Laid low

In my last post, I announced I was recuperating from a sprained knee ligament and a bad back. Two weeks on, and the knee is just about back to normal, the occasional twinge notwithstanding. But the back is, it turns out, to use a technical term, fucked. I’ve now spent about three weeks unable to sit or stand for more than about twenty minutes at a stretch. Emails pile up in my inbox at work, unread. Social engagements fly past, unattended. It is, in summary, pants.

I am at least assured by both doctor and physio that there is no serious underlying problem, but it’s still a sobering experience. I’ve had back problems for about a year now, caused by spending a high proportion of my waking hours slumped over a computer, determined to write as much as I can, whenever I can, completely careless of the consequences. Occupational Health told me I should get a different hobby, but, like a coughing smoker who can’t stop sparking up, I carried on.

And now… I’ve finally got all the time I would like in which to write, but I can’t physically do it. Frustration on an epic level. I’ve tried a number of different methods – writing lying down with my laptop propped up on my knees, until the physio told me this was a terrible idea. Dragon dictation software – until it produced a load of gobbledygook. Writing at the standing workstation my husband jury-rigged from an Ikea coffee table – but I can only do that in short bursts. Writing by hand, upside-down (using the Soviet ‘pencil’ solution), which is awkward. After this experimentation, I’ve found the best method for the supine author is to tap it out on my phone in an email, (how I’m writing these very words) and then spend my ten minutes of computer time copy-and-pasting it into Scrivener and tidying up the formatting.

Incidentally, if anyone reading this is thinking, ‘why don’t you just not write?’ I will quote to you the words of Rainer Maria Rilke: ‘In the deepest hour of the night, confess to yourself that you would die if you were forbidden to write’ (Lady Gaga has this tattooed, in German, on her arm. This is one of many reasons why she is awesome).

Well, I’m hoping that my back recovers soon, and that I can manage to be a touch less cavalier in my treatment of my own body in future. Meanwhile, some improvements: the Ashes have started Down Under, and Test Match Special, bless them, are repeating their entire commentary during the English daytime, ‘as-live’. This is an absolutely brilliant innovation, as I am starting to tire of the Planet Rock Radio playlist (Here I go again… and again…). Also, I have ordered myself a shiny shiny new phone so I will shortly have a new toy to play with. Rule 32 – enjoy the little things.

Until next time…

Lady Gaga Rilke Arm Tattoo in German

This is the manifesto of Mother Monster…

Convention, Convalescence and Creativity

So, in my last blog post, I announced I was about to attend the World Fantasy Convention down in Brighton, get some inspiration and motivation, and then take a week off work to crack on with some writing. How did it go?

Well, not quite according to plan. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the Convention, but I did enjoy it very much: I got to see some great writers including Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, and my personal heroine Robin Hobb. I met some interesting people – a mixture of fellow writers, agents, editors, and fans. I walked along Brighton promenade several times and admired the beauty of the sea in all its different moods. I picked up some tips on topics such as world-building and ‘that difficult second novel’ (timely!). I successfully resisted the temptation to buy any books, but did succumb to a vinyl copy of Janis Joplin’s ‘Pearl’ in a record shop round the corner from my hotel (it totally counts as research). On the negative side, I didn’t get a wink of sleep all weekend, and I suffered from terrible backache – the writer’s curse – which had me chugging back painkillers washed down with wine.

This all left me in a bit of a state by the start of this week, which I had designated for a detox and get-down-to-some-serious-writing. The detox bit has been going all right, but the serious writing – not so much. On Tuesday morning, whilst doing some exercises to try to loosen up my back, I managed to sprain a ligament in my knee, so I’ve been hobbling around, unable to either walk properly, stand up properly, or sit down without my back screaming at me. Less than ideal – I’m writing this lying in bed, propped up on some pillows, feeling sorry for myself. Oh well, shit happens.

I have written a few things this week, some of which may well be appearing on this blog soon, although it hasn’t been quite the productivity-fest I was hoping for. But you can’t force these things – with luck a bit of convalescence will help me ferment some creative juices for later enjoyment. And I have started developing an idea for a new character in Forever 27 – who even has a name!* – so my next task will be to introduce her into the story and see how she gets on with the other characters. I’d tell her to play nice, but I don’t think she’s the type. Which is why I’m looking forward to working with her.


*crap, while writing this, I’ve just realised her name is nearly identical to another character’s. Gah! Back to the character-naming board…