Sunday, January 29, 2012


 'I have a new novel preparing but preparing very slowly.  I am not quick about such things.  They must roll about in my mind for an age before they can be written.  I think it will take me two years to write a full length novel, counting periods when I walk the streets and try to comb up courage enough to blow out my brains.'  John Steinbeck

I remember when I was in school, aged 7 or 17, when we were given a writing assignment I took to it like a duck to water.  Seriously, my Mr. Men book (entitled 'Mr Rich' if you're interested, all illustrations my own) was the longest in my class; my short story was finished a week before the assignment was due.  This was what came naturally and easiest to me and I didn't even realise it - it was that natural. All of a sudden assignments aren't sufficient anymore, instead I get the urge to write at the most awkward and annoying moments.  I was sat on a train home before Christmas and started to write; the man opposite me was reading every word that I wrote, underlined or went back to cross out.
'Writing is the flip side of sex - it's only good when it's over.'  Hunter S. Thompson

Is it just me or do you assume that because someone has written tens of novels, short stories and poems that writing is easy for them?  I remember an article we read in class years ago about Mrs Gaskell and Dickens; Dickens was trying to hurry up her submission for his magazine 'Household Words' and was threatening her with a slap if she didn't get it in on time.  All of a sudden your imagination is bound up in deadlines, word counts and pennies (or pounds if you're lucky) per word. Those novels staring out at you in book stores are the result of hours of toil and proof-reading.

'The way you define yourself as a writer is that you write every time you have a free minute.  If you didn't behave that way you would never do anything.' John Irving.

Following through on the compulsion to write isn't a particularly pleasant process, for me anyway.  I will have minutes, sometimes hours, when I just have to write.  And what seemed good at the time of writing, when re-read is dreadful.  It will never be as good as it was in your head, the words at your disposal are never enough, you can never express yourself as clearly as you wish you could.  But then, even if it never sees the light of day, you've created something, which is always a wonderful feeling, even if it's rather patched together and you're reluctant to have anyone scrutinise created it! All of a sudden it's worth the hard work.

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kirst said...

Thank you for this. Such thoughts have been washing around in my head for some time. xo

Unpublished Life said...

This is so true. The need to write will strike me (usually on the commute home), but by the time I get home to my laptop, the urge is gone ...

As an aspiring writer I need to take John Irving's quote to heart. Because, at the moment I don't write in my free time, and as a result, don't do anything ...

Alice said...

Amazing, and very true. I have bursts of enthusiasm to write but unfortunately they never seem to last that long. I find that sometimes life itself (a monotonous day job) can either help or hinder creativity in people, for me it definitely hinders.

Paris said...

haha i've thought the same about writers with so much writing that it MUST come natrually to them. the thing is, writing's never easy, but that doesn't undermine our passions as writers. it's amazing to see the comparisons of a final piece i've written to its first draft that i wrote on a napkin spontaneously in Starbucks, etc. but to me, both are special equally in that they still provoke the same idea/message that popped into my head and that i wanted to share with the world :)

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