October 9, 2010

Displacement before writing

Posted in Susan's Blog tagged , , , , at 10:45 am by Susan

Why is it so difficult to start a piece of writing? This week I cleared space to begin working on a new novel but for some reason I have managed to fritter away the time, persuading myself that I really should send  that reference/keep on top of my inbox/clean out the fridge/take that picture I’ve had since Christmas to the framer.

It isn’t fear of the blank page that’s stopping me. I have my characters, the setting, I even know some of the things that are going to happen in my story. I am eager to fill in the gaps. But for some reason I keep putting off the start.

Writing a novel is often compared to a journey, full of lows as well as highs, and some of my prevarication is perhaps analogous to what I imagine a long-distance swimmer might feel before diving in. Part of me longs to be in the water again, while another part is reluctant to leave dry land. It’s a question of preparedness too – to write you have to accept that for months to come you won’t be available to attend to all life’s details and that some things, frankly, will slip by the way. At least some of the postponement is practical. References do after all have to be sent, fridges cleaned.

I’ve just looked up the word displacement in the dictionary. One of its meanings is ‘the transfer of emotion to a less threatening source’. This is helpful. There is a fear of failure in delaying writing. While my new novel exists only in my head, it is possible it will convey more exactly than my last one that shadowy but compelling vision I  can see bobbing somewhere far ahead of me.

And towards which I know I must swim.

To share your displacement stories, please leave a comment



  1. maggi dawn said,

    I have a friend who often used to say that there was nothing like starting on a piece of writing to ensure that she had a shiny, clean kitchen floor…
    I do exactly the same, finding things that just HAVE to be done before the fateful moment when I hit the keyboard and the notepad. The odd thing is, though, once I’m underway I wonder why on earth I waited so long…

    • scs2 said,

      Thanks, Maggi – you’re right, once you’re in, it seems easy, though I also agree with Sharon that there are days when you have to find the energy to leap all over again….

  2. Sharon said,

    The interesting thing is that it can (& does for me) occur not only at the beginning of a new novel, but at the beginning of every day of writing – especially after an absence. I always put it down to the energy required to transport yourself into that world – to push aside the daily stuff and create the necessary focus. As a former psychologist I armed myself many years ago with a bunch of tricks (er – techniques) to ease the way into that distinctly altered state of consciousness that writing well requires – but suspect the sad truth is that good writing days are sort of like good hair days – diminishing in both quality and quantity the older you get 🙂

    • scs2 said,

      Love the idea of finding the energy to transport yourself into the world of writing – thanks Sharon!

  3. […] and fellow-author Susan Sellers wrote a lovely piece about displacement activities. Faced with the prospect of beginning a new book she finds that the […]

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