Has it ever happened to you? You’ve been doing something for years and one day you stop and ask–Why? I’m talking about a questioning that persists, prevents you from carrying on as usual, erodes your customary assumptions, halts you with deeper and deeper whys until you feel disoriented, until you find you’re questioning everything.
I’ve spent the past several years in this mode, questioning my work. Why do I write what I write? What exactly am I trying to do? What drives me? Do I enjoy it? Is it fulfilling? At first, as it settled in, I answered the last two questions with a resounding NO and experienced a profound sadness.This profession that had seemed for so long a dream come true had gone stale for me.
There was nothing for it but to invite this dragon to tea. To sit down with this fear-inducing entity and look it right in the eyes. Hello, ennui, I see you. Let’s talk.
With the help of quantities of tea, reading, experimentation, long walks, meditation, discussions, more experimentation I considered what I was doing and why I was doing it. What began with some measure of despair became an engaging quest. I’ve fallen in love with writing all over again. I’d say the only negative in all this (in hindsight–it was painful at first) was the delay in publication of my next book–I wound up tearing apart the book I’d been writing and starting over, same topic but completely different approach. Other than that, I’m energized and enjoying myself again.
So I have a slew of ideas I intend to share on this blog going forward–the heart of the matter, for whom I write, why I choose to write historical fiction rather than biography, the practice of patience….
On that latter, I’m observing myself as I struggle to be patient while working toward a 2 April deadline for the completion of this new draft. Impatience is death to quality and engagement, yet there’s that nagging “oh get on with it” mantra that can resonate rather loudly. The trick is finding a balance between ignoring time and keeping the deadline date in the back of my mind, staying present with the task at hand including taking the time to consider the purpose of each scene and planning my approach. Which, of course, changes throughout the day as I encounter surprises–that’s the true test of my patience. But it’s also a clear sign that I’m writing lively characters. Breathe deep.
Enough for today–Joan of Kent is in Calais and I want her out of there by day’s end.