Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Bitter Elephant

Perhaps I should expand on my last post and introduce the elephant in the room. The large grey pile of under achievement which I keep adding to. I am currently listening to Modern Life is Rubbish, an album along with many others that played throughout my teens. As a fresh young thing listening to this album I was sure that a) I would marry Damon Albarn and b) I would grow up to be a writer of some sort. Neither of these two things have happened. I am being followed around by myself of ten years ago, tugging at my retail uniform and tutting, aggrieved that I have not followed the plans she left for me. As an adult I have finally given my 17 year old self something to rebel against – her future. To say I have even started to grow up would probably be a rather undeserved compliment. I am still habitually in sulks and throw huge embarrassing tantrums when I don’t get my own way. I have come to the point, like many children do with hobbies, where I am thinking of giving up. I have tried writing and im not very good so im throwing a strop and stopping. But the truth is, I haven’t tried. I haven’t even begun to begin trying. All I have written since leaving university is a couple of short stories and some bizarre paragraphs. Diaries I have tried to keep sound self righteous and as excruciating as the journals I kept when I was still at school. I have not tried to write a novel, a poem or an article for a very long time. I am staring at the aforementioned grey elephant waiting for it to evolve enough to write the bloody things for me. As I wallow in inactivity I am surrounded by bright sparkey people, all busying themselves with creativity and ambition. I am deeply envious of these people and in my darkest moments I find myself twisting the respect I feel for them into a tiny digestible nugget of hatred. I ask myself where they get their ideas, their confidence and their passion. To be a writer I always envisaged an insatiable need to write, tearing home in order to get on with the work of being brilliant. I do not have this urge. In fact the thought fillls me with terror, even writing this now I am sweaty of palm not sure if another sentence will be following this one. But I THINK about writing and being a writer almost all the time, its just nothing….ever…..happens. I torment myself with thoughts of “if I was just a bit more confident, if I just had more chutzpah, more to say – there would be no issue”. But, alas, I cannot change who I am and so I either throw my writing tools down amongst all the other things I have given up on (dance, music, dress making, cooking etc etc) and become a bitter old wench, or I just try to write something, anything down. So this is what I plan on doing. I might not make any money, or appear on any shelves but at least when im all crinkly I will know I had tried. As for Damon, I have found someone a hundreds times better, so maybe I am capable of meeting and even surpassing my ambitions afterall.


  1. Listened to an old Answer Me This podcast yesterday. Someone wrote in with similar issues, was it you? Just keep writing, just keep writing! Helen and Ollie know all the answers! Write about things you like not things that you think other people want to hear about. The more practise the more you'll hone your technique. The more you relax, the more you will love it again. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was one of the loveliest books I've ever read. The author was an older lady who I think died before it became really well known. These things don't happen over night!

  2. Have you heard of the "Zero Draft"? I think that part of the problem with not being able to stick at writing is because you have a precise image in your head of the writer that you want to be, so the first words you chuck out onto the page always feel like a failure, which makes you stop. That image is so exact and detailed that it gets to the point where it would be impossible for you to meet it. You are obviously well read, which makes the problem worse as you immediately expect to see something that you would want to read, and find a fault with each word you write. Which is self-perpetuating and you get to the point where you just STOP. It's that pattern of behaviour which leads to the abandonment rather than you not being capable of doing it. I think it's important to try and switch off that automatic cringe-machine, and realise that the lack of being able to write is not out of any sort of intrinsic certainty that YOU WILL NOT BE A WRITER, but simply because you are in a pattern of thinking that your initial efforts have to meet your very high expectations. And thus I introduce, the Zero Draft!!

    You find yourself with an hour, and you tell yourself you will write 2,000 words in this hour. The point is that you just write without worrying if it sounds like neurotic teenage nonsense, or worry about plot or any bollocks like that. You completely disable everything and you shut yourself up. And then once you've finished, you turn yourself back on again and edit it. Chances are it will be a horrific piece of shite, but then you have something before you that you can convert into the thing you want it to be, or it might bounce into something else or spark you off into a completely different direction. There might just be one excellent three-word phrase amongst one thousand nine hundred and ninety seven diabolic words which might set off an entire story/poem/play/sticom. I think that's important as well - realising that you have to make SOMETHING/ANYTHING which you can then modify, rather than trying to change it in your head so that the first words you type are the perfect, writerly words of an author. It sounds cornier than an old woman's foot, but you need to develop a relationship with the page/screen where you can download yourself onto the paper and then leave it on there and stare at it. The page needs to become a part of your domain of thinking rather than only ever bouncing off the corners of your skull.

    And that's supposed to rid you of the problem you have to begin with - the problem of wanting to so heavily edit what you say before you say it that it leaves you silent, rather than doing the writing then thinking about it afterwards.

    But fuck knows what I'm talking about though as I've started a gazillion things and then abandoned them, but a wise person once told me about the zero draft so I'm passing on the treat!


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