School holidays began nearly a week ago and I expected that I would dive straight into writing, piling words one on top of another like Jenga blocks that I would eventually have to knock down to begin again, but it didn't happen. The last few weeks of term I had been feeling run down, there was a throat ulcer and then the last week I got a cold that went through our household.
Still, I can usually shake off a cold quickly if I'm not working, but this time the holidays started and I felt creatively dead. I was in the grip of extreme fatigue and everything felt grey. I hadn't felt like this since my first year teaching where I would scrape through the term only to collapse on the school holiday with extreme fatigue. I hadn't realised how much this term had taken out of me-two new subjects and having to create lessons plans, documentation, and teach them.
We always talk about finding the time to write and while it is true--there is no such thing as writer's block when you're working a full time job, in fact the opposite is true, too many ideas crowding for space in my head is my problem--having space to be creative and in the moment is the challenge. For three days I struggled for energy and felt no connection to my novel. The initial excitement I had felt, the complete conviction in the development of the book, the beginning of the world feeling real--had all faded. It was as if it wasn't a part of me anymore.
For three days I watched television, read, imitated a vegetable as much as possible, and on Monday I decided that it was time to write. So I opened my Scrivener document and started re-reading what I had last worked on a few weeks ago when the novel felt so close and real, but it didn't feel real any more. It was as if someone else had written these first fledging words, someone other than me.
I debated with myself: do I rest for longer or do I try to push through, but I knew that if I didn't attempt to write these school holidays, next term would be even worse. Not only would I be suffering from work fatigue, but I would also be carrying the feeling of failure and so I started. For two hours I would write a few sentences at a time, only to flick over to another tab on my web explorer, desperate for a distraction. I felt like I wanted to jump out of my skin and writing was a physically unpleasant experience, but I persisted, laying down 1000 horrible words with the same enthusiasm (I'm guessing) a plumber feels at having to unclog a sewerage pipe. But in the end I got there. And the next day I repeated, and it was a little bit easier. And the third day the characters started speaking to me and the world I was creating became real. And I'm back in the moment.
For the next ten days I will keep laying the pipe, 1000 words a day at a time. I have a short window in which I can prioritise my creativity and revel in being a writer, even though I will also need to complete my lesson planning and corrections, and I'm going to enjoy every moment. Writing a book is not a sprint, instead it is a slow and torturous marathon that is run through the peaks of shiny inspiration and hollows of complete apathy. All we can do is keep fighting on: one word, one sentence, one paragraph, one page at a time.
Amra Pajalić is an award-winning author, an editor and teacher who draws on her Bosnian cultural heritage to write own voices stories for young people, who like her, are searching to mediate their identity and take pride in their diverse culture. She writes memoir, young adult and romance under the pen name Mae Archer.
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