I’m having a bit of a crisis at the moment. I’m finding it difficult to write.
It’s not that I have writers’ block exactly, just loads of things I could – and want – to write about. The issue is there are too many ideas to choose between and in constantly weighing them up, I’m ending up focusing on nothing. My children’s book took on a life of its own for a short while, the writing flowing beautifully when I put my mind to it, but has dropped to the bottom of the heap since December. This is partly because things other than writing kicked in but largely, truth be known, because of a chat I had with an agent, who told me, in a nutshell, I’ve no hope in hell of getting it picked up by a publisher. Its subject matter is too ‘different’ to current trends, she said. For a while I was okay with this, thinking it frees me to write the story as I like rather than trying to hit some publisher-generated format. But mostly it’s made it harder to clamber onto the writing bicycle at all, given that I’m now having to pedal twice as hard up Self-doubt Hill. For the moment I’ve more or less left my bicycle in the garden, rusting in the winter rain, and hopped on a bus in the opposite direction. Literally.
Oh, and as well as all that, I signed up for three-months’ free training as a local tour guide. Hence the bus reference. Half a century after being born in this county, I’ve discovered how easy it is to get into and around its City. And not just by bus – those of you who know me well might be surprised at how often I drive there! Amazing. (And just think of all the shopping years I wasted!)
Danny Wallace and his ‘saying yes’ theory has a lot to answer for and I’m not entirely sure where this tour-guiding lark is going to take me, or how it fits into my writing life. It’s certainly dominated a huge chunk of the last three months, though, and running alongside me touting for business and dabbling with volunteering, it’s seriously squeezed my writing time. But I know that’s partly an excuse: if I’d really focused on doing some, I would’ve found the time.
In fact, I’ve been offered a few maps since I finally gave voice to my doubts last week. Or if not maps, exactly, suggestions that I stand a moment and look back along the way I’ve come. “Remind yourself how far you’ve already travelled,” suggested the lovely Lynley (in my first-ever skype call!), and Dave W took time out of his own writing schedule to point out that self-doubt about our writing serves a useful purpose: to make us better writers.
Perversely, I found the sagest bit of advice this morning, on a fluorescent-pink stick-it note hidden under clutter on my desk. I’d written it several months ago, a distillation of my research at the time on ‘how to be a writer.’ Heavily influenced in style by the writer Oliver Burkeman, it says, simply, “stop whining and get on with it.”
So it looks as if I’d better do just that.