When Writers Go Wrong Series: A Guest Post by Melody Winter

by Melody Winter

November – I should have known it would happen. It’s the month when writers really lose it!

Like shadows hiding in the corner, the seeds of doubt gather. They only have to wait until the right moment, and then they’ll pounce! As a writer, I persevere, ignoring these seeds of doubt. I know it’s only a matter of time.

I should see the signs, but focus on writing, word count amassing every day. Endless cups of tea keep me going.

I don’t notice immediately. Everything is going smoothly – or so I think. Words are still forming, rushed down through fast moving fingers tapping noising on the keyboard. Stress levels are rising, true, but the children are still getting fed, no matter that it’s dog food served with a portion of peas and ice-cream. (I never look at labels.) They are healthy enough. A month of un-nutritious food won’t harm them, and the advertisements say that dog food contains all the healthy vitamins to maintain growth – and a healthy coat. No worries about my children having dull, lacklustre hair then.

Actually, hair, well – not hair. Head lice. I currently hold two letters – one from each school – telling me about incidents of head lice. Paranoia strikes. I have a child at each school. Have I single handedly contributed to the nit infestation at both schools? Feeling guilty I attack each son with the nit comb. I also try to calm my frizzy bed head hair with the torturous implement, and persuade my husband to let me tend to his practically non-existing strands.  I laugh with the boys when I tell them about searching through dad’s hair. They see the funny side of searching the thinning wisps, even if he doesn’t.

I thank the lord that my children have a sense of humour.

Tea is the only thing I drink. Heaven knows what will happen if I reach for the unopened bottles of wine chilling in the wine-cooler. I’m certain that if I open one – the rest will follow – and then what sort of mother will I be? So, the endless cups of tea still keep me going. I give up using a fresh cup every time I make a brew – I’ll either run out of cups, or horrify myself with the number I drink. Also – I may break the dishwasher with the extra heavy load. I always drink from the same mug these days – a battered Robert Pattinson mug – did I mention that I have a tiny crush on him? No, oh well, that’s another story.

I’m surprised I don’t lose weight during November. Food doesn’t really feature all that much – not unless you count the numerous chocolate bar wrappers that mysteriously appear around me during a day.

Mid November is when things take a turn for the worst. The right moment, the right time; there’s no escaping. Out of the shadows, across the kitchen table, those seeds of doubt land directly on my sun-lit laptop with a smug thud of victory.

Throwing my hands in the air, I roar.

“You won’t win. You won’t!”

My children look at me – the usual expression of, ‘our mother’s gone mad, yet again’ creeps across their faces. Frowning, I return to the open document on my screen. I begin to mumble, pointing an annoying finger at the screen before I started to fall to pieces.

“Do you want a cup of tea, mum?” my eldest asks.


I only put make-up on to go to work – that day time job that most writers have to endure less their children starve. Cycling to work, I plan my evening writing material. At work I surround myself with post-it notes. All of them hinting at story ideas that I need to expand on when I get home.

Wandering around the supermarket, I visualise what my characters will do when I sit down to write. (Food shopping while in this state is not advisable. You end up with strange items… and lots of dog food in your trolley.) I ask the boys how their days at school have been, but don’t really listen to their answers. I’m reminded that my eldest is going away for a residential in a few days. My husband raises his brow at me, silently questioning the balance within my life. Snapping, I tell him he can do more to help. His response is to remind me that he’s just made me a cup of tea, oh, and he loaded the dishwasher last night.


My only defence in not knowing exactly what’s happening in the home, is not hearing what’s being said. I’ve passed that time in my life where I can hear a pin drop. Like my mother, I’m beginning to lose it –my hearing that is.

I’m slightly deaf, not seriously by any means, and I sometimes wonder whether it’s just ‘mother’s ear’. My twelve year old and ten year old would probably agree, although my husband blames the iPod ear buds constantly attached to my ears. What can I say – I get my inspiration from music, and I refuse to do all the household chores while only listening to the droning of the vacuum cleaner or the hiss of the steam iron. (As a side note – I have to tell you that I ALWAYS get my best story plot ideas while ironing – crazy huh?) But the calls and cries from my family are going unanswered, my head busy with numerous plot ideas all scrambling to be heard.

My children, and husband, stand no chance in November.

Three weeks in, ear buds firmly in place – I write. I can’t hear the phone. I cover my mobile hoping the bright light that fills its screen whenever I get a new message won’t distract me. A certain piece of music reminds me that my main characters in my half written manuscript also demand my time.

“Later,” I promise them. They never listen and constantly pop up when I’m trying to write a character nothing like theirs.

Is there any wonder that I head into an imaginary world at times – one where I have some control over things. Many times my characters lead me on as much a merry dance as my children and my husband. But I have the power with my creations. I don’t have that with real life people – even the small ones I initially created.

I try to remember things like swimming lessons, football training, football matches, day trips away, feeding the cat, dog and even the birds that dare to enter our garden. But they all slip into second place when the thirty days of November arrive. The good news – it’ll soon be over and then I can rediscover my family to some extent. I’ll be back in the arms of my main characters of my manuscript – my work in progress. I know I’ll be welcomed back by them all.

My husband mentions that he’s taking me away for my birthday at the end of January. It’s a lovely treat, relaxing for a long weekend.

“A weekend,” he says, “Just the two of us – no children. The boys are staying with your mum.”

I smile when he tells me of his plan– what a lovely thought. But it only takes a few moments before I realise I’ll not have my laptop with me. I’ll not be able to write that weekend. Even if I hide a notepad in my bag, he’ll tut at me every time I reach for it.

And then I realise that maybe, just maybe I’ve become a bit obsessive. Surely, my characters can live without me for a few days. They may scream at me from the pages they’re trapped in – going nowhere while I ignore them, but they’ll survive. Another thought hits me. Time away will bring me back with fresh ideas. Maybe I’ll have a few ‘ironing’ thoughts, and come up with even more situations to force them into.

I eventually thank my husband, telling him that it’s a lovely idea. A weekend away will be a nice break for both of us.

“And the hotel does a wonderful afternoon tea,” he says.

Winking at me he heads into the kitchen to flick the kettle on.


Maybe he understands me after all. The children do – even knowing that I occasionally lose it. They’ll survive while their mother drifts off into her own little world. They know I’ll come back eventually. At times their worlds are as full as mine, fighting with growing up, surviving school, completing homework, writing their own essays.

Unfortunately, they don’t like drinking tea, even though they have plenty of practice at making it. Maybe their lives will become easier when they do?


Note from V: To find out whether Melody’s family will survive to see Christmas, check out her blog and follow her on Twitter!