I had a really productive day earlier this week, and was feeling good that I’d finally moved past the new scene I’d been struggling with. Finally, I thought to myself, we’re going to make some real progress again. I had 78 pages of the novel to go, and visions of whipping through them over the next couple of weeks to finally reach the end. I sat down to edit yesterday aaaaand…nothing.

Or pretty close to nothing, anyway. If I’m reviewing existing content and just cleaning it up, I’ll get about 1500-2000 words reviewed in a session. If I’m doing partial rewrites it’ll be a bit less, maybe 1000-1500. If I’m doing full rewrites or new scenes, I’ll usually get about 400-800 new words written and/or reviewed. The section I’m in now counts as partial rewrites – I’m making edits to reflect the new scenes I’ve added, but the basic structure and events aren’t changing. So this should be in the 1000-1500 words range, and on a weekend I can usually spend more time and get even higher.

Saturday’s total? 453 words. Only about 100 of those words were new. The rest were just existing words that I read and said “yeah they can stay” or “they have to go”.

On top of that, those 453 words were hard. I spent the session not sure if things should stay or go, second guessing myself every time I cut or left something. I’d rewrite a line of dialogue, delete it, rewrite it a second time and then often went back to the one I’d written the first time. It all just felt wrong. I’m unsure that the characters are saying the right thing or focusing on the right problem when they speak.

I actually found myself getting frustrated with it, which is pretty foreign to me when it comes to the book. Even in the difficult places, I still wanted to work on it, and while I wished I was making more progress, there was no part of me that was saying “ugh, I’m sick of this”. Yesterday I was a little sick of it.

Usually when I get frustrated with things, there’s no point in trying to push through. I just get more frustrated and it becomes unproductive. It’s better for me to step away for a while and return to it when my head is clearer. So that’s what I did yesterday. Now I’m writing this blog entry, and I’m kind of dreading returning to the editing when I’m finished, like I normally would.

I don’t think this has ever happened before. I’ve dreaded editing in the sense of feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work there is to do, or wishing I could move on to book two. But I’ve never dreaded it like this where I just don’t want to work on the story at all. It has me wondering if, for the first time since I started this thing in earnest, I’ve got a bit of writer’s block. That’s kind of how I’m feeling; like I just can’t see the way forward right now. There’s this fog that’s making everything kind of blurry and hard to find the way through. I still know where I’m going and what has to happen, but the individual steps are kind of lost to me at the moment.

This doesn’t feel like an extension of my characters being upset with me like they were (are?). That was a struggle, but it felt external. On my side of things, in my head, all was well. I just had to corral the characters into doing what they needed to. Today it’s me that needs corralling; it’s my head that just doesn’t want to do it.  

Ironically, I’ve now written almost 650 words about how I’m feeling blocked. Clearly the creative energies haven’t entirely left me, so maybe they’re just telling me I need to focus on something else for a little while. I don’t feel great about that, honestly. My goal is still to have the novel ready to start pitching to agents at CanCon in November, and there’s more work than just editing that needs to get done for that. Putting off the editing is counterproductive in that context.

Trying to carry on when my brain isn’t cooperating doesn’t feel productive either. I’m not sure what the source of the block is, but I can guess it’s a combination of having worked on this for years and part of me is tired of that, plus the exhaustion of just having slogged through that tough rewrite section, and my usual problem of work is exhausting me. It’s been a bit worse than normal lately and I have bad habits around sleep when I’m stressed by work, so I’m physically tired on top of the mental stress.

Maybe being blocked is my brain’s way of telling me I need to step back a little. I think this week I need to focus on getting my sleep back in order so that I’m less worn out. And when I do have energy to write, I’ll concentrate on another story that needs my attention. I can’t let things slide too long, but pushing myself when I’m frustrated usually just ends in me throwing my hands up and saying “screw it”, which is something I definitely don’t want to do with the book.

So now I embark on a week where my writing goals are a) don’t work on the novel and b) sleep more. That feels almost as counter-intuitive and counter-productive as everything else, but it also feels like the right thing to do. I’m going to trust my gut and see where it takes me. I’ll let you know next week.

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