‘So, how’s the writing going?’
This from a man who is one of the Blessed Few. A writer whose work was picked up by an agent straight from the much garlanded MA in Creative Writing at the Unversity of East Anglia. Alumni include Ian McEwan, Rose Tremain, Hanif Kureshi, Tracey Chevalier and, well, you get the picture. He is in glittering company.
He is also a really lovely man and a dear friend who takes a genuine interest in my work, so I rein in the envy monster and give him the polite and honest answer.
‘Fine. Well, actually, I’m a bit stuck.’
‘No, too many ideas. I don’t know where to start.’
‘You should be writing a novel, you know. I read some of your Sherlock stuff the other day. It’s really good.’
‘Thank you. I’ve written seven novels so far. Writing a novel isn’t the hard part. Its choosing which one to write that’s difficult.’
‘Well, just pick one and start.’
I love men. Everything seems so easy to them. And they are so good at handing out really practical advice. (You’ll also notice that I don’t ask him how his novel is going. That’s because I know. I recognise that pained look. I’ve seen it in the mirror too many times.)
OK, I know its good advice. The right advice.
As Leonie Dawson puts it, I need to choose a wild donkey and ride the shit out of it till its done.
Every writer has a place where they habitually get stuck. A psychological Marianas Trench on the road to getting their work into the readers’ hands, one that they tumble into every time. For some it is grinding the words out, which for them is like sweating blood. For others, it is coming up with the idea in the first place. Some worry when they get to the middle because that’s always where they get bogged down, and some will spend ten years writing the first page. We all have our Achilles’ heel.
For me, its choosing which idea to stick with.
So I have decided to take September off. Not from writing; quite the opposite, in fact. No, I’m taking the month off from worrying which novel to concentrate on. I’m in a physically stuck place right now, and I need to concentrate on my health, on getting my body moving again after a summer of boom and bust energy. I’m looking to create a smooth, even flow in my life, in my health, and my art. I have faith that if I can manage to attain a relative level of consistency in my body, the answer will come to me. Yes, maybe that sounds mad, but its just how my creative process works.
And in the meantime, I’m refreshing my theory knowledge, reading, working on my notebooking, and bashing out some major fanfiction. I’m easily distracted, and having short stories and novellas on the go is a great way to handle that. But sooner or later, I want to create something major. Something big. Something that shows both me and you, dear Reader, what I can really do.