That's what it's like. The scary stuff that lurks in my mind, the stuff that has the power to make me unable to do stuff, that made me unable to enjoy anything, that made reading a story to my daughter like a form of torture, that made going into a classroom full of kids feel like being rubbed with sandpaper... That fog is what keeps the scary stuff at a sufficient distance to operate 'normally', whatever that is. The fog, in my case, is courtesy of anti-depressant medication, and to which I owe a certain amount in terms of my continuing to function at all. But it's not a happy partner when it comes to creativity.
All of those things that are now hidden by the fog, the things that have the power to drop me to my knees, those things are mixed, connected, with the things that come out when I am writing. I have tried, in the past, to describe the process as a sort of channelling, the ideas, the events and the characters are not being created by the writing process. Rather, they are being written, translated from something that is already there. But it is hidden in the fog, to my great frustration. I haven't written much of These Matters during the five months of lockdown. I have been at a sort of ease with myself, I suppose, (truly) enjoying time spent at home with two children I otherwise wouldn't see even close to so much of, and being part of their development in a way I might otherwise not have been. Although given the boy's current predilection for weeing on the floor, perhaps I should duck out of contributing so directly. But that ease - the relaxation, I guess, of not having to be mentally prepared for a day of face-to-face teaching - has not brought with it any outpouring of words, or indeed of music.
I've found a few projects to busy myself with (technical stuff - fixing things, learning how to use software to record, buying things for the studio) but all of these have engaged, if you will, the engineering side of my brain. The bit of me that likes to attack a problem, think about it directly, and solve it. The side of my brain that writes books has been quiet, desperately so. I know the story is not finished, and that there is something else yet to happen before even this chapter of it closes, let alone the long arc of the future and the way my characters fit into it; but there is nothing there in my mind for me to mine. When I'm at my best, the scenes are almost pre-formed, gushing out without a great deal of pushing. The last few months have been dry. I once wrote that I don't suffer from writer's block, but I can see now that this is it, for a writer like me. I have so little faith in my own process that I barely sit down to write at all, and when I do, it is usually on this news page. So, what? Give up on the fog, let it lift, and deal with what it reveals? Or stick with its protective shroud? I don't know, yet. I do know that this autumn will be difficult, regardless of my choice. I know that some parts of me function at their best when the weather is growing warmer, the days longer, and that the retreat of the light and warmth of the sun, and the way those processes trigger memories of the sort that lead to rumination, is a time of danger for me. I do not yet know how best to navigate it. Perhaps in a year's time, things will have changed so that those memories no longer have that power to drape themselves over me and envelop me in their twists and folds.
The last few days of a holiday are never a good time to take a decision, especially not a Sunday night. I can feel the pull of withdrawing from the tablets. I can, equally, sense the attraction of asking the doctors to double my dose, to wrap me up in cotton wool so I don't feel. It can't hurt when you don't feel, but there's a bit of me that knows I would gladly trade a bit of the hurt for the intensity of the feelings. I can see that it's both or neither, no having the cake and eating it.
Whoever you are, if you are reading this, I hope you are well, that COVID-19 has not been a time of misery and disappointment, and that my wittering on here is not triggering or otherwise upsetting. I hope this autumn brings you peace, hope, and the faith to keep going.
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When to the sessions of sweet silent thought