Monday, 7 February 2011

'Sick' writer. Help needed

When I opened the curtains this morning and looked out at the grey oppressive day, I could sooo easily have got back into bed and snuggled beneath the duvet.

I’m probably not the only one to think it today. Listening to Rabbi Lionel Blue give his ‘Thought for the Day’ on Radio 4 this morning, apparently the first Monday in February is known as ‘National Sickie day’ - the day of the working year when the highest numbers of employees are likely to call in sick. But he also suggested that getting down to work is often the best therapy for morning depression. Calling in sick might not be the answer for everyone.

His words struck a chord. When I was in the bank and had my health problems it would have been easy to go off sick. However, I often went into work when I shouldn't. One particularly bad day, I hobbled in to open the branch and keep some customer appointments. Mid-morning, I went to the doctor's for both feet injecting. I’d never had them injected before. He warned me it would be painful, the feet being made up of such small bones. He wasn't kidding. It must have been mild shock but afterwards, they had to make me a cup of tea and allow me to stay seated for a while so I didn’t pass out.

'Right, now off you go home, put your feet up and rest for a few hours until the injections take effect,’ my doctor said.

'Oh, no, I can’t do that,’ I replied, after I'd composed myself. ‘There’s too much to do. I have more appointments and a meeting later.’

'I can’t keep on patching you up and sending you back out there,' he said, half joking, half-serious. Then he added kindly, 'Why don't you give it up - go and write poetry - your body can't keep taking this. Sometimes you have to know when to give in.’

He couldn’t have known me very well. ‘Giving in' is something I'd never, ever done. And even a few months later, when I had to retire from the bank, I wasn’t about to start.

Since I left, it’s good to be able to sit down in the day if necessary, or go to the gym for a swim or a Jacuzzi. It often helps the pain and stiffness. But over the years, I've had to re-invent myself several times, adapting to survive and stay happy. Leaving the bank made me feel a bit of a failure. I started a little craft business but when my health got the better of that too, I found writing was my salvation; it distracted me, kept me 'busy,' stopped me dwelling, and becoming depressed. Writing keeps my brain alive. It makes me feel worthwhile – yes, I know being a good mother and housewife is worthwhile - but writing is something for me. It makes me feel I'm good at something.

The trouble is, I'm floundering. Two years on and there has been no success. The only thing that keeps me going is my dreams and determination. It’s my own fault. I haven't pushed anything I've written with any real conviction. If I'm honest, that's because I haven't finished much. Writers write. And I do write a lot, except once I've written it I delete it, put it in my slush bin, or play around with it for hours, hoping some new bud will miraculously spring upwards and make it a masterpiece. I procrastinate. I've blogged today, hoping I'll feel better for freeing up my mind. But the bottom line is I could have added a thousand words to my novel.

These days, my inability to work (not only writing) is sometimes a mental hurdle rather than a physical one. Something inside, some little worry worm, burrows into my brain and makes me doubt myself. Re-reading my last blog, I was full of good intentions, excited by the possibilities of what lay ahead. Here I am; no further forward. Despite this wonderful opportunity on the RNA New Writer’s Scheme, every day when I sit down to the second novel, I panic.

Lack of self-confidence and belief cripple me as much as a flare up in my wrists or fingers stop me from writing. I’ll never do it in time. I’m only up to 12,000+ words. How will I get it up to 90,000 and completed in time for August? Anyway, it’s not good enough. I’m not writing what I want to write - I’m not fun enough for chicklit/rom com – These are just a few examples of what's going on in my head.

Every few months my first novel pulls me back to it. I have an idea to take it somewhere completely different. I think it could work. Yes! Yes! Yes!


I can’t do it. I’m not talented enough - I don’t have a degree in creative writing. Neither of my novels is any good. I’ll never be a published writer. Does this loop that's been going around in my head since the New Year make any sense to you, reader? I know the writers among you will be smiling. Having read some of your blogs, I’m aware that crises’ of confidence go with the territory of being a writer.

Rabbi Blue’s final points resonated most. ‘Don’t be defeated by perfectionism – even if you fall short of the task in hand, at least you can say you gave it a go.'
This is the crux for me. Being a perfectionist means finding happiness with myself is a continuous challenge. So for now, all I can do is keep 'having a go,' although I still don't know whether I should put all my energies into the first novel or the second.

How do you cope when you’re crippled by that lack of belief? How do you keep going? And for the writers among you, any tips for how I’m going to muster 80,000 words in the next six months would be appreciated too.

Until another day

Bye for now