“Writing is an unpredictable act, for with each new word that is placed on paper, the author moves father away from the original vision… Ultimately, each writer must learn to trust the instinctive direction of the work, but it is not an easy choice, for it often evokes a barrage of inner critical voices. Fortunately these… can be countered by those muse-like angles who reside within…” – Mark Waldman, The Spirit of Writing
I am re-reading The Spirit of Writing because I have decided that 2009 is going to be my year. I want to lock myself away in solitary confinement and get some writing done, finally. I have 6 or 7 ideas milling about inside my head and fear there won’t be room for many more until I bleed the system, pardon the radiator metaphor but I’m still preoccupied with DIY.
So where do I start? I need my own space, for one. We decided when we moved into the house that I could turn the smallest bedroom into a sort of writer’s paradise, because S wants me to write more than I do. Right now the kittens inhabit that space so first I must evict them (they’re going to the vet this month to get the snip) and then I must make the room my own.
I have already chosen the paint color (Jane Austen Blue, I like to call it) and my brain is teeming with ideas which will make the room perfect. I have it all planned out, now all I need is time and the £s to get it done. Sadly, I do not have excesses of either.
Why do I need my own space? Because when I am writing I need to concentrate 150% of my brain on what I am accomplishing at that very instant. I can not have any distractions or interruptions. I must be comfortable and surrounded by whatever I happen to find inspirational, which may change by the hour or by the day. When I wrote my final submission for my thesis for the MLitt, I listened to Snow Patrol non-stop for four days.
“Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.” – Winston Churchill
When I studied at The University of London I was taking a class on myths and legends. I think it was a literary study but I can’t quite remember. The reason I can’t quite remember? I was totally preoccupied. There was a girl in my class, whose name I don’t think I ever knew, who was heart-stoppingly beautiful. She had the most amazing hair, it was perfectly curled into pencil-width corkscrews. And so I started writing.
I have no idea how my brain made the leap from the girl with the perfect hair to beginning to write Mersey, but it did and that was the beginning. She morphed into Treasure, one of the characters in the story. Someday I will finish Mersey, but not before re-writing it completely. At first my characters were in high school, I suppose because I was 19 when I started writing it and that was all I could comment competently on, but when I began the MLitt course and revised and re-wrote Mersey for that course, I changed everything and forced my characters to grow up; something that, in retrospect, did not suit them. So I can only see two options: I am either going to have to send them all through the reality filter or I am going to have to send them back down to high school which, at nearly 45,000 words, may take a while.
But I will never abandon her. There is far too much of me in the piece for me to ever cast it aside and forget about it. I am not sure I am prepared to begin the arduous revision task just yet, but trust me it will get done.
“When I am writing I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up, and go on from darkness into darkness.” – Maya Angelou
The inspiration for what I consider my new ideas is a mystery to me. Sometimes I dream complete scenes from my future works in glorious Technicolor and Surround Sound and when I wake I must, must, must get them down on paper before they evaporate the way dreams do. Often my ideas come to me in whole – the plot of an entire novel from beginning to end. The characters of these particular tales are, as yet, unknown to me but the plot outline is complete. At other times it is the characters that come to me as complete individuals; I know their names, appearances, charms and faults as though they are real people, perhaps simply close friends that I have know from birth. Whatever comes to me first, scenes, plots or people, the fleshing out is my favorite part, combining all the loose threads into the single, tightly-woven fabric of a story. How exhilarating.
So now I must dredge up these new ideas, which is completely and utterly terrifying. My past work, at least, has some recommendation. I have a (very expensive) framed degree on my wall that says just that. This new stuff, though, who is to say that it will be up to scratch? Is it all 100% truly original? Is any writing these days 100% truly original? Will someone jump the gun and somehow publish my ideas before me? Will anyone like what I have to say? Do I have the right to assume and impose my thoughts upon the world?
What will I do when the first negative review comes in?
Unfortunately I do not have the answers to these questions. Mostly because they are rhetorical, but in the long run, I don’t know the answers because thus far I have been too cowardly to find them out.
“In many ways, writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. It’s an aggressive, even hostile act. You can disguise its aggressiveness all you want with veils of subordinate clauses and qualifiers and tentative subjunctive, with ellipses and evasions – with the whole manner of intimating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than stating – but there’s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the reader’s most private space.” – Joan Didion
I have decided, however, that the time has come. I am going to brush up on my vocabulary and my grammar (no 8th grade reading level here, thank you very much) and I am going to knuckle down and see where the path takes me.
I will try my best to write only what I know.
I will try my best to be believable.
I will try my best not to impose too wholly upon the mind of my readers.
I will try my best.
Then it is your turn. You must then try your best. Try your best to accept my work as professional and not simply your daughter’s/friend’s/wife’s attempts at being a professional. Try to be completely honest without being completely devastating. Try to be supportive without being patronizing. Try to put up with my severely decreased social life as I lock myself away into solitary confinement.
While I am asking for things, I have one further request: please try to catch all of my comma-splices; they are, without a doubt, my most favorite grammatical mistake.
And so we go from darkness onwards into darkness.