This morning I woke up imagining I had writer’s block. (I wasn’t in italics, you’ll be pleased to know, although my hair was sticking up quite a lot.)
Two weeks ago I bought a nice fresh notebook, to start writing another book, and I haven’t written a word in it yet. I’ve carried it around with me every day. I’ve even opened it a few times, got out the pencil and just stared. But I haven’t written anything.
“Oh God,” I groaned out loud this morning. “It’s happened. I’ve got fifth book syndrome.” Or maybe it’s the sixth. More, counting the picture books. Whatever the number, this was serious.
Two months ago I finished the draft of a new novel. I had a list of a million future ideas and a desperate fear that there simply wasn’t enough time in the world to write all the books in my head. I rubbed my hands maniacally and bought new stationery, which is, after all, a critical part of the creative process. Couldn’t wait to get started.
But then I didn’t.
I wavered over what to do next. I read lots of other children’s books until I nearly went mad and swore to my girlfriend that I’d gone off books completely. She didn’t believe me. (Quite rightly – an hour later I’d recovered from that aberration and was happily ensconced in Peter Ackroyd’s Albion: The History of the British Imagination.)
I spent a few weeks working on the website, and wrote some short pieces (all accepted, which is nice). But all the time, a little voice has been whispering just behind my right ear.
“Quick! You’re wasting time.”
“See? You’re a fraud. You’ll never be able to do this.”
“All talk, no action. What a poser.”
Someone asked me the other day how I start my research, and perhaps that’s the problem. First, immersion in history texts and other novels about the period (or written in the period), then random researching of basic facts, including everything I feel sure I already know. I draft the story at the same time, and can spend hours or days looking up specific information. I have to be able to see the characters in their historical context: what they wear, what they eat, where they walk; as well as how they smile and sound.
I admit it’s daunting starting something new, especially when you have to wrench your head out of Restoration London and into Roman Britain or 15th century Amsterdam or any one of a thousand other possibilities.
Perhaps I just needed to take a deep breath before launching into another new world.
At any rate, walking from ferry to office this morning, I had to sit down on a bench in the sunshine and scribble in the fresh notebook. And so it begins.