Simon Wood

Shelf Life: When It All Gets Too Much

Writing is sometimes easy and sometimes a right pain in the arse. When it’s the latter, it can get real intense. There I am trying to make words fit into sentences and sentences fit into paragraphs and none of it wants to hang together. It feels like I’m playing Jenga with sticks of TNT. After days of banging my head against the problem, the whole thing loses meaning. Verbs become mystical creatures that gallop through lavender meadows. I don’t know a period from hole in the ground. In the end it feels like I’ve been staring into the sun for a week and it hurts when I look away.

When I’ve gotten to this stage, it’s time for a break (psychotic or otherwise). There’s no point sitting at the keyboard any longer. I have to put some distance between me and the problem by doing something else much less difficult—like creating cold fusion or solving world hunger. Actually, I find something really mundane helps. It’s like a palate cleanser. It clears all my preconceptions and allows a clear flow of thoughts. Before long, I have the answers to my problems.

So what things do I do to clear my mental logjam? I usually take Royston for a walk. This has sort of lost its effectiveness. Royston used to be a Great Dane and I’ve worn him down to a dachshund. I say, “Royston, it’s time for a walk.” He looks at me with that “another bloody walk” look and runs away. As soon as he hears me swearing at the computer screen, he sneaks off to hide the leash.

To give Ro-Ro a rest, I do other things—mainly chores. I work in the garden. I have an unstoppable wall of ivy in the backyard and I get out the hedge trimmer and whittle it down to size while moaning, “Character development, my arse!” Or I get on hands and knees yanking the weed grass out of the lawn while muttering, “So how do you garrote someone when you only have one arm?”

Another of my decompression exercises is to do the laundry or iron our clothes. I find it very therapeutic to separate my heavy cottons from my delicates.

Julie quite likes this little trait of mine. Chores around the house get done. I get the feeling that when she edits my work she’s not being entirely honest. I believe she has an ulterior motive. Just listen to this recent, yet telling remark. “Simon, I don’t think this scene is quite right. I’m not sure your character would act this way. Now, here’s a paint brush. The bathroom needs going over.”

Now I know I could be misreading the situation, but my next book project is going to be a tough one and Julie suggested I should go for it—but lately, she’s been outlining her needs for the kitchen remodel…

Well, that’s how I decompress—how do you get away from it all when you can’t go anywhere?

4 Responses to “Shelf Life: When It All Gets Too Much”

  1. F.T. Bradley

    Recently, I went to Florida to get away. But vacation isn’t always an option (bummer).

    I’m like you: I clean. At least it’s productive somewhere, huh?


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