead of trying to get back to my work in progress after days spent dealing with technical -problems I’m writing out this whiny blog post.
I know I shouldn’t really complain. None of my writing is lost because it’s all backed up to Dropbox and Google Drive. I do have an alternative computer. The old one was quite old. Also as a worthless, disabled scrounger I shouldn’t have nice things. But writing is hard enough without having to deal with all the additional crap. And my Steam library is now useless because this piece of crap would have difficulty running minesweeper.
It’s also depressing to be reminded how little money we have now. My computer is probably fixable but there’s no point asking a professional because however much it costs I can’t afford it. I could replace it. I have plenty of credit on my catalog account but I know that we can’t afford the payments. We’re in a situation now where we’re only ever going to have less money than we have today. The amounts coming in are frozen or decreasing and our expenditure only increases.
I can’t see any way of bringing in more money. Even if one of the Agents that I’ve sent my novel out to wants to represent it then it will take time to find a publisher and even more time to see any money from it. And it’s unlikely to be a lot of money.
I really wish I didn’t care about the money. I wish I could live for art. But I have bills to pay.
The honeymoon period is over. For a while I was driven to write and the story was almost telling itself but no more. Now I have hit the wall. Sorry, that’s probably not dramatic enough.
When I’m writing as part of NaNoWriMo we call it the week two wall because that’s when most people hit it. I don’t think it’s a function of time or of word count. I think it’s a kind of mental fatigue and I think it’s a function of story. When you’re deep in creation you’re using something up and that something runs out long before the story does.
It’s easy to stop at this point – to blame the story or decide that you’re not really a writer. I suppose it’s possible to stop and then come back later when the whatever-it-is is replenished but that’s a risky strategy. The thing that works for me is to keep going. To fake creativity until the real thing comes back.
This is the part of writing that is most definitely not fun. This feels like slogging through thigh-deep mud with lead boots on. This is two hours of writing, doing a word count, and discovering that you’ve typed 230 words. This is the part that drives writers to drink and ruin.
This is where I am now. I’m trying to fix the B plot, I feel like I don’t know the characters well enough, I don’t know the shape of the story, I’m not sure what the landscape looks like, and the whole thing links back into the A plot in time for a massive fight that I am looking forward to writing. But I can’t skip ahead to that yet because I don’t know who will survive the B plot long enough to get to that scene.
I’m trying to look on the bright side. At least today I can stop writing long enough to cook supper.
Because writer’s block is not an actual thing.
However I am finding the re-writes on Singularity unusually difficult. It could be down to a lot of things. I could just be tired. I’ve had a week of running round like the proverbial blue arsed fly and maybe I need to rest. It could be editing fatigue. Perhaps I’ve just spent too much time staring at the same book and it no longer makes sense. It could be that I’m worried or stressed. My attempts to improve the family finances and organisation were going well but we’ve hit a difficult patch.
But this will not do. I am a writer and a writer writes. Yes I know I’m writing right now. Shut up. What I mean is that I need to be moving forward with this novel even if I’m tired, even if it feels like it’s written in Flemish, even if I’m stressed or worried. There will always be reasons not to write. The world is full of them. I could find a million excuses to just let it go.
I do have to come up with a new plan though because just staring at the same scene till I hate it enough to fix it or like it enough to finish it isn’t working right now. I need to sneak up on it. I need to be an editing ninja. I need to leap out at it from the shadows, or drop from the ceiling, or sneak into the novel at night and move the furniture round without the characters noticing.
It’s fortunate that I know a couple of ninjas. I shall have to ask for their advice.
I wrote a blog post and I looked at the work in progress and added 174 words and then… Oh God, my fucking back.
It’s one of those pains that’s more than just a pain. It’s a sick feeling in the pit of the stomach. It’s being grumpy at my husband for very little reason. It’s having flashbacks to being in labour. It’s a tingling in the fingers and the toes. It’s impossible to concentrate. The pain has hijacked my brain.
It won’t last forever. I’ll either get over it or get used to it. Still sucks ass though.
These are not the reasons I find it hard to write. That’s a whole other thing. And for the most part I don’t find it hard to write. Once I’m sitting down, pen in hand or fingers on keyboard, the actual writing bit is relatively easy. I’m talking about being a writer. Which is different.
In theory if you write then you are a writer. Chuck Wendig says so and he’s published so it must be true. That’s certainly what I would tell anyone else who asked me if I thought they could be a writer. But somehow it’s not good enough for me because there’s this terrible, mercenary voice in the back of my head that says that I can’t be a writer unless people want to read what I have to say and are willing to pay to do so.
The voice only makes rules for me. It makes other rules for me that I would never impose on anyone else and that I would recognise as tyrannical if I saw someone trying to impose them but I’m not going into that just now. Intellectually I know these rules are bullshit but that’s not much help.
So I have this voice telling me that it’s not enough to write and it doesn’t count unless people want to read. And I have the voice of experience telling me that no-one wants to hear what I have to say. No-one.
I think I’m quite good at writing. I know I’m good at talking. And yet I’m always surprised when anyone listens, when anyone reads, whenever I don’t get interrupted. I always wonder why people are humoring me. I’m also aware that people only listen because I’m careful what I talk about. There’s a lot of stuff that I just don’t say because I’m pretty sure no-one wants to hear about how fucking horrible everything is.
But if I edit out my point of view then what was the point of writing in the first place? If I’m just going to tell you pretty lies so you wont stop reading then why am I going to the trouble of writing it down?
Oh well. Now that I have thoroughly depressed myself and anyone still reading this I have to get back to the work in progress. I swear that I will get some actual work done. With a bit of luck by the end of today my villain will have actually started being villainous.
As I write this it’s late at night. Sensible people are already abed. I am not, partly because I haven’t written this yet.
I thought I had an idea for an interesting post about IQ and intelligence. I thought I had something eloquent to say but when I first sat down, hours ago, to blog it I realized that all I had was two weak anecdotes and an opinion. That’s not really enough.
I suppose that means that I have nothing to say and I’m already three paragraphs into not saying it. It would probably be better to write nothing at all but then that would turn into another day of not writing. It would give me an excuse to do nothing. I can’t afford that kind of excuse. That’s the kind of excuse that leads to crawling into bed and never coming out again.
You might think that I’m being over dramatic but that’s how it starts. You start with not having anything to say. That becomes not having anything worthy to say or not being the right kind of person to say it. It’s easy to become convinced that no-one cares about what you have to say. And that’s often true. A lot of the time people don’t care and there’s no reason that they should.
It’s important for me to remember that I don’t write because I expect you to read it (though it’s nice when you do). I write because I have to write. I write because there things I must say and stories I need to tell. If I don’t sit down and write on days like this when I have nothing to say then when the day comes round again that I must write I won’t be able to do it. I fear those days. The days of a head boiling with plot and dialogue and setting and not being able to get any of it out.
I’m too tired to make much more sense of this so I’m going to schedule it to post sometime when people might actually be awake to read it and then I’m going to bed while I still feel like I might be a writer.
I’m not dead and my abscess is draining so I should get better but I am still not working.
This is what I worried about and why, originally, I only gave myself a single day off. I worry that if I get out of the habit of working it could take months to get it back. I still feel like I should work no matter how sick I am. And yet, if I was employed by someone else I wouldn’t be expected to come into work while recovering (I live in the UK, it might be different where you live).
If I was advising a friend I would say to take the time to get better. Why is it so hard to give myself that advice?
As I write it is at the end of my second day of rest and, apart from this, I’ve written nothing. I also haven’t gone shopping or cleaned the kitchen.
I am unwell. And not even my usual level of unwellness. I’ve just finished a weeks course of antibiotics and I still have a really nasty abscess. I’m in a lot of pain (that’s a lot of pain by my standards) and I’m feeling dizzy and sick and tired. Since the first course of antibiotics hasn’t fixed it that means I have to go back to the doctor and get a new course. They will probably be a lot stronger. Last time I had the really strong antibiotics I spent most of the week in bed.
It’s possible I’ll get nothing done for a week. Which is really frustrating. I am so close to being able to send the last part of the novel to my beta readers. I have ideas for blog posts. I want to finish the story for the fiction blog. I actually want to clean the kitchen.