“Why on earth did I say I’d write poetry about the moon. I can’t even see Her for the rain!”Read More
The year-long mentoring scheme starts in October, and I’ve been talking to people about it: the commitment, the challenges, and the benefits.
Some writers have signed up without hesitation because it’s the opportunity they’ve been waiting for to birth that long dreamed-of book-child.
There have also been people who’ve sent an initial, enthusiastic YES, followed by another email hard on the heels of the first, qualifying that with an umm… err… perhaps I responded too quickly…
Their reason for changing their mind is usually a variation on the theme of I just don’t think I’ll have the time. They often add, I’ll come back to you next year. I’ll have more time and energy when…
a) I give up my job
b) my children leave home
c) the divorce has gone through
d) I retire
e) my health is better
Now, if you’re one of those in-then-out-of-the-scheme people, just watch what’s happening to you now. Are you beginning to sink in your seat, embarrassed, or shamed?
If so, is that because you feel you responded without thinking in that first email? Or because, in sending the second email, you fear you’re failing in your writerly quest to get that book finished, and out there? Or is it just because you changed your mind?
To allay one concern, I’ll say, as the receiver of those two emails, that it’s no problem for me if you change your mind like that. I believe it’s a basic human right to re-think something.
I’ll also say, unequivocally, that if you responded to that first email without thinking, that’s brilliant. Do that more. Expose your instinctual animal self more.
On the subject of failing; the only person you make a contract with when you decide to write a book, is yourself. So, the only person you can fail, is yourself. A feeling of failure is only useful for one thing, for making us examine at how we’ve set up our expectations, in order to renegotiate them with ourselves.
The most important job for us as writers, arguable more important than the act of writing itself, is to raise our confidence, and then raise it some more. To keep remembering we are skilled in the art of sitting down in front of the blank page. That means hitting our own targets. It’s almost irrelevant whether that’s writing for four hours a day, or fifteen minutes a week. If we keep doing it, one day we find it’s done.
When you’ve negotiated a realistic contract with yourself, start saying no to the I’m a failure line in your head. Life is tough enough, why make it harder by beating yourself up?
I’m very grateful indeed to the in-then-out-of-the-scheme-people because they point up an internal message that sabotages so many of us writers- I don’t have time.
I know very well that feeling of overwhelm when thinking about fitting writing into a busy schedule of work, childcare and domestic tasks. However, I’d say that the idea that we’ll have more time in the future is largely an illusion.
Reality check 1: there is enough time to write.
Reality check 2: you will never have more time than you do now.
We can invent all sorts of stories about it, but actually, none of us have any idea what the future will hold. Chances are it will also be busy. Ever noticed how human beings like to fill time in any way they can?
My general line is that we need to know how to deal with that feeling of overwhelm, of constriction, of too-much-ness, and write despite the busyness, rather than waiting for more space. Scary? Yes, I know.
Perhaps this message from Stephen King, via Neil Gaiman will help,
“I think the most important thing I learned from Stephen King I learned as a teenager, reading King's book of essays on horror and on writing, Danse Macabre. In there he points out that if you just write a page a day, just 300 words, at the end of a year you'd have a novel. It was immensely reassuring - suddenly something huge and impossible became strangely easy. As an adult, it's how I've written books I haven't had the time to write.”
So much more than we expect can be achieved, if we put down the procrastinating.
The Monthly Writing Prompt
Here’s a challenge for you: if you have 15 minutes spare in a day, how about using that to write, rather than to think about when that next clear hour will come up? Do that every day for a month.
This morning at 6am I saw the ‘snow moon’ of February hanging full and weighty in the pre-dawn sky.
How to find language to capture and express the experience?
When I take time to look patiently, words arise.
When I consciously expand my vocabulary, I not only express my experience more aptly, but I also live it more broadly and richly.
Did you know that Scots has at least 421 terms for snow? It’s true!
My picture contains (just) 24 words for the conditions of snow and ice, from Scots, Gaelic, and travellers’ cant.