Since the home invasion (if you haven’t yet, you can read about it here), I’ve been battling with my writing. I can’t seem to immerse myself as fully into my make-believe worlds as I used to. This is problematic, because if I can’t see, hear, smell and feel my characters, I can’t write about them. The robbery changed me in a fundamental way, and things I used to do I can’t do anymore, which means I also have to adjust my writing routines and rituals. I used to listen to music while I wrote – headphones on, music blasting my eardrums to an early death. I can’t do that anymore. I need to hear what’s going on around me, and if I can’t hear, I get panicky, and when I get panicky, I can’t write.
Part of my process involved a few weeks of ‘daydreaming’ about the new story and characters. It required me sinking deep into my imagination, shutting out the rest of the world, and just concentrating on the people in my head. But now, unwelcome thoughts intrude, and the story falls apart. I have to keep my mind constantly active to keep out obsessive thoughts – that means reading a lot of cracked.com, or watching a lot of really bad television, but nothing creative, because even reading fiction cuts off the outside world, and that drives me fucking nuts.
Before the robbery, my work had gotten a bit dark, emotional and traumatic. My characters had to deal with a lot of things I’m working through now. Some of my work involved murder, pain, suffering, death … I can’t write that anymore. Not right now anyway. It brings back too many of my own memories and turmoil of that night. We could argue that writing about it might be cathartic, that it will help me heal. We could argue … but we won’t, because I tried, and those wounds are still too fresh. Writing about it only helps up to a point, then it becomes too much for me to handle and I have to stop.
A therapist suggested I play Tetris – it has been proven to break the cycle of obsessive thoughts, which may help get me back to writing. I seem to be the exception. I have always been someone who liked to keep her hands busy while her mind worked – and often that involves playing games like Tetris. It doesn’t require a lot of brain power, and I can sit and daydream for hours while fitting little blocks into perfect lines. Daydreaming cuts off the outside world, which starts the obsessive thoughts, which makes me anxious, which means I can’t write.
… and on, and on, and on the wheel spins.
Here’s the thing. I have to write. Not writing is akin to death for me. Margaret Atwood said it best, “If you’re waiting for the perfect moment, you’ll never write a thing because it will never arrive.” This is where I am at now. I have to create my own perfect moments. I have to get used to writing without music, while keeping an eye on the CCTV monitors, and an ear on the garden. I have to get used to writing at different times of the day, splitting my attention between the characters and my new unsettling world.
In a rare moment of “understanding my strange, writer wife” brilliance, my husband suggested I go back to my roots. Go back to the genre I wrote before I got all dark and moody and horrorific. Erotica. Way back when, before I started honing my skills, I joined an erotica writers’ group. We were a small group of women who shared our fantasies. It was a warm, supportive, lovely community. It no longer exists, but it was a great place to start.
When I read back on some of that work (most of it’s gone now – stolen along with my laptop, but some of it is still floating around) I cringe at my own ineptitude, but we had a good time. I didn’t have to dig too deeply to conjure up those emotions, and most importantly, it was all about the fun. Most of the writers from that group evolved into other genres, delving deeper, and deeper, and pushing ourselves further, expanding our story lines into more involved plots. In other words, we moved beyond just sharing porn-worthy fantasies, into the wonderful and fantastic world of proper storytelling.
There is nothing wrong with smut, porn or erotica writing. There’s nothing wrong with reading it. It’s a fun literary world we all enjoy. Even the snobs. They’ll never admit it, but I’m convinced these highbrow, “I only read Pulitzer prize winning authors,” stuck ups have a stash of porn literature they read under the covers.
It is true that before the robbery I had reached a point in my career where I couldn’t write it anymore. I found sex scenes nearly impossible to write (seriously, kudos to anyone who can pull off a pants-dropping sex scene – it’s not as easy as it looks) but in that world of fantasies I found my salvation. I returned to writing good ol’ sex stories. It’s fun. When I’m interrupted, I’m not dragged from a terribly complex world, and it doesn’t take me hours to get back into my characters’ heads (and bodies, such as the case may be). I don’t need to immerse myself fully, or dig too deep for the emotions. They’re all right there on the surface. I am still trying to get used to writing without music and with the distractions of the outside world in my ears, but I’m getting there, albeit slower than I like.
I’ve also found that writing during the day is easier now. It took some retraining, but I’m getting used to it (who’d have thunk it?) I’m not as stressed when the sun’s out, and the rest of the house is awake. The problem is that my house is noisy and that is definitely a huge distraction – but I’m getting used to that too. It prevents me from writing anything deeper than, Harry pounded Sally but it’s writing, and that’s good. Yes, it may seem like I’m regressing – but in many ways I have to start over again. Not just in my writing life, but also my ‘regular’ life. In time, I’m sure I’ll evolve back to where I used to be. Until then … rippling abs and heaving bosoms it is. And why not?