The Return of the Voices (and the Nervous Stomach)

Back in April, I blogged about the strange feeling of dread and nerves I was experiencing when I thought about writing, in When Writing is the Cause of and the Solution to Anxiety It took me a while to work out that the reason my stomach kept taking a nose dive was my writing. There was, however, a huge sense of relief when I finished the first draft of what will be The Boy With The Thorn In His Side- Part 3. I discussed this in First Draft Relief as The Voices Fall Silent. After that first draft, everything calmed down. The voices from this particular story shut up and while that did allow the next lot of characters to pipe up, I felt a lot better. My nervous stomach went away and I almost forgot about it.

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About a week ago, something very annoying happened. I got an idea for a new book. I really, really didn’t want this to happen. It actually makes me feel physically sick to even think about it!

And this is why;

  • at the moment I am trying to decide whether or not to release Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature as it is, probably in September. Although, as I talked about in my last blog post, How Do You Know When It’s Time To Quit?, I am also considering another edit and possible rewrite. I change my mind about this on a daily basis. I am listening to all the advice I’ve received in feedback from publishers and from beta readers and anyone else who has commented, but I do still feel that the story is the way I intended it to be…so as you can tell, this book which has been two years in progress, is still plaguing my thoughts…
  • I have A Song For Bill Robinson and Emily’s Baby both written. Both need further edits and both need feedback from beta readers to move forward. But at the moment, both books are just sat there doing nothing, while I feel the constant gnaw of guilt and unease about the fact nothing is happening…
  • Currently, I am working on The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series. As explained in older posts, the original book and its sequel This Is The Day have been reworked into a series of four books which will be left open for the option of a fifth. Parts 1 and 2 just needed tweaking, while part 3 is entirely new, and part 4 is a reworked version of This Is The Day to tie in with the events of part 3…Tired yet? I am! Parts 1 and 2 are finished and awaiting frot covers and formatting for ebook and paperback. I have just finished the 4th draft of Part 3 on my Kindle and will soon dive into the 5th draft before I ask my beta readers to read it. I am working on Part 4 right now, and don’t think it will take more than a week or so, as only a few bits need changing. There is some relief with this series, but already a few ideas have crept in for a potential book 5…
  • The Day The Earth Turned, a 4 book YA series has been waiting for its turn for a good year or so now. I’ve plotted it, devised characters, and written short stories to keep it at bay. I’ve even dived into writing it and got as far as chapter 7. Once I have finished messing around with The Boy series, this series will be the next new, fresh thing I work on. That could be as soon as a few weeks time!! Exciting!! But those voices are getting louder and louder…
  • There are also sequels half written and neglected for The Mess Of Me and The Tree Of Rebels, but these will have to wait even longer now thanks to this bolshy new idea marching into my head last week!
  • I’m not going to tell you too much about the book so far, only tease you by admitting it’s been somewhat inspired by watching Breaking bad and Supernatural! Weird, I know, but the writer’s mind works in very strange ways. I didn’t want a new book idea. You can see how much I have going on, plus if you check out my upcoming books page, there are other books in the pipeline I’ve not even mentioned in this blog post. They will just get pushed back too as this new idea is a very insistent one.

So, with the new and unwanted book idea came new voices, names, characters, lives, homes, friends, lovers, backstories and shit loads of dialogue. They just don’t shut up! They are living and breathing and growing and evolving each and every day. Everything I do, everywhere I go, they are there too, demanding to be born, urging to be moulded and shaped into something real and living. I already know far more about these new characters than I wanted to. I’ve tried to ignore them and it’s not worked at all. They are just there!! They are just so alive.

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And obviously, the nose diving stomach is back. In a bad way. Like I’ve said before, it’s a lot like the feeling you get before an exam. My stomach lurches and twists and tightens. Sometimes out of the blue, for no reason. Other times, it’s because something to do with one of the books has popped into my head.

So I now know for sure that this anxious feeling is connected to book ideas…

So what to do about it? Other than try not to panic? And try not to die before I get all these books written and out of me?

I’ve done two things that have helped already, and one is something I’ve done before with other novels in waiting. I wrote a short story which I will include in a future newsletter for those of you subscribed to get a very, very early glimpse of this new book idea of mine. That eased things a bit.

And I’ve done something new. I’ve started a diary here on my blog, which will remain unpublished for now. It’s a diary of a novel from the first (in my case, unwanted) seed of an idea, to the finished product available to buy. I thought this would be really interesting to look back on once it’s all done!

So I write an entry when something has moved on with the novel idea. The first few entries contain notes about the original idea and the last few I wrote include possible names for the characters and more details on their lives and conflicts…

I hope this will be an interesting and cathartic process for me, plus I will have all the notes safe and sound in one place for when I start writing it!

Just one more thing to mention! This new idea? It is somewhat connected to The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series, in that some of the characters will appear in the others’ books…!!

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When Writing is the Cause of and the Solution To Anxiety

For a lot of people, writing can be incredibly therapeutic. It provides an emotional outlet, a chance to say what we think and feel, the opportunity to have a voice and be heard. Whether we publish our work or not, there is no doubt that writing provides an emotional release, as well as a creative one. Throughout my life, I have often turned to writing to soothe and comfort me. I’ve used it to combat and work through feelings of anxiety, loneliness and anger. As a young child, I wrote a diary religiously, and I still have them. Piles of notebooks filled with my inner thoughts and emotions, as well as my hopes and fears. There is no doubt in my mind that writing has helped me in my life and provided a kind of therapy when needed. For this reason, I would recommend it to anyone who needs to vent, to explore their thoughts and frustrations, or to find a way to be heard.

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But weirdly, writing has been having a different effect on me lately, causing something close to panic. It took me a while to work out what was going on, but now that I think I have, I wanted to blog about it and talk about how I am handling this.

It started a few months ago I think, though it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when. You know that feeling you get before you do something scary? That lurch in your stomach? That tightness that feels like butterflies? I can only explain it as being similar to that.

This would happen at random times, for no real reason. I’d get that feeling strongly, sometimes so bad it made me feel like I couldn’t take a proper breath. Very weird. Even weirder, is that I had nothing to worry about.

Everything in my life is the same. My kids are all fine; I’m not unduly worried about any of them at the moment. My husband and I get on just as we always have. Our finances are never great, but they haven’t changed at all, so it’s not that. Everyone in my family is happy and healthy. There is nothing I can pinpoint that would come out of the blue like that and make me feel winded.

So, I’ve narrowed it down to one thing, one thing that I never thought would cause me anxiety. One thing that has actually been the solution to anxiety and fear and anger and any other negative emotions in life. Writing.

I’ve said before that writing excites me and it still does. If I’m walking the dogs, and I know that when I get home I’ve got some writing time, I get that lurch in my belly. But I know that’s genuine excitement. I like it.

This other feeling is more like a feeling of dread, which I cannot for the life of me understand because I still love writing, I still get excited, I still think it is the best thing ever. Writing dominates my mind more than anything else.

So, I started thinking, what is it then? I want to write, writing makes me happy, writing is so many things to me. Why is it suddenly making me feel like I cannot breathe?

I’m still not really sure. Writing this blog post is my way of trying to figure it out. I’m wondering if any other writers have ever experienced anything like this?

One thing I can tell you; the feeling goes away when I’m writing. By the time I’m at my desk in the evening, tapping away, whether it’s going well or not, I’m happy. That feeling is not there.

So why does it plague me throughout the day?

Like I say, I really don’t know. There are several possible reasons, which I’ve listed below, but to be honest, I’m not sure it is any of these. I just don’t know.

  • too many projects on the go? It could be this. I have two books I am ready to release, but I’m waiting on further rejections from publishers for one, and beta feedback on the other, and then there will be the whole book-launch thing to get into…perhaps it’s the unfinished, unreleased status of these two books that is causing the churning feeling?
  • too many projects waiting for be done? I know this bothers me, but I try to keep it in perspective. Having ideas for future books is a good thing, and I think I’m lucky. I keep track of the ideas on a page in this blog and some of them I am already working on when I can, but maybe this feeling of impatience and anticipation is adding to it, I don’t know
  • not enough time in the day? This does cause anxiety, it’s bound to. I know everyone feels like this to some extent. Busy lives leave little time to get things done, and to-do lists get longer, and it can all feel overwhelming at times like you will never ‘get there’. But I keep reminding myself that everything changes next year when my youngest child starts school. I will have plenty of time to work on my books and my community interest company
  • the community interest company? I do worry about it sometimes. It pops into my head that I’m crazy to be trying to do this. That it’s too ambitious, bound to fail, etc. I want to do it, I want to inspire and encourage my community to write, and I’ve already come this far; turning the writing group into a CIC, planning two projects, getting some funding, applying for more. I’m learning lots and I’ve got big plans, but every now and then I just wonder what the hell am I thinking? This is not me! Someone else would do a much better job of this! So, I guess it’s there as a worry.
  • general indie writer panic? This is a thing. I panic that I will never have time to write all the books in my head and get them all out, but I also panic that I will never ‘make it’. I’m not sure what I think making it means, to be honest. I guess a publishing deal and steady sales would be a thing to aim for. I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about this. I just keep writing and plugging away at my platform to grow my audience. But I think a panic is buried there somewhere, a panic that this will all turn out to be fruitless, a waste of time, and I’ll look an idiot.

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But I honestly don’t spend a lot of time worrying or thinking about the things listed above. I know they are there, and they come and go, but generally, I’m a really upbeat positive person who gets easily excited about life. I’m not looking for a great big happiness, I’m just happy with the beauty of ordinary life.

So, how am I dealing with this? Well, I’ll tell you.

  • by carrying on. Because I know that every word I write is a step forward, and that helps. Because quitting is not and never will be an option.
  • by forcing myself to switch off and relax at the end of the day. I write once my littlest is in bed, and I should really write through until bed-time, but I’m not doing that now. I’m writing for an hour and a half, maybe two, and then I’m joining my eldest child to watch Supernatural on DVD.

(I have avoided TV over the last few years, because with young kids, I knew I had to give up something in order to get the time to write. So I gave up TV. Just recently though I’ve relaxed my strict no TV rule. I got hooked on Hannibal and Breaking Bad, and after lots of begging from my daughter, I finally gave in and started watching Supernatural from season one. Now I’m hooked and it reminds me that when I was a kid, I wrote loads but I still had time to relax and watch TV. I think it’s doing me good, and it’s like a little reward after writing is done. After Supernatural I read before bed, and I feel great.)

  • by remembering that Rome wasn’t built in a day. This isn’t a race. Nothing in life is a race. It’s all about the journey and what you learn along the way. Yes, setting up my own company is scary but I have to accept that I will make mistakes as I go along and I will learn from them, just as I have in every other part of my life. A few years from now things could be very different
  • by trying to focus on one thing at a time. And by that, I mean whatever is the most pressing thing. I panic when I feel like I have too much to do, so I have to separate it out, deal with one thing at a time, and always the most important one comes first.
  • by rewarding myself. I nearly always do ‘work’ things first when I get on the laptop. My to-do list contains work-related things and writing related things. I make sure I have ticked a few off the ‘work’ list before I reward myself with actual writing, the writing that calms me down! I also reward myself in other ways, such as having a nice snack or glass of wine waiting for me to enjoy the DVD with after writing.
  • by remaining hopeful. Life as a writer can be crushing, soul-destroying even. I truly think being a trad published author is just as tough as being an indie but in different ways. It’s not easy for anyone. Earnings for most authors these days are diabolical. Getting reviews is like pulling teeth. Getting visibility means allowing yourself to be sucked into social media when all you really want to do is write. There are without a doubt, a lot of downs, and a lot of frustrations. But I tell myself, where there is life there is hope. So in other words, while I am still alive, who knows what could happen? What could be around the corner? I will always remain hopeful of better sales, better visibility and success. Always.
  • by taking a break from blogging and social media so I can just concentrate on writing. You might have noticed my blogs are thin on the ground lately. I haven’t tried to promote my books at all, apart from sharing reviews. I just get tired of it sometimes. I just want to get the next books done.
  • by never giving up. I might fail. I might never earn much money, I might never get a good publishing deal, I might never be well known or have my dreams come true. I might not make a success of my company either. I might give it all I’ve got and then have to call it a day in a few years time. But one thing is certain, I will be able to say that at least I tried!
  • by using negative feelings to my advantage. By this I mean, in my writing. The weird feeling of dread, the sensation of not being able to breathe, I can write about that. I can use it. It helps to know how my poor tortured characters feel most of the time!

I think writing this blog has made me feel better about the whole thing. I’d love to hear your thoughts though. Have you ever experienced feelings of dread, without really knowing why? How did you deal with it? Please feel free to comment and share!