So, a week or two ago I posted this on Twitter and Instagram:
As always, the social media writing community rallied around one of their own, and as well as the excellent advice, I received some lovely messages of support and encouragement, so thank you to everyone who responded.
For context, in November 2015, I got very sick. The details don’t matter but suffice to say it was the start of a long road of health issues, full of muscular problems, various therapies, a new routine of meds and a hobbling, 123-pound version of me that was all Jack Skellington angles and killer cheekbones.
The damage was quite bad, and to a much lesser degree the health issues persist, but it was a valuable learning curve. I learned a great deal about myself (I can be pretty badass, when I need to be) and about the world around me (It’s rather lovely). I certainly learned who my friends were. There were people I adored who, when I needed them, ran the fuck away without a second thought, and there were those whom I barely knew who offered advice and comfort.
I was very lucky to find these unexpected connections, and I’m pleased to say that over the last two years they’ve evolved into genuine and loving friendships. They grew at a natural pace, forged without artifice or rush, and I’ll be grateful if they last because of that.
I’m glad we took the time to cultivate those slow-burn relationships, and I’m glad I took enough time to recover. Rushing emotions is plastering over the cracks, a recipe for a karmic crash and burn at some later date. It was a tough time, but to quote one of my favourite memes from recent months … I lived, bitch.
My creativity took a hit. It’s hard to indulge oneself in flights of artistic fancy when so much effort is being invested in simply surviving. Craft supplies gathered dust, sketchbook pages stayed as white as unbroken snow.
I still wrote, after a fashion, but there was an unfamiliar disconnect between myself and my words. I’ve been lucky. I’ve never suffered from clinical depression, but I did take a lot of time to research the psychological impact of being unwell. Knowledge is power, and all that. One of the prevailing comments I kept seeing from those suffering with mental health issues is that people dismiss their depression because it’s not overt 24/7. Depressed people can laugh, and dance, and sing, and engage with their lives, but never for one moment does that mean that their demons aren’t with them. They’re just awesome at fighting the demons off.
But … that disconnect, that broken circuit between their external laughter and their internal weeping … that’s kind of how the writing felt to me. The words were on the page, but as hard work and as strangely hollow as the laughter of the depressed.
I’ve been fortunate enough this year to work with some VERY patient editors on projects that’ll see the light of day in 2018, and I’ll always owe them for the slack they’ve cut me regarding deadlines and schedules. They, amongst others, set me on the road of trying to repair that broken circuit.
The defining theme of the responses I received for my tweet was to write little and often, and I’ve started a project with that in mind, and I’m finding it fun and effective, hence this post. If anyone has trouble getting the creative engine restarted, I’d recommend giving it a try.
I’m a HUGE Doctor Who fan. There’s a line in the story Planet of the Daleks where someone says, “Somewhere on this planet there are ten thousand Daleks!” and sometimes I think they might have been talking about my living room. I’m wonderfully surrounded by DVDs and action figures and comics and a TARDIS wardrobe full of Who memorabilia. My first tattoo was the Seal of Rassilon, upper left shoulder.
I have a collection of fiction books based on the series, both the original novels and also the novelisations of the classic series episodes. Most of the classic series stories were adapted for novel form, with a handful of exceptions. One of those exceptions was called Revelation of the Daleks.
The tale has been unofficially novelised, by a fan named Jon Preddle, and as Jon himself states in his foreword, he’s attempted to replicate the style of the majority of the books. Most of them are straightforward transcripts of the televised stories, with little attempt to enhance characterisation or deepen plot. The better novelisations take the bones of the episodes and clothe them with the flesh of subplots and motivations and backstory, and so … I’m taking a shot at it.
My version will never be published, of course, but since when was publication the ultimate goal of writing (if anyone from Doctor Who wants to chuck a commission my way though, go for it)? Revelation is a good choice, I think, because it is packed with great characters and moments, and intriguingly, the Doctor himself is hardly in it, which means I get a little more freedom creatively.
I originally envisaged my version as more or less following the televised version in terms of content, but as it’s progressed … I’ve found myself shifting scenes around or omitting them entirely. I’ve found myself changing dialogue. I’ve made a character unexpectedly sexy. It’s become a more interactive process than I anticipated, and I can hear the engine warming up again, the clicking of creative cogs.
If you’re stuck, it’s worth a try. Take your favourite movie or TV episode and novelise it. You’re already working with characters you love, but once you’ve got inside their heads, let the writerly instincts do their thing and run with it. Have Greedo shoot first (and no, he didn’t, and if you think otherwise I will fight you). Have Dr McDreamy survive and see where it goes. Let Kong smash those biplanes from the sky.
Rediscover the words, and let them find you again.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading 🙂