Blogging Family Pause for Thought Writing

On writing: when you love it and when it just won’t work


Space for the Butterflies - on writing

I was once so pole-axed by grief that I couldn’t write. I opened my mind to find the words, to sort o it in my head what had happened to the ruins of my world and they would not come. Not the words I wanted anyway, the ones that would make sense of what had happened, that would find a silver lining to the suffocating cloud that blanketed over me, that would let me find myself and set me free.  All that was there was  a twisted bitter ghost, skulking in the corners, waiting for the merest whisper of a crack in my defence to pour out a torrent of vitriol; to let all that hurt and anger and sadness come hurtling through, and I wasn’t going to let it.

Angst laden tortured prose will never be my genre.

When I am unhappy, or angry, or just utterly grumpy and fed up, the words scuttle away from me, and chasing them down is like one of those dreams where you are straining with every fibre of your being to run, or even just to move, and yet you stay put.  I hate those dreams, although the last one I had when I started to dream that I’d left me work bag in an office and I was going to need to run to get back to where I’d left it and then try to catch up and still be on time for a meeting and I was starting to get cross with my dream self for having left it in the first place when my subconscious kicked in and dream invented a person who’d already brought it to me. I was wildly impressed with myself for that one.

But I digress.  The truth is that I write in the happy moments, of which I am pleased to say, there are many.

That’s not to say that it’s never hard work, I think I’m chirpiest in the morning so I’m usually tapping away on the train on the way into work and by trialand error that seems to be my best time of day to be that sort of creative, but there are definitely times when it takes a while to get my brain up and running too. But then there are the times when it all clicks, and the work document or the blog post or the whatever it is I’m trying to say just seems to dance straight out of my mind and onto the page.

Years ago H and I ran a marathon, and although most of the training was marked for me by dark, cold, wet, hurt and eventually, missing toenails, there was one run that stood out for me. I’d arrived back from visiting my parents just in time for the club run but on that chilly winter’s night there were only the three of us so we set off together down our usual route.  By that point I was used to it being hard, used to having to work at my technique and manage my breathing and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Except that evening it wasn’t so hard; my feet moved easily, I could chat a little to the people I was running with, and for that one run I got why people could really get into it as a sport.

When I think of a time when I really loved writing perhaps the first thing that comes to mind are those rare but wonderful moments when it’s like that; when an idea arrived fully formed and all you have to do is write it down. But that first thought was quickly followed by a second; I love writing when what I’ve written resonates with someone.  When I write a blog post and someone replies to say “yes, this it what I’ve been trying to make into sense”.  And the first and the second don’t necessarily run together.

All too often good is equated to easy, and yet any parent will tell you that while your children may be the centre of your world, it doesn’t make it any easier to be calm and consistent when it’s got to the witching hour and all you’ve heard for the last hour is one or more child grizzling (not that that ever happens to my super special snowflake babies of course!!).  The same is true for a marriage, less the grizzling (hopefully).

And much as I’d hate to admit it, because who among us wouldn’t like life to be nice and easy and straightforward, I think that if I’m truly honest with myself, the time when I really love writing is when I’ve worked for it, and the hard work has paid off.

Last summer I had a rare afternoon pottering around London with Pip and I picked up a Writing Map, a little interactive map of writing prompts and questions.  I love it, and I’ve been carrying it around ever since, thinking, I’ll start that when I get a minute.  Of course the minute never comes so I thought I’d write some of them here and see where they take me.  I knew when I can’t write before I started, but the times when I truly love writing surprised me, I thought it would be the first until I got started.  And now I’m curious about you; when do you find yourself truly loving writing, and when do the words dry up?



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  • JoanneLloyd 17/03/2016 at 10:15 am

    What an interesting post! I find it easier to write for public consumption when … life is poodling along. Not necessarily joyous or leaping from the top of the mountains happy, but mundanely bumbling along. My personal writing starts off in my head: it may be sparked by something someone has said ( ie you, now!) or something I have read or experienced. Usually it simmers there for a day or two. Often this simmering brain writing either takes place late at night when the book has fallen from my hands, or early in the morning. A dozy awakening is accompanied by a stream of thoughts. In my head, I fashion and refashion what I want to say. My (grown up) children accuse me of talking to myself so these “writings”obviously become vocal at times! The writing is then very quick. Out it all comes onto the page at a rate of knots. Too quickly for clumsy fingers. Sometimes I edit the typos and – depending on the audience – I just let it be.

    Lately I have been doing some research work for Clevedon Pier’s new exhibition and the writing for that has been HARD. How do you encapsulate, summarise a big topic in a way that will educate, stimulate, surprise a potentially wide audience in 250 words? This type of authorship has had me tearing my hair out! But as you say I think this is the work which will make me puff with pride because it was hard won. Writing for an audience: I type.

    The times when I cannot write for a public audience are the sad times, but I still do write, just for me. Then there is no simmering, or fashioning of just the right word. Then – all the thoughts stream out onto the paper, immediately, exactly as they float across my consciousness, written the old fashioned way with a pen. It would be very hard to live in a world where writing didn’t exist.

    • Carie 17/03/2016 at 11:06 pm

      Oh it wouldn’t be fun to be in a world without writing – or maybe we’d just all get very good at oratory! Your Clevedon Pier project sounds amazing, but a tough gig too – 250 is not very many words at all – good luck!!

  • Eline @ Emmy + LIEN 17/03/2016 at 12:53 pm

    What an interesting read, Carie. Like you I write best in the morning, but other than that I don’t think there is anything fixed or easily identifiable that influences my writing. I’ve written through both sad and happy periods, eventful and really mundane phases… And got completely stuck in them all too. Actually, when I think about it there is one thing that is sure to make the words dry up: fear. As soon as I start to worry about how something will be received (because of course I do want my writing to resonate too), it won’t flow. When (if!) I put that worry aside, everything comes much more easily.

    • Carie 17/03/2016 at 11:04 pm

      Oh how interesting – it’s funny how it can be different for all of us; funny in a good way – as I said, writing about what has the most affect on me made me curious about everyone else!

  • Natalie Ray 17/03/2016 at 3:11 pm

    This is a really thought provoking post. I love writing all the time. In the difficult times it’s one of the things that keeps me sane. But when I’m feeling sad I write absolute drivel that nobody wants to read so I have to be strict with myself and make sure I don’t publish it and subject people to my nonsense!x

    • Carie 17/03/2016 at 11:01 pm

      Thank you 🙂 I know what you mean about sometimes writing things that just aren’t for publishing – sometimes I find I’ve ended up somewhere completely different to where I started out!

  • Sally 18/03/2016 at 8:57 am

    I think maybe my favourite kind of writing is when something has been bubbling around in my head for ages, growing and developing, sometimes that can be in a good way or sometimes it can be in an annoying way, and then it gets to a point where it really has to come out and I sit and write it all down and all of a sudden it’s gone and my head is beautifully clear again! Sometimes that writing is really good, and sometimes slightly rubbish, but either way it’s very satisfying and it feels like a surprisingly evocative record of a part of my life, re-reading it will bring back memories of other things that were happening around me when those thoughts were brewing in my head.

    • Carie 19/03/2016 at 9:08 pm

      Oh yes, how could I forget that pleasant feeling of having emptied your brain onto paper and in order and suddenly having the space to think about something else again!

  • Rebecca Ann Smith 29/03/2016 at 9:24 am

    This made me question when I write, and why, and I’ve come to the conclusion it depends! Sometimes the emotion inspiring me to write is a happy one, sometimes it’s grief or sadness, or frustration, or trying to make sense of something difficult and tangled. Even if the inspiration comes from a difficult place, I always enjoy that part of writing (it’s the honing and editing that’s like marathon training for me!) Thanks for sharing your process and making me think!

    • Carie 29/03/2016 at 8:46 pm

      You’re welcome – I think it’s amazing how our brains process things differently and the impact it has on how and what we write and thank you for sharing yours 🙂

  • Kamsin 29/03/2016 at 1:44 pm

    I can totally relate to this. I can only write about really hard stuff much later when it is no longer raw. But I also find I write more when I am happier but also the process of writing feeds general feelings of well being. The two are definitely connected. And I’ve never been a fan of easy, easy definitely isn’t the same as good, I just find it boring!

    • Carie 29/03/2016 at 8:44 pm

      Oh that’s interesting; that because writing revives you it just doesn’t work in times of sadness. I think that must be a part of it for me too – I just get stuck, or whiny, if it’s too raw and it’s a cue to walk away. Oddly enough it’s a different sort of feeling to when the writing is hard work but good work; the words might be running away just as fast but it’s a completely different sensation.

  • Luisa Giordano 29/03/2016 at 8:37 pm

    I love this… I find my writing moments come when I’m tired/pensive/full of emotion…. Not usually the most convenient moments but always cathartic 🙂

    • Carie 29/03/2016 at 8:41 pm

      It’s funny and wonderful how it’s different for all of us isn’t it!

  • Maddy@writingbubble 29/03/2016 at 10:53 pm

    I really agree with the last line about it being most satisfying when you work for it and the hard work pays off. That said, it’s wonderful when the words just flow isn’t it? When you sit down and not even that long later you have something and you think ‘you know what ? I think this might actually be… good!’. I’m not sure when I write most or best as I think all sorts of things can stimulate creativity – hard times and happiness When my youngest was a baby I wrote masses, perhaps because I was experiencing both – was besotted with him but absolutely knackered with the sleep deprivation and juggling the needs of three kids! Thanks for sharing this post with #WhatImWriting – it really made me think!

    • Carie 31/03/2016 at 10:35 pm

      Whenever I’ve been home on mat leave I’ve found I’m brimming with ideas and things I want to write and I just can’t get them out fast enough and then whenever I go back to work there are fewer words and they can be harder work I think because I’m mostly writing for the day job and it uses up so much more of my mental energy than being at home with the children, which is more physical; I think it shows how important it is to give myself time to just think and let ideas percolate!

  • Rachael 30/03/2016 at 4:43 pm

    Unless I am writing for others, I think it’s safe to say I write ‘when the muse strikes’, which is mostly in moments of stillness…. Early morning, late evening. My mood isn’t so relevant but a sad mood can be lifted by an outpouring of words…. Thanks for making me think about this! 🙂

    • Carie 31/03/2016 at 10:31 pm

      Ah now that’s another variation; it’s so clever how we all think and process in different ways 🙂

  • Jo Winwood 31/03/2016 at 8:42 am

    I don’t have a time of day for writing. It can happen at any time, or it can fail to happen at any time too! I find that I can write about most things but some things happen with more ease than others – I just wish I could work out what they are so I could concentrate on those. I agree with Maddy, when you’ve worked hard for a piece of writing the sense of satisfaction is almost overwhelming.

    • Carie 31/03/2016 at 10:26 pm

      Isn’t it just – it’s like solving a logic puzzle, you piece the final clue and it all comes tumbling out 🙂

  • Chrissie 09/04/2016 at 8:10 am

    No here’s some food for thought! I’m trying to do Campnanowrimo at the moment and finding I’m doing more procrastination than writing. I find writing when I HAVE to write really hard but the best time to push myself. Words for me dry up when I try to blog at the moment. I just can’t seem to say what I want to say or make sense of the ideas I have so I totally get how it feels when you think it should work but just doesn’t happen x

    • Carie 09/04/2016 at 10:37 pm

      Oh that’s the most frustrating; when you know that you’ve got a good idea but you just can’t make your brain join the dots up – grrr!