Saturday, 1 October 2011

Writing Novels and Things #12: The Fear

You know how, sometimes, you get yourself into a routine, like going to the gym every morning, say. You feel virtuous, and healthy, and then you get a bit pious. Friends will find you harping on about how much better you feel ever since you started going to the gym before work, and you've lost weight, and you're a better lover, and it's actually kind of easy, and your friends will pretend to care, because they're nice (probably) and, anyway, they do the same with kids and sports and the television and things.

AND THEN, you get sick, or you go away for work, or you get drunk and can't get out of bed, and the habit slips for that day. And then the next day, it's kind of hard to get out of bed, when you don't absolutely have to, so you don't go to the gym that morning. And the next day it's the same, so you say, 'OK, the routine starts back again on Monday,' so that's fine. But then it doesn't! Because you have The Fear! And then you get fat and die.

So let's do away with the charade and admit that this has all been a metaphor, and I'm actually talking about writing. The gym is writing, the weight loss is probably weight gain, but your friends are still your friends, I'd imagine. The Fear, as always, is The Fear.

Well, when I started writing my novel, I didn't give myself time to give in to The Fear. I wrote it in a month, at break-neck speed, and I was in the beginning stage of loving smugness right up until the final page.

Afterwards, I left it for six months before I started editing, which I began with the same kind of vigour and self-love. The thing about editing though, is that it takes a long time and that it forces you to engage your brain. This time and brain engagement leads to thinking, something that can be quite destructive when applied to a writer's sensitive disposition, and can end in creative meltdowns.

I had one, a little one, about halfway through editing the novel. It wasn't so much that I was upset, just resigned and tired. I felt like I was wasting my time, because it was rubbish, and it wasn't even fun anymore. So I walked away from it, to rejuvenate for a bit, and now, a few months on, I want to start it again but I'm afraaaaaid!

I'm not really sure how to tackle The Fear. Eventually, you just go and do it, don't you? If you're serious about wanting to do it. This week, I've just had the feeling that now is the time that I have to start, or I never will. And i'd be pretty annoyed with myself about it. It was OK for me to be made weary by the book, and I think it was the right decision to walk away at the time, so that I made sure to do the best job that I could on its editing, but it is time now. It's time.


PS. I totally started back at the gym this week!
PPS. I have a little piece about libraries up at Paraxis (with my first ever published 'art'), feel free to read it.


  1. I totally had The Fear about my novel too. And then, after practically months away, I spent two whole days last week working on it and guess what? It was even WORSE than I thought it would be! Hatred, meltdowns, despair, etc. But THEN, it was fine. It felt manageable(ish) again. Which is kind of like when you stop going to the gym and then you finally go back and at first everything hurts, and then it feels good again.

    So, uh, I don't know if that helps? But good metaphor! :)

  2. No, don't say that! I was going to start tonight... I think I'll just do a little bit, so it's not too painful. Hope yours is going well now. Can't wait to read it! :)