My creative process initially fires up as our writing tutor announces our homework:- ’Fresh Fruit - a personal story’ - a poem, diary piece or short story, to be shared the following week.
Prickly panic immediately stabs my armpits as the familiar fear of creative lockdown looms; the dread of ‘nothing to say’. Over the next five days I use every writing opportunity to clean out the cat litter tray, defrost the fridge even repair a fallen hem! Two days to go and finally I sit down to write knowing I need to write and feeling both scared and excited.
Both emotions are welcome. I no longer try to reason the fear away -I wonder if it’strying to protect me from perceived rejection and ridicule that have strong roots in earlier and unhappier times.
So I pick up my pen and encourage myself to play with ideas around ‘fresh fruit’ and see what emerges. Very soon, wordsemerge stuttering and fumbling onto the page. Trying to convey dribbles of juicy pear and frigid white hulls of November strawberries in fluorescent supermarkets.
As I write, a thread of narrative starts to weave my ideas together and I am writing about my dad, then gravely ill, and his love of homemade fruit salad. It becomes the story of an adult daughter and her ‘fruitless’ struggles to please her unreasonable father.
My pen digs deeply into the page as I describe his petulant demands for Scottish strawberries in Winter and how his ingratitude wounds his daughter. It lightens when I start to describe the’ fresh figs in postwar Paris’ anecdotes, and the daughter’s unfailing loyalty towards her father, as she patiently listens and laughs as if hearing all this for the first time.
My first draft is messy and now like freshly mixed bread dough needs conscious shaping and time to ‘ prove’.
I find editing my writing tortuous, as the perfectionist part of me scrutinises every word and phrase for meaning and ‘fit’ yet a romantic sentimental streak in me is reluctant to cut out any original ideas. It feels disloyal somehow, like casting friends overboard a dinghy, I might never get them back!
At some indefinable point, the process is finished, any more deliberation and the spark in the piece will die. So now, I look forward to receiving feedback, reminding myself that for me, it’s the process rather than the finished piece that’s most precious to me.