I am supposed to be writing a ghost story. It isn’t a genre I’ve written in before, so it’s something of a challenge. I have a basic idea of where I want to go, but I am struggling, because this is something I shrink from putting down on paper. I just know my imagination will conjure this to terrify me in the middle of the night; I’ll wake, needing the bathroom, and I won’t dare leave my bed in case I encounter my own creation on the stairs.
This discomfort with my own creativity is something I’ve encountered before. Not often but it does happen. My stories grow from all kinds of sources; an idea for a character, a place, some overheard chat in a café. Perhaps something will happen to me - nothing particularly tragic or exciting, just an everyday event – and then weeks later, I’ll realise it’s the basis for a tale. After that point it goes where it chooses. I know some writers work with detailed plans, but I’m sadly not that organised; my story picks its own path. And sometimes it takes me to places I’d rather avoid, and I find myself needing to write a scene that makes me uncomfortable.
Of course I inevitably stall at this point. Writer’s block can occur for many reasons, and I know I’m lucky that I don’t often run into a lack of ideas. Mostly it’s sheer laziness that interferes with progress; the effort of getting started can seem Herculean. The frustrated writer staring at a blank page may be a cliché, but that doesn’t make it less accurate. But when I’m faced with writing a scene that bothers me, for whatever reason, I will come up with any excuse to avoid it.
So I need to make myself ignore the idea of those night terrors and scribble my ghost down on paper. Once the story has germinated, I can’t pretend it isn’t there. I can leave it unwritten or unfinished for months, but I know it’s not going to go away. And hopefully, as has happened in the past, my sense of accomplishment at negotiating this obstacle will prove stronger than my discomfort. And chase away the ghost on my stairs.