“the hours I am able to write each day are the hours in which I feel most unconstrained by the falsity and compromise that is an inescapable part of participating in this world, and which neither I nor anyone I know has been able to avoid.”

anuk arudpragasam

read the whole interview on solitude, compromise and publishing that first novel on lithub

 

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coffee and reading anais

 

that is a joke title ’cause it hasn’t been all shiny. I mean, the first day after I quit my job and started writing full-time was amazing. the days leading up to that day were exciting. anticipation for shiny newness is seriously the best, right? but learning how to work alone was really hard for me. I felt super lonely. and reading my work back was excruciating. three and a half months in, what I’ve learnt is that getting up every day and spending that day by myself doing something that no-one cares if I do or not, is really weird.

but I’m getting used to it.
I realised just how much I’ve gotten used to it when my kid told me it was his college holidays, and that my quiet house-to-myself days were about to be interrupted (and it’s not like he’s little anymore, so it wasn’t that he’d be super demanding etc).

so what have I been doing? In the first two months I worked at the writers’ room most days. I pounded out over 20,000 words and was really focused on how much I could get done and how quickly. I really felt like I had to spend all day, every day writing, like, for hours.

then we had a couple of family holidays which were so awesome, but my flow was interrupted and when I tried to pick up where I’d left off, I couldn’t. I needed some perspective on my work. I’d kinda just sat down and started a vomit draft, but suddenly I felt like I needed to clean it up.

after that I spent quite a bit of time at home trying out a few different things. I tried reading out loud. re-writing passages and pages in different tenses, different POVs etc. I’ve never written a book before, so absolutely everything is trial and error. everything is new to me.

then I cut about half of my draft. I started again at about 10,000 words. I decided to slow down. I am trying to be more gentle with myself. I get less words down in a day, but hopefully that means I’ll cut less later.

I’ve found a daily routine. a mix of what I have to do, what I want to do, and what will allow me to do it (a lot of sun, thinking time, and coffee.)

I’m more flexible with my time. at first I was really strict about writing only in the hours I spent at the writers’ room. now sometimes I’ll write a bit at night, which helps if I feel like I didn’t get enough done during the day.

it’s going pretty well, I reckon.

also, I realise I’m in a super privileged position to be doing this at all. (hashtag grateful) but also I really am. (prayer hands emoji.)

 

p.s if  you’re interested in hearing about writing and process, this unladylike podcast with charlotte wood and paddy o’reilly is the business.

 

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I just spent a few days reading over the first part of the draft* of my book.

I printed it out. got my pen ready. started to read it out loud.

at first it was okay. then it was boring. then it was painful.

then it was so hard to keep going that I was literally reading a few lines, groaning loudly, then looking at the internet. hitting up the facebook. etc

definitely the lowest point was the day I went to bed crying and woke up crying ’cause I felt like I couldn’t face another day of reading my shite.

when mark left for work, I was literally under my covers in a fetal position, sobbing. he kissed my head and left.

 

I was this cat.

sad cat

 

 

but today, today! just now I finished reading the draft in its entirety and I feel better. I feel like some of it’s definitely shite, but some of it’s okay. and now I’m up to the first round (of what I expect will be many rounds) of making the shite parts better. or deleting them.

this video helped me feel like I wasn’t so alone. and also, I think the groaning? it did NOT help. talking about it helped. crying helped. seeing my friends helped. taking a break helped. finishing the reading helped.

 

now I’m this cat.

okay cat

 

ready to get on to the next part. wish me luck.

*I didn’t know I’d need to read back the draft so soon, thought I’d finish the whole first draft, but this is maybe…a third? 60 pages, 20,000-ish words.

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‘your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you. you can tell it’s still sort of crappy.’

ira glass

two months ago I quit my job as digital editor of child mags to write full-time, which means I’m kind of living my dream life.

except that I miss people. I miss external deadlines. I miss company. and even though I’m making good progress with my word count, I feel like: will I ever get my writing to where I want it to be? and I have so much crap writing out there! so much! argh.

anyways, I badly needed to hear these words from ira today. if you’re a creative who hasn’t seen these videos, you might like them too.

 

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“…have patience with everything unresolved in your heart…

try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. and the point is, to live everything. live the questions now. perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

rilke

from letters to a young poet

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“the most beautiful and exquisite things that can happen in your life are the lies you tell yourself. the dreams that you have that will never be realised. the utopian paradise that can happen – that will never happen – but it sort of gets you through life. and it’s as beautiful as the truth of existence.”

catherine mcclements

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a lovely soul sent this message to me a good couple of years ago. Recently I came across it and decided it was time to finish my response (see point 3). Hopefully it’s better late than never.

dear bron,

i just want to start with saying your blog(s) are such a great source of inspiration and entertainment to me (they may have taken place of any other reading material). you really do have a great gift of expression and i admire it. I am still ever so new to the blogging world and have really appreciated the small messages you leave me. Seen as i am slowly educating myself about this blog thing, i was wondering if you would have any wise words of advice or tips on getting things going and things to keep in mind.

much appreciated

 

Dear Friend,

I want to start by saying it is very awesome of you to send me this email. It means so much to me that anyone at all would be entertained or inspired by anything I do, so thank you for totally making my day.

Wise words about blogging? I’m really not sure I’m qualified, but I’ll do my best. Here are 10 things I’ve learnt about what matters when it comes to blogging, in no particular order.

1.  Know why you’re doing it. You don’t have to tell anyone else, but you need to know. It will help you know when to say yes, when to say no, and where your boundaries are on everything from the topics you write about, to the kind of photos you post, to whether or not to monetise (accept paid advertising) on your blog. If your goal is to blog as your true self, then go for it with all the honesty you can muster.

2. Try to be brave. Don’t worry too much about making mistakes, or about what other people might think of your blog. This is really hard, but important for your sense of self and sanity.

3. ‘Done’ is better than perfect. It can be hard to put yourself out there and hit publish. But a post that’s ‘good enough’ and published, is better than a perfect half-finished post that’s hiding in your drafts folder forever. (This is advice I need to take too.)

4. Having said that, do try to proofread and use pictures that are clear, interesting, and add to the story you’re telling.

5. Know your focus. If you haven’t started your blog yet, look for an area that interests you that may not already be saturated (fingers crossed!) and focus on that. Allow that focus to be carried through in all of your posts, your ‘about’ page, your social posts, everything. The more specific your blog is, the better.

6. If that topic is well and truly covered but it’s your thing, your passion, then I say go ahead and blog about that anyway. Your point of view is your own, who knows what unique perspective you may bring. And if not, who cares? It’s your blog (refer here to point 2.).

7. Read other blogs. It helps to know your medium and understand the established conventions. Once you understand the conventions and why and how they work, you can then break them.

8. Comment. Commenting on blogs used to be such a big and glorious thing in the blogosphere. It was a great way to make community and engage with others. I think it’s died down a lot in the last couple of years, and maybe people are doing that more on Instagram now? I still think it’s a great way to meet other bloggers and they can head over to your blog in turn.

9. Know when to let go. Once you’ve made something and put it out there it doesn’t really belong to you anymore. This is super important. I’m not talking about copyright, I mean that people will lay their meaning or intention on what you make and that has nothing to do with you. For example, there was a photo I made of myself once and that photo was pinned and reposted thousands, maybe tens of thousands of times over. Sometimes media outlets reposted it without permission and people commented about how I looked or who I was, both negatively and positively. What I learnt? Once something is out there in the crazy beautiful internets, it’s out of your hands.

10. If it’s not fun anymore, stop. I’m not talking about the initial pain barrier when you’re just getting started and figuring things out. I mean that blogs don’t have to keep on forever. Like everything else, they’re just a piece in time. There’s no harm in winding your blog up when you’re done.

I hope this helps, and I wish you all the best in your blogging adventures.

 

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I talk to my inner lover, and I say, why such
rush?
We sense that there is some sort of spirit that loves
birds and animals and the ants —
perhaps the same one who gave a radiance to you in
your mother’s womb.
Is it logical you would be walking around entirely
orphaned now?
The truth is you turned away yourself,
and decided to go into the dark alone.
Now you are tangled up in others, and have forgotten
what you once knew,
and that’s why everything you do has some weird
failure in it.

From Kabir translated by Robert Bly.

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