Me waffling on about writing

Another day. Another month gone, and still no excited call from my lovely agent to say publishers are fighting over my novel. No call at all, in fact, excited or otherwise. So, no three-book, six-figure deals as yet. Never mind – new day, new start. On the plus side, it’s a writing day – almost exclusively – bar dog-walking, tea-making, and phone-answering duties. Dragonflies, bumble bees, butterflies, flutter or dart about in front of my window, trying to tempt me outside. Even the sun is against me – shining as if it wasn’t yet autumn, but summer still. But I’ve resisted, because I’m serious about this writing lark. It feels vaguely embarrassing to write that, because I can’t quite get shot of the belief that I can’t do it. And yet I have to keep trying, because it won’t let me be. As a child, I loved to paint and draw, so I became an artist. Creating artwork made me feel better, gave me an inner peace. At an interview to study for an MA in fine art, I was asked why I painted. My reply was that it was the only thing that made me feel all right. Like an addict, I had to have a daily fix. In ceramics, I’d make huge pots, standing on a chair, my head inside the cavity, moulding and working the clay. I’d have a vague idea what the finished piece would be, but it always turned out differently. I couldn’t impose my will on the clay. We had to work together – a collaboration. Painting, too, worked like that. I’d cover huge canvasses with paint, rub some off, paint some more, wipe sections altogether, back to the canvas. I’d play like that until something emerged – something that spoke to the inner me. Once that happened, it meant the paint and I were collaborating. In fact, it felt more like uncovering something that was already there – nothing to do with me. More of an archaeological dig than a painting, then. Anyway, it sounds bonkers – and probably is, but the excitement, the ‘buzz’, the thrill, when something emerged from the mass of colour would keep me going for weeks, months even. Those paintings always sold. Whatever spoke to the inner me, evidently spoke to others too. It was a hit and miss affair, however. Triumphs were far outweighed by abject defeats. Then frustration would set in. Self-belief would plummet. After all, you’re only as good as your last success, or whatever it is they say. I’d wander around the house in my paint-daubed lab coat, wailing, ‘I can’t do it,’ over and over. Painting to a deadline, for an exhibition, wasn’t fun. It was torture. You can’t make art for a deadline – or, at least, I couldn’t, and didn’t want to. I dreaded going to the gallery, dreaded even more milling about at a private view – convinced I’d overhear someone saying, ‘what a load of crap’, or something similar. Then I discovered writing. Oh, my! Here, at last, I found my adrenaline fix. What power I suddenly had. The scrapes I could get my characters into. The trauma I could put them through. Sheer, unadulterated joy. And yet, my characters often refuse point blank to do what I have planned. I try it this way, that way, and, eventually, frustrated and demoralised, realise they want to do something else altogether. Bingo! Again, a collaboration. So, eight hundred words done so far today (three o’clock). Have managed to get back into the ‘zone’, that wonderful place where the characters are as real as I am, as well as far more interesting. Likewise, their lives. And I wonder if that’s the allure of writing – the escape. Real life tedium, stress, sadness, forgotten in a fantasy world, where the thrill of danger comes without risk, where love lasts forever. My  real world is certainly not as dramatic as my imaginary one, nor would I want it to be. I wouldn’t mind being seventeen again, as my main character is, and I certainly wouldn’t mind being adored by someone as gorgeous as Jack – although, in real life, his psychopathic tendencies might put a damper on things. Being caught up in a bonkers religious sect, though? No, thanks. And that makes me think of soap operas, and how so many people are addicted to them, living their lives vicariously through fictional characters. Maybe that’s all I’m doing – living my life vicariously. Because real life, most of the time, is a bit boring. Writing can be hard slog, sometimes torture, but when it works, it’s fantastic.

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