Block Party

My article on stammering for The Guardian a couple of weeks ago could easily have been ten times longer, given my experiences, and something that happened tonight gave me further pause for thought.

A friend of mine was asking me about my novel. Now, I can describe it over email until I’m blue in the… er… keyboard (as certain unlucky people will attest to), and write endlessly about the themes and the characters and the plot and what this means and what that means and so on. But if I’m just asked to verbally describe the premise of the book, then even though I know exactly what I need to say, I usually can’t say it. As in, I physically can’t say it.

This isn’t a slight stammer, hesitation or repetition. It’s a full-on, “lights are off, vocal chords ain’t home” jobbie. In stammering parlance, I believe this is often referred to as a block, where the person speaking simply can’t get past a certain word. Unfortunately, in my case when describing the novel, it’s often the first word, and it’s less a simple block than it is an entire fucking game of Tetris.

Luckily I had a laptop near me tonight and quickly found the synopsis for the novel, getting the friend to read the first couple of paragraphs to find out what it was about, which saved my blushes to a certain extent. But the existence of this block worries me. Why do I find it so difficult to actually “talk” about my writing? What, psychologically, is going on here? I don’t entirely know, and the reason it’s a worry is that if by some miracle the book gets published, at some point I’m going to be asked to talk about it or… God forbid… read some of it out. And, believe me, I do want to play the marketing game as well as I possibly can.

So what am I supposed to do in that scenario if the problem persists? I have to somehow find out exactly what’s causing this particular difficulty and overcome it, as I can see it causing me stress down the line. Not fun.

In other news, the rewrite of the novel’s opening is getting very good feedback indeed from the trusted few (better than I could have hoped for, to be honest), and so with a fair wind, it’s looking good for the proposal package (typically an individualised cover letter, full synopsis and the first 3 chapters) to go out to some literary agents on Friday. This blog will go “dark” when it comes to revealing the progress of the submissions, unfortunately, because The Mirroball is easy to find with a bit of research, and it wouldn’t help for one agent to know if I’m rejected by others, or if I’m hopeful for representation from one in particular. All will become clear in the fullness of time when I have something to announce. (Complete and total failure would also be announced, glass-half-empty fans!)

Exciting times, though: the end of one journey and the hopeful start of another. We’ll see if I’m still optimistic about it all in a few weeks’ time.

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