Last week, I spent a lot of time working on a proofreading/copy-editing project, and it was very rewarding. There’s nothing my inner pedant likes more than slashing through unnecessary sentences and correcting misspellings, and there’s nothing my inner nurturer (and, perhaps, the vestiges of the English tutor which still lie within me, semi-dormant) likes more than offering advice, suggestions, and ways to make things sound better.
The only problem is, of course, that focusing on one project like this takes me right away from my own work, and as a result I haven’t done any real writing for a while. I have written a couple of pieces of flash, one of which (hopefully) will be published later in the year, and with which I’m quite happy, but my longer form writing has stalled again.
What I wouldn’t give for a time-turner. Or two brains. Or, indeed, a clone.
In any case, despite the fact that it is already Wednesday (eek!) I have decided to make the most of this week by getting back on the horse.
Sadly, of course, it’s an inevitability that I won’t look quite as spiffing as this fine gentleman (imagine me flat out along the horse’s neck, gripping it for dear life, screaming into its poor delicate ear as it thunders along, teeth bared), but one can only do one’s best.
I’ve decided it’s time for an Ideas Audit, by which I mean creating new documents for each idea currently rattling around inside my knucklebox brain, and writing them up in pitch and synopsis form. Then, if I’m feeling particularly energetic, I will write chapter plans for them. I’ve done this with some of the ideas I’m currently toying with, but not all. There’s one in particular I’d like to flesh out a little, and I feel it’s my interest in this idea that has given me the impetus to get my inventory sorted out, once and for all. This doesn’t mean I’m going to write all the books which these ideas represent (and it also doesn’t mean that the books, if written, will be any good), but it might give me a bit of peace, and a sense of control, and a feeling of achievement. And that’s half the battle, in writing. If you feel out of control, out of your depth, not sure which direction you’re going in, then you’ll hardly be in a good frame of mind to create something new.
So, I’m back to my list-making and my mental organising and my neat, clean files, and I’m hoping that they’ll give me the control I need to get myself going again. I’m also doing this because it’s important not to leave it too long between writing projects. People will tell you this is because writing is a muscle, and like as happens with any other muscle, if you don’t use it you lose it, but I think it’s also to do with the fact that writing is hard, and if you give yourself any sort of long-term break you’ll start realising how much easier life is when you’re not doing it. This doesn’t mean I don’t love writing; I do. But it’s bloody difficult. Working on the writing of other people is, I have to be honest, a thousand times easier – even with deadlines, and complications, and pressures, and the stresses of trying to get things exactly right.
But, after a while, you’ll start to wish you were writing for yourself again, and if you’ve been away for too long it can seem much more complicated to haul yourself into that saddle than it used to. The stirrup seems much further away from the ground. There appears to be a mad, reddish glint in the horse’s eye. Does he seem bigger than before? Maybe it’s best not to disturb him.
‘Nice horsie,’ you say, backing off carefully. ‘Good horsie.’
And then you turn and run.
So, it’s important to keep at your writing, because – even if it doesn’t feel like it – every time you get into that saddle, you’re improving. Every time you encounter a plot problem and solve it, your horse is clearing another hurdle. Every time you come to the end of a project, you and your mount get a big shiny rosette each, which you can wear with pride. And all the hard work and struggle becomes worth it.
Of course, when all this is happening inside your head, it can be tough to stay motivated, but it’s really important to try. So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off with my handful of sugar-lumps to chase down this old nag of mine… And happy galloping to you all!