Sunday, 24 February 2013
So, procrastination - the art of putting off what we know ought to be done; what must be done if our minds are to have any peace. Whenever I find myself reaching for the weighing scales, and the fat and the flour, and the sugar and the eggs, I know I have a mild case of procrastination. I have a deadline, but it's some little way in the distance - there's time to bake. And once I've made those biscuits, that Victoria sponge - or even a chocolate cocoa cola cake - then I'll get right back down to work, won't I? Easy peasy. I'll be back in the writing groove before I know it. When I reach for the Cif, and a cloth and an old toothbrush, and start attacking the skirting-boards and those grubby bits in the hinges of doors, then I know my 'cure' is going to take a little bit longer. But that deadline is looming - I can't forget it even though I will feel righteous for having done battle with the old toothbrush etc. But it's when I start taking down the curtains to wash them, and get the VAX machine out from under the stairs to clean the carpets that I know I'm a suitable case for treatment. Getting my writing mojo back is going to be harder the longer I'm away from the keyboard. I know that. But I still do this stuff. But why, I wonder, do I feel guilty not writing? - even when I'm getting on with things that give me instant gratification (the chocolate cocoa cola cake) or things I know need doing (the rest of the above). After all, I tell myself, writing is self-inflicted. No one is holding a gun to my head to do it. I'm not going to starve in my garret or become homeless if I don't write. (I might have to forego the Prosecco, but that's another story.) I know all this procrastination is because I'm having a little writing wobble; a mini crisis of confidence in varying degrees when reaching for those weighing scales/the Cif/the VAX machine. And it will pass. It always does. It seems to me that procrastination is, perhaps, part of the writing pattern. We have to be away from it before we realise how much we love doing it. What then, I wonder, are your procrastination tactics? Or - as my daughter calls it - avoidance procedures. I'd love to know I'm not alone in this - I'm sure I can't be - when the chips are down. I might even add something from your list, to mine. But for the moment you'll have to excuse. I've got to go. There's that thing called a deadline hovering on the periphery of my life, but first I have a chocolate cocoa cola cake to make.....
Sunday, 17 February 2013
For me the best writing is writing that conveys strong emotion. But how do you do it? How do you get that glorious intensity into words on the page?
First, of course, you need to feel the emotion yourself. You can try reading poetry. Listening to music. Wandering through a gallery or the hills above Moffat. And FEELING – then describing the feeling. That’s the hard thing – not just the feeling but the saying how you feel. Finding those exact words to express it. Maybe that’s how it is for painters, looking for that exact colour? Or composers, for the right note, the right instrument and tone?
But we writers only have words and word in my hands are such poor, sad things. So often I want to go and quote from someone else, to show how words can really be made to count. But that is cheating, so I have to try and capture that passion myself.
It isn’t easy.
Sometimes it helps if you take a picture and try to express that one moment in words: not the things you see but the things you feel, so the reader is there in the moment too. Like this -
The silver snake of the slide. The impossibly distant perfect houses. The vicious crash and clack of the skateboards. Green grass, even in winter. And the grey grey sky, enough to make you cry. That’s Kelvingrove Park on a grey day in February.
Or you can listen to music as you write. I know many people do that, but I find I can’t. I can listen to music before I write, but then I have to have silence to delve into my own deep, recalcitrant feelings.
And then, sometimes, when you do get into that moment, the emotion is there carrying you forward like a tidal wave and you just ride it and then look back afterwards to see if it has worked. Riding the wave – maybe that’s the best analogy for me. You can edit out what is unnecessary, but first you need to get the flood of words on the page to edit.
When I can’t quite find the wave, I make myself keep on trying. I think that’s what all writers do. You don’t believe you have ever quite got there – remember the brilliance of the story when it formed in your head? the amazing image? the feeling? But we keep on trying.