Friday, September 19, 2008

Do we need stormy weather?

One of the many things I do, when I should instead be writing Containment, book number three, is analyse why I'm having such difficulty with this one. With both Overkill and The Ringmaster, when I sat at the computer the words came, sometimes they gushed, and on odd occasion avalanched onto the screen in front of me. With Containment it is more a trickle, and some days even that's an overstatement.

But why the difference? I didn't experience the literary constipation of the dreaded second novel that some seem to suffer. Do I have it with the third? Well no. I'm beginning to think the driving force behind my work has had more to do with my emotional climate than self-doubt and second guessing.

Let me explain.

The period in my life when writing Overkill was chaotic, and fraught. Chaotic because I had very young children and they bring with them a level of joyous chaos that turns your life on its head in ways you could never imagine. Thrown into that mix was a move to another city and Hubby going back to university which meant a big change and a couple of years with no income. All this was good and positive and exciting. But it was also a period of overwhelming grief. We didn't have an annus horribilus we had two, with two of the lovely men in our lives sickening and dying of cancer. Overkill became a form of escape, a way to temporarily blot out what was happening in the real world. In many ways it became a crutch. When I re-read it, I can see and feel the underlying depth of emotion I was feeling at that time. It channeled into Sam's feelings too.

The Ringmaster was the opposite, mostly. When writing this book it was on a wave of almost euphoria. The skies were clear, no one was sick, no one was dying, life had moved past that awful period. It was still underpinned by that deep sense of loss, but the outlook was bright. The words flowed.

Today, all is steady. Life is good, drama free, beautifully ordinary. And don't get me wrong, after the previous years we've had, ordinary is great - I love ordinary, and in no way am I wishing to tempt fate here. But I fear it's not that good for my writing. I don't have that all-encompassing emotional impetus I had with Overkill and The Ringmaster. I'm not needing my writing as a form of escape, or an expression of euphoria. Do writers need stormy weather?

Whether we do or not, I guess it's time for me to be a grown up and tell myself this is what I do, I love to write, it's what I've wanted to do since childhood, and now, through good times, and bad, and plain ole ordinary, I just have to do it.

5 comments:

Mary McCallum said...

Dear Vanda.

Frankly, you blow me away. You are such a strong, astonishing woman and it amazed me to talk to you in Christchurch about the emotional upheaval you'd been through while writing your two novels - but at the same time I understand all too well. I use writing as an escape, too. It is the perfect place to go because you CONTROL it. The story, the language - all of that.

On top of that, you've achieved so much producing two novels during a fraught time AND with young kids. You may simply need a break for your mind to rest. I did after The Blue, and it's worth it.

Finally, how about getting Sam to come to Wellington to follow up a crime? Readers up here would love it. And you're welcome to stay with me while you research....

Joanne Ganley said...

Vanda, you don't need a sister to make a lovely gesture like Mary has. Rest that great brain of yours.

Vanda Symon said...

A holiday would be lovely - we're off for a break to central Otago with the school hols, so that's a short break, though restful? I think not!

Wellington would be good. I keep having fantasies about a nice little research trip to Menton courtesy of the Katherine Mansfield Fellowship, you know take the family, escape for a year, do a bit of writing and experience Europe. Dreams...

The Paradoxical Cat said...

You want stormy weather? Try NOT coming up with the next instalment. Grr!

Vanda Symon said...

Oh, Paradoxical Cat, you're so terrifying - that's all the incentive I needed to get cracking!