Writers Are Always Naked

A woman who built a whole sub-culture underneath a dress (1)

Today I’m feeling completely awful, because I’ve got yet another cold. Probably an airport souvenir. But there we go. I got my September issue of Vogue yesterday, so at least there’s some consolation. I’ve decided that instead of actually moving this morning, I can carry on writing. My head doesn’t hurt as long as I keep looking forwards, and not to the side. I was enjoying reading the catwalk show stuff, and reading about upcoming winter trends. Winter gives everybody an excuse to buy leather boots. I went through a two-year phase of wearing heeled boots every single day, with jeans. As a result, I have calves of steel, and six pairs of boots. Some people (especially my dad), would six is too many. However, you can never have too many pairs of shoes.

Clothes are people’s way of hiding things that they don’t like, and creating personas of their choosing. Wearing a sharp suit makes somebody more confident. A track suit is comfortable, but jeans can be as sloppy or as sensible as one would like. It’s all up to you, like wearing a shield. Even cashmere is like a protective layer, and it stops people seeing the soft and squishy bits.

Anyway, back to the task in hand. My novel. It’s going fairly well. I have ten chapters. I even have a rough idea of what might happen next. Not many people can say that. I wish I had somebody whom I could rely on for critical reading and suggestions, but allowing my friends to read it seems somehow like walking down the street naked. Letting people read your work is like letting them see you naked. That’s why I don’t very often publish poetry online, and it is why I tend to be less open about my novel to the people who actually know me. Do you beautiful writers understand what I mean?

There is something distinctly intimate about literature, and about writing as a whole. Literature can be a window into somebody’s innermost thoughts, but it can also be deceptively shallow. The depth of meaning can only be known to the author, and the meaning of a text is not something that he will ever have to reveal to an audience. Postmodernism toys with the idea of depth and surfaces, and becomes very much like cubism, or impressionism. What is there, and what is there not? There is no way of telling. You could get into a huge debate about the author function, and whether a novel exists because of it’s author or vice-versa. But in this [articular arena, where almost all of us are aspiring to be writers, screen writers, poets, everything, it seems unfair. Saying an author only exists as a story seems to almost void our own ideas of ourselves.

But there we have it. I am enjoying my own metaphorical nakedness. I might even consider letting other people see it, one day.

(:

(1) http://www.wildsound-filmmaking-feedback-events.com/images/marilyn_monroe_white_dress.jpg

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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.

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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

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The Realisation of Complacency

Today, I made an alarming discovery about my mental and physical states of fitness. Which led me to immediately vow that I would change; become more disciplined, fitter, and more aware of food groups. This however will require some commitment on my part; renouncing my deep and everlasting love of Pringles and Chinese food, and forming a wonderful new relationship with the cross trainer in the garage, the swimming pool, and going for rather long walks. It will be tough, but the hardest part to me at least, is wondering how it came to be like this.

When you realise that you have changed, both physically and mentally, you can only wonder when you stopped noticing this change in yourself; what happened to allow you to forget that you still exist as a physical entity? And more to the point, when did you stop wanting to do better? I think this is the worst part, to me at least, because I always want to better at something. I’ve been like this since I was a little kid. I’ve always wanted to look better, feel better, and do better than I did last time, and I think the problem is that I became complacent of myself.

People never do better if they are completely and perfectly happy; perfection, it would seem, does not come from happiness. It comes from relentlessly trying to do it better, no matter what it is; whether it’s making a perfect cheese sauce, being fitter, or getting better academic reviews, complacency does not lead to perfection. A complete obsession with perfection is how people grow. This is where the experts come from. They emerge from their libraries, for only an hour a day, and then they go back in. They do it because they feel as though they are not yet finished, and they, fundamentally, never give up researching, looking into new projects, and writing books, because there is always the nagging sensation in the back of their minds that they aren’t quite done yet. Nothing is finished, as yet.

Sometimes, you have to just drag yourself up a mountain. (1)

This is how I feel most of the time too; largely, I feel as though I have barely started, and therefore complacency at this point is simply idleness and laziness. Therefore, as of tomorrow, I will be implementing a new routine which will hopefully combat this complacency. I cannot abide stand to do nothing, produce nothing; so I will be filling my days with productive hours instead of catching up on television, and I will push through the inevitable barrier of pain, and hopefully, I’ll start to see the results within a week or so.

The human spirit is essentially what allows us to improve because we want to do better. There are people who do not have this desire to have everything; that is entirely their prerogative, and every individual is entitled to act as they wish. However, I’m of the disposition that says I have to do better.

Like I said at the very beginning of this blog, I want to be a writer. That’s all. I want to be good at what I do. So instead of talking about it, and dancing around the idea of being this person that I have fashioned for myself,  I guess I should just knuckle down and start.

(:

(1) http://powerofpositivity.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/mountains.jpg

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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.

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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

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Blogging is a Launchpad

In today’s world of instantaneous Internet access, where relationships can change in a second, it is vital, if you are serious about publishing and breaking into the media sphere, to be able to write a blog, and publish regularly. The instant changes that are possible via the Internet make publishing, editing, and writing the most competitive it has ever been; editors in publishing have to sift through innumerable manuscripts, picking out only the very best, and the most marketable.

Perhaps one of the hardest challenges for a writer is the ability to reconcile their true artistic will with the potential for it to sell to a wider market. Simply put, there is a choice to be made: whether one wants to make money, or whether one wants to maintain his artistic integrity. Being able to work inside a market whilst writing exactly as one wishes to is potentially impossible.

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Blogging today however allows amateur writers to publish their work independently, and attract readers through their own merit, and of course, a little Internet wizardry. Everyone who wishes to can be a part of this community, which has spread over the last few years with an almost viral intensity; businesses, individuals, authors, musicians and academics all have some form a blog; a way to keep in touch with the real people who are interested in their work; and to this end, blogging is perhaps the greatest tool available in the corporate world; the ability to “put themselves out there” without seeking the approval of an editor, agent, or authority. It allows them to publish what they wish, publish what they believe is good, and receive approval or constructive criticism based on a peer review system.

There does however seem to be a sort of blogging hierarchy; ranging from the experienced to the newest bloggers (like myself) who seek advice from one another. This creates an informal network, with constant information available to every user of the Internet. Whilst this is generally a positive experience, the struggle to be noticed, commented on, and reviewed by one’s own peers can be soul-destroying in itself, because you could feel as though you are simply confined to the silicone scrap pile.

At this point, it would be prudent to look at the dangers of the Internet; identity issues, comment spammers, and those who act in a predatory fashion. There will always be the issue of Internet privacy, however with a little common sense, and informational discretion, problems such as this can be avoided. The key here is discretion; as with everything else in writing, subtlety is often the best policy.

For anyone hoping to start blogging as a way into the wider world, and as a way to explore different mediums of communication, I’d say go ahead, and never be afraid of commenting, following and generally being involved in other user’s forums. Being involved means that others become curious about you; and being shy on a blog is a guaranteed way to avoid people reading your work. Be brave, be bright, and consider what you want to write before you published; discretion is probably a good rule of thumb.

(:

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