It’s Easter. Four days off work. I planned to get a lot done. And I haven’t done any writing at all this weekend. A bit of story planning on Friday, nothing at all the last two days. Nada. Not one word. Not even any notes. My mind is completely blank.
I’ve been telling myself I don’t care and I’ve just been giving myself a break, but the fact is, I do care, I care very much. I’ve been feeling numb, but today I feel heartbroken and I don’t know why. I just don’t think I can do this. I’m feeling a deep and corrosive sense of failure. My writing group friends are finishing and submitting stories. I can’t help comparing myself and what I have achieved (NOT!) in the past year with what they have done.
It’s nearly a year since I got the feedback (AKA rejection letter) from the IS contest. Since then all I’ve done is have story ideas and write first chapters, somethimes a few times over. This story I’ve got to chapter three then stopped. The furthest I’ve got, since getting the letter this time last year and knowing there was no point completing the IS story even though I was only about 10,000 words away from the end.
I just realised, looking back at my blog posts to find the one about the HMB letter, that this is the anniversary of more than my first Mills and Boon rejection. It’s also the anniversary of what should have been the birthday of the baby I got furthest into pregnancy with. I lost Rose at 18 weeks. The letter terminated Bruno and Rebecca’s story at 40,000 words. I’m now in a recurrent miscarriage pattern with my writing.
When I sent that competition entry off, oddly there was no fear in my mind that it would be rejected. I felt confident that I had written a good story and it would be accepted. Just like with my first preganancy, where it never occured to me that I might not end up with a baby. The only feeling when I saw the positive pregnancy test was pure joy and anticipation that nine months later, I would have a baby.
Seven miscarriages later, there didn’t seem to be much point doing pregnancy tests. Why bother, why get excited and get my hopes up. A positive test didn’t mean hope and joy, it meant fear and anxiety, waiting for it all to go wrong again. Sometimes I lost the pregnancy within a few days, sometimes it took longer, eight, ten, twelve weeks. With Rose I got to sixteen weeks before the big problems started. I’d had scans. Seen her tiny heart beating. Seen her moving her arms and legs. Felt the tiny flutters of movement. Been told I should stop worrying now, I was past the stage where things can go wrong. I felt such happiness. At last it was going to happen. This time, this time I would have a baby, no more grief and sorrow, thank God. It didn’t happen like that. Yes, I had a baby, but a baby not much bigger than a Barbie doll, born at eighteen weeks, too early to have any chance of survival.
After the next couple of pregnancies also miscarried, but much earlier, I stopped doing pregnancy tests. If giving up caffeine and alcohol and eating only organic food and taking the right vitamin tablets hadn’t stopped me losing my babies, maybe pretending I wasn’t pregnant and and wasn’t trying to get pregnant and didn’t care and just carrying on like normal would work. It didn’t. The wild hope if my period was late, the gut deep sense of failure and loss when the bleeding came had me on a crazy roller coaster ride. I was so angry with my husband when he insisted that we were going to stop trying, that we wouldn’t ever have unprotected sex. He couldn’t bear seeing me so upset. He was right of course. It stopped the crazy ups and downs. Replaced them with a permanent down. I had no hope. I was still left with the monthly reminder of my failure as a woman. My failure to fulfil my deepest, oldest, most cherished dream.
So cross that one off the list. Only thing to do was to move onto the next thing on my list of things I wanted to do before I was forty, written back when I was eighteen, when anything seemed possible, except believing I would ever be as impossibly old as forty!
By then, I was forty seven and the three biggies at the top of the list still weren’t done. Having a baby was out. The other two were be a published fiction writer and build my own house. House building was going to be difficult. I was living in Britain, where land was expensive and there were armies of men with clipboards checking that building codes were fully enforced. The sort of small funky organic house I wanted was out of the question. Besides the fact my very “But what would be neighbours think?” husband would be horrified at the idea. So only one idea left. Writing.
I’d had a couple of articles published, but they didn’t count, the dream was very specific that it had to be fiction. I was the kid who was always scribbling stories. In high school my teachers were encouraging. I sent a few stories and poems off to magazines and had rejections. It didn’t feel like such a big deal, I’d try again another time. But I didn’t. There were always distractions. I started nursing instead and writing was always there but just for me. Went back to uni as a mature student in my late twenties and did english and creative writing courses. Lecturers encouraging, wanted me to submit my writing to journals. But I didn’t. I didn’t want to be writing literary short stories. I wanted to be writing the genre stuff that the lecturers disapproved of. Romance, fantasy. I left uni and kept writing the things I wanted to write, but never finishing anything. Nothing was ever good enough. I didn’t write consistently either, my writing was episodic. Oh, I journalled most days. And my journal pages were full of story ideas, that I never wrote. Every couple of years I would decide I wanted to write seriously, and I would work up an idea and start writing. But I never got much past chapter one. Until late December 2007, when I decided I was going to go for it with writing, really go for it. That was when I finally crossed “baby” off the dream list, and looked at the next thing on the list.
So, JanNo 2008. Dived into a story, finished by 27th January. Found out about the HMB Instant Seduction competition, wrote and sent off my first chapter and synopsis by 14th February. Kept writing the story, and was near finishing in April 2008 when the letter came. I didn’t want to drop that story, but recognised there was not much point finishing it when they didn’t want to see it. Since then, I’ve been in miscarriage mode with my writing. Lots of hopeful starts that go nowhere. In December I recognised that pattern and committed to finishing the story I was working on. I’m still stuck on that same story, starting and restarting it when I know I just need to keep writing and finish the bloody thing. Even if it’s the most rubbishy first draft ever, just get the darned thing done so I can move on! I want to have a go at redoing my IS entry, and my JanNo, with all I have learned about romance writing in the last year. It’s good to recognise that it really hasn’t been a wasted year. I may not have completed anything, but I’ve still learned a lot and made some good friends in the romance writing community.
I still don’t know quite how to get out of this stuck place I’m in and break the miscarriage pattern. I have a week off between jobs, so I’m planning to do Book in a Week on this story and try to just write my way through it. Six days, 8,500 words a day. It will be total crap, but it will be soooo good to finally write The End!