This is an old post from some time ago – eighteen months or so, I think – as will quickly become apparent. Not only did I not have a publisher for A GOOD AMERICAN at this stage, I didn’t even have a title! Still, it seemed appropriate to re-post today as a counterpoint to my post yesterday about the satisfaction of jumping in and hauling ideas out of my head and on to the page – actually writing, in other words.
Several kind people have expressed an interest in reading a series of posts based on a talk I gave last year to the local writers’ guild about finding time to write, and I will get to work on those shortly… watch this space.
As I approach the end of the re-write for the Book With No Name, I find myself thinking more and more about my next effort.
While the manuscript for the new novel was out in the real world, looking for a home, I had several months to flesh out my thoughts for the next one. The original kernel of the idea has been knocking around in my head for some years, but I’ve been unsure what to do with it. I slowly winkled out various elements of plot, characters and theme. Some parts of the story are clear in my mind, but other elements remain hopelessly out of focus. It’s been refreshing to have hardly thought about it for the past six months, and I’m hoping that the subconscious fermenting of ideas has continued while I’ve been working on the old text. With a bit of luck, after this hiatus some of the hazier bits will suddenly ping into focus. Well, I can hope, can’t I?
I love this part of the process, before I have set a single word down on paper. I know Hemingway was allegedly terrified of the proverbial blank page, but I relish not having begun. Part of the allure for me (optimist that I am) is the glittering promise of what might be to come. Right now, before a word has been written, anything could happen. I haven’t written myself into any knotty plot holes. My characters are yet to jump on to my back and weigh me down. This, I think as I scribble down ideas in my notebook, could be it.
Writers are burdened by the same dreams as everyone else. Perhaps we are even more afflicted than others, since when it’s just you and the words in your head, there’s nobody else you blame (although we might try.) Every time I begin a new book, I have to hope that it will be the best thing I’ve ever written. Otherwise, why would I bother? Writing, like life, should be an on-going education. I’m looking forward to learning some more.
Fascinating hearing you talk about the blank page.
Immediately I’m hearing the wonderful Mumford & Sons’ “White blank Page” in my head.
One question, Alex.
Food for thought (for me, anyway):
Who decreed that life “*should* be an on-going education”? …
Ah, well, that would be me, I suppose.
I’ve always thought that one has to go through life always eager to learn new stuff. Whether it’s improving your chosen craft (e.g. writing better novels), or simply becoming wiser through the experiences that life dishes out, there’s always something to learn.
I remember my 5 year-old niece coming home after her first day at school and proudly declaring that she didn’t need to go back the following day, because she already knew everything! Heaven help us if we ever believe that as adults.
The process of on-going education also helps give us all a degree of humility, which can only be a good thing. By learning, we discover just how little any of us actually knows.
An enquiring mind is a fundamental requirement for any sort of meaningful intellectual life. And the starting point has to be, doesn’t it, that there is always so much more to know?
Alex, I haven’t been out to your blog for some time and I am eagerly awaiting your book’s release. I’m so sorry you are going through “a rough patch.” I’m dealing with some issues too, in my life, and I envy your ability to focus on what brings you the most reward, your writing. I’m still looking for something to bring me, for lack of a better word, serenity in the face of adversity. I know you realize that there is nothing as static as change and we all just muddle through in our own way. Count your blessings that your way is so productive and will bring much pleasure to others. Keep on keeping on.
Hi Jeanne: thanks for stopping by; haven’t seen you in ages! I’m sorry to hear that things are perhaps not as smooth as you would like, and I certainly hope you succeed in finding that serenity we all need. I’m certainly very lucky to have my writing… and my darling children, of course (although perhaps “serenity” isn’t * quite * the appropriate word there!!) Take care, speak soon, I hope!