Falling In Love: The Writer’s Life

Now, writing a novel has always been a dream of mine. In fact, it’s on my bucket list. I have a plan. And a very detailed character list. And a blow-by-blow plan of every twist and every element in the novel. There is nothing in the novel that isn’t in the plan, and I have begun, this summer to write the chapters. Y’know, the fundamental basis of the novel; the text. And I find it something that it is very hard to do part-time.


I’m working at the moment, however when I’m not working, at three o’clock in the morning for instance, I find myself perusing the ten thousand words I’ve already written, scratching my head, and wondering how I can improve the novel, the characters, and the flow of the novel. It’s a job I’ve always dreamed of having. Writing, is the only job I can really imagine doing; and thus this very blog, which is almost a year old now, was born.

I can imagine myself, in five years or so, in a house which has an office stuffed full of books, a comfortable desk chair, and my laptop. I could contentedly work there, for ten hours or so a day, writing down all the stuff my rather expansive imagination comes up with. I would blog, at the same time, and perhaps write commissioned pieces, editorials, and do some editing work too. I could travel; laptops are rather portable, as are ideas. Travel produces ideas, and creates different perspectives. One of my biggest ambitions is to spend six months or so, travelling around South America, and writing about it. Combining two of my favourite pastimes, it would be one of the best years of my entire life.

But anyway, I’m working on the novel. It’s gonna be interesting, and has a historical aspect that I like, because I am intensely interested in both of the World Wars, and the impact it had on families and their dynamics. I hope it’ll be something I look back on in a few years, and call it my first good thing; my first successful venture into the world of publishing. I hope that comes true, and I can imagine spending all my free time writing, because that’s all I’ve ever really wanted to be, or do.

There are some problems, with the writer’s life though; the first is that you have no externally imposed structure, and so you have to be well-disciplined, and able to commit yourself to work, even when there are a variety of distractions around you. The second is writer’s block. I’ve had a few weeks recently, where there was nothing I could say. I couldn’t write anything worth a dime. But then I caught a cold, and spent a week at home, watching old episodes of Friends, and all of a sudden, I remembered why I wanted to be an author. And when my new laptop came, and I did the thing, you know, where you sort out all the old files on your computer,I found the drafts and plans I made for a novel, about a year ago. And with nothing else to do with my time, I decided to start writing it again.

And frankly, it’s been the best four days of the summer, so far. Despite the raging cold, and an ability to talk like Darth Vader.


(1) http://cjwriter.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/fountain_pen.jpg?w=600



The Rejection of Rejection

For an aspiring writer, there is nothing so disheartening as rejection. When the letter or email comes through saying “you aren’t quite what we were looking for, for this issue,” you know that what they mean is that they simply didn’t like it. Or they didn’t think it was good enough. And this fairly soul-destroying mission, of despatching one’s work to publishers and magazines, only to have it rejected, is enough to make a person doubt their ability as a writer, and to wonder why you wasted twelve pence on a stamp in the first place.

This is where there should be a motivational speech, something like “of course it was fantastic, they clearly don’t know what they’re talking about…”. Except this isn’t true. These people have spent their lives in literature. Reading it, editing it, writing it. They might be heartless, but they do know what is good. They do know what they are doing. So instead of blindly burying your head in the sand, you have to take your work, and look through it, research where it might have gone awry, and maybe even rework it, and try again. You shouldn’t let your self-worth become directly proportional to how much an editor enjoyed your work, but simultaneously, you can’t let the essence of your work change. Remember that what you are doing is what you love, but sometimes you have to rethink how you write about these things that you love. But keep writing about them all the same.


The same sort of thing applies when one tries to find work experience. Cover letters, curriculum vitae, and sample pieces leave your hopeful little hand, and instead land on a far less hopeful desk. This desk has probably seen hundreds, if not thousands of letters just like yours and so naturally may be a little weary of them. And then the automated rejection letter pops back into that same hopeful little hand, and you feel a little bit worthless once again. However; we’re writers. We want to do well. And writers in essence, write. So we go back and write another cover letter, and keep posting them until finally there’s an acceptance letter in your triumphant hand, which means the first hard bit is over. You just have to keep irritating these weary editors and agents until they are simply forced to accept you. Someone will, eventually, assuming you are willing to take criticism and use it constructively.

This constant rejection is why the blogger-sphere is so important; we need constant and positive feedback. It’s human nature to want to have people to review our work, look at it, and tell us what is good, what is bad, and keep reading our efforts. The blogging world keeps literary hope alive when the big scary corporate people want to squash us, purely so they have fewer letters to trawl through.

So, in conclusion: I shall keep writing little letters, building my CV, and writing on my blog as often as I can. I shall keep writing, because, like someone once said, “I’m in this for the long haul.” It’s a very tough journey, but it’s extremely rewarding. Keep plugging away. Something will come of it, I’m sure.


(1) http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/site_furniture/2009/05/26/paper-pile-page.jpg



A Classic Case of Writer’s Block

We’ve all been there; the moment where you stare at your computer screen, and continue to do so for the following three hours. During this time, words begin to lose all meaning and instead become small squiggles that no longer signify very much in relation to the English language. Your brain begins to explore the possibility of having yet another cup of tea, and what to have for dinner, what time you ought to shower, etc. But nevertheless, sitting staring at the computer screen, working at approximately three lines an hour, is what could be considered the journey of a thousand miles. What is worse is the apathy that follows, leading to procrastination, and watching endless amounts of TV, just while you “think about what to work on next”. This is the affliction that has cursed me this morning; an attempt to write an essay, ending in me staring at the screen, rearranging sentences, but writing hardly anything that could be considered coherent.

An Extreme Case... (1)

So, how to tackle the problem? Well, I’m not quite sure. But I’m going to start by switching off the essay screen, and reverting to the plan. And when I’ve finally found a new direction for my essay (hopefully at some time this evening), I will post-it note all the relevant pages, and start writing again. But for now, until that happy moment arrives, I’m going to attempt study group questions; at the very least, they provide prompts. The hardest part of university, without a doubt, is the idea that you are very rarely given a detailed description of what you must do; it tends to be your own ideas, and running on your own steam. Most of the time, this is a freedom that I adore, however sometimes, I get a classic case of writer’s block. The worst part of writer’s block is writer’s block  just when you have a deadline to contend with. A deadline in a week, in fact. And I am as close to finishing this essay (or working out where I’m going to go with it) as I am to working out the molecular structure of hydrogen without the assistance of Google. So, after my lecture, I shall make an extremely black coffee, and re-evaluate the plan and hopefully it will clear itself up. I’m sure I’ll unblock myself soon enough.

The problem is at its worst when I want to sit down to write pretty metaphors and lyrics, but I can think of nothing new and original to say. Not a new word or thought in my mind. And then I get frustrated, and feel worthless in my capacity as a writer, which is precisely how I feel now. Sometimes, I wonder why I decided I wanted to be a writer in the first place, and why couldn’t I have considered something that relies a little less on my own creative capacity, and focussed on something with a little more scientific basis; something where there is a solidly correct answer. And when I think about this, I tend to go back, and read through my blog, and have a flick through my favourite novels, and all my writing to date, and I remember, in the style of a true romantic, that I will always love to write, and it’ll always be for love as opposed to any logical factor.

This is what leads me to believe that my writer’s block will clear in a day or two; if I allow it to percolate, then something will happen. I’ll come back to it later, greet it like an old friend, and find a new way of thinking about it, as opposed to having to force through it. In the mean time, I’ll bumble through my study questions, finish off Mansfield Park and read my way through my anthology. Interspersed with tea breaks, and watching “The Simpsons”.


(1). http://creativeconfessions.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/6a00d8341c928153ef0112796ec55b28a4-800wi.jpg