Come here. Shh. I’ve something to say. It’s a secret.
Here it is: I’ve done no writing this year.
Obviously that’s not a literal statement. I’m writing now. This blog has been kept updated. I’ve emailed and edited, outlined and annotated, wordbuilt and whimsied and worked. But at no point have I sat down, opened a document and started to build something new.
This is something of a personal record, especially when you consider that this stretch of not-writing, while heavily centered in 2011, extends backwards into the previous year, when I was finalising edits on The Key to Starveldt and getting ready for our UK move. Usually, when I go this long without writing something, I start to crawl up the walls – but then, as above, it’s not that I haven’t been writing so much as that I haven’t been writing stories. Even so, it’s a new phenomenon. At one point, I was worried about writer’s block, but that doesn’t quite seem to be the case, even though my ongoing battle to reclaim my Microsoft Office CD and thereby install Word on my new computer means that I’ve been stuck using Open Office instead, a stopgap program whose peculiarities routinely make me want to stab the monitor. So yes, there’s been some reticence on that front. Call it a fussiness: I’d like to write in the program of my preference, but if I really and truly wanted to, I’d find some way to do it.
Then, too, there’s a question of hesitance: there’s so many things I want to write that the choice of which one to take up first is a little overwhelming. I used to work on parallel projects all the time, but that was before I’d ever managed to finish any of them, and though I’m confident now in my ability to stick with something I’ve started, both the profusion of viable, interesting plots I have outlined and the number of years since I attempted multiple narratives has made me wary of my reach exceeding my grasp. Even with all the free time I’ve had until recently, I was leery of using it.
But what really seems to be holding me back – and I use that phrase in the best possible sense – is other people’s opinions. So far this year, I’ve worked my way through 54 books. I’ve blogged and thought and involved myself in arguments about genre, structure, fantasy and feminism, and the whole time, I’ve been in such a whirl of inspiration that it feels like my head will explode. I’ve been questioning my own assumptions, picking up plots I’d thought were sound and tearing great, gaping holes in their logic. Old characters, set aside for lack of proper story-homes, have suddenly been raising their hands and begging for inclusion in new plots, old plots, somewhere-in-between plots, changing and twisting and reshaping themselves into new and shinier forms.
Logically, I know this state of affairs can’t last – or rather, that it shouldn’t. Sooner or later, I have to sit down and put the theory into practice, because even though it’s a good thing to aim for ongoing improvement, there’s a balance to be struck between constant alterations and actually completing a project. But until then, I’m reveling in a glorious sense of possibility: that beyond all the culture wars, I’m in a position to write the changes I want to read, rather than just lamenting their lack. And even though that’s a different sort of pressure, too – what if I get it wrong or can’t do it justice or slip up in some other way, what if what if what if – it’s still a feeling of power, an exhilarating sense that part of me has somehow leveled up.
I hope I’m right. But the ultimate proof, as ever, will be in the product.