Monday, 26 August 2013

Baby brain strikes again...

Reading: Magic Terror by Peter Straub
Listening to: some kind of electric garden implement wielded loudly by a neighbour
Outside: A surprisingly sunny Bank Holiday Monday!

So I'm sitting there, six months large, enjoying my glass of Pepsi, at a very recent (gorgeous) wedding reception, when a close member of our family asks me the dreaded question:

"How's your writing going?"

And I realize, for the first time in several months, that I have been avoiding this question like a slug avoiding salt.

All this time I thought I could distract people with all those magical things that have filled my life, my belly and my brain: "Oh, look, everybody," (I desperately coax, goad, beguile,) "Shiny objects! Teething rings, a new pram, look, tiny little baby socks! A little bumble bee baby gift from Croatia! Look, it has a little hat and it bounces up and down on a spring! It's so cute it hurts!"

So I'm sitting there, glass of Pepsi (I have never liked Pepsi until I became pregnant with my very own brand new squishy) sweating in my hand, and I'm staring at him, like he just asked me, in a casual way, if I usually grew three heads at night.

"I'm sorry, what?"

"Your writing? How's it going?"

"Um..." And then reality hits. "Well it's, it's kind of... not."

And his face, at least in the tiniest, most imperceptible degree, falls just slightly. Just enough. He knows that I, the writer, have failed in my creative task.

And then it was like his face mirrored my own. For reassurance, I look down at my belly. Oh, she just kicked! And there it is: my always, always, always resultant smile.

At first, some months ago, it was innocent, something anyone could do: forgetting my cardigan at the hair salon, and having to go back in to get it. Then it was forgetting where I set down my house keys, and wandering the world without them for an entire afternoon (they gathered dust on the bathroom window ledge).

Then it got worse. It was me staring at my turned-off computer, my latest book (somewhat) freshly finished, and printing up my 300+ pages of the first draft, all lined up for editing with a hawk's eye and highlighter and multi-coloured pens. But my laptop stayed closed. And I got those pages hole-punched and bound in a binder, poised and ready, starting with page one, but the pages looked so white, so alien, and words danced across the pages that I don't remember writing.

Then, at work, my day job, my mind began to drift. After the 13 or so weeks of morning sickness, and I found I finally (finally!) had the energy to hold my head up, I found I couldn't concentrate.

In my own world:
dreaming of walks to the park, showing my little girl a pond, and ducks, and swans for the first time.

And now even looking at my edit-ready draft of The Untouchables, I find the words don't grab me like they should. My heart stays quiet. I'll get cosy on the couch, armed with my editing pen...and nothing happens. I still can't do it. Instead, I live for my baby's kicks, not for the building up of tension between two characters. I can't tell whether there is too much sensory detail on page 95, or not enough. Have I given enough background to that supporting character? Does our protagonist need developing? I don't know. As a writer, I am not here at all.

I felt like I have failed.

But then, I found out, it's not just me!

Difficulty concentrating is a common symptom in pregnancy, right along with stretch marks, mood swings, Dolly Parton boobs and darker freckles, tiredness, having to pee 800 times a day, shiny Vidal Sassoon hair, stronger nails and about a million other things, good and bad.

Staying hydrated, eating healthy, getting enough sleep and exercise, and simply riding through these hormones that cause absent-mindedness during pregnancy - the same hormones that are helping develop and nurture and protect my new little squishy - are just a few things I can control.

So yes, to answer your question: My writing is on hold at the moment. It is taking a break, just like my brain. It's on baby vacation.

But never fear: I will return in between night feeds (maybe earlier - I will keep hacking way at this draft), when my writer-self is fully back in the saddle, when I can no longer tell the difference between night and day, when the narrative arc again makes sense.

Meanwhile, I'll let the arc of each day become my narrative structure.

The daydream continues. The pond awaits.

Happy Bank Holiday Monday, everybody!

May it go quickly if you are at work, and may it go slow like honey if you have the day off.


  1. What a lovely piece. you have not stopped writing just writing in a different form. All good authors use life experiences to help them with their writing and the experience you are going through at the moment is one of life's best. Don't stop entertaining us with your blogs and soon your books. Here's to baby brains and writing brains all one and the same.

    1. *Likes!*

      I can always depend on you to keep things in perspective.

      Two sides of the same coin, I like it. :)