Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Beast

I walked past my office yesterday, on my way to make breakfast, and tried to rush by, averting my eyes from the sight of my empty desk chair. In the kitchen, I poured my coffee and headed back up stairs. At the top, there was a decision to be made: turn right to the living room and sofa or turn left to the office and the unknown. The sofa won.

This has been going on for weeks. In order to get from one room to the next in my flat (ANY room, it seems), you have to walk past the office. One day, on my way to the loo, I peeked inside the office instead of quickly shuffling past the door. It was like a time capsule in there - everything left exactly as it was the last time I sat down to write. I did a little hopping from one foot to the other- maybe my feet wanted to cross the damned threshold at last. But, it turned out I really just needed to pee, and I turned back towards the loo.

Once I passed by with a snack in my hand and stopped and stared into my office for several minutes. My white board still had the color-coded plot diagram for my novel.  My writing “manuals” were piled precariously on the window ledge by the desk. The drapes were drawn around the writing “manuals," changing the dim sunlight to a faded yellow that reminded me of old newspaper. Everything had a light layer of grey dust. With a shudder, I moved on and away.

A few times, I tried to punch through the barrier to my office and thought I had succeeded when I wrote my previous post. For one afternoon, I was able to return to my desk chair and face the computer screen at long last. But then, after that…nothing.

I developed a faint “butterflies-in-the-gut” sensation, and it crept up on me, growing day-by-day. It’s almost constant now. Sleeping was hard to face, and often, my husband had to drag me to bed so that I didn’t stay up all night doing nothing. I lived with the constant worry that there was something I’d forgotten - something I was supposed to do or somewhere I was supposed to be. I was bored, restless, and irritable. Sometime last week, I became convinced that I could hear the soft, interminable tick-tock of the little red robin clock in the office echo throughout the flat. I started to feel nauseated. When I walked by my office, my skin would crawl.

I think it’s my novel - it’s haunting me. I left it there, abandoned and cold, suffering from neglect. In that darkness and quiet, it turned into some sort of monster, a beast I had to slay, and I was weak and a coward. I couldn’t face it. The longer I avoided it, the nastier it became.

Today I paced outside the office, wringing my hands. It’s in there, I thought, and I have to go in there and face it.  

Posted by Jennifer Baylor at The Writing Cocoon.  
Filed under "The Mental Game"


  1. I'm feeling like there are a number of us in the same boat, Jennifer. I've been somewhat stalled for the last couple of weeks, running over the same old ground in my novel, not getting anywhere, and I recognize some of the signs of avoidance, though it hasn't quite reached the levels you're experiencing.

    I wish I had some really good advice for you. All I can say is it's better to tame the beast (or even slay it, if you must) than to let it starve to death.

    Hmm, there might be a story in that....

  2. @JeffO - You mean it? That makes me feel less insane, Jeff.

    The one bright spot is, that unlike in the past, where I would probably leave the story to die, I don't think I can stay away forever. I'm going to try and write some flash fiction or a short story - ease back into the BIC time.

    I'm SURE there's a story in that. Writing angst is great fodder. Are all writers slightly neurotic - or ist just me? LOL

  3. I think writing is making me more neurotic.