Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Looking Backwards & Forwards (as one does at this time of year...)

Yes, I'm alive. Despite any rumors to the contrary. As you can probably tell from the distinct lack of any Blog posts, Tweets or - more importantly - new book release dates in a long while, 2009 hasn't been the easiest of years for me. I guess it's the same dilemma all writers face at some time or another during their career. Real life has this horrible tendency to get in the way of creating fiction. At least it has for me this year. Can't say I'm sorry to see the back of 2009, frankly.

As I suppose we all do at this time of year, I'm looking both backwards and forwards. Backwards at where it all went wrong, and forwards with the hope that things can only get better. We all know the adage 'Writers' write', and I believe that, honest I do (which in many ways has made things tougher). I've never been a sit down and hit 'x' amount of words a day kinda gal for 'y' hours, but when I wrote, I could do it for hours on end when the words were flowing (with a distinct lack of a need for sleep). It all balanced out in the end, I figured. And it wasn't like I wasn't producing the finished article. Then I hit that wall all writers dread hitting, writing anything felt like wading through week old porridge wearing weighted boots. The downward spiral had begun. Naturally, it was then that real life started to spiral right along with it. So why am I telling you such a cheery tale at this festive time of year? Well... I'm kinda hoping it might help anyone who has experienced the same thing, enlighten those who may think everything is a bed of roses once you get 'The Call' and have more than a dozen books under your belt. And - most of all - if anyone out there is where I've been for the last year, hopefully you'll know you're not alone. Yes, my friends, writers are human too...

Here's how I see it: We're writing romance - and while that may mean plenty of ups and downs along the road to Happily Ever After, there's a pervading sense of optimism to the stories we tell. Thing is, it's tough to maintain that optimism - even in fiction - if the world around you is slowly unravelling. We've all been there. Whether it's sick relatives or money worries or relationship problems or animals that require care or crying children or the basic demands of day-to-day life in the modern world, there's always something sent to try us; testing our resiliance and resolve. If every day is spent what I term 'fire-fighting', then it can be difficult to close the door and find the energy to summon any memory of that thing called optimism on the blank screen in front of you. Add to that problem the fact the publishing wheel continues to turn in your absence and getting back into the game can look like a very large mountain to climb.

Writers write. But what do we do when we can't?

I'm a great believer in taking care of yourself first. An easy thing for a single girl with no children to say, you may think. But even those of us without an immediate family still have family and friends who rely on us. As with all families, there will be times when you have to give more than you can 'take' from them. It's not always a highway with an even flow of traffic in both lanes. I have to look after me first, so I can give when it's needed and as much as is needed. But just as there are times in a writers life when we have to refill the creative 'well', there are times when the emotional well can run dry and something has to give. In 2009, while already suffering an attack of writers angst, I was needed away from the keyboard. Trouble is, the longer you stay away and the more is drawn from your emotional well, the more difficult I've found it is to return to the keyboard and bleed on the page for my fictional characters.

I know there are writers out there who may read this and think it all sounds like a huge excuse - justification for procrastination and the kind of laziness that hasn't produced words on the page on a regular basis the way professional writers must in order to hold their head above water. But just as there are writers who can bury themselves in their work when things in real life collapse around them, there are some who need to take a step back, fight the fires, refill the wells, and come back to face that mountain with its well trodden paths of doubt, self-reproach, angst and fear of failure. We're all individuals after all. What works for one doesn't necessarily work for another. I think we all know that by now.

Me? I need to set myself a goal.

So, as 2009 comes to a close and 2010 is laid out in front of us like a blank page waiting to be filled, I'm getting ready to put my boots on and start the climb back up the mountain. Running on the theory that the only way is up and with my fingers firmly crossed that I can remember how to write a book from beginning to end, I'm officially marking Monday 4th January in the internet diary as my first day back to work. With the office that took me nigh on a year to finish (yes, I promise to take pictures and post them), a brand new computer, Twitter ready for updates and the determination to report in even if I get diddly squat done in a day, I'm gonna see if I can still tell a story and drag myself the heck out of this slump.

I'm washing my hands of 2009, leaving the bad karma behind and will welcome anyone who wants to join me in doing the same on the dawn of a fresh and (hopefully) HAPPY NEW WRITING YEAR.