The end of the story

Other people’s words about … writing

April has never really known loneliness until now; she has had all tastes of its dregs, like cold milky coffee curdled at the bottom of the cup, but she has always had faith in the fact that it would pass. Now, she is not so sure. And this loneliness is entangled with her failure as a musician, another certainty in her life that seems to have gone.

Most days, she tries to write.

She sits by the window with her guitar and picks idly at notes, strumming chords underneath, humming to herself as she does so. But nothing ever sticks, and she feels as if she is just pretending, playing alone outside a room she can no longer enter.

from ‘Between a Wolf and a Dog
by Georgia Blain

I did something I had never expected to do this week: I stopped working on the book I’ve been writing, on and off, ever since my last novel was published in 2010. Actually, I stopped writing fiction altogether, at least for now.

The novel I’ve been writing all these years has gone through many, many permutations: I’ve written it as a ghost story for young adults; as a reworked ghost story for middle-grade readers; as a love story for ‘new’ adults’; as a coming-of-age story for women my own age. I’ve written it in the first person and in the third person, and in past tense and in present tense. I’ve written it using pen and paper, and Microsoft Word, and Scrivener.

I’ve written it. And written it. And written it.

All the time I’ve been writing this novel, I’ve been telling myself that the doubt I feel in myself, and in my ability to write a third novel — this third novel, anyway — would pass. But it hasn’t. Sometimes it’s quietened down for a period, but then it’s flared up again. And over the years, like April, the sense of inner loneliness I carry with me — which is in part an aspect of being me, Rebecca Burton, and in part an aspect of being me, a human being — has slowly become ensnared with the doubt I feel about my writing. [N]othing ever sticks, and she feels as if she is just pretending, playing alone outside a room she can no longer enter. Yup. Yup. Yup.

Ever since I wrote my first novel and it was accepted for publication, I’ve believed, with all of my heart, that writing books was something I would do for the rest of my life, because that’s what writers do, right? It’s what they want to do. It’s their privilege, and their gift. Or so the story goes.

But I just don’t think I believe that particular story anymore. That’s what I finally realised this week, after all this time. I don’t think — as April thinks, in this passage which I have loved so much for so long — that I am a failure as a writer, or as a person, if I stop writing, for a while, or forever. I think the world is bigger than that.

I don’t know what the future holds for me if I’m not a writer anymore — for now, or for a while, or forever. But you know what? Unlike April, I want to find out.

It’s a big, big world.

10 thoughts on “The end of the story

  1. What a courageous thing to do, Rebecca. It takes faith to put something aside in which you’ve invested a lot of time and heart; to realize it isn’t working and to set sail for some place different. Best wishes on your next chapter of life!

    1. Thank you, Eliza. It does feel like an act of courage, but also I think I am freer now, to do whatever I need to do next. Sometimes, you just have to let go of your image of yourself, your certainty of your identity, in order to survive xo PS Thank you for your kind words 🙂

  2. OMG, Bec, that is one hell of a courageous blog. Whew!

    Here are some random thoughts in response:

    Like you, I don’t believe ‘that particular story’. Lots of people think (and say) they’re writers, even when they’ve never had anything published. Lots of people have success at getting things published, even when what they publish is unutterable trash that no thinking person can bear to read. You’re not like these people. What you write has genuine quality. This is crystal clear from the two books you have published, and it shines through even in your blogs. Does this mean that you have to go on writing to justify your existence? Of course not. Of course you’re not a failure if you stop writing, whether for a short time, or a long time, or altogether. You may come back to it; you may not. I don’t think it matters in itself. What does matter is that you shouldn’t feel trapped into persisting with something that’s become burdensome. Good on you for making the decision to give yourself the time and space to see what else is out there. As you say, it’s a big, big, world.

    Thos xxx


  3. I hope you don’t quit writing. I am a fan of your blog and have read your first book, which I truly enjoyed.

    1. Thanks, Grace. I’ve just finished writing this blog, but thank you for your kind comment. I’m glad you liked my first book. It’s always lovely to hear from a happy reader! 🙂

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