Writer’s block. It’s a cliche, it’s not real – is it?
This Writer’s Block
In 2010 I started writing my first novel. (We’ll forget about the train wreck of a novel I wrote in the 1990s). It was planned as part of a trilogy called When I Was, Other Than, What I Now Am, which is a quote from a short story by Greg Bear.
By late 2012 I thought I had finished writing When I Was (HO-HO-HO, I’m still working on the latest draft in 2018) and I moved onto Other Than.
With the benefit of hindsight, this book was probably suffering from Second-system syndrome. I deliberately kept the first one simple, with one main protagonist and everything written from his point of view. Not so with number two! There were three main protagonists and multiple points of view. Did this contribute to the problem? I’m still not sure.
Anyway, all seemed to be going well. I was using a detailed chapter plan, a first for me as I recognised the complexity of what I was taking on. The words came easily and the characters, who I knew well from book one, were doing most of the work for me. By March 2013 I was 30,000 words in and then … nothing. I just ran out of steam and could go no further.
Looking through the files from then it was a very creative time. I sketched out ideas for several novels, including one that evolved into Jubilee (a current work in progress, see this page) and another book in my planned alternative-crime series, The Oxygen Thieves, which is still on my to-do list. Perhaps I just burned myself out. After all, we’d just moved to Australia with a stroppy teenager (don’t try this at home) and I was just setting out on a five-and-a-half-year roller-coaster ride on a massive project at work. (Incidentally, this ride comes to an end at the end of this month: synchronicity, anyone?)
In the end, I wrote my way out of the block, by starting a new project, writing the first 12,000 words of The Daedalus Soul; since then I’ve built this story to 50,000 words. Eventually, I was able to go back and take the first draft of Other Than to 80,000 words and a conclusion.
Sometime later I discovered that another name for writers’ block is the thirty-thousand [word] doldrums. My grateful thanks to Emma Darwin and her excellent blog site This Itch of Writing. As always, Emma provides wise advice and a useful perspective, from which the aspiring writer can see a way ahead. Thanks, Emma!
I am now returning to Other Than in order to complete it (note to self: must learn to FINISH a novel).
A sermon on culture versus God, from 1Corinthians 8:1-6.
Aim: To show the limitations of ‘culture’ as a substitute for loving God.
Paul talks about Jewish food rules getting in the way of the Christians worshipping God. These rules, which were helpful for living in the desert a thousand years before, have no power to help anyone.
Paul names this: mere superstition.
Meaning for Today: culture
Today we call this superstition ‘Culture’. This word used to mean making people better, educating them, but now we use it to describe all the things we do for no logical reason.
For example on Australia Day speeches all started by acknowledging Aboriginal Culture. This is a well-meaning but empty gesture, as it does nothing to improve anyone or to correct real inequality (e.g. an indigenous woman’s life expectancy in South Australia is the lowest in Australia, whereas a western woman’s life expectancy in South Australia is the highest).
Using the culture label for other’s religious beliefs avoids difficult questions like: are they true? are they real? By focusing on Culture we can paper over the cracks: safe but superficial; however, it’s patronising, even cowardly.
I was talking to a friend having a tough time, he’d had some time off work with stress. We talked about how we have to wear a grown-up mask to show other people, versus the real person underneath, which was formed when we were children. We have to maintain this pretence because our western culture won’t accept or value our real child-like selves (is this something we could learn from the Aboriginal peoples?) Maintaining this false mask causes real mental health problems.
It made me think how helpful our relationship with God is. We can be ourselves – weak, childlike, silly – but even so, we are accepted and understood. We can understand our place in a family, in society, in this false culture (Jesus calls it ‘the World’) and the universe. It is real, not culture. It causes people to admit their mistakes, to be true and real, to right wrongs and do amazing things to educate themselves and improve the lives of others.
Let us enjoy and value culture, but keep it in its place. Let’s not accept the superstition of culture – giving it power over people, or the idolatry of culture – allowing it to be a substitute for God. We are created in God’s image, to have a relationship with God.