Home > Uncategorized > Can I get there by Candlelight?

Can I get there by Candlelight?

So, yeah, I’ve been having a hell of a spring. I’ve been missing deadlines, having to back out of promised projects, and having constant sourceless panic attacks and bouts of serious doubt about the quality of my work and my ability to do it. It’s a precarious way to make a living, this writing gig, and there’s always the fear that you’re going to lose the mojo and that will be the end of that.

Anyway, I talked to my editor on the current book, and had to tell her that I just wasn’t going to get it done on deadline. I’ve never missed a novel deadline before; I still feel kind of awful about it. (It’s a bit of a point of pride for me to get work in early.)

But here I was having this experience where I could not think, or plot, or write, and it felt like every word was being dragged out of me as if with red-hot pliers. Usually, I write by inhabiting my characters, and suddenly, I couldn’t get into their heads. Usually, I feel story structures as a shape, a thing with dimension and weight and movement, and that had utterly deserted me. I had no sense of how anything worked, or if it balanced.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been so scared in my life.

So the past four months has been a learning experience. Especially since I could not figure out what was wrong with me.

Until I went away on a business trip and forgot to bring my daily multivitamin along. And whammo! Within two days, the panic attacks stopped, my confidence and usual sunny demeanor (hah!) re-established themselves, and I was thinking about stories. And the stories seemed interesting to me.

When I got home, I took my vitamin–and within two hours, I was back where I had been before I stopped.

Well, you don’t have to tell me twice. I threw the damned things in the trash.

And today, one week later, I wrote 781 words that were not an agonizing grovel through misery and broken glass, and which I think actually contribute to the story I’m trying to write.

I think I’m cured. By Jove!

And I’m even more convinced than I ever was that brain chemistry, man, is a powerful and mysterious force. Oh, and also, I won’t be taking that brand of vitamin again.

And my editor has given me an extension on the manuscript, and if we bust our butts, we may not even have to reschedule.

…hey, check it out. A happy ending!

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  1. May 7th, 2008 at 09:05 | #1

    Elizabeth, I understand your fear and your aversion to chemistry-altering elements. With all the meds and pills in this country, I wonder what creativity and freedom we are stifling. But hey, no judgment on those who depend them!

    As for the deadlines…I’m glad to see you’re not taking away my award (from a few days ago). I hope you don’t have to reschedule. Keep inhabiting the heads of those characters.

  2. May 7th, 2008 at 11:13 | #2

    You got the ABCs of your craft back by dumping the ABCs of your vitamins? Amazing. I’d really like to know what specifics were in that vitamin. Congrats and write on…

    — Sully

  3. Brian Hodge
    May 7th, 2008 at 14:11 | #3

    Three cheers for flinging the monkey off your back and kicking him to the curb. This is a first. I’ve never heard of vitamins having such a drastic effect. What the hell happened, I wonder … they accidentally dumped in a load of Ritalin?
    Of course, there’s the flipside: “Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.”

  4. May 7th, 2008 at 16:06 | #4

    Man…that’s almost eerie…multivitamins GOOD (see, that’s what MOM said). Glad you figured it out, and whoo hoo on the 700 plus words.

  5. Elizabeth Bear
    May 7th, 2008 at 16:10 | #5

    Yeah, guys. Thanks for the moral support.

    It was really bizarre. I was starting to wonder if I needed a CAT scan. :-P

    I think I’ll stick to the fresh fruits and veggies from now on.

  6. May 7th, 2008 at 18:35 | #6

    Most happy to hear that you have found a solution. I’ll always wonder what it was in those vitamins…. –J.

  7. Robert Jones
    May 8th, 2008 at 07:49 | #7

    A happy but scary story. Whether it was the vitamins that blanked you out or not, I’m glad to learn that you pulled through it.
    All kinds of pills are now being made outside the country, and a number of studies have reported finding harmful, even deadly, ingredients.
    Kudos for the 700 and then some words.

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