Massive thanks to FRiGG’s editor, Ellen Parker, for just getting it. She made a few suggestions for edits which so improved the story that if I were given three wishes my first would be that Ellen Parker would read everything I ever write and perform the same magic. (My second and third would be, y’know, world peace and all that.)
I think some people are born story tellers whether they choose to write them down (type them up) or not. I told stories before I could read, and after I could read I would sit on my swing and tell my “Jackanory” stories to the pretend camera that filmed me. I was a great gossip at school, I always knew how to get maximum impact from relating anecdotes and so on. I told true life stories in chronological order, I ramped up the anticipation, I delivered the punch lines with flourish. I still get irritated when people can’t tell me the exact details of things. “Ooh, what did he say when she said that?” I will prompt. It matters. I will see an old woman with a shopping basket and create a sentence about her in my mind, sometimes the sentence expands, a possible story floats for a moment or two, I dismiss it or mentally file it. It’s how I see the world and try to make sense of it. It’s the way my brain works. I know other people who feel the same, and I know plenty of people who don’t. I can’t turn it off, it’s part of me, which is why when I don’t write stories still waft in and out of my consciousness.
Countless times I have read or been told that to be a writer one has to write, which is fair enough surely. If you’re not writing you’re not a writer are you? But what you could be is a story teller, soaking up those moments, absorbing the possibilities and waiting to see if you feel like writing. Yup, I said “feel like”. Gasp. Because the other thing I read/get told repeatedly is that a writer HAS TO write every day. No matter if you feel like it or not, if you want to earn the label writer then damn you, you’d better fucking write.
So if I am erratic, chaotic, slave to my own whims, ill health, duties and so on, then my words aren’t as valuable as they could be if I forced them out every day? I think that’s untrue. For quite some time I gritted teeth and wrote daily, determined to prove my worth as a writer and do whatever is necessary, and the words landed on my screen dry as dust. Day after day, nothingy words that I kidded myself I could “polish and shine.”
Now I know, they were worthless. They remain useless. Meaningless. I stopped writing. And I have heard more than once that if you can’t cope with the grind then maybe you’re not cut out to be a writer. That makes me want to tear down walls and bellow – “How dare you be so judgmental?” I think everyone should deviate from whatever feels wrong. I detest the prescriptive advice of “write everyday, at least X amount of words”. I want to challenge this wisdom. Or what? You have to write X amount of words per day or else you can’t be in my gang? If you don’t write daily you aren’t serious enough? Really? I am pretty damn serious about my words actually, that’s why the cheap, easy words that I spewed out felt so crappy.
On Sunday I wrote a flash, it bubbled up inside me on Saturday, insisted on being written. I like it, it has something that was lacking in all my daily words, some heart.
I’m not a big cheese author but I have had some successes, been published in some fabulous places, placed in competitions, had positive feedback and even, gasp, payment for my words. I’m a mother, a human, a writer, a bookseller. You telling me I don’t have the right to call myself a writer is as ridiculous as you saying I’m not a bookseller because I only work one day a week at the bookshop.
Well thank goodness my Mac is back. It has been upgraded to Leopard too, so, every cloud etc. It is, however, entirely empty. I am choosing to regard this as fortuitous. I have had my desk cleared, my notebooks thrown away. All those scraps of paper, all the scribbles and jottings and half baked ideas, tossed away. All the rubbish is gone. If any of it had been that good I would have noticed I am sure.
I have to reinstall Word tomorrow, and then off we go!
Not having my laptop is weird. I am online much less, and it makes me see how much time I usually do spend doing bobbins really. I am a scattergun writer, perhaps. I browse online, I visit facebook, blogs, FW, zoetrope, Lowculture, read emails, shop, and in-between I switch to word and write in short bursts. I don’t know if I am able to write more solidly, because whenever I attempt to, I distract myself, if not with online stuff, then with real life business; phone calls, cleaning, eating, lots of staring into nothing, anything really. Even just writing this I suddenly jumped up and changed my top. I need to work on staying focused I think.
I have to ring the mac repair peeps soon and get a verdict on its health. I think it’s gonna be bad news, as the guy shook his head and whistled at it. I think I have lost everything, which I didn’t think was too much of a problem until I remembered all those little pieces of work that i didn’t back up because they were to be worked on. And lots of photos that I had seen so often I was bored with, but now they are LOST I want them back.
I think I should set myself a time limit. Like, before the school run it’s ok to check emails quickly, but after, I should crack on and write the novel for a couple of hours. Then stop for lunch, after that scoot around online, and work on reviews, edits, flash etc. After school is boys time (but if they are on wii or ps it’s ok for me to play too!) Sounds workable. In theory. I always forget though that there’s so much other stuff to get on with, I think I find chunks of writing time and then realise that I am mummy too, and work part time, and need to do household stuff and paperwork and shopping and cleaning.
LitCamp took place yesterday, and it was a really fun and buzzy day. I gave a tiny talk on the usefulness of blogging as a writer, so I figured I’d better update the blog!
It is always good to see Vanessa Gebbie, she was interesting as ever. It was the first time I have ever met Lane, who organised the whole thing, and hats off to her. It was an ambitious event, and she must have worked phenomenally hard to get it all to come together. I came home exhausted, I can’t imagine how wiped out she must be, but I’d like to offer public thanks for this fabulous unconference.
I was thrilled to meet Kellie in “real life” as we have been chatting away for years without having ever met face to face. She was even lovelier than I had imagined!
I also bumped into Jacqueline Applebee. We first met a couple of years ago at the Chichester writing festival and I was pleased to hear that she is now enjoying success as an erotic fiction writer.
There were lots of different panels and talks going on: writers, agents, editors and teachers.
Stephen Moran was offering post-it note critiques of short stories, I handed one in, and he thought it was missing a story! Oops.
In the evening there were some really great readings. Jay Bernard is a poet that I was entirely unfamiliar with, but whooo, she was brilliant.
Gavin Ingliss read a very funny story that may or may not have been called “Mr Shoe.”
Farahad Zama read an extract from his debut novel “The marriage bureau for rich people” He was a cool guy with a very business like approach to his writing. He writes on his twenty minute train commute, and really makes a mockery of wafty, faffy types like me who protest that we don’t have enough time.
I was sorry that I had to leave before hearing all the readers, but travelling home took about 2 1/2 hours and I had to work today.
Apologies also for not mentioning all the people I got to meet, listen to, and see, but there were soooo many.
I came home thinking quite calmly “well, i’d better get on and write some good stuff then” which surely has to be a very positive outcome from an event like this! But before I do that…sleep!
I had this idea for a story well over a year ago. I wrote it but something didn’t quite work. I posted it for critique in The Fiction Workhouse. They said it had many flaws and suggested I concentrate on one part and cut another. I left it to simmer. I have kept on thinking about it, wondering how it could be strengthened. I sat down recently and tried again. I thought I’d had some great inspirational idea. I cut parts ruthlessly, wrote some new bits. I left in the stuff that had positive feedback, expanded it. Then I asked a couple of writers whose opinions I respect to take a look. One said there was too much that was unrealistic and I should chop those parts. I did. I sent it to another 2 writers. They both said, hmmm, not your best work, and it could really do with some more magic. One even went on to describe exactly what I had cut.
There is a post at Literary Rejections On Display regarding the policy that many literary magazines have on not accepting simultaneous submissions. It is something I have been pondering now that I’m trying to be proactive and get my fiction out into the big wide world.
Writer’s Market commissioned me to write an article for their 2009 edition. (It was one of those exciting things I didn’t want to talk about in case I somehow jinxed it!) It has now been published and is available in all good bookshops ( Waterstones)