2021 was a really good year for me – I published two books, my picture book The Curry Giants and my middle-grade sci-fi/fantasy novel Robot Rebellion: The Buried Secret. Both books were a long time coming. I enjoyed ironing out the final details with the printer and the mad scramble before the book launches. And then they came and went with great fun and fanfare and I was left feeling dry, as parched as drought-stricken earth, and it felt like words and creative ideas had deserted me.
Part of the reason why I felt I couldn’t write was because my soul was exhausted after the effort of bringing forth two books into the world. When you self-publish, all the onus lies with you to get your book out there and be read by as many readers as possible. And that means school visits, relentless marketing, etc. etc. I just didn’t have the energy for it. I was happy to write again, but I didn’t want the slog of what comes after the final full stop at the end of your novel.
Also, I think all my focus was on writing words that were billable, either for media companies or PR agencies. It felt there wasn’t enough creative juice for novels as well. I didn’t have the head space to sit down and plan a novel, either. It all seemed too much for me, even though my readers were eager to have the cliffhanger ending of Robot Rebellion: The Buried Secret finally resolved.
So I started with poetry. I swam on the beach at Glencairn. Then I wrote a poem. I went for coffee at Little Streams. I wrote a poem. I went to Greyton for a romantic anniversary with my husband. And when I got home, I wrote a poem. Little baby steps that helped me to open up the well inside. To my relief, it was not dry. All those quiet moments in God’s creation certainly helped. Slowly, slowly, I inched my way back to writing again.
And now, I’m pleased to say, I have begun to plan the next Robot Rebellion novel. Readers will no longer be dangling on the edge of the cliff: I will guide them off it and show them the plot journey that lies ahead. I’m still planning, mind, but there’s an excitement in my spirit and a joy to finally get back into doing something that makes my soul sing.
Rather than berating myself for the last four unproductive months, I’m glad I had a chance to let my creative gifting lie fallow for a while. As fellow writer Olivia Abtahi puts it, “Without the compost of past ideas, new seeds will not grow. Without taking time to explore and step away from our desks and experience what the world has to offer, we will find little to write about. Rest, dear writer. Rest, knowing the words will come, but only if you refill the well from which they must pour.”