…Which is quite an ironic title, really, as I’m not religious and haven’t been for the whole of my adult life. I have been known to describe myself as a Jewish agnostic with Buddhist leanings. I haven’t found another title that sums up my religious status as accurately as this.
The closest I ever come to feeling religious is through nature or through writing. There have been times when I’ve seen a beautiful rainbow emerge over the sea, or a fan of sunlight creep out through the gaps in a cloud, and I’ve had feelings that I guess you could possibly describe as religious. They make me feel that there is something ‘else’ at work, other than what we can explain rationally, put it that way.
Same with writing. When I’m on book three of a series and I’m working on the plot, and then I remember something that happened way back in book one that I thought of randomly and didn’t have all that much importance in that book, but totally lays the groundwork for the plot idea I have just thought of – I think there is something going on out there beyond my own understanding. Something a little bit magical. And perhaps a little bit spiritual, too.
Writing has been in my life for as long as I can remember. At the age of eight, I wrote a book of poems for my beloved grandma, Mama, and was convinced I was going to be a poet. In my teens, I poured every thought and every emotion I had into pages and pages of diaries. In my twenties, I worked as a journalist and in my thirties as a teacher of English and Media Studies. Writing isn’t a religion for me. It’s at the heart of everything I do. It’s part of what makes me who I am.
So what happens when it’s gone?
What happens when the thought of the book that you are meant to be writing (the one that you have a contract for) makes you want to run away and hide? When even the books that you’ve been thinking about behind the scenes for years (the ones you don’t have a contract for) leave you cold? When you look at your desk and see plot notes and half-finished manuscripts and magazines you bought for research, and you don’t want to go near any of it? When you start working out how much it would cost you to pay back your advances and you find yourself looking online for cafés for sale…
I’ve probably felt a measure of all of these things at some point along the way with every book I’ve written. Those close to me know that it’s part of the process. ‘Ah, you’re up to the bit where you start working out how much it would cost to pay back the advance?’ say partner and agent. ‘Yeah, that’s shortly followed by the bit where it all falls into place, remember?’
Except this time, the next bit doesn’t seem to be happening. If you read my post last month (or if you know me personally) you’ll know that the last few months have been a bit tough. Going through difficult times often has the effect of changing your perspective on things. It makes you question what’s important, makes you consider how you live your life, and evaluate the way you do everything. That’s certainly what’s happened for me over the last few months. Last month I wrote about finding my way back to working with love. But the problem is that the love just isn’t there and the writing ain’t happening.
Perhaps this post is simply part two of last month’s blog. I’m still in the process of figuring out how to get the love back. And actually, I do believe that I’ll get it back. If I’m honest though (and lovely editor and publisher, if you’re reading this, please look away now) I’m not a hundred per cent sure that I’ll get the love back for the current book. The one I’m contracted to write. The one that was due in March and has been on hold for two months.
This could yet be a blip – a slightly deeper groove but the same thing that happens with every book. I don’t know. There might actually be some tricky conversations and some difficult decisions to be made – or I might wake up one morning soon and all of this uncertainty will have evaporated and I’ll get back to work. At this point, there’s no way of knowing which way it will go, and I can’t help feeling the weight of that question mark quite heavily, as if it were hanging over me, casting a shadow on everything I do.
Right now, I haven't got a reply to that question mark. It’s all a journey and I don’t know where this one’s going just yet. But someone once said to me, ‘Trust the process,’ and I think that’s the thing to do. It will work itself out.