The deadline of Dead Lines is not always what it seems.

I wrote three-hundred and forty-two words on Wednesday, in a hurry to meet my self-imposed dead-line.  I know, that was one hundred and fifty-eight short of my stated target, but hey, who’s counting?  I set words on the page this week, that’s what matters.

facesThey were not good words, but they weren’t bad.  Taken individually, I used some lovely ones.  Yes, I have favourites…’seriously’, ‘draped’, ‘however’, ‘softly’, are some of my current ones.

Thursday morning, I took out all those favourites plus a few more, to see if I had the beginnings of a story.  My word count shrank to two hundred and ninety eight.

I’d love to tell you that I discovered something worthwhile, but my phrases lacked an essential for successful storytelling, plot. I had a static character drifting around a landscape.  Where was the tension?  Nowhere.  What was at stake? Nothing.

Pah, I thought, spinning the page onto my personal slush-heap, so much for deadlines.  It was time I returned to Middlemarch.  People to see, actions to judge, ideas to question: to hypothesize.  This writer sculpted layers with her words.

Time passes.  Time….passes. (Do you see that?  Do you get it?)  Words, love ’em.

Later, in the crow black, slow black night, I dreamt.  (Sorry, told you I have favourites.)

Dawn, rosy fingered warning of storms ahead (okay, a little bit of poetic exaggeration here) and inspiration, because I wake with a thought.  A fragment of story was lodged within those words from Wednesday, and now I know what is at stake.

Good old subconscious, world within worlds within us.  Keep throwing in the material, and who knows what will come out.

Leading Question: Why write a blog?

dscf5154There are, of course, any number of sociable benefits to having world-wide links.  The strands of the web have certainly re-drawn my idea of the globe.  So the quick answer to my question, ‘why do it?’, is another question: why not?

Perhaps that’s a bit glib, so here’s a more writerly reason for blogging: structure.  You don’t think I’m talking about shaping my writing…do you?  I could be.  Blogging has certainly taught me a lot about making my point, but no, it’s not top of my list of benefits.

The structuring that I’m talking about here is time-management.

Like so many other people intending to write, the main thing that hinders my creativity is settling to a writing schedule.  I have the best intentions, but there are so many calls on my time.  They belong on a sliding scale of importance, and in theory, writing is pretty close to the top.  Yet, I find that my own stories are the most flexible activity on my list – regularly getting shifted downwards.

Apart from a blip a year or two ago, when I fell by the wayside for a few months, the one piece of writing that bucks this trend, is my blog.  I’ve set myself a weekly deadline of Monday mornings, and mostly, I achieve that.

You’ll notice that I’ve been kind to myself, that there’s no precise time limit, though I aim for 09.20?  Some weeks I slip down that deadline and post late in the day, I can live with that. I can live with that?

I can learn from it, surely.  If I can put off tasks from that flexible list to make room for my blog, then it’s time I started doing the same for other writing.  So this week, as my teaching schedule eases off for Christmas, I’m looking at my diary and setting myself another deadline.  Five hundred words, rough as they come, by Wednesday teatime.

We should talk about this next week.

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The Hiatus

I don’t know if you’d noticed, but I’ve been away from the blog for the last two weeks.  All the wise women of my family are standing behind my right shoulder at this moment, murmering about pride, and falls.  I can’t duck it, the truth is, I boldly wittered on about managing deadlines on here, a month or so ago, and then succumbed to a rising workload.

The Wisdom of Fools, by Ann Gover.

The Wisdom of Fools,
by Ann Gover.

My instinct is to make excuses.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to.  Because actually, once I’d missed the first deadline, and that was hard, it felt good to let go of the second one too.  Sometimes, I admitted to myself, I do take too much on.

For the last few days though, as my time for blogging grew closer, and with that backlog of reading and research completed, I’ve been wondering how I could set these posts into gear again.  Perhaps, I thought, I’d just launch in on a new subject, ignoring the gap.  With no explanation, it might seem that the missing entries existed somewhere, but had been mislaid.  However, since the feasible solution to that scenario is that I would be more likely to have accidentally deleted them than the nice, competent people at WordPress had lost them, I rejected that.

So, perhaps I could create content and pre-date it, I thought.  Then it would appear that the posts had been there all the time.  Silly readers, did you really miss my words of wisdom for two weeks?  Well, not to worry, I’ll let you off this time.

Smoke and mirrors, I thought.  Just like the worst crime fiction.  The author includes an obscure poison delivered by a character we’ve never heard mention of until the moment when the solution to the crime is revealed.  Surely I’ve more respect for my readers than that.

Time passes in fiction.  Sometimes it moves minute by minute, sometimes there is a break in the action.  We don’t need to see every cup of tea consumed or slice of toast buttered.  The action is implied in the writing at the ending of one paragraph and/or the beginning of the next.  Things that have no relevence to the dramatic arc might also happen.  The story steps round them and carries on.

So, ‘two weeks later, she returned to her routine, refreshed, after her short break.  She took out a new sheet of paper and began to make another list.  Perhaps this time, she might find time to spring-clean the office.’