Can I confess something? Don’t tell. But just at the point I validated myself as a writer – as in my words were published and I got an MA in writing – I stopped writing. I haven’t written a word for months.
To start with, I was heard myself telling people: ‘I’m taking the summer off after the academics. I am going to have a rest, yes, that dissertation really took it out of me.’ And they’d nod. Yes, I suppose so. And there would be this creeping feeling inside me: but isn’t writing meant to be a compulsion? An up-at-dawn, throw-off-the-covers, get-out-of-my-way, I have to WRITE something, need in your soul? I would dispel my doubt with excuses like I was too busy or it was school holidays or we were packing up to go away.
Of course a few months off is no bad thing, but what I noticed was the compulsion to write was simply not there. My classmates continued writing and planning their novels and I just waited. I felt very flat about what I had achieved. All that hard work to get my Masters and then what? The big unknown. I realised I liked being set assignments and having deadlines dictated to me. This is why I did so well in the corporate world; I liked the structure. I liked having a boss. I am a pleaser. Deep down the disquiet got noisier. An inner voice said: maybe you are not cut out for this writing business? Maybe you are not a ‘real’ writer because you don’t need to do it all the time?
I sat with this for a good few months. A couple of things happened. I stopped fretting about my Masters – water under the bridge. And my novel; it’s still there, it’s not going anywhere. I can go back to it. I started analysing what I had written it about, as in conceptually; marriage, reflecting on childhood, school mothers, women of my age, human competitiveness, teenagers. I saw that these topics were entirely wrapped up in what I was thinking at the time. However they were not distilled, in them was murk and sediment. I drew too closely from my own life and thoughts. So I took an almighty step back and it started to get clearer. I started re-forming the novel in my mind.
Now positivity about writing has started to re-emerge. I am returning to my college to do a year’s volunteer advocacy for the Creative Writing Faculty. This will be a lovely opportunity to return to the academic environment but without the hardship! I can spend time with the under-grads and impart my wisdom! Haha. I am no more wise now than I was before the Masters, but I did last the course and made all of the relevant decisions to graduate.
My characteristic existential panic about what it all means, now it’s over, is vintage Lou! What I keep coming back to though, is this place. This blog. This has always been a clean, comforting empty room in which I can air my thoughts and I can see that over time, investment here has brought me so much in terms of pleasure, friendship and the development of my own goals. So I will be back soon…once I spend a few days revelling in the new silence that September and a new school terms always delivers.