When The Writing Goes Away…

A blog post by my friend, author Mari Biella, in which she spoke of her current inability to write and the feeling of loss that accompanies this unpleasant and temporary bedfellow, prompted me to re-examine my writing – or lack of it over the last two years. I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t doing any because I didn’t want to.256px-Gustave_Courbet_auto-retrato

After two novels, in one of which I went to dark places that I would rather have avoided, I knew on an unconscious level that I did not want to revisit any of those places. True, there are characters in that particular book I love, none of them human, but the book is all too raw and despite my best attempts to avoid exploitation I don’t think I succeeded. I am better pleased with my first novel, but even it has edges that, like paper, cut secretly and silently.

So, where to? The horror genre is not for me and although I will continue to write short stories in which horror might intrude from time to time – as it does in real life – my last novel was my last horror novel. I see there is another J.D. Hughes on Amazon now, writing Erotica, so that avenue is closed, for which I will thank my daemons!

I think the death of my mother a few months ago was a great influence on my decision. mum-at-wedding2She was the gentlest and most harmless soul who ever walked the earth, a Yorkshire woman through and through with the characteristic ‘say nowt and get on wi’ it’ attitude of her class and generation that made England resilient to successive waves of would be invaders. I was raised in a Yorkshire mining town, so acquired a little by osmosis. It was a stoic resilience exploited by the rich and powerful to ensure the trenches were full of dead, but it was nevertheless an honest and somehow innocent thing that ignored its usage and concentrated instead on its truth.

We were close and her death affected me in many ways beyond explanation, but on a banal level it confirmed what I had known for some time: do no harm, tread lightly and life is short so  we have to fill it with some kind of joy to celebrate the gift. I find myself vague about what I mean by that, but I’m sure it is not the portrayal of the worst elements of humanity in vivid form that enables joy. There is sufficient of that horror every day on our TV screens and although occasionally there is a diamond of light in long form horror fiction, it is, to me now, mostly a gleeful wallowing in darkness and misery.

Those who have read my stories will know that I love history, particularly English history so that might be an avenue I could pursue… but I probably won’t, because it is a relating of past events and I am more interested in the future.

Thriller? Today’s thrillers are visceral and many succeed because of that element, so there is little difference between it and horror, although there are several writers I admire who keep the bloodletting to a minimum with great skill and compassion, yet still manage to weave a compelling and sometimes memorable tale.

I ran through the genres last night and came up with nothing. I considered ‘Literature’, but I have no idea what it is. A beta reader for whom I have much respect said to me once: ‘I love your writing, but it’s way too complicated. Most readers want a story that goes from A to Z with an occasional backtrack into F or P, but not an alphabet jigsaw.’ She did go on to say that all the pieces fitted, but it demanded too much from the reader.

I agree. I get carried away. Mea culpa. I used to like layer cake, too.

I now have a new companion.img_20161107_152048 He came from my Mum’s house (she collected them)  and now has pride of place at my writing desk. He is a simple bear and unsurprisingly his name is Ted. I tried to call him Marcus, after Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, but he refused to take heed when addressed as such, so Ted it is. I have started talking to him, so predictions by one of my more irascible neighbours about my descent into senility are probably not unfounded. It is interesting that he rarely agrees with me, so I have to assume that he is my alter ego, my Id, my subconscious, whatever you want call it, but I asked the question, ‘What should I write?’

It was a stuffed bear moment. His barely visible eyes gleamed a little and I swear his shoulders shook momentarily, but that might have been the whisky – he’s a terrible drinker. His lips didn’t move, since he has an absence of them, but I’m sure I caught a whispered: ‘Whatever you like.’

So that is what I will write. Whatever I like. ‘Like’ is the operative word here. That will be different on different days and will no doubt end up as a terrible mish-mash of genres with abysmally crafted prose and obtuse humour funny to no-one except me and perhaps Ted, after a glass or two.

But I’ve started on it.












About J.D.Hughes

Disclaimer: The profile photo above was taken when I was (briefly) young and cool. Writer, director and recovered ne'er do well. Simply delightful, but quite unhinged supernatural thrillers, NORTHMAN & AND SOON THE SONG on Amazon and several short stories, all of which contain The Meaning of Life. Or one of them. New novel to be published mid 2020, but on current performance might be posthumously... Likes dogs and probably was one in a past life.
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17 Responses to When The Writing Goes Away…

  1. Write what you love. Write because your ideas are too loud to keep in you head.
    Write because you are J,D, Hughes, and I will read what you write!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Terry Tyler says:

    “It was a stoic resilience exploited by the rich and powerful to ensure the trenches were full of dead”. You said it all, bro.

    As for the writing, I was going to say ‘stop worrying about genres and just write the next story that comes to you’, but, happily, you and Ted have already come to that conclusion. I’ve never worried about genre, which is probably why I have never sold as many books as I ‘should’, but I can’t seen any other way to write authentically aside from the way I want to. I tried to write a romcom once. The heroine started to have deep inner dialogue by about the 4th page.

    I wrote a blog post about this genre thing and the fact that I am nipping off down a different alley, last week – I’ll put the link at the end of this in case you want to read it.

    Sorry about your mother; doesn’t make it any sadder just because, at our age, we expect our parents to shuffle off this mortal coil. It’s still sad, though. Hope the writing goes well, and remember – write the story first. Then worry about what damn genre it is!


    Liked by 1 person

  3. J.D.Hughes says:

    Good advice as always, Terry. Thinking about it, both of my books are cross-genre anyway and I don’t have enough readers to disappoint.

    Good Blogspot post about your genre-hopping ambitions: post-apocalyptic is a very fertile ground for a rich imagination, so I will be very interested to read whatever you come up with.


  4. Mari Biella says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your mother, and that you’re not writing. Some writers out there seem to be like machines, and never run into this particular problem – but they’re sometimes also the more commercial writers, who stick to one genre and know exactly what their audiece expects of them. I’m not such a writer and suspect I never could be (not that I’m criticising them – they provide something that lots of people enjoy, and there’s nothing wrong with that). I love horror, even if I personally prefer to write the gentler, more psychological sort of horror – but sometimes it does seem as if you’re digging at the coal face of nastinesss. But if you don’t want to write it anymore, then it would probably be pointless even to try. Better to just write whatever you feel compelled to write, and hope for the best. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. J.D.Hughes says:

    Thank you for your condolences Mari. Your horror writing is of a subtle, insidious nature and extremely frightening for it. More ‘Turn of The Screw’ than ‘Bloodfest On Death Street’ and I love the restraint; less is more. With my last novel, I began to wonder what it was achieving and came up with nothing. But, the project I’ve started should offend every genre purist, so all is not lost.


  6. I am sorry for your loss, J.D. The picture of your mother smiling and so happy makes me happy. Thank you for sharing a little of her light with me.

    As for writing and genre, the truth we are meant to share doesn’t always come in one nicely packaged variety. An artist cannot be true to the message if he forces the message into a mode that does not fit. And I understand how emotionally draining horror can be for the writer, how much it really takes from you. I have found that the stories I tell, and the forms that they take, change as I change. At first, I felt … betrayed? sloppy? fey? But now, I accept that the core truths aren’t here to be shaped to fit my writer’s ego. It’s amazing what happens for me when I let the writing come as it is, not as I wish it to be.

    Please give my best to Ted, what a fellow he is!


    Liked by 1 person

    • J.D.Hughes says:

      Many thanks, Aniko, for your wishes and insight. The picture was taken at the wedding of my youngest son, which she attended on her 99th birthday.. She had a special presentation of a cake and flowers at the reception. She died three days later and true to her character ‘gave no-one any trouble’.

      It’s odd. I enjoy other indie writers horror works – Mari, Paula Cappa, K.S. Bowers – but I think my own desire to write it left with my last novel. As you say, let it come and we will see what happens. Possibly incomprehension…

      Ted send his best wishes to you too. He may be writing his own novel soon, but so far has not gone beyond ‘The bear lived in the woods’.


  7. I was very sorry to hear about your mother. My father-in-law is 92 and we are making every day count with him. As for your writing, DO NOT GIVE UP. So it’s not horror…so be it. But if there’s a story in there in WILL come out. My best advice is to not push it. All things come to those who wait, some wise person once said, and I truly believe that. I myself am trying my hand at crime thrills as a variation from history. Sometimes a step sideways is all that’s needed.
    Keep jotting down thoughts, keep watching people, keep the humour coming as well because I can see it in between the lines. I wish you all the best and ask Ted to be patient.

    Liked by 1 person

    • J.D.Hughes says:

      Thank you, Trisha and my best wishes to your father-in-law. What you are doing is all any of us can do. Hitting the final straight is a solitary adventure, but it’s good to be waved off.

      I won’t stop writing, but it might be free of genre and probably free of structure and comprehension too!

      Good luck with your Crime writing, it is a fertile ground for female novelists at the moment, although why that should be I have no idea. History/Crime is also quite a good area to consider…

      Ted thinks my WIP is rubbish and I have to agree with him. It might become good if I put a picture of a semi-naked person on the front, even though, currently, there is a distinct absence of semi-naked people in it 🙂


  8. colingarrow says:

    I spent a lot of time trying to write what I thought people would be interested in, but now I know I have to write whatever comes out. Generally I’m happy with that, but sometimes it’s a little unexpected and goes off in a different direction. Good luck with finding what it is that makes writing okay for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • J.D.Hughes says:

      Sorry for the lateness of my reply, Colin. I think your conclusion is my conclusion and that must mean we are right since we we have a majority… Best wishes for your writing and whatever direction it takes you in during 2017.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. alhenry says:

    “She did go on to say that all the pieces fitted, but it demanded too much from the reader.”
    This comment took me back to a moment many years ago when an acquaintance, after reading a short story of mine, said, “The writing’s good but you make me think too much.” I was gobsmacked by his words. Until that moment, I had never considered that there was such a thing as too much thinking. As someone who majored in literature, I thought that was the point.
    Still, I would say write what you like.


  10. J.D.Hughes says:

    Either we are incomprehensible or brilliant, Al!


  11. Daniel Kemp says:

    Hello there,
    Firstly allow me to pass on my condolences for your loss. A great shame and a heavy burden. I’ve read all the comments on here and it seems to me, a complete stranger to your work, that you fill yourself with too much worry about ‘doing the right thing, writing in the best fashion and perhaps being the person you suppose yourself to be. Does it matter where you born? Is not as divisive as me saying I was educated at Eton and Oxford? Are we expected to show our ‘class’ by what we choose to write?
    We write what pleases us. If not then we are not us. We are being disrespectful to ourselves and dishonest as well. You can obviously write and tell a story otherwise I would never have got this far. I seldom comment on blog posts.
    Relax and communicate with the bear. He might surprise you. Good luck to you in finding yourself, I would hazard a guess here and say that if you did stop writing the world would be worse off.


  12. J.D.Hughes says:

    Cheers Danny for your kind condolences and thoughts. I’m grateful that you took the time to put fingers to keyboard! It’s perhaps not so much that I’m concerned with ‘doing the right thing’ but rather doing the thing that feels right, which the horror genre stopped being some time ago.

    I agree entirely with your reasoning concerning writing in general. I think the death of my mum caused me to examine my own stuff with a critical eye not born of ego or the market and I didn’t like some of what I saw, although I greatly enjoyed writing my first. So, I will be pleased to follow your advice and write what pleases me. I’m halfway through ‘what pleases me’ and it will need a great editor to make any sense of it at all, but it is what it is. The bear thinks it will be useful as bedding for hibernation, the bugger!


  13. Daniel Kemp says:

    Oscar Wilde once said that he was so clever that he never understood a single word of what he said, therefore, it follows that none of us understand what we do.

    Liked by 1 person

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