“anyone moderately familiar with the rigours of composition will not need to be told the story in detail; how he wrote and it seemed good; read and it seemed vile; corrected and tore up; cut out; put in; was in ecstasy; in despair; had his good nights and bad mornings; snatched at ideas and lost them; saw his book plain before him and it vanished; acted people’s parts as he ate; mouthed them as he walked; now cried; now laughed; vacillated between this style and that; now preferred the heroic and pompous; next the plain and simple; now the vales of tempe; then the fields of kent or cornwall; and could not decide whether he was the divinest genius or the greatest fool in the world.”

virginia woolf

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I like listening to writers being interviewed. I especially love listening to zadie smith and george saunders.

one of my mates says, ‘enough talking about writing, bates. just do the writing.’

I am not that brave, or strong or confident, or whatever it is that one is when they can just write and not talk (or listen to other people talk) about the process.

one thing I heard in one of the interviews, was an author say that the first book they wrote was bad, and of course it was going to be bad, and why did they ever think it wasn’t going to be? before we are good at something, we are bad at it. I struggle with this.

I am a reluctant perfectionist. being perfectionistic just means being afraid. this can be a good thing sometimes, like at work, if I’m making something, I want it to be perfectly realised and this makes me push harder to make it happen.

but to get better we have to take risks, and to take risks means there’s going to be some failure and I don’t like to fail, I always want to hit the mark on my first try.

In high school I was the kind of kid who would rip all the pages out of her exercise book rather than keep sub-standard pages in. I seriously had exercise books that only had one page in them. I’ve watched my daughter do something similar, and she’s only five. is this her innate nature, or did she learn it from me? probably both.

the other day I was playing cards with her. she didn’t win on the first round, and she went off in a sulk. I said to her, ‘when we lose, we try again. if it’s something we want, we keep trying. if we’re not in the game, we can’t win.’ she came back. we played a few more hands. sometimes she won.

I am probably writing a very bad book, but I am writing it.

#amwriting

 

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“the irony being that one of the reasons many writers have the urge to communicate to begin with is that they’ve experienced loneliness earlier in life and writing seems like a means to overcome it, to connect with others. a solitude imposed in youth becomes chosen in adulthood.”

adam haslett on lithub

to be honest, I’m at the point where the isolation is kind of killing me and I feel like I just want to be finished with the damn book so I can go back to a regular life with other people in an office who will talk to me about whatever so I don’t feel so goddamn isolated all the time, goddammit.

it truly is a paradoxical situation ’cause I can’t even make it to my writing group. why would I go when I can just stay home and write? (maybe write. maybe watch she-ra princess of power.) maybe I’ll go back to my MA in creative writing.

whatever though. I am going to finish this book no matter what. no matter if it’s horrible and I hate it and I almost die of loneliness. anyway, I read this piece by adam haslett on lithub, and was like, YES. yes. a million times yes. especially that line at the top of this post.

 

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“the desire to go home is a desire to be whole, to know where you are, to be the point of intersection of all the lines drawn through all the stars, to be the constellation-maker and the centre of the world, that centre called love. to awaken from sleep, to rest from awakening, to tame the animal, to let the soul go wild, to shelter in darkness and blaze with light, to seize to speak and be perfectly understood.”

rebecca solnit 

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“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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