My stumbling blocks tend to come in two sorts:
I always have at least three projects (I dislike the word, but it is widely understood, so let us go with it) on the go. One to work with my hands, one to work with my brain, one because it caught my eye, and so on. I said at the beginning of this week that I wanted to go forward, in all directions. The danger is (indeed, I’ve been having trouble with it this week) that I will try to throw myself whole-heartedly into everything at once and burn out within a couple of days. I want to make three necklaces and write a short story, maybe two, and oh yes, a couple of poems, and get the website online, and I want to do it all tonight. I manage perhaps half of one of those tasks, and then I’m knackered.
Then, of course, I get fed up with everything I’m trying to do and abandon it. Then I feel guilty about abandoning it and avoid thinking about it, sometimes for years at a time.
I’m trying to use this as a prompt to think more about providing myself with rest and sustenance. Not trying to fill the unforgiving minute – or, rather, learning to think of rest and relaxation as equally valid forms of distance to run. I’m setting myself realistic goals at the beginning of each day – for example, ‘on the train I will polish up that poem about the table for one, and when I get home I’ll get supper going, and in the forty minutes that it’s in the oven I’ll make a pair of earrings, and then after supper I’ll stop trying to do things, and will watch an episode of The West Wing and then go to bed’. Written down like that, it sounds exhausting, but it’s a lot better than kidding myself I’ll do EVERYTHING and failing miserably.
Monsters are the things inside your head that tell you things about yourself that are not true. Eve Jacques has a comprehensive and joyfully wacky take on them; so does Havi Brooks.
Mine are usually trying to tell me all the awful things that other people might conceivably say, in order to stop me bringing the glorious project of the day to joyful fruition. If other people don’t know about the thing I’m doing, they can’t say horrible things about it. This seems to happen to lots of people.
With specific reference to the mermaid project, known in real life as Operation finish and publish Speak Its Name, damn it, here is a selection of monster stories, some current, some defunct, some mutually contradictory:
– there’s no point, because nobody is interested in what is essentially a sweary Victorian social problem novel about the crossover between faith and sexuality
– there’s no point, because Vicky Beeching has come out and it isn’t needed any more
– [Evangelical Christian friend] will be upset
– the remainder of the friend group will conclude that anyone who upsets [Evangelical Christian friend] must be a truly awful person, and I will lose them all
– somebody will try to sue me and we’ll be bankrupted and end up living in a cardboard box
– it’s actually terrible and I haven’t noticed
– I have made some awful embarrassing mistake and everyone will laugh at me
– and so on
And the solution is, when I’ve finished howling into a cushion, to have a calm and rational conversation about it. For example:
Yes, Vicky Beeching has come out and this is wonderful news. What this means is that there are thousands of young people in the world who have just heard that there is a way to be LGBT and Christian. And yes, this is partly what I was trying to do with Speak Its Name. And yes, hers is perhaps a more interesting story.
But it wasn’t the only thing I was trying to do. In the beginning, it wasn’t even the main thing I was trying to do. In the beginning I was trying to explain the early 21st century academic equivalent of the Schleswig-Holstein question (and I, like Lord Palmerston, have now forgotten all about it). It’s gone a very long way from what really happened since then. What if there’s something else in my book, something that I’ve forgotten about, or don’t even realise is there, that is what it’s really about?
And if you think about the billions of people in the world, the millions of Christians, the thousands of LGBT Christians, is it beyond the bounds of possibility that there’s one person who hasn’t heard about Vicky Beeching, who, two or three years from now, when it’s old news and the conservative evangelical churches don’t play her music any more, will pick up a copy of my book in a school library or a charity shop and discover that it is OK to be who they are? Isn’t it worth going on with just for that one? I’ve written the book I wanted to exist. Is it too much to believe that someone else wants it, too?
And no, there still aren’t enough books about being LGBT and Christian.
(At this point the ‘that’s because nobody wants to publish stuff about being LGBT and Christian’ monster wakes up. Rinse and repeat. Eventually the whole crew will shut up and let you get on with it.)