Those of you I've met around the place in Perth this year will probably know that I've been working on a collection of short fiction entitled "Well-Behaved Women". This collection, featuring the stories which have been previously published or shortlisted in other places, as well as some new work I've been developing over the last six months, has been a consuming project. I was inundated with different character voices I didn't know I'd been storing up for later. All sorts of things were inspiring me. The news. Our trip to Albany. Classic Australian literature. People I saw on the street. I was getting close to having enough stories to start thinking about arrangement.
And then everything came to a crashing halt.
I mean everything. My short stories, this blog... even writing in my journal. I was fresh out of ideas, and what's more, I was completely out of words for the stories I was trying to rework.
All of this happened at around the time of the Perth Writers' Festival which was two months ago now.
You see, I handed over the manuscript of my historical fiction novel to a local writer who had offered to mentor me. I thought I would be fine, that I would work away on my short stories, practise my craft, sharpen the knives of my prose on the metaphorical whetstone so to speak. But the part of my brain that writes fiction seemed to shut down.
Okay, I thought. That's fine. I'll have a break. I'll read some of the many novels piling up next to my bed and on my desk and in our living room. I'll write some reviews. I'll get myself mentally ready for the next draft of Between the Sleepers. I had a few months. I would be fine.
Essentially, I was going to trick myself into writing again, but I wasn't going to be fooled by myself that easily, as it seemed.
As time wore on, it got worse and worse. It reached its apex two weeks ago when I couldn't even bring myself to write during one of the fortnightly Write Nights sessions which I help run at the Centre for Stories. Writing prompts did not move me, writing books did not move me, listening to Elizabeth Gilbert's podcast did not move me and meditation did not move me. By this point, I was ropeable. I had a mini tantrum just the other night because I felt like I was turning into a blocked drain with legs.
And then, like the clouds parting after a particularly vicious storm, a thought came to me while I was sitting at my desk at work. Just a simple premise at first, but then layers started to build until I had a character and a situation. I quickly scribbled them down, and that night, when writing time came around... 1000 words came.
And then the next day, my manuscript assessment came back. So now, it's time to get down to business on the tenth draft of Between the Sleepers, and wait for the short story well to fill up again.