It’s always a rat’s nest before it’s done

Do you ever think about how one part of your life can inform another?

In my other life I spend a lot of time writing grant applications.  (For organisations, not for me!)  There’s a bit of a formula to it, a structure imposed either by an application form or by the funder’s guidelines.  I slot things in here and there, working out the best place to mention this bit of the project and the best way to ‘sell’ its importance.  I make notes to myself and my collaborators in brackets: “(We need to mention the links with X here)”; “(I’m not sure what this means – can you explain?)”; “(Is this actually true?)”  I move paragraphs about and work on some of them in separate documents.  Sometimes I start again.

And these are the things I know:

It always looks like a rat’s nest before it’s finished.

I always reach a point where I think, this time I can’t make it work.

I always manage it in the end.

So why, oh why, do I expect my creative writing to be any different?  Why should I be surprised and discouraged because I read through something I’ve written and realise it’s not what I thought it was when I was writing it?  Why should I expect it to flow from my fingers with ease?

Writing is a stop-start thing.  Sometimes it flows, but then you hit a bump and maybe you just have to put a note in brackets, “(something about badgers in here)”, and come back to it later.  Eventually you’ll always have to stop and edit, and sometimes you’ll realise the best editing you can do is the kind that starts with a fresh blank page and a fresh cup of tea.

And, for me this week, the best lesson from all of this is that sometimes you have to take what you know from the rest of your life and apply it to your creative writing.  In my grants writing, I work best within a structure, even if I change that structure seventeen times in an afternoon.  Doesn’t this tell me that my creative brain would also thank me for a bit of structure?  And it also helps my creative brain to remember this pearl of wisdom from my grants-writing self:

It’s always a rat’s nest before it’s done.  And that’s ok.

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4 thoughts on “It’s always a rat’s nest before it’s done

  1. I think the hardest part of writing for me is to love and accept my rat’s nest while it’s still a rat’s nest. I want it to be just like the perfect abstraction that was in my head when it comes out, and then it drives me crazy that it’s less than that.

    • Yes, that’s what I’ve been struggling with too – I’m slowly learning to accept that the rat’s nest isn’t just inevitable, it’s a necessary part of the process. That makes it a bit easier to put up with, if not quite to love!

  2. I agree completely. I often think I’m writing on one topic and or using one set of examples and it turns out to be something completely different and don’t even get me started on my grant writing or compliance reports. 🙂

    • Oh, yes, I do this too. I often say I don’t know what I think about something until I open my mouth or pick up a pen. Sometimes I amaze myself…

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