Today’s story is about sitting on the sofa instead of at my desk because it feels less like work and more like having a little party all by myself. I’ve wrapped mysef in a blanket and am considering a second cup of tea in a minute. That’s how racy it’s getting around here. Today’s soundtrack is bucketloads of raindrops splattering the windows, and the visual inspiration of the day is the grey picture above. The cosiness of a rainy day from the right side of the glass. And the joy of remembering that working at home means you can work wherever you like.
Of course this was not the story I was going to tell you. I had some other plan which I thought of yesterday. I’m not sure now what it was, even when I look at the note I made at the time. It was probably a good idea, but it was yesterday’s idea and by the time I sat down today to write it, I wasn’t feeling it any more.
I know writers talk a lot about discipline, about writing regularly whether you’re in the mood or not, and I’m all for that. What I can’t do is make myself write something I’m not feeling. So I sit down to write at the allotted time, but when every word on the screen feels like another tooth being pulled, I’m probably not writing what I need to write today. The only thing to do is to begin again, and tell today’s story, even if it’s not what I planned. Even if today’s story means inventing a whole new chapter when I was supposed to be finishing chapter 3.
Today’s story can only ever be written when it’s fresh. Once it’s written you can do whatever you choose with it. You can edit and rewrite it many times. It can be a blog, a paragraph in the introduction to your book, a stand-alone essay or a passing reference in the middle of chapter 7. Or just a private note to self and some good writing practice which will never see the light of day. It’s all good.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t revisit yesterday’s ideas. If I was still feeling the truth of yesterday’s idea, you’d be reading a different blog and I’d probably have finished writing it half an hour earlier. But if we do nothing else, we must write the truth we feel. And if we can do that while enjoying a cup of tea on a comfy sofa, so much the better!
The hedgerows are broadcasting the abundance of harvest-time, laden with hips and haws, sloes and blackberries. Yet the whirr of my wheels as I pedal along, and the grasshoppers in the long grass, still sing of lazy summer days. The sun paints a wash of late summer haze over the already-harvested fields, tinged with the unmistakable slant of autumn. Bronze, gold and brown mingle with the fading greens in the treetops.
Summer does not end. It slides into autumn, or autumn slides into it, subtly, without you noticing, until the crisp mornings become cold and the sunshine weakens and loses its warmth.
This isn’t the setting for a story.
This is the beautiful story.
The more you write, the more you can write.
The more you think about writing, the more ideas you have.
The more you look for opportunities to get your writing out there, the more opportunities you find.
Yesterday I found a local short story competition whose closing date is next week. I found it in a magazine I would never normally pick up, in the doctor’s waiting room. I had a story already written which I could use, from a time when I was writing more than I have been recently.
It spurred me on, not only to enter the competition, but also to write more stories, so I have more to choose from next time opportunity comes knocking.
Imagine a world without film. Without audio recording equipment or cameras of any kind. In fact, while you’re at it, imagine a world without writing. (Go on, be daring.)
Now think. How important would story be then?
The only memory would be folk memory. Even the things your parents’ generation remembered would be but story to you; there would be no photos of older family members, no recordings or written accounts of world events.
That’s how important story is. It is the only thing that truly binds us to the past or allows us to imagine the future.
An old man died today. Although related by marriage, I didn’t know him well and hadn’t seen him for about 20 years. But when I heard the news, I remembered a gentle, quiet person who always had time, and a smile, for everyone.
I wonder how he would have remembered me?
In the end we will all be someone’s memory, a story passed to the next generation. Let’s try to be a good one.