Saturday, 15 September 2007

And then there were none

The most doubtful thing in the universe is our own ability to perform to our potential. Some days you just don't want to try, some days others make the assessment for you, and some days you feel like you made it. There is a real beauty to doing nothing - it takes practice.

Writing is terrifying work. What if it is lousy? What if no one will read it? What if no one will publish it? What if you are wasting your time and should be doing some other meaningful work? Some days you look down at the white expanse of Word and panic. Some days you open up Word and can't get the words down fast enough to keep up with your thoughts. After the piece is written comes the editing, giving up paragraphs and pages of words you had to mentally sweat to get out. Into the trash with you, too wordy, too trite, too many metaphors, too many adverbs. Then you send it in to someone to publish and sure enough - not good enough. The game is not set that way however; you have to send it out again, and again. You have to re-edit, rewrite, and somehow keep believing in your own ability to tell a meaningful story.

Then there is the sheer volume of it when you are writing a novel. You have to keep all the timelines coordinated, and all the characters connected. In order to have a compelling story you must have a tapestry of interwoven plots and people. I have to see the physical pages in order to keep it all in order. I print out the story so far and line it up on the floor. I have a war table with the layout of my armies and the navy deployments. I have another map with the political alliances taped to the various countries for one story.

The best thing in my case for ideas is to run. I get more ideas on walks, or on the treadmill than anywhere else. Whenever I get stuck that is the best remedy. The core for the idea of "Fractured" came to me while I was on the bike in the gym in Fez. The circumstances were a bit surreal.

Then come the days when you are just discouraged, so discouraged that you can't write a damn thing. I know I should anyway, that's what successful writers and the books about writing say; but some days I can't do it. The danger is in letting the days pile up! I am come to believe even if I only write shit, I need to write every day, hence this rambling coherence of words.

I wonder how much of what we do is because we are afraid to fail in the eyes of other people, or to be scorned by our society. The Americans are imbued with the essential guilt of any time not spent “doing” something. Even when on their vacation the time must be organized and set for some activity. The concept of value in the meditative state of contemplation has not broken through the society’s consciousness. Even those that do ‘meditate’, again, it is “doing” something. There are of course exceptions to this rambling analysis; I am making a rash generalization.

People who are not defined by their physical bodies amaze me. I was reading the report of Stephen Hawkins and his ride in an aircraft that allowed him a short time of being weightless. He said it was “bliss”. Here is a man that should have long ago been dead, who cannot speak without the assistance of mechanics, who cannot move without a wheelchair, and yet has written best sellers to bring science to the public. He has made some of the breakthrough discoveries and postulated some of the most daring theories in modern day physics. Yet most of us react to others and to ourselves by what we see. The pretty and the tall get a leg up just by virtue of genetics; while the fat and the short must go the extra mile. Admittedly that may in some, but not all, cases build a stronger character; but my bet is they would give that up for a perfect jaw line or nose.

I can’t believe it is the 21st century and most women are still making around seven cents to the dollar a compared to men. It was not really that long ago however that women got the vote and were recognized as property owners. The patriarchal society is still alive and strong. That is what having an all-powerful god is about isn’t it? The father figure who will take care of you, make all the hard decisions, fix matters when you muck them up, and take the burdens of a life lived onto himself. When you take on that sort of protection however you give up your self-determination; fate then rules your destiny. But as I often say, I could be wrong…

Ciao.

25 comments:

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Ciao, Lady M. What a wonderful post about the elf-doubt and the agony of writing. But I, for one, am so glad that you do!

jmb said...

As one who used to believe that writers were born and driven to put words to paper, I have been amazed over the years to learn that it is not so. Writers are full of self doubt just like the rest of us.

As to the patriarchal society:

"When you take on that sort of protection however you give up your self-determination; fate then rules your destiny."

The worst of this is when you are given no choice in the matter. For millions of women: When your father dies, your brother becomes your master. When you husband dies, your teenaged son.

How will this ever change?

lady macleod said...

welshcakes

Thank you, my insecurities appreciate that.

thank you for coming by.

lady macleod said...

jmb

We may be MORE full of self doubt since our work depends on your approval.

I think it changes, the way the child labor laws, and slavery changed - we make it so.

thank you for coming by.

Mama Zen said...

I think that we all have those days. You look at the blank page or screen and think "I can't and why bother anyway?"

We bother because we just have to, and Editors be damned!

lady macleod said...

mama zen

I think so..

thank you for coming by.

Dr. James P. Holdren said...

Writing is terrifying work. What if it is lousy? What if no one will read it? What if no one will publish it? What if you are wasting your time and should be doing some other meaningful work? Some days you look down at the white expanse of Word and panic. Some days you open up Word and can't get the words down fast enough to keep up with your thoughts.

Don't give it a moment's thought - just write.

lady macleod said...

dr james

Thank you for the Rx.

and thank you for coming by.

Omega Mum said...

I heard somebody say in an interview was that you couldn't not write. I should imagine that's true of you as well, though there are days when you don't want to. I don't need to say keep going; you will anyway. You must.

mutterings and meanderings said...

Keep at it m'lady. I'm hoping for an invitation to the book launch!

dulwichmum said...

Oh yes, me too! Can I come? It is a long and difficult task I know, but I imagine it is very rewarding when you produce the finished article.

Ian Lidster said...

I live and have lived your angst re writing, Lady M. Beautifully considered.

Iota said...

I like your reflection that there is a real beauty in doing nothing. We've so lost that art.

I Beatrice said...

I think we all have those days Lady M. I know I do - days when the whole thing seems a nonsense, and one vows not to go on putting oneself through it. But then somehow or other, it bubbles up again, and off one goes!

I think it helps to have a special place for writing. For me, it's the little hut in the garden (shades, I think, of the pretty Wendy house my father built for me as a child). I have only to enter it, for the magic to begin to work...

Even the hut is bugging me a bit at present, mind - I'm re-painting it, and have so far been unable to find just the right shade of green. It has to look as if it just grew there, like the trees which surround it. But every green I've tried so far has been incongruous, shrieking "Look at me! Aren't I wonderfully green?".....

Which simply won't do. I'll have to get that right before I can begin Part Two... (Or so I tell myself! Almost anything will suffice as an excuse, won't it, on the bad days?)

Failing the writing hut in the garden, though..... well, I usually find that reading through what I wrote the day before, and adding improvements, is enough to get me up and away again with something new.

Good luck. This too will pass, as they say.

I Beatrice said...

Correction: It is Part Three, not Two, that I ought to be starting! Heaven forbid that, after almost 100,000 words, I should only be starting out on Part Two!

mutleythedog said...

I have the curse of being extraordinarily good looking - which is why I am such a success in life...

lady macleod said...

mutley

But my darling I already knew that! You do wear it well.

thank you for coming by.

lady macleod said...

i beatrice

What a project you have, but I have faith that you will find just the right shade of green to inspire.

thank you for coming by.

lady macleod said...

lota

Learned in India at the feet of the best.. I will admit I often have difficulty with it myself.

thank you for coming by.

lady macleod said...

ian

Never gets better does it? Bugger.

thank you for coming by.

lady macleod said...

dulwichmum

Of course you are coming! I'm counting on you to help me assemble my outfit!

thank you for coming by.

lady macleod said...

M&M

Thank you, and consider yourself invited!

thank you for coming by.

Pamela Jeanne said...

I see you've been wandering around in my head and capturing all the writing doubts piling up there. Seriously! I read your post to Alex and said, "doesn't this sound like me when I describe the gutt wrenching attempts to get my book out of my head and down on paper?" Lots of vigorous nodding was his response. Sigh. I have a greater appreciation now for any book I pick up to read. Here's hoping the muse becomes our constant companion.

lady macleod said...

Pamela Jean

yes indeed! It is the most terrifying thing I have ever done - including guns and knives.

thank you for coming by.

Sparx said...

Ah yes, writing, the endlessness of it. One must write everyday to keep the wheels greased - and you write so well, I'm sure your doubts are unfounded. There is another truth about writers which is that when together, we all lie terribly about how much we're getting done! No lies in the blogging world though, we can all see exactly what's on the page - in your case, mountains of fabulous words. I hope this post helped with your other projects!