Sometimes I put so much pressure on myself to WRITE MORE! WRITE FASTER! WRITE BETTER! SELL STUFF! BE THE BEST WRITER EVER IN THE HISTORY OF WRITING! that I completely forget why I started writing in the first place. And that’s a shame, because it’s a really good reason, and probably it’s the only decent reason for ever doing anything at all. I write because I truly love writing.
I don’t love it all the time. Sometimes I actually hate it. There have been times when I’ve thought about just not doing it anymore. And I have other reasons for writing too, to do with survival and escapism and dealing with shit that I don’t know how else to deal with. But I must keep remembering that somewhere underneath all this anxiety and madness, there is love.
Recently I have felt a resurgence of joy in my writing. I think that it has come from approaching my work more honestly, from finding the voice of the novel I am writing, and from allowing myself to focus on the parts of writing that I’m good at.
I’m good at language – making beautiful sentences. I like to spend a long time choosing the right words. My best stories come from images and fragments of sentences, from scraps of emotions and memories and ideas. It takes me a long time to dig around those fragments and find actual people and stories and plots. Plots? I don’t love them. I don’t love working out a sequence of events. I don’t love thinking about how one thing should follow another, or how to get from A to B in my stories. Any time I approach a story from the perspective of what actually happens, I kill it stone dead, because plotting is terribly, horribly boring to me. It feels artificial. Feels like I’m making it up.
The way I like to write is to build a story from the words. I have an initial inspiration – an image, or a strange sensation – and I dig at it and pick at it until it starts bleeding. Sometimes my stories trail away into nothingness, and sometimes my stories make no sense, because the plots don’t work. But sometimes, the plot grows organically from the words, so I hardly have to think about it. Sometimes the story is there, contained in that fragment of an image or idea, and you can slowly, carefully, tease it out.
That is the kind of writing I love to do. I wish all my writing was like that, and maybe it can be. It only works, though, if I blank out all thoughts of success or failure, all comparisons to other books and writers, all comparisons to my own previous writing. It takes patience to let the story grow from almost nothing. It takes courage, too. The temptation is to invent a brilliant plot and start writing straight away, and it’s hard to just sit with something for a long time until it becomes real. I have a story I’m thinking about at the moment that I have been sitting on for five years. Like an egg. I think it is about ready to hatch, but I’ve thought that before and been wrong.
I think maybe love comes with taking the time you need to do things right.
6 Replies to “when we talk about love”
I love this post! I don’t write around plots either. My current novel is a multiplicity of situations, emotions, descriptions, all emanating from one character who is attempting to write a life story from fragments of her experiences. It feels like the character is writing the book, not me. I am writing from love of her, and her story. The times that I have been unable to write recently have coincided with times that I have found it hard to love in general (especially after being arrested). It is because of your encouragement, Georgie, that I have admitted the only true passion I have in life is for writing. I don’t love it all the time either: sometimes I lose the will to live, and at those times I lose the will to write/love, but I always come back to life, to loving and to writing. In the cells the police denied me writing materials, and it was the worst thing they could have done. I now know that in section five of PACE code C, I am entitled to writing materials: if I am ever arrested again, I will quote this! It was fascinating to hear about your writing process, i especially liked “I dig at it and pick at it until it starts bleeding”. Your writing is beautiful, crafted, exciting, and compelling. It is obvious to a reader that you love words, and your ability to mould them into rich, meaningful structures and stories is awe-inspiring.
Thanks Evie! What a lovely comment. I particularly liked it when you said, ‘my current novel…’ There goes a writer, I thought to myself.Also your novel sounds amazing.
I really, really hope you don’t get arrested again, because it sounds pretty scary. But it’s good to know that we are legally entitled to write, even in a prison cell.
This post really rang a bell with me, both on the plotting thing (sometimes I feel like I’m making a patchwork quilt- trying to piece together fragments of a character’s life) and the pressure to produce a certain amount of work otherwise I’ve failed somehow.
I’ve never read anything by you that doesn’t sing off the page.
we are hoping to do a 30 year anthology of Tindal Street Ficition Group next year. I have sent an email to the address I had (littleegg one) – let me know if you want to be considered.
Thank you Priya. I really appreciate your comments. And I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to respond! Have been ignoring blog for a while.
i certainly can identify with the idea of a vivid image that then has to be dragged kicking and screaming into reality. An amazing image in your mind can’t be seen or appreciated no matter how much you dwell upon it. Once it’s one paper/screen then it either lives and grows or fades and withers.
I’m currently dragging something into reality that while taxing IS growing, unlike the many many false starts and perfect first paragraphs that went nowhere and still moulder in the depths of my hard drive, some in .txt files (!)
It’s also important to realise that just because i was emotionally in tune with what I was writing, someone else will get nothing from it…. *sigh*