I’m deep in a long writing project and alternating between writing, researching, and writing some more. It is growing – slowly – but still growing.
On the days when I am wondering why I am doing this – when my characters fail to speak when I need them to, or when that great plot line falls flat on the page – I need to remind myself that this is all part of a larger process.
A novel is not composed in isolation and the journey it makes from the jumble that is the writer’s mind (my own!), through the editing process, the reading and advice from agents and publishers until finally it becomes a book – is a long one indeed.
This business of writing, this craft of creativity is strange.
And I remember an article I wrote just over a year ago for Writing.ie – Because I do.
Creativity and industry are like two tracks, running parallel, sometimes crossing over, or intertwining. Other times changing direction, making choices, and moving slowly. And on these tracks sit the carriages of desire and ego. And you’re feeling them….Tracks, as we all know, join, and split, and move towards each other, a singular destination for a journey. Beside creativity is industry. Without it what you produce is not going to move beyond that track, or even out of the carriage.
And I recall what Anne Lamott said about adding life to form. And I read the last line of my article. Truth can be seen, and felt, in writing. And in living.
And I’m reassured.
Let life burst out from the seams of routine. Add life to the form that you are creating. For the story to be real, the page needs to provoke feeling.
So let the words come – or not – but always, let the living continue.
Serendipity often occurs when we’re in writing mode.
When you’re in that deep place of the story. Doing the shopping, selecting lettuce, or fish, for dinner and the narrator’s voice is running through your mind. And that exact verb that you were hunting for rings loudly in your ears.
Out for a walk, suddenly you see someone who looks like they could be in your novel. Or you hear a phrase that is perfect. Somebody refers to a place that features in a scene you’ve just written.
Last week I spent the morning writing a chapter of my novel which is set in 1938 and took a break to meet a friend for coffee. Actually, it was lunch. In a pub where we often meet. For food. For coffee. For chats. But last week was different. A simple change in how they served coffee had me smiling all week.
I can’t tell you how wonderful it was – and astonishing, really – when I was served my coffee in the cup you see pictured below. Yes. 1938.
Writers may be custodians of memory, the guardians of stories, and, as William Zinsser says, ‘writing has no new discoveries to spring on us. We’re in no danger of reading in our morning newspaper that breakthrough has been made in how to write a clear English sentence.’
But still, the magic is there, and if we are open enough, so is the serendipity.
It’s these moments, these simple coffee cup moments that keep us writing, even when the story is tough.
I am Cardiff bound this week!
I’m delighted to be invited as a guest writer to discuss the writing life and publishing world with Creative Writing students at my old stomping ground, the University of South Wales, this December.
I will also be reading from my novel Happiness Comes from Nowhere as well as some exciting work-in-progress at the fantastic Moot Court (writers on trial!) at the Treforest Campus in the Vale of Glamorgan from 6.30 to 8pm!
All are welcome and I’d love to see you there!