The Blank Page

I am jealous of readers because they get to see my work wholly divorced from its writing. A project will always be tied up with its history for me. Did I write quickly and painlessly? Was the writing a struggle? Did I “save” the project in revision?

When I reflect on my books, I prefer the hard ones. Because I am a slow and ponderous writer, and thus I tend to wander down many wrong paths, I haven’t had too many books go “well.” Those that have… I don’t trust. They’re some strange witchcraft; they don’t feel like mine.

But a reader doesn’t know any of that. There isn’t any noise around the book. It must be quiet.

Lately, I’ve struggled to write because there’s so much noise, I can’t hear myself. I have writer friends who can listen to the market, to their readers, and to industry trends and still have something outward to say. I’ve been trying to do that, to write books that might be for a more general audience rather than only for my little niche, to listen to the outward stuff and modulate my voice in terms of it. But I simply can’t.

I’ve been trying to tune out those outside noises–not because they’re unimportant, but because I can’t hear myself or see my work. I’m snow-blind.

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Author: Emma

Emma is a novelist, full-time mama, recovering academic, and former political staffer. When she’s not reading or writing, she loves her twins' hugs, her husband’s cooking, her cat’s whiskers, her dog’s tail, and Earl Grey tea.

2 thoughts on “The Blank Page”

  1. Readers don’t see your struggles, but (as I’m sure you know from your own reading) we bring our own to the text. Xen X Cole McCade recently posted about how reviewers “will be driven by their feelings and life experiences, will discuss what worked for them and what didn’t” and something which might seem innocuous or even fun to the author, might be triggering to some readers.

    Politics affects readers, too. For example, there’s an acclaimed romance which was recently published which features royalty. I can’t bring myself to feel enthusiastic about it enough to buy it, because royalty is part of my political landscape, not just a fun/aspirational type of character.

    So no, our noise perhaps isn’t the same as a writer’s, and it may take more to make us go into a “reading slump” (because writing requires more effort than reading), but hopefully we can still empathise a bit with what you’re going through.

    1. This is an excellent point–readers do experience other kinds of noise. Politics has made it almost impossible for me to read in the last two years. I keep wanting to go back to “normal,” but I can barely remember what that felt like.

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