Third Thoughts

It’s amazing what a few days off, a couple of pieces of good news and vast amounts of cake can do for your mood. Much better now, and thank-you for your comments on the last post. I hate to be a whining over-sharer but this blog is about what it feels like for me, being a writer, and sometimes it is nerve-racking and difficult and it feels bad, no matter what the life looks like from the outside. It doesn’t look like much right now, because I am Between Projects and that’s scary.

Carrying on involves finding ways to write anyway and figuring out what you need so you can write. I’ve been contenting myself with research and planning and day-dreaming, lots of reading and taking my daily photographs – which will be up here soon. I’ve convinced myself it is okay to be lazy for the next couple of months and staring out of windows and drawing flow-charts on the back of PTFA letters (no I won’t give you any more sodding money) is work too, even though it doesn’t look like it.

Carrying on also involves bucking yourself up and giving yourself a virtual slap around the head. This is the job I always wanted to do. I do it at home. I don’t even need to wear shoes most of the time. We’re all healthy and my run-away cat came back at the weekend. I can play with Lego whenever I like. What more could a person want?

I need to find ways to fill up the tank again before I start writing. Reading, I think, and meeting with the new fiction workshop group I’ve set up, and watching films, and getting outside, and making space in my day to be bored sometimes.

I think having these crises of confidence now and again helps me to be a better teacher too. It is scary to stand up in front of people and read your work. It is scary to share an idea and ask ‘does this sound all right, do you think?’ and it is scary to be between novels. Will I ever be able to do it again? I remember that feeling from last time. I think about the advice I gave to a writer in one of my workshops last week – you’ll always be nervous because it matters so much to you, and if it didn’t matter, you might not be nervous but the writing wouldn’t be as good. Might not be true for her, or for you, but it was and is for me.

What do you do when you’re not writing? 

10 responses to “Third Thoughts”

  1. Max Wallis says:

    Cook curries from scratch …

  2. Holly says:

    i'm usually daydreaming jenn, or hunting down live-wide-awake experiences ranging from a drink at the pub with good people, to being outside somewhere wild (national parks are my favourite places), reading other people's words… and trying trying trying to always overcome the writing nerves and untangle myself from the clutches of the big scaredy cat that seems to like curling itself precisely around my throat.

    buck ups and virtual slaps always have their place and should never be underestimated… and speaking from experience, chatting with you about writing whether over sugary danishes or in the classroom is always so bloody refreshing because you walk the walk. so writer, teacher, inspirer-of-words… crises of confidence are, it would appear to me, only doing you good and no harm x

  3. Luke and Jon says:

    I try to tell myself that it's fine not to be writing, but then worry that I'm not. I think you do need a break between books though. You could carry on regardless but would it be as good? Hopefully we are in the game of quality and not quantity. I enjoy this blog by the way.

  4. Megan says:

    Be really grumpy
    (I think you may have a better plan)

  5. C Shannon says:

    Have you tried the Artist's Way? It's a great opportunity to nourish yourself creatively by going on artist dates with yourself and silencing that inner critic! Would recommend,


  6. Claire Laurraine says:

    I find cleaning quite theraputic. When my mind is cluttered with rubbish I have a clear out at home and it seems to clear my mind too. Or I will read and when I'm not doing those things I am worrying about exam results!

  7. Tania Hershman says:

    Jen, amazing that you have posted this today because it's exactly how I am feeling. I've been "between projects" for a long, long time. Yes, I've been writing, but mostly very short stories with no Larger Framework. And today I was feeling very "why am I doing this?/why do I bother?" and all unconfident. When you do think about what it is that we do, it starts to sound so wierd, so insane. Is it a proper job? Sorry for not bucking you up, I am not feeling well and am VERY grumpy, but I really appreciate you sharing and giving me this chance to get it out there too.

  8. Betty Etesh says:

    Hi Jenn
    It is true for me- the nervousness I mean!
    I used to assume it was a sign of lack of confidence. Now I`m beginning to realise it`s because I care sbout my writing.

  9. Jenn Ashworth says:

    @ Max ah – I do that anyway. I make an excellent dahl and a mean Kuka Paka too. Sadly, curry is not agreeing with me right now.

    @ Holly what is this real life experience of which you speak? Sometimes I forget that outside my office / head exists. I think I need to get out more. Perhaps a Real Job is in order.

    @C Shannon – I haven't tried it, but I know people who have and it has been recommended to me before. IS is the same person who wrote 'writing down the bones?' ??

    @Luke and John hello! welcome! I like what you say about quality and not quantity. If I only write two novels in my life, but they are good ones, the best I can do – that is the main thing. I liked your article on the Faber blog about finishing your novel and trying to write unselfconsciously after you won the prize. Second books are a bit like that too.

    @Megan – I am on it, and perfecting the art of the grump every single day.

    @Claire cleaning. Hmmm. I've been banned from mopping and hoovering but I suppose I could swab a cloth around the kitchen. If you really think it would help…

    @Tania – the 'why do I do this' question is fatal. The best I can come up with is 'because I like it' (except a lot of the time, I don't) and 'because it inflicts the illusion of meaning on an otherwise pointless and necessary existence' (which is pretentious and depressing)or 'because I need to pay my rent' (insert hysterical, braying laughter here…). I think I need to keep myself writing so I don't have the mental space to ask myself that scary question…

    @Betty nice to see you over here! It was our conversation after the workshop in Rock Ferry that I was thinking about. The bad news is that it never stops being a bit scary, I think. But not doing it is possibly scarier?

  10. lou says:

    i am glad i found this i kind of understand what you mean often what i write only means something to me which to everyone else is a scraggy piece of paper , i find hours can slip away without anything much to show for it , but hey we should all have time in our day for daydreaming sometimes i just put my quilt over my head and mooch but when i venture out of the darkness of the duvet i find i have a new creative spirit but i think all creative types maybe find it difficult to work to a schedule , the world has to fit into my way of thinking otherwise dont function beginning to ramble so will leave it really enjoyed reading it and all the comments!!!!

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