We are in a state of chaos, but I have no right to complain. It might have been my husband’s idea for a conservatory, but it will be me who most benefits from the children having an eating/homework/craft area away from food preparation. And I nagged him for a new kitchen- one that is possible to keep clean, where there’s a place for everything. In fact, I was on a high yesterday talking to my friends about it. “Poor you!” they said. My response: “But, I’m thinking how great it’ll be in the end. I’ll be able to invite people round without apologising.” 24 hours later, the peppiness has worn off.
It will be worth it. Thanks to IKEA’s handy kitchen planner, I don’t need to close my eyes to imagine it. Actually, it’s easier to invite people round in some ways at the moment- no one expects a building site to be tidy and there’s water for coffee, most of the time.
But it’s made me think about vision. I found my first novel easy to draft, because I had no idea how far I was away from finishing. I guessed months rather than years. It always felt close. Every time I got a bit of plot right or found something new about a character, it seemed as if that was the thing stopping everything else from falling into place. And I knew what I wanted in the end- a family saga where the family was created by single friends. I had something clear in my mind.
Starting my second book was very different, even unhampered by the expectations published novelists have to contend with. For months, I thought I’d gone off writing. It was a relief to find it was only this particular novel. I could probably write several pages on why it didn’t work, but I couldn’t see the final product in my head. It is sitting in the hard drive of my old computer and I’m happy about that.
I’ve a new story gestating, but I can imagine this one finished too.
People told me I’d enjoy blogging. I really should have started a long time ago, but there were several things putting me off.
One was the idea anything I wrote would be out there, for people to find forever. (Please someone, tell me it’s not true Facebook can read the comments you’ve deleted before posting!) But I really shouldn’t have worried. My husband performed a google search the other day, using my name, ‘blog’ and ‘writing badly’, and he couldn’t find me on any page. Next on my to-do list is sorting out my SEO.
The other main deterrent was the idea I’d need to expose my deepest self to be authentic. But I now realise, I can share thoughts I might speak aloud at the school gate (if it wouldn’t further my reputation for being a bit intense).
Thank you for reading this, because it makes the fun I’m having feel worthwhile.
I went to watch a singer-songwriter friend perform at a talent showcase yesterday. It was fascinating and inspiring, particularly as someone who would like to be ‘discovered’ in their own medium.
The first thing to be admired was the courage with which everybody was putting themselves out there. There was only one girl who was professional. But the other five were being brave, and if they achieved nothing else, getting experience performing.
Andrew was first on stage. I don’t think it’s just because I know him that I enjoyed his performance most. I think it’s because he’d written his own (good) songs. He was doing something original, with influences from the Jam and the Cure.
Sometimes it’s hard to see what makes success as a writer. Yesterday, the difference between professional and amateur seemed pretty clear. If the professional vocalist made a slip, I’m not musical enough to notice. At least one other girl had an equally beautiful tone, but she hit a few wrong notes, and seemed less confident. The difference seemed to be training and practice.
Finally, I was struck by the generosity of the woman running the event. The company is a PR agency, but they weren’t charging people to perform or to attend. At the end of each act she sat with them to give them feedback and suggest ideas to further their career. She seemed equally generous with everyone, regardless of the likelihood they’d develop into paying clients.
As I say, I came away inspired.
It’s exactly the middle of January, and I’m trying to be glad I set myself weekly goals fifteen days ago. I always meant to be reasonable with myself. I never expected I’d manage a ‘selfish writing’ slot everyday, or perfectly scheduled blog posts. I’m tired and I edited my synopsis today (again!) That’s writing of sorts, but not the drafting to which I committed myself.
I’m interested- when do reasons become excuses? When does being kind to yourself become lack of discipline? I’m not beating myself up about it, but I’m aware of the momentum I’ve built up since New Year and don’t want to lose it.
As I have with running. A year ago, I was going out three times a week- Tuesday, Thursday and parkrun on Saturday. It didn’t feel quite right if I missed one of these… until I suffered a hamstring injury. By the time it was sorted out five months later, I’d lost speed, but more importantly I’d lost momentum. I didn’t need to go out, and to be honest I didn’t want to. (Thank goodness for parkrun where all I have to do is turn up.) I don’t want the equivalent to happen with my writing.
I’m learning that all ideas and their parts, are a commodity and should be treated with respect. It’s easy to do these with the almost fully formed ones that come with instructions for use, but more difficult with odd thoughts that may or not be useful at some point later on.
I’m a bit of a sucker for TED talks. In the one below, Raphael DiLuzio talks of the seven steps of creative thinking.
As I said in 2016 goal- to write badly, one of my major aims this year is to write with an emphasis on quantity rather than quality. Inspired by Emma Darwin, I’m writing for my own satisfaction, 45 minutes each weekday, stopping to change things as little as possible. The results, just over a week into the new year, are a revelation to me. I’m quite painlessly producing between 700 and 900 words. This means, I have drafted one short story and started another, in just over a week. My experience with Camp Nanowrimo a few years ago, wasn’t a one-off, then. More is more.
Because although I wouldn’t want anybody to read what I’ve written yet, I’m pleased with the potential in those stories. For once, there’s enough material to structure into something people might want to read.
Last time I submitted a short story, I received feedback along the lines of,”This reads too much like a Jane Austen novel.” I nursed my wound for half an hour and then cheered up. It wasn’t the nastiest criticism someone could have levelled at a piece about the domestic side of Abolition. I took it as a sign I should stick to longer work.
Of course, previously, I’d spent years with the same cast of characters. I thought I was drafting without worrying about editing, but I created my structure first. Here I was, trying to put people I didn’t know half as well into something manufactured. Even I, its author, found it a bit lifeless. This week, as I’ve written fast, characters and story have naturally developed. Dialogue has formed. And I now have something that feels more like plasticine, and less like sticklebricks to mold. I suspect this, completely unrevolutionary technique, will prove a much easier and more efficient way of working.
I’ve reached the end of the honeymoon stage with my short story. I need to remind myself why I’m writing it. It would be (very) nice to have something published, but it’s chiefly an exercise. The only way to learn how to write a story of this length, is on the job.
So, I’m having fun, with serious purpose, throwing ideas at it to see what is and what is not possible. I’ve joked about trying out second person point-of view. This time I’ve done it for real (and discovered why it’s so unpopular.)
By the end of last week I had words, characters with desires and weaknesses, but no story. I didn’t know that was the problem. I just knew it wasn’t working and I didn’t know what to do with it next. It felt amorphous, and even with the weird POV, wasn’t much fun to write.
Half the work for me with fiction, is working out why something isn’t right yet. Once I’ve identified the problem, I can formulate an approach. In this case, something needs to change my character’s heart at the right pace. I don’t know what that something is yet, but I’ve made progress.