Tag Archives: balance

Sir, Yes Sir!

I know, now, why so many people who aspire to writing never actually manage to achieve their aims. It’s not necessarily down to a lack of talent, or a dearth of ambition, or a shortfall in the amount of effort they put into it, but perhaps – at least, if I’m anything to go by – it’s because they try too hard.

Image: ecocatlady.blogspot.com

Image: ecocatlady.blogspot.com

I’ve been working very hard on ‘Tider’ over the past few days. Since I finished draft 1 last Friday, I’ve managed to get to the end of draft 2, which involved making major content changes; I’ve also gone through the text again fixing and tweaking as I go, which I wouldn’t consider a ‘draft’, as such, but it was still hard work. It has been a challenge, and I am tired.

Even as I write all this out, I’m telling myself that it’s silly to do so much so quickly. I know, however, that there’s no other way I can do it. It’s they way I work, and has always been the way I work, to tackle a job head-on and to throw myself into it right from the start. I also have a hard time taking a rest until the job is done. Even as a student at school, I used to push myself to reach a certain point in my studies before I could take a break; if I didn’t manage to reach a certain chapter, or write a particular number of pages worth of work, or whatever it was, I wouldn’t allow myself to have a snack or go to the loo.

Who needs a Drill Sergeant when you do this to yourself?

Image: newgrounds.com

Image: newgrounds.com

This is all very well when you’re preparing for exams, or when you have a major project at work that needs to be done, or when you have a manager or a boss breathing down your neck. Of course, I’m not saying it’s wrong to have a work ethic, or to be motivated to do a job quickly and to the best of your ability. I’m just not so sure it’s always easily applicable to the job of writing a book, which is something that requires perfect balance between a person’s body and mind, and which you can’t do if you’re tired or burnt out, and which you’ll find challenging if you’re screaming at yourself inside your head, urging yourself on to the next goal. ‘Get the Job Done!’ doesn’t always help you to achieve a delicate thing like creating, sustaining and finishing a story.

I know all this, but it’s hard to switch your mind from one ‘mode’ of working to another. I haven’t been successful, as yet.

There’s a lot about ‘Tider’ that I’m not happy with. I don’t like the ending – I seem to have a problem with endings, no matter how long or short the piece I’m writing is! – and there’s not enough peril; the stakes aren’t high enough for our brave protagonist. I’m still working through the challenges that come with writing a story which is narrated in the first person, where your protagonist has deliberately been kept in the dark about a lot of issues which turn out to be very important ones for her; as she learns, the reader learns. For a writer, though, trying to get this across without ‘info-dumping,’ or telling the reader too much in too blunt a manner, is difficult.

I think, however, for the sake of the book’s future, and in an attempt to make sure I don’t end up flinging the whole thing in the bin in frustration, I’d better take a step back and try to rest today. I know my brain will yell at me, and I’ll probably feel an inexplicable urge to stand to attention (though hopefully not to shave my head), but I’ll have to cope with that as and when it happens.

Ten… Hut!

Have a good Thursday. Try to take it easy on yourself, if you can.


Turning the Pot

As I write, I’m looking out at our lily plants, which are in pots at the end of our garden. The recent lovely weather has made them bloom – they are covered with lovely red and yellow blossoms, and their stems are green and thick, and they are the picture of health. This is the first summer in recent years where I think the weather has really suited them, and they are showing their appreciation the best way they know how.

However, one thing has struck me about these beautiful plants, and that is this.

They are growing lopsided. This is because, of course, like every plant, they grow to follow the sunlight. I keep meaning to go out and turn them a little, to see if it will help them to grow more evenly, but I keep forgetting. It doesn’t stop the plant from looking beautiful, and I’m sure it will bloom and survive and follow its usual life-cycle just fine if I never remember to turn the pot, but it does mean the plant will be sideways. And that got me thinking, about growing out of shape and focusing too much on one direction in life and being all out of whack.

My thinking cap is not as stylish as this kitty's, but it's not far off! Image: critical-thinkers.com

My thinking cap is not as stylish as this kitty’s, but it’s not far off!
Image: critical-thinkers.com

You may remember how, earlier in the week, I wrote about how I’d been tired, and under the weather, and feeling a little burnt-out. Well, I’ve been giving myself a little break over the last few days, as I promised I would. I haven’t been pressuring myself to write 5,000 words, or to get absolutely everything on my to-do list done. I’ve even been allowing myself a proper lunch break, away from the computer – and, not only that, but I’ve been watching a little TV during this lunchbreak.

This is a radical new departure for me. I’m not a TV person, and it’s not my favourite thing to do to relax. However, I do have one weakness when it comes to television: I’m talking about cookery programmes, particularly ones about baking.

It has been a long, long time since I fired up my oven to bake anything. I haven’t lost my love for it, but I’ve left it so long that I wondered if I’d ever bake again. That was until I decided to switch on the TV one lunchtime earlier in the week and came across a half-hour baking slot on one of our food-themed channels, and I enjoyed watching it so much that yesterday, I managed to bake some biscuits. They weren’t great – they expanded too much in the oven, and they probably weren’t as tasty as they should have been. But, despite all this, it gave me so much pleasure to take out my scales once again and measure out my flour and sugar, and to crack my fresh eggs into my mixture, and to get my hands dirty with dough. It was the simplest recipe I think I’ve ever used, perfect for getting back into baking after so long away from it, and even if the finished product mostly ends up in the bin I’ll be glad I dipped my toe back into the water.

It’s not a good thing, as a writer and even just as a person, to allow yourself to grow one-sided. It’s a very easy thing to do when you spend so much of your time alone, working away on something that is meaningful, in some ways, only to you; it’s so easy to fall down the black hole of your own mind, and never be able to crawl out of it again. I love my own company, and have always enjoyed time spent on solitary tasks, but even I recognise there is a limit to how long you can focus on one thing before getting a little twisted out of shape. It’s important, I’m learning, to keep in touch not only with friends and loved ones, but also with the other aspects of yourself that you should love as much (or, nearly as much) as your ability to write; your other passions should not be strangled out of existence by your love of words. I love to bake, to walk, to draw, to sing, to listen to music. I love trees, and forests, and lakes. I love art, and history. I love exploring. All of these things are as valid as my passion for words, and sentences, and stories. It cannot benefit me as a person, and therefore as a writer, to allow these other loves to die.

I’m really beginning to understand that a person can’t write in isolation from the rest of their life. Everything you do as a writer feeds into your creative life – every walk you take, every flower you smell, every cake you bake, every person you meet, every song you sing, all these things help to fill the well of inspiration. A person can’t write if they know nothing outside of their own skull – after a short while, all their writing will become solipsistic, repetitive, and dry. It will die. If a person’s other passions have also been allowed to atrophy, what will be left?

Striking a balance is hard in all walks of life, particularly when you’re doing something you love, but it’s very important. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into my morning’s work now, and writing as many words as come to me, but if I write twenty words or two thousand, I’ll be equally pleased with my progress.

And – believe me – this is progress.

Have a lovely Friday. I’m sending you all some of these:

My lilies look just like this! Image: playwrightbetsy.blogspot.com

My lilies look just like this!
Image: playwrightbetsy.blogspot.com

Happy weekend!