Should I love what I write?

It’s one thing to go back to some story and cringe over the way you wrote, but what about the thing you’re working on now?  Are there times when you’re overpowered by insecurities?

facesI’ve deleted more than half of what I’ve typed for this blog.  Who am I to be posting it?  Hasn’t it all been said before?  And what a way to word it, do I have to be so stilted: so formal?

You know what?  I don’t, because haven’t I’ve said I can delete, or should I say edit ?  So I put together six or seven hundred words, then whittle them down to the three hundred and twenty-seven you are reading.  Since I know I’m going to edit, I can throw down every thought, no matter how daft it seems.  Which is great, because it’s when I write that I discover what I am truly trying to say.

Before you ask, no, I don’t think this is perfect, but if I could show you all the drafts…actually, I’d rather not.  If you were my only reader I’d be fine with letting you share the processes I’ve gone through.  But I’m hoping for a new reader, too, and what I want them to take away is an idea of my coherence and economy.

Do I love this piece of writing?  Well, truth be told, no.  I am quietly pleased with it, but I’m also certain that any time I reread this I’ll find ways to improve it, because that’s how I feel about all the things I’ve ever written.  At the very least I see clumsy repetitions that are too familiar to be noticeable in the heat of writing.

What I do love, is that the idea I started with grew into something that is, at this moment, complete.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get on and write something else that matters to me, despite my doubts, despite all the initial mistakes.

butterflies graffitti art

Reflections: Let’s Talk Book-Talk.

Zennor in darknessWow, what a day.  Zennor in Darkness, by Helen Dunmore, with eleven students.  I’m still buzzing.  Six hours of lively discussion and passionate debate.  We covered a lot of ground, and my plan had to be continually revised as we shared ideas, questions and insights.

What luxury, to spend the whole day focusing on one novel.  It has to be a strong story, to warrant that degree of investigation.  Why did I chose Zennor in Darkness?  Let me share my list of reasons, which are in no particular order:

  • It’s got a generous cast of engaging, rounded characters.
  • It describes working class lives in St Ives and Zennor.
  • There are believable descriptions of how life was for people experiencing the first world war from ‘the home front’.
  • It includes two ‘real’ people, who lived extraordinary lives – DHL and his wife, Frieda.
  • The style of writing is varied.
  • The scenery is beautiful.
  • It investigates history, religion and family.
  • It deals with issues around secrecy and knowledge.
  • It has a tingle factor.
  • It fits in with the WWI commemoration themes of this year.

And that was just after the first read.  On my second, closer study of the novel, I began to extend and refine my list.  I added themes, patterning and the one that intrigued me most, how do we feel about fictionalizing DH Lawrence & Frieda?

Well, I thought, it depends on how much of their part in the story is fiction: it was the beginning of a quest that took me from my bookshelves, to the library catalogue, through bookstores (new and second-hand) and surfing about the internet.  I gathered my evidence, took it to the day school and set it before the rest of the group.  Their enthusiasm matched mine.

The result?  An exhilarating day of debate and discussion.  At the conclusion, most of us went home to read more Dunmore, and I’m going to revisit DHL’s novels.

So, if you’re looking for a suggestion for a book-club read, and you haven’t already tried, Zennor in Darkness, why not add it to you reading list?

dhl & frieda

Returning to Blogging

Don’t look now, but I’ve just stepped back into the blog room.

I’ve been working up the courage for this over the last couple of weeks, wondering whether to go for a shame-faced sidle back into view, or some kind of extra-large, brazenly arm-waving sparkling and unapologetic tad-da.  I’ll leave you to decide where this post comes on that scale.

What’ve I  been up to?

Work: researching, preparing and delivering classes.  I have to admit I’ve been having a lovely time.  The reading and the writing combine advantageously.  I’ve learned loads, and have notes for all sorts of new ideas.

And, on the practical front, there are all those blah, blah- economic – blah, blah reasons for being able to pay bills.  But in the course of the last two weeks, while I’ve been running smaller classes, and have been discussing managing-time-for-writing with one of my groups, it’s occurred to me that I’ve not been practicing what I preach.

My student, Alice, who’s writing a quirky and engaging YA fantasy story/novel, is self employed.  She spends long days on her computer, and loves her job.  It involves skyping with people in other countries.  She often brings into class snippets of fascinating information about languages and lives.

Detail from,  The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dahli

Detail from, The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dahli

She comes to class bubbling with story ideas, but struggles to find time for writing them.  Her homeworks, beautifully worded, tend to be fragments.  On busy weeks, she brings in something from an old notebook.  When I ask about her YA novel she says, ‘I really want to get it finished, but there’s not time now.’

‘Make time,’ I tell her, and suggest a simple plan.  ‘Five minutes writing every day,’ I say.  ‘You can fit that in can’t you?’

She agrees.  In fact she likes the idea, it could replace the internet browsing and shopping she usually does in her lunch hour.

Writing, I remind myself is not just about inspiration, it’s discipline.  I to have been drifting since Easter, filling my time with what are, when I’m honest, displacement activities.  What I need is a realistic timetable.

The reason I had to cut blogging out last September was because I’d stopped thinking ahead.  Excuse me while I take a justifying side-track to say that I also abandoned Facebook and the twitter account that I’d been attempting to master…

Well, this morning I’m taking control.  I will get back to blogging regularly.  Five minutes a day is apt for me too.  So hello to anyone out there.  Thank you for your patience.  I’m making a resolution to be consistent, so I hope you’ll continue to drop by.