Here it comes again: my regular dose of ‘novel panic’, ‘novel angst’, ‘novel just not good enough, never going to be good enough, think I'll just give up and go back to doing normal things like sweeping up peas when they fall under the table and providing clean underwear for my children’.
We all get it if we’re in for the distance. If we’re sitting on a long haul flight with Novel Air then the turbulence of doubt is familiar weather.
Novel Panic is not the rabbit in the headlights 'is this good enough?' fear of the beginning writer (though that's pretty scary).
And it's not the 'I think I'll curl up and die' reaction of the first few honest critique sessions (though that feels like you've been punched in the gut).
No, I'm talking about something entirely different. Something insidious. Something that creeps up behind you and smothers you with a musty old grey blanket. Something that comes on once you've been writing a while, had positive feedback, know you're on the right path and know, that with hard work and determination, you're going to get there eventually.
That soul-sapping ‘something’ is Novel Panic.
Novel Panic brings me out in more cold sweats than remembering the time my dad made me crawl to the edge of Beachy Head when I was eight to look down at the sea, holding me by the ankles ‘just in case’.
Unlike the Beachy Head memories (where I just tell myself my dad had some sadistic risk-transference issues and that I will never ever ever do that to my own children), Novel Panic needs a concentrated talking to.
Here's what I say to myself:
1. Hold your nerve.Hold your nerve. Hold your nerve. Hold your nerve.
2. This is a job, remember?Keep writing. Or reading. Or maintaining your social media platform. Did you like every part of your job when you worked in an office/toyshop/greengrocers/army barracks/cocktail bar with a bunny tail stuck on your backside? Were there days when you really really didn't want to go in? Writing is no different. You can’t pull a sicky every time you feel discouraged. Even if you put the actual writing to one side for a week, you can work on something else like reading around your genre or pimping up your blog.
3. Read what those nice people said again.Revisit positive feedback. Keep a record of encouraging comments. If the comments were verbal, write them down. They’re precious as diamonds. When you feel like your writing is useless, get them out and read them through.
4. You’re just having a ‘turn’.It’s only temporary. You know from experience it’ll pass. Pretty soon you and the muse will be flying off again into imaginary worlds and you'll be feeling the kick ass writer you really are.
5. Tell Mr Bad Vibe to get lost.Novel Panic is the anti-muse, and just like you'd say thank you to the ‘nice’ muse when something brilliant drops into place in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep (You don't? That's just me?), tell Mr Negativity to ‘jolly well sod off’ when he's whispering that negative crap in your ear (or something less Famous Five if that's your bag!).
6. And lastly:Grit your teeth; hang on like a Pit Bull; tell your children that commando is fashionable; note that peas are easier to sweep up when they’re dry and (did I say already?)
HOLD YOUR NERVE.
Emma Greenwood is the Green Columnist for Liberti magazine and author of work-in-progress, Seagull Eyes, a contemporary teen novel that was long-listed for the Mslexia Children’s Novel Competition 2012. Emma also writes teen-voice short stories and has been published by Mslexia and Cinnamon Press. She writes every day at the kitchen table but can type 55 wpm under the bedclothes on her iPhone because the muse invariably visits in the early hours when everyone else is asleep.