Adaptation, and a blast from the past

Last week was my week back at work (ie, the work that pays the bills) after a week off. Boy, was it a shock to the system. Monday evening writing time went out of the window as I was mentally exhausted, the same for Tuesday, although I did write but it was pretty ugly stuff. Wednesday I knew I couldn’t write and that’s when the guilt set in, the guilt I discussed last week. I decided I had to approach things in a different way. I had to adapt.

Given that I’m strict with myself because of my aforementioned work addiction, adaptation is… a little tough. I have a routine, I have to keep to it (is that an addiction too? oh good grief…).

Uh, no Freya, you don’t.

What did I do? I got out my favourite biro and some paper and brainstormed, all the while telling myself that this was as good as, if not better than, writing. I wasn’t at my desk, I wasn’t staring at the computer screen, I was in a different environment and they do say, whoever ‘they’ are, that a change is as good as a rest.

It was. I unpicked a convoluted plot point that was looming at me like the poor old Groke and had the resolution all set out, in black and white, ready for when I could devote the less harried version of myself to actually editing my novel (early Saturday morning, in case you are interested in those details). I also adopted the same approach on Thursday evening and gave myself Friday evening off. (I know, go me!).

Adaptation. Is. A. Good. Thing.

Next topic, ie, ‘The Past’. One of my writer friends on Instagram asked for dark book recommendations and I was reminded of my participation in ‘Jessica’ (Helena Hann-Basquiat’s creation) along with authors from around the world. I decided to re-read my contribution, just for old time’s sake. It was quite the revelation. A dark, creepy, quite horrifying revelation. I’d forgotten how dark my imagination could be.

That might sound odd, given that I’m editing my dystopian novel, but this short story was a very different animal, leaning more towards horror, and set in a post-apocalyptic world. No zombies, no vampires, no dark magic, just people doing pretty horrifying things because of the world they inhabit.

It has inspired me to get back on the flash fiction/short story train, to get my horror on. I think I’ve been living in the world of Anti-Virus so much (of course), that I need to revisit worlds outside of that particular imagined reality. I expect it will add some more blackness to my second edit of the novel (I’m nearly at the end of my first full edit!). In my opinion, more blackness can only be good.

For anyone interested in Jessica (and really, you should be), here’s an unashamed link.


It’s hard to confess to others when you’re just not writing. It’s even harder when you have to confess it to yourself. (Point to note, I have been writing, I have been editing, but I have also been feeling guilty for those hours in the day when I haven’t been doing either of those things).

I suspect that this might just be me, or people like me, who struggle with this confession. And by people like me, I mean those of us who like to metaphorically self-flagellate, who feel guilt for no apparent reason, who pile pressure upon ourselves because, you know, life would be far, far too easy otherwise.

Also, I’m a workaholic. I have an addiction.

My lovely, patient partner pointed this out to me not so long ago, by sharing an article with me that she had read. She let me read it, absorb it, allowed the reality to sink in and then, very kindly, but firmly, said that she recognised these traits in me. I had no other choice but to agree.

Work addiction is hard, just like any other addiction. Don’t get me wrong, I can relax (kinda), but it’s always tempered by that vague feeling that unless I am actually achieving something with that relaxation (other forms of creativity, learning something, reading something, exercising and so on), I feel like I have wasted my time. Yes, I can binge-watch The Queen’s Gambit like anyone else (wasn’t that fantastic?!), but the undercurrent of ‘you should be…’ or ‘you ought to be…’ is always there. Coupled with anxiety, which is also a struggle of mine and voila, welcome to my frenetic world.

Add to the mix that I am working through editing Anti-Virus and the ‘should’ and ‘ought’ are amplified by an image of my protagonist, Callie, waiting at the place I last left her, arms folded with an eyebrow raised so high it makes my forehead hurt. She’s a member of the Security Services and whilst her life isn’t what it used to be when she was undercover back in the day, she’s a tough character. I don’t want to piss her off. The struggle is real, people.

One way I manage my addiction is by being very strict with myself. I know from experience that if I am not, things (the various aspects of the addiction) run away with me. So I set myself a specific time limit. I am going to write/edit between X o’clock and Y o’clock. Then I will go out for a walk. Then I will make my lunch. Then I will… you get the picture. It doesn’t stop the guilt for not continually writing, but it does mean I manage my mental health. I know what I am like at full pelt, giving into the nagging demon, the little liar that creates this false guilt, and it’s quite ugly, both for me and for my nearest and dearest.

In the fine tradition of twelve step groups, let me introduce myself. My name is Freya, and I’m a workaholic. But I haven’t got time to talk to you about it now because I just need to do this one thing first…

Stage fright

Hmm, well, not stage fright exactly, but something akin to it.

Book fright?

Reader fright?

Imposter syndrome… yep, OK, it’s that. Here’s the thing. The road to writing, editing and publishing a book isn’t a straight line, no siree. It’s more of an all round the Wrekin* type of journey, with long, grinding inclines of painful slog, of false summits which turn out to be just the place you stop for a rest and break out the beef paste and HP sauce** sandwiches, ready salted crisps and a flask of hot, sweet tea. The downhill, free wheeling feet off the pedal moments are there, but you have to put the work in first.

Anywaaaaay… so here I am. I’ve put in a good chunk of editing this morning, checking and double checking consistency across several chapters and wondering what the hell I was thinking when I wrote this part of my novel a year ago. But I’ve battled through, I’ve sorted out the inconsistencies, I’ve changed the tone so it has the feel that I’m striving for. I feel good and have taken the fact that I’ve edited one of these chapters eight (yes EIGHT) times in the last few days as a badge of honour and perseverance. However, a tiny, whiny little voice keeps on nagging at me. She belongs to my absolute bitch of an alter-ego, who I’ve decided to name Constance (as she’s a constant pain the neck).

Essentially, she’s trying to tell me that my writing, the plot, the sub-plot, the jeopardy, the world that I’ve built is all a bit of a let-down. Compared to the hype I’ve created with the black and white noir-esque photos and the hints that I’ve been dropping over on Instagram, it’s a damp squib. Anti-Virus? More like Anti-Climax.

Yeah, thanks Constance. So. Very. Much. You are quite the bitch, aren’t you?

See, for all my joking, Constance is what we do to ourselves. That little voice is our fear, our hesitancy, our ‘you’re not good enough’ anti-mantra that swirls around inside everyone’s heads, to a greater or lesser degree, at some point in our lives (or all the time, if you’re really, really unlucky). That voice can be the life-saving note of caution (‘no, you won’t get across the road before the car hits you’) or it can be the destructive, soul-destroyer of your dreams.

My novel, once completed, might not live up to what I want it to be. There are no guarantees after all. On the other hand, it might surpass all my hopes and dreams. I’m putting the work in so that I have a better chance of achieving the latter. That’s all I can do.

As for the stage fright, it can go suck it. The show must go on, darlings, the show must go on.


*The Wrekin is a hill in East Shropshire, in the UK. All round the Wrekin – a phrase common in Shropshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Herefordshire, the Black Country and Birmingham to mean “the long way round”. “To all friends around the Wrekin”, meanwhile, is a toast traditionally used in Shropshire, especially at Christmas and New Year. I am from Birmingham, hence the phrase is well-known to me!

**HP sauce is a brown sauce originally produced by HP Foods in the United Kingdom and was named after London’s Houses of Parliament. Created in 1899, HP Sauce has a tomato base, blended with malt vinegar and spirit vinegar, sugars, dates, cornflour, rye flour, salt, spices and tamarind. It is used as a condiment with hot and cold savoury food, and as an ingredient in soups and stews. For me, it wins hands down against tomato ketchup. And the beef paste sandwiches reference is a memory of childhood car journeys in the summer holidays!