The dreaded middle-of-the-book slump. The urge to give up and get a proper job strikes yet again. Why am I doing this to myself, I ask. I sit in front of the keyboard and think, I can’t even remember the names of all these people, what they look like and what they did. My murderer is too obvious, my victim deserves to be bumped off – whiny, stupid and pushy – the only mystery here is why someone hadn’t bumped her off sooner.
Staying focused is the hard part now. Some 35,000 words into the book, and I am into self-doubt territory. The desire to write something new, something easier is strong. But I have to press on. This is not the time to listen to voices telling me to stop, telling me what I’m writing is rubbish. This is not the time to be concerned with quality or to agonise over the aptness of a phrase.
There are ways of coping – mechanisms for dealing with the tough parts of the experience. I could try Dr Wicked’s Write Or Die, set it on Kamikaze and write, write write, furiously, for the allotted time before the programme deletes my words and they are gone forever. I may not churn out Proust or Shakespeare, but at least I AM still churning … anything – even ten words – are better than writing nothing.
I could go for a walk, take some time off, watch TV or read a book, do some chores around the house, I could do ‘research’ – ie sit looking at stuff on the internet. Just taking a break will renew my energy and strengthen my sense of purpose, so long as I don’t allow myself too much time away.
But then, sooner rather than later, I have to sit down, take up my pen or put my fingers on the keys, and carry on with my story. I have to believe in my ability to tell my story and believe that it is a story only I can tell. Mary Wibberley, a great British writer of romance novels, wrote a book many years ago which changed my life. It was the first how-to book I ever read, and it taught me to believe, hope and above all, to write. It was called ‘To Writers With Love’, and in it she likened the writing process to that of mountain climbing. Her advice? “Don’t look down”.
Don’t look down means not stepping back from the ‘problem’ and seeing too big a picture, filling yourself with fear and a sense of something too large to be scaled. It means keep battling forward, one step at a time, then you will gradually reach your goal. Don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed but move forward, overcoming difficulties one at a time. So I will battle on, through this Slough Of Despond, until I write those wonderful words that bring such joy and a sense of accomplishment. ‘The End’.