Still With Me

Something happened to me last year. I don’t even know if I can describe what it was. A kind of existential crisis maybe? The heavy knowledge that my best years were behind me? The sense of my own impending death racing towards me far faster than I had previously thought? Yeah some of those things. Happens to all of us – eventually you realize you’re not going to last forever.

But more than that: you realize that from now on, there will probably be more pain than pleasure. This is when people start dying in earnest. This is when I’ll have to cope with the loss of my father again, only times ten. First my grandparents will go and then probably my Mum and my Auntie and statistically speaking my husband. If I don’t go before all of them.

And I know this is reality. I accept it, and understand my misery when I think of this. What I didn’t expect is for it to have such a strange impact on my writing. When I first started to feel this way, I lost the will to write. It just went away as though it was never there. I didn’t care.

Writing is difficult, and I didn’t want to spend the few happy moments I have left doing it. Or at least I think that’s what happened. There might be some feeling of failure or fear of it in there. Maybe I was worried that no one would like the next book I did. One thing no one tells you is that after you get lucky enough to be published and gain a following, most of your thoughts are then occupied by letting those people down.

Instead of feeling free to write whatever I wanted as I had in the beginning – instead of thinking my life was all ahead of me and full of possibilities – I felt as though the ending had been written. This was it for me. I could only do one certain thing in one certain way and that was all.

And then I started to write Intrusion.

I thought I would find it hard, writing this book. It’s the first of a trilogy for an important publisher with a new editor. The editor approached me – I didn’t sell these books to her. I’m pretty sure the pressure should have killed my ability to write stone dead. And yet the strangest thing happened as I worked on it. I found myself thinking of it all the time. My thoughts were consumed by it, just like in the early days of my writing career.

I have no idea why. Maybe it’s because this is the first time in two years that I’m writing way in advance of a deadline instead of right down to the wire. It could be that the idea is still fresh to me: it hit like a lightning bolt when the editor asked me for a brief outline of what I was going to be doing for her. Perhaps I was just ready to be new again. And of course there’s the fact that it’s inspired by Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal and Red Dragon and Will Graham – all things that have rich roots in the soil of my soul.

I don’t know. But whatever it is: this book has saved me. I wish I could say it in a less melodramatic way, but I can’t because it’s just true. This book reminded me of why I should keep going, despite my despair. It’s given me back some hope again – not that I’ll be successful and no one will die and everything will be ok.

Just that I will be ok if that isn’t the case.

My imagination will still be with me – the thing that has been my constant friend, my constant love, my greatest weapon and strongest ally. Tomorrow I might feel bad. I might hurt again. I could spend the day laid down with thoughts of everyone eventually withering away in my head. But Bertha will still be there when I’m done.

I promise you, she will still be there.

P.S. My book Beyond Repair comes out tomorrow at EC (Amazon etc to follow) so I thought I’d say a tiny summat about it here. It’s got a movie star hero! It has lots of angst and secrets! It’s my first real NA book since Sheltered! Get it here:

About Charlotte Stein

Charlotte is a writer of erotica and erotic romance, with a book currently out from Black Lace, and an almost-novella in the works with Total-E-Bound! Read more >
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7 Responses to Still With Me

  1. Audra North says:

    I love you.

    Also, I think a lot about the ups and downs of writing, and how at some times it can seem like so much incredible awesome is in your soul because you’re creating amazing cool things that reflect your dreams and true imagination, while at other times it’s a freakin’ albatross. But I love that you have killed the albatross dead and are cooking him up for dinner (A stringy, sour-tasting dinner, admittedly, but it’s dead just the same.) And never let it be said that the albatross killing wasn’t all you, because it was. It took the strength and wonderfulness of you to get through the not as inspiring times.

    And if you’d rather us not have this comparison involve the destruction of imaginary fowl, we can replace “killing the albatross” with “finally locating the teeny tiny impossibly miniature screwdriver and removing the batteries from those incessant noise-making children’s toys that like to go off with creepy voices at 3 a.m.”

    • Awwww thank you bb! Yeah, that’s exactly what writing for a living is like. I just wish the albatross didn’t keep rising from the dead, stronger than it was before! But that’s the nature of writing. The best you can do is just hope it stays down for longer this time.


  2. Oh, what a lovely and generous post this is because you make other people who have felt like this feel less alone. And I love that it’s the book that saved you. I couldn’t love that more! Also, happiest release day!

    • That’s so sweet of you to say! Generous – that’s cool. I hope I am. One of the main things I always want to do is show people the downsides and the upsides, the struggling bits beneath what might be an image of success. New authors put so much pressure on themselves now, and I know many feel like a failure if they don’t write 3k a day or don’t hit a list first time or have despairing moments. But I think it’s partly because we’re all encouraged to act like everything is cool all the time and success stories are becoming the standard instead of a rarity. So anything I can do to counteract that…I’ll do it.

  3. Rhyll Biest says:

    Looking forward to reading Intrusion, with Will Graham as your inspiration I imagine it will be something spesh!

  4. I always tell myself that my emotional energy can’t be what drives the bus. That this isn’t just my art, but that I also want/need it to be my job, and that I must write no matter whether or not I’m “feeling it”. But for years, starting from shortly before my son was born until after he turned eight, I just couldn’t force myself to do it. I was (am) a single mom and I had nothing left to give after work and parenting and trying not to cry when something broke on the car and needed fixing. Working jobs that didn’t require any emotional commitment from me was all I could handle.

    Because the thing is, writing requires a deep dive into the emotions. At least for me. :) And sometimes that’s just too much to ask. When keeping your emotions on lockdown is the only way you get through the day, the idea of prying that door open and rummaging around is painful and something to be avoided at all costs.

    I credit my kid, who has turned into an awesomely helpful and easy-going ten year old, with my ability to return to writing. As things got easier on the parenting end (BEING ABLE TO DRESS ONESELF IS A GIFT FROM THE GODS), I had more left at the end of the day and I was able to start putting some of that emotional energy back on the page. I’m so grateful for the chance to do this again. *hugs to you* And I’m grateful that you can do it too.

  5. Oh, sweetie, I’m so glad you’re feeling more up to living! I’ve had a long, gray winter of the soul, myself–and forcing myself to keep writing (or sort of writing) through it wasn’t pretty. So hopefully it’s getting better.
    I think I should maybe get “This, too, shall pass” embossed, embroidered, or engraved on every surface of my house. Yes! You will be okay. I will be okay! Oh, hell. That sounds like a title to a self-help book that no one reads anymore, doesn’t it?