Friday, 26 May 2017

Writing about writing: I did a bad thing.

I am sitting across the dinner table from my sister-in-law when I realise something: I don’t want to be with my husband anymore. The thought comes together innocently enough. It’s one of those background thoughts that play over someone’s conversation. You’re not fully committed to what the other person is saying, and so you have a few tabs open in the background: Bugger, I forgot washing up liquid; Did I send that email, or just draft it – must check; Can’t remember whether the car is booked in for the morning or the afternoon, better check that too; I think I want to leave my husband; Is this chicken cooked?


The title of this post is slightly disingenuous; let me just be up front and admit that to you right now. I didn’t do a bad thing, at all. In fact, I did what I think is probably a very smart thing.

If you follow my PhD posts then you know I am about to start what will be the fourth – and, I hope, final – edit on my PhD novel. At this stage it is very much a labour of love because, while I am as passionate about my protagonist as I was three years ago, it is still three years spent working on the same book with some level of intensity – and that, my friends, can get a little tiring. I am happy – that’s an overstatement but I’ll edit a better emotion in at some point – to be going back to the book, even though I am slightly nervous about it, too. My supervisor tells me that it will work my creativity a little; although the stroppy child that is my creative brain is going: ‘But whhhhyyy do I have to ediiiiiit mooooooore?’ It’s creative editing, if you will, because there will be new writing – but there will also be more line edits, and we all know how much writers just love line edits...

Enter complicating action: While I am on the cusp of editing one book, my brain is cracking its knuckles and making plans for another. And I will not succumb to the temptation. I want to – God only knows how much I want to – but I also know that I cannot give enough time to two projects of this magnitude to do them both justice, particularly when I am so close to finishing one of them already. I will wait – because the idea will still be there; the perfect notebook (given to me by a dear friend at my book launch), will still be there; my words will still be there – and better still, I will have the time to write that with the intensity and enthusiasm with which I have written my PhD novel and that, I think, is the key to sticking it through these longer projects.

This is all logical – especially for the creative brains who may be reading this. It makes sense and I have thought about this long and hard, discussing it with fellow creatives along the way.

‘You can’t give yourself entirely to two projects; it’s definitely best to wait,’ one writer-friend recently told me – and she’s right.

So I – the human, logical individual I – am waiting. My brain:

Not so good with the waiting...

So this morning after I had rolled downstairs – not literally, although you can pull on that funny image whenever you need it today – I made my tea, I booted up my laptop, and I opened a fresh word document. I had a line rattling around my brain: ‘That’s when I realised I wanted to leave my husband’, and I ran with it. For just over 1000 words, I ran with it. It isn’t a story – although one day I may discover that it’s part of one, or a prompt for one, we’ll see – but it was forty minutes of unencumbered creativity and my brain? Well...

It was good stretch, and whether it amounts to anything or not seems entirely inconsequential given how good my brain feels for having done it. So my bad thing – ignoring my book for an hour to write something else – may actually have been a smart move for the book overall. And even if it wasn’t – at least I took my brain for a walk... 

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