Thursday, 6 June 2019

Debbie Bennett – Having the Time of My Life …

… Or not, as the case may be. I’ve never been able to find out much online about how being of a certain age affects one’s creativity – there’s plenty about physical changes and if you’re a bloke and don’t want to read on, that’s absolutely fine. But whether you are a woman or live with a woman or even just know a woman, know that there will come a time in her life when things Change, and not always for the better.

I’m 55. For a variety of reasons, I’d expected all this a lot sooner, but last summer was the summer of change in many ways. We sold the big family home, downsized and cleared the mortgage; we bought a small flat to renovate; our daughter left university, got a job and rented a flat in Salford. We moved house at the peak of the heatwave and I put everything down to weather, stress and change in circumstances, but there came a point when I realised that I could no longer blame the heat for sleepless nights, nor stress for being a reason for wanting to kill people. So I took myself off to see the lovely (female) doctor who gave me a prescription for HRT and told me to come back in 3 months.

9 months later and I’m sleeping much better. I no longer want to kill people, which is always an advantage. But the writing me – the me that has defined who I am for so long – is changed too. Different. I find it hard to focus now, and that need to write, to create, is missing. Gone? I don’t know. I hope not. I’ve written a couple of short stories and when I do write stuff, I can produce work I’m happy with. It’s getting into the zone that’s hard, finding the will to sit down at the computer and not procrastinate, finding that kernel of me that can create stuff with words. I read back some of my longer work and despair of ever being able to produce anything like that again. And it scares me. While I have very good non-writing friends, much of my life is built around writing, and now I’m on the other side of a glass screen and I don’t know how to break through it. It’s not writers’ block – I wish it was – but something different. I’ve changed fundamentally as a person and I think I need to figure out who I am now. I’ve done Maiden and Mother and there’s got to be more to life than Crone, surely?

Have any other women writers experienced this? And what about men? Is it the same for you guys too? How do I find myself again? I want to be Debbie the writer and not just Debbie who wrote a few books when she was younger. And I know it all sounds horribly pretentious, but isn’t that what blogging is all about?

www.debbiebennett.co.uk

11 comments:

Jan Needle said...

You're not alone, Debbie, believe me, whether male or female, and I hope (and actually believe) it will all come back again. Looking back on your last year or so, however, it wouldn't be TOO surprising if you were sitting mumbling broth through a (non plastic, natch) straw. Don't despair, spring is just around the corner - I daren't say summer - and remember this: you could be married to Donald Trump. Don't panic (and don't tell them your name, Pike.) Brave post - thanks xxx

Susan Price said...

'You could be married to Donald Trump.' Truly, a thought to make us all pause and count our blessings, especially if female. -- Thanks, Jan.

Bill Kirton said...

A brave and (paradoxically) encouraging post, Debbie, expressing thoughts which many of us (as Jan said, male or female) must surely have had in some form or another over the years. My current ones are similar to yours but triggered by an upcoming birthday 25 years on from your own. Of course, I haven't had the added irritants (inadequate word) of HRT and the other curses that befall women, and my concern isn't the possibility of writer's block but simply whether it's worth starting something that usually takes at least several months (and, with the latest one, 4 years). A couple of little health things last year left wee reminders that I won't be rushing Mrs May-like across meadows or cornfields (or motorways or whatever she said) any time soon, but churning out the occasional flash fiction counteracts any notion that I have been anything but extremely lucky to have been able to fool many of the people most of the time with my scribblings.
Bon courage. As the honesty of your post shows, you still have plenty to contribute.

Katherine Roberts said...

Interesting Debbie, thank you for this post. The menopause is not something we discuss enough, but I'm pretty much done with it now and things do feel different afterwards so I can sympathise. But I've also read there is a "post-menopausal zest" which is good news for creatives... I'm still waiting for mine to kick in, but I occasionally get a real surge of energy and then I DO feel like doing creative stuff again (if not always writing) so maybe the HRT is blocking yours? I have a theory that too much wi-fi and radiation blocks creativity, but nobody likes that... have your neighbours installed a smart meter recently?

Ann Turnbull said...

If you're only 55, Debbie, I feel sure it's temporary. Maybe you just don't have any sufficiently inspiring ideas at the moment. Why not enjoy the chance to do some other things you haven't had time for? Or read some of those books like The Artist's Way and The Writer's Book of Days that get you writing from prompts. I've had several 'lulls' when I thought it had all come to an end, but it hadn't. (I must admit I feel exactly like you do at the moment, only I'm nearly 76 so it could be permanent! and the difference is that I don't care. If you do care, the inspiration will come back - just let it do so in its own time.)

Lydia Bennet said...

It may not be menopause, it may be the big life changes which have been happening for you, moving family home, renovation, kids leaving 'properly', etc, you may need more time to feel settled there and that may be something important for your writing, if you always wrote from a secure, longtime family home background. My creativity took off with a vengeance at about 48 onwards after I got divorced - menopause made no difference - I'm going through the same sort of phase you are, now much later, about writing, in my case because possibly, of my worsening disability/health draining my energy, or perhaps we all need fallow periods when we just mull and brew and think about shizz.

Umberto Tosi said...

I know this curve in the road - and you describe it well. It was a long time ago from my vantage point of 82 where I see my children as very young women in their mid-50s and dealing with their own passages. I thought it was the end, but it was only where the way turned more serpentine and a bit more potholed. Keep calm and carry on, as you say on your side of the pond. This too will pass, and if you slow down, you may also find the way more interesting.

Unknown said...

I went through exactly the same thing. For me, it was a huge leap of maturity not to crave public success and online popularity through my fiction. I've found much deeper satisfaction from being involved in my local community and writing about that, and other inspirational things in my life through my blog. Embrace the change.

Enid Richemont said...

I have SO much to say about this, but firstly, what a brave and honest post! I went on HRT in my late forties, not because I was menopausal at the time, but because it's a brilliant bone protector, and both I and my mum had osteoporosis. In her fifties, my poor mother could trip over a matchbox and break something, and I didn't want to go that way. I stayed on it very happily until I developed a non-oestrogen-related breast cancer, at which point the NHS would no longer prescribe it for me, in spite of the fact that my cancer was a one-off and had nothing to do with hormones. I miss it like hell.

Creativity-wise, I am equally impressed and shocked by my earlier work - impressed because it's so (seemingly) effortless, original, and good, and shocked because I don't seem to reach that standard any more. However,the publishing scene has changed dramatically over those years, slanted as it is towards debut (young, attractive and marketable) and celebrities who arrive with their own built-in publicity. I'm a lot older than you, Debbie, and you still have far to go creatively - just be patient. And remember Judith Kerr, still working creatively into her Nineties, and Diana Athill at 101 - no crones there!

Sandra Horn said...

There's so much more to it than Maiden, Mother, Crone, Debbie - there's Fantastic Mature Woman. I didn't go for hormone replacement. It was a pretty seamless transition to no-longer-fertile biologically, but full of life in all other ways. It will come.

Debbie Bennett said...

Thanks for all your support, ladies & gents. Many of my friends have gone through this life change - some easily, some with difficulty - but It's reassuring to hear about friends who write (or are creative in other ways). Hopefully I will come through this with a new perspective! I don't think we talk about it enough though. My mum has always claimed she didn't have any problems at that age, and yet looking back now I can see that she did and I just didn't understand at the time - I'm not sure she understood at the time either, as even twenty years ago, it was such a taboo subject....