Tuesday, June 21, 2011

On writing - starting midpoint of a listless journey?

From blogs, to where? How many of us want to write more, to connect with the enduring power of a novel, or even that rare poem or short story that hooks in?

For the 140,045th time in my life I am pondering the writing ideal. It could be worse, having whinged much about my jobs at least I sometimes get to hone the craft here, albeit through the distended language of policy or law. I write this in my belated lunch break. I can do that now I have belated lunch breaks.

How do you simply sit down and write something good? Ask a bunch of writers and you get the sprawl you deserve I guess, but reading this article, printed off and stapled, on the train, one of the scattering of suggestions was keeping a diary. I thought 'well I have a blog', then realised, perhaps embarrassed at the realisation that most of us out here probably want to write a wonderful novel (and more than one visitor to this site is a published, seasoned writer), that I have barely put words down on this quest.

At times I have written as I would always want to, but there are at least 3 voices I have been happy with. A brooding, emotional language where pain and happiness are drawn out with raw imagery (a little perhaps in the preceding post...). Funny - I love doing funny but it is so hard to hit the spot, it just seems to come out right from time to time. And dry, political analyst. I also do a pretty good academic essay but you don't really see that here.

As well as voice confusion, and genre/fiction v non-fiction/purpose confusion, there is also the simple reality that as often as not I don't hit the spot at all. I know it, readers show it. The blog is, at least, a great place to test this. With posts such as this- navel gazing, rambling, and self-serving! Still, a diary the writer said so here is the first jot on the epage. I will start by collecting a history in a dozen lines or so...

Writing great little horror stories at age 11, until told to desist or get expelled from thick-skulled catholic school. Hardly wrote again until adulthood.

Random efforts in poetry and short stories from the end of school into university, a play somewhere that I submitted for drama but have since lost.

The real trigger was a series of long emails I wrote to friends from the end of Uni, some of which were quite experimental as a way of breaking the 'travel email' tedium, on topics from Andalucia to skiing to the emotional experience of winning a welfare appeal. Then I started to get a few responses suggesting more than polite flattery, a friend or two really did seem to think this was something I should explore. No doubt at this point I am not alone among the triptillion would-be writers out there.

Under the blanket of rain in London I started a novel. Got about 3 pages in. Read Stephen King On Writing and -inspired- ditched the excess description, looked around, saw a beggar with a dog and started again. Attempting to meld something close to horror or the magical with rambling, observant depression. A bit over 8000 words later I had lost momentum, mostly because the colourful detail drawn from expatriate life in London was threatened by my move to Melbourne. Also, the underlying theme of loss of sanity from the circular relentlessness of single life was polaxed at first base by the arrival of Beloved.

King says don't plan, just write, but this did make it hard when the inspirations became distant. Where exactly was this going? I have no idea, it still sits in a draw somewhere. Subsequent attempts involve a lawyer going crazy (always plenty of personal inspiration for that one and I do like the idea of subverting the lawyer genre, given it captures none of the darkness and frustration involved with real lawyering) among others, none of which got far. I dabbled in non-fiction and had articles published. I came close to switching into journalism. I wrote essays for a Masters, and while they often queried my poor referencing, argumentative structure or general gist, they normally liked (sometimes loved) the writing.

I bunged out a couple more poems and songs along the way. Oh, and some blogs. Dry and political, then ponderous and emotional, then something crazy about a cat (still my most loved effort I think), then drabs of each continued to appear on this, the resulting, long-lasting diary of several years of random thoughts.

Which I love on many levels. I also know that if 1/4 of the energy put into this went into other types of writing, I would probably have a novel, or a few published articles, or something... when it comes to the creative and unpaid, time is precious and game theory applies. One replaces another, unless you want to be up at 3am.

So on I go. If you got this far and have your own tips or links, posts on your own journey, please leave them below the dotted line...


Mindy said...

Through vicariously going through the writing process with several actual published authors I have decided that I was put here to be a reader. That and my talent for thinking something that sounds really good and then promptly forgetting it before being able to write it down.

meli said...

You can't always tell by how many comments you get how good your post is, or how much people enjoy reading it. Sometimes people are just not sure what to say!

(hi, btw, i'm a long time lurker and love reading your posts about your family.)

i'm a bit stuck with writing myself. I've written a novel but it's sitting quietly on my computer - perhaps I should try harder to get it published or to work out what's wrong with it... I've also written a PhD on literature that I really should turn into a book, or at least some journal articles. I write poems, now and then. But mostly, for now, I write my blog. I always imagined I would write lots of novels but now I'm not sure what to do next. Blogging definitely does fulfill a need for me.

So, no tips and not really a clear point, but i hear what your saying, and i wanted to say hi!

Armagny said...

Thanks both, interesting perspectives, and hi Meli!