I am feeling so blah. Really. The weather here is grey and dreary and oppressive, I can’t work up any enthusiasm for any of the projects I have on the go and what’s worse than that, I don’t even have anything to blog about. Well, that’s not strictly true: I could write about any of the books I’ve finished but not yet reviewed, including the brilliant Josipovici’s In A Hotel Garden, and the extremely entertaining The Importance of Being Kennedy by Laurie Graham. I said to a fellow blogger I’d write about the French Algerian writer Assia Djebar who is just fascinating on the troubled place of the woman in a post-colonial Islamic culture. I’ve also promised myself I’ll embark on a series of more personal posts about mothering as I need the writing practice (although I might post them at What We Said rather than here). But they all seem to require energy I don’t possess. What do you people do when you are in a slump? I thought once I had my results and could be assured of good health I would skip away into the bright, sunshiny future without a care on my shoulders, full of vim and verve for my chosen occupations. And instead here I am beached on the sofa without the merest flicker of desire to even fill in a meme about my favourite authors. What’s going on?

Anyway, whilst I was trying to dream up something to write about, I found one of those online personality tests and had a go. I answered all the questions, reached the end and was told that for the princely sum of twenty quid I could have a 100-page report. Well, no thanks. So I thought no more about it, but when I checked my email I had been sent a brief sample and it rather tickled me. Apparently the idea is to measure my personality against the ‘average’ whatever that may mean, and I had numerical results for the qualities of extroversion and emotionality. It will come to no surprise to anyone who knows me that I am not exactly an extrovert. ‘You are somewhat less outgoing than the average female is,’ the report declared. ‘Most females like to keep themselves busy with continuous interaction, conversations, and the company of others. You also enjoy these things, but having some time on your own is equally important to you. This is one of the guiding parts of your personality.’ It was the figures that cracked me up. Out of a hundred on the extrovert scale, the average female scores 67, the average male 51, and the average me? 10. My husband crowed when he heard that. ‘They got that bit right!’ he said. I’m not sure; I think they may have overestimated it.

The results for emotionality were more of a surprise. ‘You are more relaxed and calm than the average female and male are when it comes to stress and feeling intense emotions. The average female and male are more reactive to their feelings and mood swings than you are. Your balanced way of dealing with emotions is a guiding part of your personality.’ As to the numbers, average female 76, average male, 74 and me, 59. My first response was: YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING! I mean, I’ve hardly felt like a relaxed and calm individual over the past few months and feeling intense emotions is generally something I’ve done a couple of times before breakfast. I related this part of the test to my husband. ‘I’m sorry, you?’ he said. ‘I thought we must have moved on to talking about somebody else.’ When I got to the bit about having a balanced way of dealing with emotions, however, his eyes narrowed. ‘Wait a minute. You answered that test as an academic, didn’t you? Not as a normal person.’ ‘No I didn’t!’ I said, defensively, trying to replay the questions in my mind, and remembering that my husband’s score, on a day when he was feeling particularly emotionally incontinent, might just about climb up to minus ten. But it did occur to me that whilst I do feel at prey to intense emotions, I also make an effort to deal with them philosophically. If I didn’t try to steer a middle course, I’d be having mood swings left, right and center and confusing myself. And given that I do like to spend as much time as possible on my own, can you imagine how irritating that would be?

Well, the basis for my results in both parts of the test could well be found in my response to just about any situation, which is to pick up a book. I’ve just finished one and so I do have the ever-pleasing job of picking something new. I may even treat myself to one fiction and one non-fiction. Heading the list of possibles at the moment:


The Private Lives of Pippa Lee – Rebecca Miller

Constance – Rosie Thomas

Cleopatra’s Sister – Penelope Lively

The Mathematics of Love – Emma Darwin


Alfred and Emily – Doris Lessing

Nothing To Be Frightened Of – Julian Barnes

Bad Blood – Lorna Sage

The Yellow House – Martin Gayford

And I’m at the stage where I would like to start them all. Enough pointless wittering – I’m going to get some reading done.


20 thoughts on “Uninspired

  1. I think you can allow yourself to embrace the blah for a bit. You have been through a trauma, and I think you should go easy on yourself. Let the world float by for a while, reach out only for that which truly interests you and let go that which doesn’t. I am sure your energy and your deep interest in everything around you will return.

  2. Given all that’s been going on and its reincarnation in your recent posts, it will probably take a while to fully come out of it. I think there’s often a slump after any period of effort, which is what you’ve been through though you may not think of it as that. So take a little time out, don’t get anxious about not being anxious! The booklist offers only one I’ve read, the Lively, which I didn’t think as good as her others, which I generally think are very good and I’ve read nearly all of them. Hope you’re fully functional soon.

  3. There seems to be slumpish-ness afoot everywhere…I know it’s running rampant here on my side of the Atlantic.

    But I agree with the two comments above – after the trauma you’ve been through, you’re emotionally exhausted and need some time to even things out.

    I was chuckling all through your description of the personality test. I’m sure my scores on the extrovert/introvert portion would fall right into that bottom 10%!

  4. Yep, there are a couple of reasons that you’re in a slump. First–it’s the summertime blahs. It happens to me (and probably a bunch of other people) every August, usually right before school starts. Second–you’ve just been through a physically and emotionally draining experience. Your body and your mind need some downtime, so don’t despair if you feel like a turnip right now. In a week or two, you’ll wake up raring to do twelve things at once. I guarantee it!

  5. Charlotte – thank goodness there wasn’t a score for patience on that test, or it would have been another embarrassing mark! I will try to embrace the blah and not think of all the things I need to get on with. I know you are quite right and that I’ll feel better for it in the end. Bookboxed – oh I do agree; it did all seem like quite a lot of effort. And I’m taking to heart your comment about anxiety! I’ve had to cross the Lively off the list because when I looked it over I realised I had already read it! I’ve begun Alfred and Emily at the moment, and it’s quite strange but a very easy read. Becca – I’m very glad to know it’s not just me that’s in a slump (or indeed not just me who’s a hopeless recluse!). And thank you for your kind words; you are a sweetheart to be so comforting. Chartroose – I am still laughing at your sentence ‘don’t despair if you feel like a turnip right now.’ That’s hilarious – it’s just how I feel! And I have every reason to trust your ESP, don’t I? And I think you’re right – this time of year isn’t good for getting things done. Too stuffy!

  6. My love, you are in the after-schlump of a miserable time. Your prospect of continued life has been confirmed, but said life didn’t automatically undergo an upgrade into being, ooh, I don’t know, whose life were you after? Presumably a combination of several wildly prolific, cross-disciplinary writers with enigmatic cheekbones? Mmm. Nup. Sorry. And none of them are like you. And we’re reading your blog, because theirs tend to the deathly and side-swiping and self-exculpatory, and yours is funny, and gentle, and ridiculously erudite without excluding the power of the mundane. This is the normality you were craving. It’s just that, like sugarless ice-cream, it tasted better in the anticipation than the consumption.
    (And it’s August. And being stalwart Brits, we are managing once again to let dreams of dappled sunlight and picnic blankets overwhelm our collective memory: THERE IS NO BRITISH SUMMER. Enid Blyton lied.)
    And you understandably decided to give the right answers to the test, not the true answers, and all psychologists know about that. They account for it. But we are as interesting, as much ourselves, in what we aspire to be, as in the ruthless accounting for our actual behaviour. Even when you haven’t got the energy to grasp and pull yourself upwards, there’s still the self that yearns for the self that can, and the gulf between the parallel existences is the literary point, isn’t it? Charlotte is absolutely right – embrace the blah.
    If all else fails, dance to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fncfW9XlKRY (Je m’excuse, but anyone who can lip-synch seamlessly under assault from a chicken deserves a wider audience.)

  7. When my father died (many years ago now) I cut back on work from 5 to 3 days a week, thinking, what on earth is so important about work? Maybe publishing or writing or xxxx would fit the bill. I think death asks (no, shouts)that question. What is worth our time. Is anything worth our time? Mind, I don’t think this attitude is helpful. Maybe this is just me. I can remember at about 12 wondering, why should i do anything if i’m just going to die? My kierkegaard (SP) sort of response: i might as well choose to be entertained than bored. I might as well risk writing even if no one reads it. I might as well rest today, because i feel like a slug? Hot bath and books. you bet.

    …oh, and I do love “wittering”. –op

  8. No doubt you’re coming down off a nice emotional high and are feeling blah-ish. All things considered I wouldn’t worry about not feeling inspired to post. I seem to have that problem a lot lately, only I have no excuse. And I generally don’t even have things I can think about posting about even if I did have the energy. I’m sure your vim and vigor will return soon enough. Definitely a new book is a good solution (and I say go for one of each!:) ). I’ve read Rosie Thomas, but not that one. And I have the Emma Darwin book and would love to hear about what you make of it. As for the NF–they are all new to me! And I had to chuckle over your results for that personality test (and your husband’s comments). I think I am very much the same when it comes to being an extrovert. I think I am too introverted sometimes! But I think I would fail miserably on the emotional aspect of the test. I think I am too emotional, though I try and hide it as much as I can. I’d love to be able to keep a stiff upper lip (or however the saying goes), but even a weepy Kleenex commercial might have me a dribbling fool! Anyway, enjoy finding a good book (or two) to read!

  9. Litlove – just dropping by to say hi and send good thoughts. I loved The Importance of Being Kennedy. Have you read her earlier one Gone with the Windsors? also in diary form, purporting to be a friend of Wallis Simpson, very very funny

  10. I’ve been feeling sort of restless and less than motivated myself these days. Not sure what’s going on. Nothing’s happened. In fact, thankfully, everything is going great. I want to do something, but don’t have the energy to do anything.

  11. It took me a long time to figure out that when I was in a slump, it was because I needed to rest, not because I was lazy. Listen to what your body/brain are telling you and just hang out. You will snap back into creativity more quickly that way!
    I think most of us here fall in that bottom 10% – blogging makes interactions so easy because you can choose when you want to interact, or you can just close the door. Plus, no one interrupts when you are talking! (That’s the best part.)
    Hang in there, go easy on yourself, have fun with whichever book you choose.

  12. Dear Fugitive – how do you manage to be so funny and so wise at the same time? What a wonderful comment from you! Although I think you’ve been inside my brain again, and it’s not always very nice in there. You’re so right that I’ve idealised normality, and probably decided that I earned a life upgrade from the hassle and stress, but it doesn’t really work that way, does it? Where can we complain about Enid Blyton? And the video is tres marrant! At last, it’s suggested to me the perfect job for my son as a backing dancer. Sweetie, if you do ever find a life going begging of a prolific, cross-disciplinary writer (and I’ll take the cheekbones, too), maybe on ebay perhaps, do let me know 😉 Openpalm – you are very good at putting your finger right on the bruise. It’s true, I do feel rather unmotivated, and I can see there’s a very healthy progression there towards doing what feels right rather than what appeases the universe. Hot bath and books sounds VERY good to me! Danielle – and yet you post every day and write wonderfully no matter what! But new books are always good, aren’t they? They always make me feel better. I’m in very good company if you feel too introverted! But the emotionality may surprise you as I would have said I’m exactly the same. They haven’t made the film yet that won’t find me crying at some point 🙂 JB – now that is the million dollar question! You’re right, I’m terrible for always saying to myself, what’s next on the list? It does seem much more reasonable to think about what I’d like to do just at present. Dear David – that is a rather touching video. You’re not exactly a stranger, but you can have a cyber hug. Here you go: {{{{{dbd}}}}} Elaine – it’s lovely to see you! I haven’t read the Windsor book by her but it sounds wonderful. I read Perfect Meringues years ago (it was one of her first, I think) and I enjoyed it a lot, but the Kennedys novel was just fantastic. I would love to read more by her. Lisa – well, it’s always reassuring to know that other people feel the same in a completely different context. It must just be that August-oppressive-weather thing. Thank you for the comforting thought! Dear Qugrainne – such wise words from you! I have such a tendency to override my natural inner compasses because I hate the thought of falling behind on work (and I am soooooo far behind). But you’re quite right – nothing’s going to get better until I’ve done a bit of inner processing. And I do agree about blogging. I think this is the very best distance to people I’ve ever found. Support entirely without intrusion!

  13. I’m with everybody else here who’s said that it’s no surprise that you’re feeling exhausted at the moment. You put so much emotional energy into the sort of experience you’ve just been through that you need time to recharge. Don’t push yourself too hard. It will come.

  14. Litlove, slumps happen. Be nice to yourself and eventually you’ll feel your energy return. Whenever that happens to be, you must promise to write about the Josipovici book! As for personality tests, I had to take the Myers-Briggs at work several years ago as part of “team building” and I came out INTJ (introvert, intuitive, thinking, judging) and it was really no surprise. What was interesting was finding out about the way other personality types operate and why some of them annoy me so much 🙂

  15. I think Becca is right: there’s a slumpishness afoot. Slumpishness. I love that word.

    Yours isn’t the first writer’s blog I’ve read this on. I admit to feeling a bit slumpy myself.

    So… where was the test? Wast it a Myers-Briggs type, or not?

  16. Ann – I am trying to be patient! It’s not one of my most notably qualities… But I know you’re right. Resting now will be better for me in the long-term than trying to catch up the time I’ve missed, tempting as that sounds. Stefanie – I promise faithfully to write about Josipovici just as soon as I can do him justice! I’m interested in Myers-Briggs as I’ve never got to do any personality testing and it would be good to know in advance who will turn out to be annoying and why that should be 🙂 ! Eve – well, it is always reassuring to know I am in good company! I don’t think the test was proper Myers-Briggs. I just found it online when I was idly surfing, and given that I won’t be paying the full price for it, it’s information will be forever lost to me! But I’d like to do the Myers-Briggs one day as I think it would be most interesting. Do hope you also feel less slumpy very soon.

  17. I’m not a great fan of answer-type personality tests as I think the answers are really very subjective. A score of 74 for one person could mean something totally different for somebody else. But I do think the Myers-Briggs is quite a good test. I hope the blah-feeling is a temporary one.

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