Fear and Loathing in My Writing (but don’t worry, it’s gone now)

I’m not sure when it happened. I think it was in December, my NaNoWriMo novel complete, my backpack on my shoulders, and my ticket to India in hand. I arrived in Delhi and introduced myself to the man transferring me to my hotel.

Yes, I’m Stephanie.

Yeah, that’s my booking.

Australia. Here’s my passport.

Oh, I’m a teacher. English.

Yes, that was it. That was when I introduced myself as a teacher.

Remember when I ranted about labels and definitions? Remember the countless times I’ve raved about my need to write? I knew this was a risk and begged my Muse to keep visiting me right from the start, right from the moment I stripped my hair of vibrant colour and gave my purple knee-high boots away. Right when I acknowledged writing until the early hours of the morning and staying in bed all day might not be the most viable option for a “grown up”.

And my Muse, my Genius, has been here the whole time.

And yet, it’s been six months since I’ve written anything.

Sure, I’ve posted the odd book-review in the past few months. I’ve travelled. I went to China for a week in March and I’ll be going to Turkey for two weeks in June.

Did I mention I started my PhD research a month ago?

Yeah. I’ve been busy.

And I’ve been scared. It’s easy for a day to become a week to become a month to become six months. And then I started hating myself. I started hating that I wasn’t writing, and hating that I was letting myself do this, letting myself ignore the words, ignore the ideas, ignore the Genius in the corner staring challengingly at me. I couldn’t meet his eyes.

I’ve been busy reading and travelling and teaching.


And I’ve been introducing myself as a teacher. And I hate being a teacher. I’ve tried really hard to be optimistic about teaching, and to embrace it as something I’m good at, something I was born to do (my mother’s words).

I think good teachers are amazing. Good teachers. The kind of teachers you wish you had, the teachers who believe – truly believe – in their students’ potential. They’re incredible. I know some of those teachers. I work with some. I see some of my friends becoming those teachers.

I’m not that teacher. I’d like to be. But it’s a means to an end for me. I’m a good teacher. I’m nice to the kids, even the ones I want to drop into a pool of laser-wielding sharks. The fact that I don’t do that is indicative of my kindness.

I’m not that teacher because I’m not a teacher. There are a lot of things I do well. I can make incredible mustard chicken in white wine sauce, but I’m not a chef. I can name a woman’s bra size before I notice the colour of her shirt, but I’m not a bra fitter. I can teach children the difference between an adjective and an adverb, but I’m not a teacher.

Yet for the past six months I haven’t been a writer, either.

Which is why I’ve been avoiding my blog. I’ve felt like a fraud. A big fat liar, liar, pants on fire. How can I write about writing when I haven’t been writing? I’ve been thinking about writing. I’ve been thinking about my WIPs and their need for attention. But thinking isn’t doing. Thinking doesn’t put the words on the page.

I’ve isolated myself from my writing friends. I’ve isolated myself from the writing communities I spent the last year building. It’s my fault, and I own that mistake. I take full responsibility for the fact that my fear and loathing drove me to make stupid decisions. I take full responsibility for the dejected expression my Genius has been hurling in my direction for the past six months.

So this morning, while cooking breakfast, a sentence came into my mind. This happens a lot.

And then, while eating breakfast, another sentence came into my mind. This also happens a lot.

Then I had a paragraph. No surprises. I also had runny egg dribbling over my hands from the hole in the bottom of my breakfast wrap.

Then I washed the dishes. And my hands.

Then I thought.

Then I grabbed a notebook and pen and wrote nonstop for half an hour.

This meant I half-ran for my dentist appointment (I had my wisdom teeth removed last week – see? I’ve been busy!) after a rushed shower, words churning through my mind the whole time.

I came home, typed up what I’d written, and then kept going. My Genius is happy again. It’s a tentative happiness, because I think he’s scared I’ll resume ignoring him. But I won’t. I can’t.

Hi, I’m Stef.

I’m a writer.

Thank goodness we got that over with.

Back to it!

Weekend Inspiration

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.” – Neil Gaiman

Jaisalmer, IndiaPhoto by Stef Thompson

Jaisalmer, India
Photo by Stef Thompson

My name is …

I could insert the obligatory opening line here about how NaNoWriMo has taken over my life and I am caught up in a whirlwind of words and a neverending typing frenzy, but that would be dishonest. NaNoWriMo has done amazing things to my life – the takeover has been a welcome change.

Stef the Writer is back, and writing.

Really writing.

I am, once more, the writing writer; I just wish I didn’t have to wait until November to remember who I am, to remember what it is I do. I am suddenly inspired and motivated to get my words onto paper (or the screen). This morning I shot out of bed with a renewed sense of joy and enthusiasm, and promptly set about getting things done.

This morning I hit 25,000 words on my novel, actually showered at a reasonable hour (i.e. before lunch time) and got into my comfortable clothes (that would be a t-shirt and loose pants that are a delightfully garish shade of bright blue acquired in Thailand), then buckled down to do some lesson writing that I had been putting off for two weeks.

While preparing some materials and resources, I stumbled across this page with a “Name Poem” template that provides the following format:

Line 1 – Your first name
Line 2 – “It means” then 3 adjectives that describe you
Line 3 – “It is the number” then any number you choose
Line 4 – “It is like” describe a colour but don’t name it
Line 5 – “It is ” then name something you remember experiencing with family or friends – something that makes you smile
Line 6 – “It is the memory of” then name a person who is or has been significant to you
Line 7 – “Who taught me” then 2 abstract concepts (such as “honesty”)
Line 8 – “When he/she” then refer to something that person did that displayed the qualities in line 7
Line 9 – “My name is” your first name again
Line 10 – “It means” and in 1-2 brief sentences state something important you believe about life.

I like writing poetry. I write terrible poetry that I never show to anyone, but I do enjoy experimenting with new formats and ideas. This template seemed particularly fitting given my current rush of inspiration and desire to re-define myself (a recurring motif in my life, I know) as a writer. It made me think of all the times I caved in to the little voices of self-doubt, and the times I didn’t. Most importantly, it made me think of what it means to be me, how I want to define myself, rather than accepting other definitions and trying to change myself to fit those instead of defining myself as I am.

So … What does my name mean?

It means quirky, witty, eternally discombobulated.
It is the number 11.
It is like leaves and grass and the deepest of seas;
It is dancing in the rain and singing at the top of your lungs.
It is the memory of my mother
Who teaches me resilience and passion
When she laughs and loves and works and demands I do the same.
My name is Stephanie;
It means I travel and learn and discover. It means I write.

What does your name mean?

A Change in Seasons

Image Credits: p.Gordon, Moyan_Brenn_BE_BACK_on_10th_OCT, stashabella, morning_rumtea

Something happened in the early hours of the morning. Something that made me open my eyes and pull the covers tightly up to my chin.

I knew this day was coming.

I’ve been watching the months tick by, the posts and mentions gradually increase.

And now here it is.


Why do I fear it so much this year?

My goals to write novels and produce grand literary feats withered somewhere around July when I simply lost the motivation, the inspiration, and the “freshness” that had been keeping me going in the first six months of the year. I have slowly been picking back up my good writing habits in the past couple of weeks, but knowing I’m far from completing my goals I set at the beginning of the year can sometimes be very demotivating.

But here it is. November.

There’s been a change in seasons. Winter has given way to Spring for some, and for others Summer has permitted Autumn to wander through. And me? I’m not going to indulge writer’s block any longer. It’s time for a change in how I view my writing, and myself as a writer.

I am taking ownership of the fact that this month I have to write. I don’t have to write because it’s NaNoWriMo. I don’t have to write because people are wondering what my word count is. I don’t have to write because it’s a last-minute dash to produce something before the year comes to a close.

I have to write because if I don’t, I might go insane. I might lose sight, once again, of the joy I get from the process of writing, and the joy I get from having written.

I have to write because I love it so much, and I’ve been making too many excuses of late that have compromised this love, this need, this want.

I am a lover of words. And this month, I will write a book.