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Monday, 8 September 2014

Taking Stock

Apologies for the radio silence. It's been a tough few weeks. Actually, everything since my birthday at the end of July has been a mini-nightmare, all conspiring to make this one gigantic monster that's inclined to chase me down the street with fangs bared. I'm holding him off for now but I can't say it's easy.

The less said about the thesis at the moment, the better. I just have to hope the problems I'm having with that (not completely of my own making this time) will iron themselves out. As a side note, I hate Edmund Yates and Wilkie Collins with every fibre of my being. I'd be happy never to see a passing reference to them ever again, though I'm told that feeling fades...eventually.

So - the writing. There's still some good news in the bag that I can't share with you yet but, beyond that, I'm really pulling my finger out. Last week, I took the time to focus on my writing and made a little progress. As I intended to do back in May, I've done a little planning ahead so that one novel ('Max') is ready to be second-drafted. I also cheated a little on my resolution not to do any 'proper' writing and made a concerted effort to finish the second draft of 'Lauren'. We're nearly there with only two and a half chapters left to write and it's hovering around the 60,000 mark at the moment. I've changed a lot about this (added five viewpoints for a start) and it's very rough but getting there, plot-wise. Everything needs tightening etc but that's a job for draft three.

My plans after I've finished that may change. Currently, what I want to do is work on the sixth draft of 'Lily'. That will require concentration, focus on every word, and may not sit comfortably alongside my thesis edits which, at this point, require the same thing. Not to worry - I've got several short stories to write and rework and I'm working on a play rewrite, which I need to submit to somewhere specific by the end of the month. I haven't got much out at submission currently but that's going to change.

To say I'm using my writing as a distraction wouldn't be far off the mark. August was atrocious, punctuated by problems with the boiler that still aren't resolved, a re-emergence of my anxiety issues and some rather more serious problems. My grandmother was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Even when they're 91 it's something you don't want to hear and the doc isn't planning on telling her because of her dementia problems. I've got mixed feelings on that one but my dad and aunt are the ones with the rights over her, not me. As well as that bombshell, I broke up (very amicably, as it happened) with my partner of nearly nine years and there have also been other things going on I can't really discuss on a public forum like this. However, what it all boils down to is a great shift in how I define myself. I've got to change my mindset and fight some long-ingrained habits. Learning to be yourself without other people around to bounce things off can be tricky but, hey, it's not as though I have a choice right now.

I've learned a couple of things in the last month. The first is that I have a renewed confidence in my writing abilities and I really need to hold on to that. The second is that honesty is truly the best policy. It might've made me ill, it might've caused a minor earthquake in my little world, but I feel a bit better for it. Not that I can keep a grip on that perspective constantly. Just have to roll with it for a while, I guess. Finally, the third thing I learned is that I can be strong. As I tweeted last week, I've essentially taken a blowtorch to half my life over the last month. Maybe it was stupid but once I'd struck the match, it was out of my control. And, in all seriousness, the fact that it is all out of my control now is vaguely reassuring. I did the right things for once, the brave things, and the fact that it didn't quite work out is not down to me. I have many things to reproach myself about in the past but, this time, I think I behaved fairly well.

So I'll just continue to roll with the punches. As I've been typing this, a man arrived with no warning to paint our windowsills and the saga of the boiler continues on Wednesday. I may be lonely at the moment, very lonely, but as long as I have my characters around I suppose I'll get through it. Betty Hutton can also help...

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