I suppose I’m lucky in that I’ve never suffered from the dreaded writer’s block. Whether it’s stories, novels, plays, blogs, reviews or writing commercial stuff to a deadline, I usually get quickly into the swing of it and get dragged along. Then, after staying away from whatever text it is for a while, I enjoy getting back to it and starting the editing/rewriting process.
Recently, though, I have experienced something like it. I started on the sequel to The Figurehead and, after writing a few pages, found I was unsure of where I wanted to go with it. I knew what the themes would be, how the characters would behave with one another, what the main conflicts and climaxes would be and also how it would turn out, but it was all bitty and wasn’t managing to cohere in my mind. I began to think that I’d maybe done too much research, collected too much information on the commercial aspects of ship owning, passenger accommodation on transatlantic voyages, and also on actors and theatre groups, all of which would be part of the story. I knew plenty about all that but had no idea what the characters wanted to do. Also, there didn’t seem to be much room for them amongst all the ‘facts’.
Then, with the publication and subsequent freebie offer of Unsafe Acts and the blogs and interviews about it, it was obvious that I had to write another Jack Carston. Again, I knew the sort of case it would be, and that it would signify a departure for him which maybe/probably would make it the last in the series. It needs some research, so I’m in no position to start it yet but, again, the impulse to embark on it wasn’t strong.
Rather than worried, I was puzzled by this so, instead of persevering with either of them, I started a sequel to The Sparrow Conundrum, with very little idea of what it would contain. This time, though, because of the absurd extremes of the characters, I immediately started seeing plenty of possible developments. But even then, after a few days writing, I started finding reasons to do something else.
So I wonder whether it’s another manifestation of a desire always to want to do something new. I seem to do things for a while then, without there necessarily being any feeling of having achieved a goal or been successful, I get the ‘been there, done that’ sensation and look around for unknowns.
I wonder, too, whether the whole blogging, tweeting, facebooking thing has made writing less fun and the proliferation of new books has devalued the process. I don’t think that’s the case, but I’m very aware that I’m writing in a very different publishing context from the one in which I started – with more opportunities as well as more competition.
Then again, it’s maybe all down to the trait I’ve mentioned many times before – I’m lazy. The books will get written but, for the moment, it’s relaxing to look through the window at the branches blowing in the wind and the confused flowers which came out in the recent warm spell shivering and wondering what the hell they’ve let themselves in for.
(And it occurred to me that I could write a final paragraph using one of those flowers as an image for/symbol of the author’s dilemma, but you can do that for me.).