In the worst timing ever, I developed a raging cold two days before Boyfriend and I were due to go to London to watch Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. All the paracetamol in the world wasn’t enough to fight it off, but the germs didn’t win and we still had a great weekend.
As well as the snivelling, sore throat, coughing, headache, sneezing, and general feeling of crappiness, there was one symptom I hadn’t expected: my brain was fried.
This is something I’ve had before when ill, but not for years. I’d be sat at work, staring blankly at people because I didn’t understand what they’d said. I had to read emails at least three times to get the gist of them, and…I couldn’t hear my characters.
All eleven fictional characters that live inside my head and offer a running commentary on my day-to-day lives were on mute.
I’d planned not to write when we were in London anyway — we all need a break sometimes — but I hadn’t expected to go almost a week without writing. I managed to get some words out, but they were garbled and inconsistent. The blog post I started last week on this very topic is one of the few I will ever (happily) delete. (I’m a hoarder — you never know when things will be useful.)
I haven’t dared to look back at the stuff I’ve written for What Happens in London yet. I know it won’t be pretty, but at least I managed to get some of the ideas for it down.
Despite not hearing from my characters, I didn’t panic.
Nor did I think of it as having ‘writer’s block’, although I know that’s what most people would probably call it.
Because I knew I needed to rest.
When you run head first towards a goal, this is something that’s easy to forget. But it’s so, so important.
While writing is my main way to relax, it often feels like my life revolves around that and my full-time job. I’m OK with that, but I always knew that the more pressure I put on myself, the more I would suffer once the book was over.
And boy, am I suffering. It’s been almost two weeks, and every time I think I’m getting better, another wave of germs hits me. I knew that I was cutting it close with the publication of What Happens in New York, but it’s something that I had to do for me. That being said, I should’ve taken things slower and put less pressure on myself.
Time with friends and family, and doing hobbies unrelated to writing, is important. It helps us to switch off, clear our head, stimulates our minds, and makes us happier. Inevitably this time suffers when you work full time and are writing a book, but factoring it in is healthier when you look at the long-term picture.
While I’m still weak and snivelling as I write this blog post, I’m not nearly as bad as I was. However, I’m still struggling with What Happens in London. It’s a longer story, with more threads to it than What Happens in New York. I’ve also found it more emotionally draining to write because of some of the themes involved. However, as I’ve gotten better, two other stories have come to the forefront: one as-yet-untitled spin-off of What Happens in New York, and my romance/crime series.
I started working on my romance/crime series back when I was writing my dissertation. It was my way to relax, and escape to something that didn’t involve as much pressure. When I decided to focus on What Happens in New York, it took a back seat.
I haven’t even shown it to any of my close friends or family. That’s how close to me I’m keeping that story.
Mostly because the original story is terrible, and I’m not comfortable writing crime.
But also because I’m writing it for me.
What Happens in New York I write for my friends, and share with the world. Writing it helps me to relax, but now that it’s published, it’s difficult for the pressure to be off.
On the other hand, my romance/crime novel is still just for me. People know of it, but the most they’ve read is the opening paragraph.
However, when I lay napping at the weekend, I figured out how to fix the plot issues I was having, and ended up writing 5,000 words on it without really even trying.
And that, folks, is the beauty of resting.