It’s 1st November. It’s almost ten to eleven – pm. That’s 2249, for the militarily precise. Just 61 minutes to the Witching Hour on All Saints’ Day. And I’m feeling the pressure.
As both my regular readers will have no doubt observed, there’s been a bit of a dearth of posts on this blog over the last couple of weeks. Something of a desert. Let’s be kind and call it a hiatus. The truth is – it’s here at last.
Four months into my six months of unpaid leave and I’m feeling stressed.
Now, before any of my former colleagues spit their coffee over their keyboards/ collapse in hysterics in the midst of the open plan/ create new black holes as they pulverise their stress balls, let me explain myself…
I realise I have no good reason for this. No good reason. But I do have some fairly rubbish ones. And together, they’ve given me a Crisis of Confidence.
At times like this, there’s only one thing to do. I must reconnect with my inner bureaucrat. I must make a list.
So here it is: my Fairly Rubbish Reasons for Feeling Stressed.
1. Last week, one of my blog posts appeared on Freshly Pressed. Of course, I was thrilled when I got that email from the lovely Benjamin. He’ll be on my electronic Christmas card list until the end of time. And I was even more thrilled when up popped my post and my visitor numbers shot up by a multiple I’d be prepared to share with you if only it didn’t demonstrate how feeble my usual stats were. But here’s the thing… You get all these wonderful, shiny new visitors, posting comments and being witty and interesting and just plain nice and you think: how the hell am I going to keep them? Even some of them? What if they read my other posts and think, “What on earth was I doing hanging around on this loser’s page? Quick, get me back to How The Light Gets In where I can read something that’s actually good!”
And the post that was freshly pressed wasn’t even categorised as “Writing”. Oh no. In fairness, there was a very good reason for that: the writing element was pretty tangential. Instead, it was categorised as “Spiders.” The thing is, I’ve now got a lot of visitors who are very interested in and knowledgeable about our eight-legged friends. A couple of them are even following me on Twitter. Maybe I should get out some library books on arachnids? I just don’t think that’s going to cut it though. My spider-loving chums have only disappointment ahead.
So anxious was I about what I was going to write in the week after I was “freshly pressed” I managed one post. One. This is now the longest I’ve been without posting since I started my blog.
The answer, of course, is simple: Get Over It.
2) The same day I got that email from the brilliant and incisive Benjamin (you never know, he may be reading this…) I received an email from my brilliant and incisive agent (ditto). She was back from the Frankfurt book fair and sending me her eagerly-anticipated ideas for the rewrite of my novel – for which we had lots of knee tremblers from various publishers, but sadly none prepared to go all the way.
“Hurrah!” I thought, “Time to get back to work!” And then – I didn’t. Instead, I spent two days worrying whether I had it in me to do it. I mean, it feels like taking a hammer to my lovely, completed jigsaw puzzle of a story, chucking in a pile of extra pieces, and then trying to put them all together again in a way that miraculously creates a more beautiful picture. Honestly, I just don’t know if I’m up to it.
I think the answer is probably just to Get Over It.
3) As anyone frequenting any website with the vaguest connection to writing won’t have avoided hearing about, November is National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo to those in the know. The idea is to write a novel of 50,000 words between 1 and 30 November.
I had plans for this. Oh yes. In line with best practice in behaviour change theory, my post Composting and NaNoWriMo put them out there for the world to see. My pledge was to make a 50,000 word sized dent in my second novel. Of course, this is now on hold as I focus on the rewrite of my first. But how do you compare your progress on revising and adding to and moving around your existing text with the clarity of a daily word count target? I can’t do it.
The answer must be to Get Over It. Or possibly to tell myself that whatever revisions I’ve managed for the day are equivalent to far in excess of 2,000 words of spanking new prose.
4) I’m now officially two thirds of the way through my unpaid leave. I have 8.57 weeks left. 60 days. 1,440 hours. And that’s before you take out the festive period when, let’s face it, the only writing I’m likely to be doing is Christmas cards.
I’m due to meet my line manager next week to discuss what job I’ll do when I come back. That’s next week!
I’d tell myself to Get Over It, but honestly, I’m giving myself a bit of leeway with this one.
So how a bit of group therapy, people? Let me have your ideas for taking the strain. And if you’re feeling a bit under the cosh yourself right now – let me know. I’ll do my best to come up with some advice. Either that, or you’ll have someone new to tell you to just Get Over It.