Silence

After talking all day, the possibility of written words slips away, yet with no human contact there is perhaps no story to be written.

Only in silence can the inner words rise to the surface, yet with too much silence they drift away before they can be shaped on the page.

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We were the children

We were the children then.  Three little pairs of eyes glinting at the camera.  Six tiny feet, thirty grubby fingers and three floppy sunhats.

We’re older now than our parents were then.  Between us, we’ve produced the same number of children, the same number of twinkling eyes and tiny feet.

We’re the adults now, but still I see the little monkey in each of us.

The problem with books

Let me take you on a little tour of my bookshelves.  Just the ones in this room; if we go through the whole house we’ll be here all day.

Here are the work-related ones.  These are not the problem ones.  They aren’t many and they don’t get opened much but are particularly useful for pinching ideas from when I have to deal with a new subject or remind myself of things I used to know.

The problem ones are the knitting ones…

…the sewing ones…

…the historical ones I’ve been using for writing research…

…and the writing and creativity ones.  No, don’t touch the pile; there may be an avalanche and it would take days to dig you out.

If you added up all the time I’ve spent reading these books you’d have a big number of hours.  If you added up all the time I’ve spent actually knitting, sewing, writing – I fear you’d have a much smaller number of hours.

And that’s the problem with books.  They trick you into thinking that reading about doing something is the same as actually doing it.

Don’t switch it on

pen and paperIt’s the only way to begin.

If I begin the day writing, I’m likely to continue writing.  If I  begin the day by switching on the computer (to use it as my writing tool), I’m likely to spend hours reading other people’s writing, responding to business emails and getting caught up in my other work.

So now, I don’t switch it on.

Yes, writing with a pen is slower than typing.  But writing something is better than writing nothing.

Yes, at some point I have to type up what I’ve written – assuming I decide to use it.  But that’s a great opportunity for editing, and I can do it later in the day when I’ve already done my most creative work and set myself on the writing track for the day.

I also find that once I’ve begun on paper, I’m somehow less easily distracted once I do migrate to the keyboard.

I’m biased, of course.  I’ve always loved pens and notebooks and look for any excuse to use them.  But this really does work, I promise – at least for me, and at least for this week.

It’s not so dark if you turn all the lights off

In the chill of the early winter morning, looking out through the curtains from a bright, warm house, all you see is darkness.  Not just darkness: blackness.  Like a moth, your eye is drawn to the orange pools around the streetlights; there is nothing else to focus on.

Venture outside and the picture changes a little.  Now you see the circle of white light from your torch illuminating three metres of grey tarmac in front of you.  Your breath curls in smoky puffs where the light catches it.  Dark hedges loom on either side of you, but they are insubstantial shadows below tiny faraway stars.

The corner of your eye catches the faintest hint of dawn on the horizon, just a slight fading of the sky.

Turn off the torch.

Now you can see.

Naked winter trees and hedges are charcoal-black against the ashy frosted fields and the inky sky.  In the east the ink fades to palest ice-blue, shading to creamy apple-white and the faintest suspicion of a pink sunrise.  Icy puddles glitter in the starlight.

This is the world the lights had hidden from view; the magic they bleached away.

How to actually write

Even when I block out a whole day for writing (and congratulate myself for taking it so seriously), and prepare in advance a list of Things To Write, why do I let life get in the way and do all the non-writing Things To Do instead?  Why??

And what can I do about it?  (Yes, this is a plea for suggestions from you.  I know my usual way on the blog is to give you inspiration, but today let’s play role-reversal.  Please?)

Here’s the thought process.

1.  Paid work is just that: paid.  So obviously it’s more important than writing a book that doesn’t even have a proper structure or plan yet, says my inner logic.  So why wouldn’t I deal with the paid work first?

2. Family comes first.  Always.  So of course I need to phone my mum and reassure her that everything is fine, before I get down to writing business.

3. Feeding the aforementioned family is part of my job as Mummy.  So of course I would put dinner in the slow cooker before getting out the writing implements.

4. Speaking of writing implements: laptop, you are very useful and I appreciate everything about you.  But as soon as I open you I can see all my emails and a million distractions.  (See 1.  And 2.)  Yes, I could close all those windows.  But I swear you open them again yourself when I’m busy trying to type a sentence for the third time.

And here is my single conclusion so far:

Write using paper and pen.  In a different room from the laptop.  It’s the only answer.

But it’s not the whole answer.  If it was, I would have come home from dropping the boy off at school, picked up a notebook and pen, and got on with it.

So how do I convince myself that writing this book is as important as the other stuff?  That’s today’s big question.  All answers gratefully received!

It’s only words

This year, if I remember nothing else, I will remember this:

It’s only words.

I don’t mean to quote any songs here, and apologise if you’ve now got an earworm you could do without.  But I find it’s easy to build up this writing business into something difficult and serious, when it should be fun.  (For someone who loves to laugh, I can get ever so serious.)

I’m not saying writing’s not important.  But if we tell ourselves too often that it’s important and that what we write (and whether we write) matters, we can end up with brainfreeze as well as earworms.

When I remember that they’re only words, the words seem to flow more easily.