It’s been roughly three weeks since I finished the latest draft. I haven’t written a word since. It feels strange. The usual self-loathing-writer-crap pops up from time to time: I hate everything I wrote and I now realise where some of my problem chapters should’ve gone. I’m disappointed with myself that I could only figure this out after I handed in. Complaining to a writer friend, she told me to give my brain some time to relax and free up creative space and while that’s been great (I’ve finally been able to get some reading done!) it’s made me slightly unhinged.
The first thing that happened when I stopped writing was temporary ‘loss’ of hearing in my left ear: blocked for a week, it felt like I was stuck in a thick concrete tunnel, unable to regulate how loud or soft my voice was. More than once I was told at work that there was no need to shout.
Then the dreaming started: Lizzie came every night, whispered and laughed in my ear. Every time I woke up it felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. Then a character I almost never dream about, Benjamin, started digging in through my ear and into the dark spaces. One night I woke up to see a figure standing over me, moving their long arms over my head. I could feel their breath on my face and the tap-tap of fingers on my forehead. There was just enough street light coming in through the wooden blinds for me to make out the figure was a man. I balled fingers and hand into fist, took a swing and sat up in bed. The figure walked to the bedroom door and I reached for my pillow, started swinging it around and around.
My partner woke up beside me, told me to go back to sleep. ‘There’s no one there,’ he said.
‘He’s right by the door. Look at him!’
I swung my legs out of bed, cold floorboards. My cat jumped from the bed, curled her tail around my legs, made me feel trapped at sea. The figure stood there and as soon as I stood up, it went down the hall way.
‘There’s no one there, Sarah.’
But the body knows what has been felt. I stalked the night, walked through the house. I thought of people breaking into the house, thought of them watching me as I searched. My name was called, called again, but I kept searching, unable to find the figure. It occurred to me he may have gotten in through the ceiling. I stood in the laundry, turned on the light and looked up.
I’ve seen this figure twice since that night. And every time I do, I get thoughts of the novel, all the things that still need to be done, how wrong it all feels, how weak so much of it is. It’s overwhelming to think of the failure and how I’m going to fix it.
Walking helps. And walking helped during the writing process.
Look at this jawbone I found on one of those walks:
It gave me a lot of ideas for the next novel. It also made me curious about the animal this came from: where was the carcass? Where was the rest of the jaw? The skull? I picked up the bone, was surprised by how light it was in the hand. I wanted to take it home, study it further. But did I really want to have it in the house given the dreams I’d been having?
It was on these walks that I started seeing crows everywhere, noticed the way they looked at me as I passed each tree. Crows have a memory.