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Author: lynn

Pregnant pause

lava lamp You know those days when it has to rain and doesn’t. People say ‘It feels like rain’ but nothing happens. The sky is heavy and colourless, the air clammy. Nothing can be right again until it has rained. That’s what it’s like inside my head. Not writing makes me miserable. But writing is hard and the process of doing it makes me miserable sometimes. Creative writing is not my job, so many people’s response to my pained complaint that I haven’t written with a look that says ‘And?’ Why should it matter? It’s only a hobby after all. Try knitting or, better still, join a gym. I said this to the lovely CF and she said: ‘Don’t they think you’d choose something easier if it was just a hobby? Tap dancing is a hobby.’ (Personally, I found tap dancing very hard when I attempted it aged 13.) Writing is a compulsion. When it goes well it can be satisfying, but still you have to get over the hurdle of believing that it’s going well. How can you tell? It never seems to come out quite as well as you thought it possibly might. There is always something you can improve. You put it down and pick it up an hour, a week, a year later and realise all the things that are wrong with it – and how utterly shit you are as a writer. But you keep picking it up and you keep trying something new because you must. Although sometimes, the hurdle of insecurity is so enormous that you can’t get over it. In fact you are paralysed by the certainty that any attempt to do so will bring pain and humiliation (not unlike my attempt at running the 200m hurdles at school sports day). This blog in itself is an exercise in overcoming the critic in my head who says: ‘They’ll laugh. You’ll reveal how crap you are. You have nothing to say. And you’ll say it badly. You know your command of grammar can be shaky. And all those clichés.’ My critic has a lot to say for himself and never knows when to shut up. If I can do this to fight the bastard perhaps it will build my muscles and help me to get him on the ropes (cliché alert).

Turkey or the egg?

Turkey or the egg
Am I depressed because I can’t write or can I not write because I’m depressed? Which comes first? This blog is becoming more of a non-writing blog than a writing blog. The lovely CF, writing mentor, published novelist and good egg, suggested two possible techniques to overcome the problem. Firstly, set yourself a small task, such as writing 500 words a day or for just an hour. Apparently this is what Marian Keyes is doing to overcome the writer’s block she has faced due to severe depression (not that I place either my writing or depression on a par with hers). However, even that seems too great a hill to climb. The other suggestion was to write some back story or a single incident from the novel I am (was) working on, something that I never intend to be part of the finished narrative. The idea is that this will remove the pressure of carrying on with the novel whilst getting me going writing about those characters and ideas again. Nope. There’s nothing there. It’s as though the creative synapses in my head are dead. Whatever is the source of original words and thoughts, I am cut off from it. Every word has to be pulled from a pit under deep brambles, dragged through sharp thorns, and all you find yourself left with is a squashed, oozy syllable. I hold pen to paper and nothing happens. I have nothing to write. My Beloved suggests, practically, that I get on with it or give up – I’m wasting his time ranting on and on about it saying the same things, apparently. I’ve always maintained that practical writing, like this blog and writing marketing and training materials, comes from a different place from the creative writing. This seems to be further proof. I don’t want proof! I want back in to that other place! (And for my aforementioned Beloved to learn more sensitivity.)

Beautiful (hand)writing

HandwritingI went into see some young writers at my son’s primary school today. I went into run a story writing workshop with them a few weeks ago and went back to see how they were getting on. One of them is bubbling with words and ideas. She is working on chapter eight of her book. I don’t remember ever aspiring to write a whole book when I was 10. I wrote stories, but nothing longer than a few pages. (I wonder if the fact that they’re using word processors has any effect on this?) Looking at the work of this handful of kids who had taken up the challenge to join the writers’ group, I wondered what made someone a ‘writer’. When kids are young the ability to form letters before your peers makes you a gifted writer. Later it’s about spelling and the basics of grammar. At some point, though, you have to move beyond mastery of the building blocks to creating something with them. This is what I’m hoping to help these kids with. The ones with a desire to say something, with a passion for expressing themselves in words, using words to bring to life something that exists in their heads, these will be the writers – however messy their handwriting is.

Stop sulking!

sulkingI’m stuck. I’m not writing. All that time theorising and checking commas for an assignment has smothered my muse. My characters were alive in my head. Now they’ve become bored waiting and wandered off. There’s an empty stage. Dust. Tumbleweed. I’m sorry. Come back. I don’t want to ignore you. They made me. Now I’ve done my annual accounts, cleared out my son’s old toys, weeded the garden, and painted the hall and dining room (duck egg blue and mango orange – you probably won’t be seeing me featured in House Beautiful any time soon). You have to come back and save me from myself. We need to get going on the novel again. Hello?

Help or hindrance?

Spring

Write a blog, they say. Get your words out there into the world. Get your name out there. It’ll help if you want to get published. Yes, but (apparently I say this a lot), I’ve only just admitted to myself that I’d like to be published and I haven’t finished anything to be published yet. So, do I write the novel or write the blog? The answer has been made for me by my muse – it’s buggered off on holiday having been smothered by a critical commentary for assessment as part of my MA course. And here I am. Now what?