I decided after my last post that I would keep track of my progress with the writing, to document the journey until I can finally announce some good news (we're not there yet). Between my last post and this, I have not only been getting to grips with my new job but I've also moved house, so I've been juggling a hefty amount these past few months.
As a result I've mostly avoided Twitter. There is still a small part of me that shies away from it - inadequacy is a horrible feeling - and it doesn't feel like I have much to say. So my haunt instead has been Instagram. I find my release in nature; my ambles keep me sane. Creative minds often, I think, need an outlet and this is mine. I've been very lucky in finding somewhere in the countryside to live which can help me with this. It'll keep me going in the coming weeks as I stitch the novel back together again. While I do, I would prefer to show you a side of me which is honest, demonstrating that writing is not glamorous, that the whole process is painful and tedious on bad days and a blessed relief on the good. Most pictures I post of me in upcoming posts will be generally unfiltered and makeup-free, to prove my point that the life of a writer is a far cry from the glamour of Jackie Collins.
I should also say that my blog posts aren't going to be a practice in lyrical poetry. I've read some blogs that are beautifully worded, an almost-novel in themselves. I can't - and won't - do that. If anything those fabulous posts written by those fabulous authors make me feel even more insecure about my capabilities; if they can write like that in a blog post, as well as in their fiction, then I have no hope at all. While inspiring and admirable, it's simply not helpful to those who are still trying to make it. Perhaps what I'm going to write won't be helpful either, but it's a reality check, to show that us struggling writers aren't alone.
So. To start ...
I officially began writing again the last week of July. I was still surrounded by boxes and have had to contend with a makeshift desk until the new one arrives. As such my workspace is tiny, and I've been hunched over a too-tall stool that has my back tying itself up in knots and my arse cheeks going numb. I spend most of my time in tatty jeans or paint-spotted leggings and a hoody. Or, if I'm feeling especially lazy, the onesie that I slept in the night before (yes, there are times I haven't even got changed. Today is one of those days), and 9 times out of 10 my hair has stayed greasy, piled on the top of my head. Hey, no one beside the postman is going to see me.
To begin with I re-capped my progress from February and was pleased to feel like the work wasn't a complete waste, that what I had done in the winter was decent, but I knew I still had an awfully long way to go. Three weeks later I've made good progress but there are still around 60k words yet to tackle. It seems a lot - it is - but I had decided a while ago that I had to change my heroine's backstory around which subsequently has had a knock-on effect on the rest of the novel.
The first day was spent filling in the gaps I'd left between chapters 1 and 4. Little lines, phrases, words that I'd intentionally left blank so I could fill them with something dazzling later. Pretty positive most MSs have something like this every other page:
###THATS CRAP THINK OF SOMETHING BETTER###
###WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!###
Somehow though that was easier than I thought (though dazzling remains to be seen), and then I spent the rest of the day researching for the new scenes I'd planned to insert. This was how the procedure went for the first few days until I hit the point I'd left off in February. That's when it started to get a little more daunting ...
I remember that during the early drafts I would sit at my desk for a solid 12 hours and more. I didn't sleep much, I barely moved, I never left the house. I've tried a different approach this time, attempting to spend no more than 6 hours at the computer. Considering it can sometimes take 3 hours to do just one chapter (or even one part of a chapter depending on how the creative juices are flowing) this seems like barely any time at all. But it seems to actually work better when the words are flowing (and despite what I've said here, they actually have been). I think if you treat the writing process as an actual job it's easier to produce something you aren't going to cut later. By sectioning the writing off I've still had time for TV or reading or time outside the house (I've turned into a keen gardener which I never would have pegged me for 5 years ago) which has reduced my stress levels and helped get the words on the page. Granted, none of this has changed the tiredness levels but at least I feel like I've had a productive day.
Let's talk however, for a moment, about that deliberating emotion that I touched on in the video and that all of us suffer from: doubt. The amount of times I've picked up a book, opened its pages and thought 'I will never be able to write like this' have been far more than I care to fully admit. Despite knowing it's a cardinal sin to compare yourself to other writers it happens, IT HAS HAPPENED, and the effects are crippling. There is a very great danger here too that you see a word or phrase you love and copy it. I've caught myself doing that a few times. I have even left some of them there and put them in red to remind myself that they have to go, which I will catch in the full edit. The thing is, if you get caught up on these too long then you never move on to the next word, the next line, the next scene. The day I end up with an MS devoid of red notes is the day I know I've finally made it. Anyway, the point I want to make here is that reading other work is a great ingredient for inspiration and doubt, but you must try to push through the doubt and put the emphasis on inspiration, no matter how bloody hard it is to do. And yes. It's bloody, bloody hard.
I saw this the other day, which shows creativity as a cycle between active production and dormant recovery:
If anyone is struggling through the writing process take a look at this and just remember the very important need to let your brain rest.
I'm well aware that having written this, I'm sometimes guilty of not taking my own advice. My logic here is constantly at odds with my emotions. This blog post is not only a way of showing the honest struggle and of keeping tabs on my progress, but also a reminder to myself to JUST KEEP GOING.