Thursday, 28 January 2010

Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.

J.D. Salinger died today.

Catcher in the Rye is one of the books that made me want to be a writer. If ever a book had 'voice' this is IT! Holden Caulfield has to be one of the most convincing teenagers ever created.
Check this out for an opening -

'If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.'

I'll see your Dickens, and I'll raise you...

You just know it's going to be good from that first sentence.

So thanks, J.D., and goodnight. Perhaps Holden could end for me -

'I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in the goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on a Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you're dead? Nobody.'


So here's the thing.....

I am working on what I have coyly and somewhat euphemistically titled my 'longer project'. My plan has been to write 1000 words on each day I have free time and so far it has been working pretty well. Although today I am somewhat avoiding the page.

I am writing longhand into a notebook. I am just simply writing a story as it comes to me. I don't know if it will be a long short story or a novella or a novel, I am just writing what comes. This is in pretty much stark contrast to my other writing which has been very planned out. The problem is that when I have tried to plan novels, I have become so obsessed with researching, with planning every detail in every chapter, and I have thought about the characters so much, that actually writing it has become an insurmountable obstacle, so daunting that I don't even start.

So I have decided to try something different. A change is as good as a rest, so they say. And let's face it, it can't be any more disastrous a result than failing to actually write anything at all.

One thing I have found is that if I miss a day for any reason, even if I write double one day because I know I won't have time the next, it is really hard to get back into it again. I think that's my problem today. Which is why I'm blogging about it, not doing it. So I think the answer to that is - don't stop. Ever. No days off!! It's like my car, which is fine once you get it going, but if it stalls, you're done for as it won't start again.

So shall quit stalling!

Monday, 25 January 2010

Why I haven't always written...

Funnily enough, the reason I haven't always maintained my creative writing through my life is related to memory too.

I have always written diaries, or letters or poems or little stories, ever since I was a child. In my teens though, things changed. Firstly I became self-conscious about myself and therefore my writing, and this worsened as I became a lover of books, of other peoples' writing. This translated into studying other peoples' writing, at A Level, Degree level and Masters. Consequently, my own writing became a source of shame when compared to the masters and mistresses of literature that I was reading. Also, I was a young woman, unconfident and trained out of my creative aspects by my traditional academic education. I suspect this is not an uncommon story for your thirty-something middle-class woman. I certainly know a lot of people who would have followed a more creative path had it not been for the expectations of their parents and schools.

So it took a long time, probably near enough ten years, after studying literature, for me to be able to pick up a pen again. I needed to give myself time to forget. And time to live a little. And even so, it has been, and continues to be, a epic struggle against a strong internal critic, who picks apart everything to find the weaknesses.

But things are slowly improving. I find it easier these days just to get something down and worry about the quality later. I feel happier about it not being good. I feel more instinctively that writing is all about the process. I feel about my writing pretty much the way I do about my life:- It's ok to make mistakes because who cares? I care a lot less about what other people think than I used to. I am prepared to take more risks because there is only today, and everything else is a promise or a memory.

Today I will write.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Why I write

I was chopping some carrots for tea tonight with a small red paring knife and I suddenly thought to myself; where did this knife come from? I had absolutely no idea whether I had bought it or been given it by someone, and when this might have happened. The same thing has started to happen with clothes. I get a t-shirt out and I think, I can't remember where I got this or when. I used to know exactly where everything in my house came from. Who had bought it for me or where I bought it, what I was thinking that day and who was with me, even sensations felt whilst using/wearing that item. Like my very first pair of drainpipe jeans I was wearing when I had my first kiss on that draughty staircase. But now things are starting to slip. I don't have perfect recall. There's just too many things to keep track of now that I'm sharing a house and a lot of headspace with three other people. And because my life is so full, I can't possibly remember everything all the time. I have to make lists just to get through the week.

And that brings me to writing. The other day I was wondering why I write, why I spend such a lot of time either doing it or thinking about doing it. And I think it is because everything is so fragile and precious and passes so quickly and I really want for time to stand still sometimes, which I know it can't, and so I try to get it down, capture it before it is gone forever. But I am quite bad at doing this. There are so many things; ideas, quotations, overheard remarks, observations, that never make it too the page because life just gets in the way. So that is why I write; for me. To help me remember/allow me to forget/place in order/accept there is no order to/ this life.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Back to normality

After all the snow and ice, things are finally starting to return to normal with the melting slush. This is the bit about the snow I hate. I love love love the proper white stuff, but when it starts going all mushy and brown, I can take or leave it. The kids are back at school for the start of what I hope is a normal week. And I am finally able to put into practice my New Years resolution of committing to writing on a daily basis.

I have been writing morning pages for a few months now. I can't believe how beneficial this has become for me. There is something about splurging onto paper your conscious niggly worries, things that have been keeping you awake, scraps of dreams and strange semi-conscious thoughts. There is something about those few minutes of dream-like state after waking that enables you to almost cross the rubicon into your subconscious. And knowing you never have to read anything you have written ever again is a liberation. I'm sure that a lot of what comes out of me is absolute rubbish, stuff and nonsense. But it doesn't matter. It is the act of doing it that is important.

So, I have been writing three or four pages daily in the mornings, but I want to build on that by embarking on a longer project, on which I will work every day. Ideally I would like to get 1000 words down every day that I have free time (that's 4 days a week) so 4000 words a week.

That's the goal.

This is the first day.

Let's see what happens....

Monday, 4 January 2010

New Year's here...

I have been neglecting this blog terribly. In fact, I've been neglecting a lot of things terribly, particularly when it comes to my own creative work. Somehow, being a mum of small kids, and not working, being quite well-organised and quite busy, all adds up to people asking you to do things for them. All the time. So since September I have been really quite bad at saying no, bad at prioritising my tasks, bad at treating my own creative work with the seriousness it deserves. I have been good at being occupied with lots of tasks for other people, but who wants that on their headstone - ''She was always busy".

So, my resolution to myself this New Year is to cut down my outside commitments, and bulk up my inside ones - the ones to my writing and music and creative things.
Because they are commitments in the truest sense and if they are not met, then the balance of life is not right. And resentment and discontentment creep in. And no-one wants that.

So let's raise a glass to acknowledging those deepest commitments, and stepping towards meeting them in 2010.