Saturday, 9 July 2011

Confessions of a Moody Writer - Jo Cotterill

Writing can be joyous. It can be hard work; depressing; uplifting; surprising; rewarding…all these things I knew. What I did not realise, and what I have come to recognise over the years, is that writing is addictive.

There, I confess it. I am addicted to writing. No matter how happy or sad (or any emotion in between) that I feel when actually putting fingers to keyboard, I just know that I suffer terrible withdrawal symptoms when I am prevented from writing.



I have just had two weeks away from my desk – one family holiday week (lovely) and one week on tour visiting schools and talking to enthusiastic readers (also lovely). The second week was of course part and parcel of my writing life nowadays, and I hugely enjoy doing events. But now, after 14 days away from my computer, I am turning into a crotchety, fuming, snapping grump. I know what it is – I need my next ‘hit’. I NEED to write. It’s not just that I’ve been mulling over ideas in the meantime that are begging to be written down; it’s not just that I’ve got a deadline looming. Those things help spur me on, but actually what’s got me biting my nails and shouting at my family is my desperation to be creative – to express myself through the written word.


I hate the term ‘artistic temperament’ because it suggests someone who isn’t in control of their own behaviour; someone who throws tantrums for no good reason. But I have to admit that maybe I have it. What else could drive me back to this weird and wonderful world of creation, where every chapter is a combination of words that have never been set together in this way before? And what else could make me feel as though without this outlet for my ideas, it’s possible that I might shrivel into nothingness?


I sometimes wonder if I’d have a happier life if I had no imagination, no creative drive, no artistic ambition.


And then I think Naaaah. Life’s more fun this way! 


Jo Cotterill 

26 comments:

Rebecca Brown said...

Yes! Life IS more fun this way! Thank you for a lovely post!

JoMacdonald said...

I get this completely! Took me years to figure it out though. Now I am really aware that I feel happier, more contented in all areas of my life when I am writing regularly.
Doesn't stop me procrastinating of course.......now I am off for my next 'hit'!

Susie Day said...

Yep, me too! The worst is when you've been working really hard on a book and need to take a break - and you realise that your definition of 'stuff I do for fun' is, er, writing.

Sue Barrow said...

I agree Jo, though not sure about the fun bit! Writing is compulsive though as someone who got bitten by the bug relatively late in life I'm curious to know whether for others its been lifelong obsession.

Linda Strachan said...

I never thought I could write, and becoming a writer - well it just wasn't even on the horizon as a possibility for much of my life.

Now I can't imagine why I wasted so much time and wish I had started much earlier.

I understand completely how you feel, Jo, writing is a wonderful addiction (although perhaps the family might not entirely agree!)

Linda Strachan said...

Hi Sue, good to meet someone else who started later.

So many people I meet have known they wanted to be a writer since they were very young.

Lucy Coats said...

Am SO getting my family to read this! They never believe me when I say I'm truly addicted to putting words on a page...!

Steve Cole said...

I know what you mean but do you ever think there is a slightly darker side to it? It sounds obvious but I think writers are essentially defined by writing and if we're not doing it we feel like we will unravel. This can lead to a kind of workaholism... I find I quite resent having to write sometimes, but would be appalled if I wasn't. It's what I do and it's how I live. Even if I don't always like doing it. I don't know what else I'm good for!

Jazz said...

This is a beautiful post. Thank you! I have the same thing about reading. I find it hard to go any length of time without a good book to read.

I hope any children or adults out there who feel the same about reading and writing read this and realise it's OK to feel that way! Go get writing right away!

Many thanks!

JoMacdonald said...

I hope that too Jazz. I wanted/needed to write ever since I was really young but was too embarrassed/ashamed admit it until nearing 30.

Stroppy Author said...

So true - writing is essential. As for whether I'd be happier without the imagination - quite possibly, but it would be a poorer kind of happiness. I'll go for the roller-coaster and take the bad as well as the good. Better than a flat, dull, contented life...

Wendy Meddour said...

Lol Jo - writing keeps me sane too. It's a shame I only discovered this in my 30s!!!!

catdownunder said...

Me too - I am addicted to words and the endless ways of arranging them. Yes, I'll go for the roller coaster too!

Rosalind Adam said...

I discovered that 'writing keeps me sane' later in life too, just like Wendy. But there's plenty more time to write and I can't imagine what it would be like now to not be a writer. I have to confess I take my lovely fountain pen and pad on holiday with me.

Nicky Schmidt said...

Oh I so relate! I'm involved in another, non writing project, at the moment, and although it's creative to a point, the fact that I'm not working on my manuscript is making me decidedly ratty!

makingsense said...

Thanks for the post Jo. It was good to meet you recently at the Witney Book fest. I get grumpy if my son doesn't go swimming at 8am on a Saturday morning at the Windrush. It's one of my only and best times to get writing. How can I ring fence more times like this?

MC Rogerson said...

Totally agree. I love having other stories running alongside my own life.

Miriam Halahmy said...

Writing is an addiction? Definitely. Always has been, always will be. Almost on a par with chocolate but not quite.

Book Angel Emma said...

I know I am not a writer but I actually get like that if I cant read or blog lol

Luisa Plaja said...

Great post. And I'm with Susie on this. ("Any hobbies?" "Er... writing?")

Leila said...

Great post, thanks! I agree with Susie - there's that awful moment when you stop writing, look round for something to do for fun, and realise that what you do for fun is writing...

Laura Harrison said...

This is a brillent post Jo! Its so awsomely truthful.

I love writing, i would'nt imagine doing anything else on a hot sunny (or rainy) day then spend time with the people in my storys, (that or sun bathing or course.)

Paula Harrison said...

We're all lucky to live a creative life. If I'd been born in another time or place, maybe I wouldn't have been allowed to do this! Great post!

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

... and a writer is never bored. Can you ever imagine getting up and saying I don't know what to do with my day? It just doesn't happen.

Rebecca Emin said...

Great post, and I can totally relate. I am already trying to work out how to balance writing during the long summer school holiday!

Jo Cotterill said...

How lovely to see so many comments and so many people who can relate! Sorry, I have been on a family day out and am only just back - am going to pick up on a few points:

Susie: LOL! I completely get that. Now that writing is my 'proper job' it's hard to know what else to do to 'relax' since I'm so used to it as a hobby! However, I do have loads of other creative things I like doing - and of course there's always reading, without which I would be bereft.

Sue B: it hasn't been a lifelong obsession for me, no. Only a relatively recent addiction...though I have always needed something creative to stop me becoming a grump. It used to be acting and writing music - now it's books. I do wonder whether one day I'll prefer to do something else, but I can't imagine that at the moment!

makingsense: hello! I completely understand the whole reliance on the 8am swimming lesson - I bet it's so annoying in the holidays or if your son is ill and can't go! As for ring-fencing more time, it's very hard with children. My daughter is in nursery part time, which is how I manage to write at all. I don't have the answer I'm afraid, but I suspect it might get easier as the children get older.

Steve: I think it's not quite like that for me because I have always had a wide range of interests. I loved being an actor and also loved being a teacher. I've always found a creative outlet, though it's not always been writing. If I couldn't write - I mean, if some dreadful accident prevented me - I think I would probably find another way to express myself. But writing does tick more boxes for me than anything else, so replacing it would be hard ;-)

Rebecca: I'm lucky that my daughter is still pre-school age and goes to a private nursery. God help my writing when she goes to school and is home for WEEKS in the holidays!!! Cannot imagine how I'll cope, aargh!

Dianne: yes, totally true. I am also never bored. I don't understand people who are!