May was a great month for writing, and research, and walking and filling journal pages with all sorts of things about the Thames. I wrote seven short stories and a couple of poems and I was loving it. In June, everything fell apart. The terror attacks, the negativity and uncertainty surrounding the General Election, a family member in hospital in a critical condition (now recovering and at home, thankfully) and then the Grenfell fire, left me in a state where even getting out of bed was difficult some days, much less writing fairy tales.
I spent weeks stewing in the mindset that I should be able to stay focused. That if I was a committed writer, if I was serious about it, I would get up and go to work like everyone else was doing. I beat myself up and fretted that I wasn’t being productive. Looking at the list I’ve typed out above, I’m amazed that I wasn’t more of a mess than I was. Last week I made a sensible decision – that I would put the project to bed – and immediately felt a huge sense of relief.
Being the over-achieving swot that I am, my plans extended far beyond the requirements of the project assignment, and I had already done plenty of work to fulfill it. If things had gone well, if I’d spent another couple of months by the river and been inspired and on-task, I could have had more stories to select my final portfolio from. But I don’t need more than I have and I don’t need to force myself through something I have lost all momentum on, just because there are tasks on my study planner I didn’t cross out. I still have editing to do, and a critical reflection, but the stories are done.
Something else had been worrying me for a while. While I was focusing on stories I found myself unable to write poetry. I hadn’t expected this, I think I mentioned in another post that I assumed my stories would be quite like my poems, and they were not, and my writing process was also different. I found myself in a completely different mindset – lots of productivity on stories, but every time I thought about poem ideas they just came out as narrative prose. As poetry is my central focus, and I am already working on my final poetry portfolio, this was starting to bug me. Deciding to stop writing stories means I am now able to return my focus to poetry.
Luckily, I’ve been here before and I know what I need to do to swing my head back the other way and fill my inspiration well. Mostly, I’m reading a lot. Certain kinds of reading, poetry and prose but definitely specific writers and styles, send my brain into a pattern which works for writing. I’m also starting to work on a long poem based on the Thames research which will be very different to the stories I was writing – no research goes to waste! And I’ve finally started a bit of research for a sequence idea that I’ve had in my notebook for ages now. It’s a cliche, but I’m also eating better, exercising more, and making time to meet friends. World events are quieter this week than they have been (it’s a pretty low bar) and I am starting to feel like myself again.
I hope you’ll continue to hang out here with me, I plan to keep the blog going until the end of the summer when I hand in the project, and as always, I’d love to hear what you think!