The Amaryllis on my windowsill is in splendid, flamboyant bloom at the moment. Pity I can’t say the same about my writing. I’ve never believed in writer’s block, so the last few months have been difficult: I’ve come up against an immovable obstacle that I’ve been unable to push through. I’ve hit the wall.
I make notes, use diversionary tactics and bring out all the tried and tested solutions but I still find myself, against my own advice, messing around in the foothills, constantly editing and re-editing the first few chapters. It’s all procrastination. I should be pushing forward, not marching on the spot.
Writing a novel is a marathon, I keep telling myself, not a sprint. Pace yourself. The muse will return. I’ve tried all my usual tricks: copious amounts of tea; long walks on the beach (even the seal pups didn’t inspire me this year); writing other, unrelated stuff. But progress on my WIP remains stuck stubbornly in first gear.
I’ve done my preparation well. I’ve planned scenes, characters and settings. I know exactly where the story is going and how it needs to develop to reach its destination. I know how and where it’s going to end. I can peep over the wall and see the plot ribboning its way through my invented landscape, but it’s all so tantalisingly out of reach. Why can’t I scale the wall?
Well, I’ve had the stuffing punched out of me lately. The disheartening, frustrating and exhausting struggle to get my second novel published (more on that story in a later post) has been such a strain that, along the way, I’ve lost all confidence in my abilities. Everything I write seems stilted, overwritten and wooden, which is why I’m forever ploughing this boring, repetitive furrow. What’s more, I don’t trust my critical faculties anymore either; my inner editor has also gone awol.
But all is not lost. I’ve had an idea. I’ve recently started swimming regularly again and I remembered learning to swim at school. As soon as we juniors could swim across the little pool, we graduated to the big one. I knew I could do it, but at every attempt I stopped halfway across. This went on for a long time. All my classmates moved on to the big pool, but I couldn’t get past the treacherous mid-point until, in a flash of inspiration, I asked the teacher if I could start from the opposite side of the pool.
That did the trick. I swam all the way across with no hesitation at all. But why couldn’t I do it from the other side? Swimmer’s block, I guess.
And this is my idea. If I can’t, at the moment, move forwards with my novel, maybe I should follow my childhood example and work backwards instead. I’m clear about the storyline, the character development, and how it’s all going to end, so why don’t I write the conclusion and carry on in reverse until I reach the wall from the other side?
Does that sound like a plan for 2017?