Sometimes I put so much pressure on myself to WRITE MORE! WRITE FASTER! WRITE BETTER! SELL STUFF! BE THE BEST WRITER EVER IN THE HISTORY OF WRITING! that I completely forget why I started writing in the first place. And that’s a shame, because it’s a really good reason, and probably it’s the only decent reason for ever doing anything at all. I write because I truly love writing.
I don’t love it all the time. Sometimes I actually hate it. There have been times when I’ve thought about just not doing it anymore. And I have other reasons for writing too, to do with survival and escapism and dealing with shit that I don’t know how else to deal with. But I must keep remembering that somewhere underneath all this anxiety and madness, there is love.
Recently I have felt a resurgence of joy in my writing. I think that it has come from approaching my work more honestly, from finding the voice of the novel I am writing, and from allowing myself to focus on the parts of writing that I’m good at.
I’m good at language – making beautiful sentences. I like to spend a long time choosing the right words. My best stories come from images and fragments of sentences, from scraps of emotions and memories and ideas. It takes me a long time to dig around those fragments and find actual people and stories and plots. Plots? I don’t love them. I don’t love working out a sequence of events. I don’t love thinking about how one thing should follow another, or how to get from A to B in my stories. Any time I approach a story from the perspective of what actually happens, I kill it stone dead, because plotting is terribly, horribly boring to me. It feels artificial. Feels like I’m making it up.
The way I like to write is to build a story from the words. I have an initial inspiration – an image, or a strange sensation – and I dig at it and pick at it until it starts bleeding. Sometimes my stories trail away into nothingness, and sometimes my stories make no sense, because the plots don’t work. But sometimes, the plot grows organically from the words, so I hardly have to think about it. Sometimes the story is there, contained in that fragment of an image or idea, and you can slowly, carefully, tease it out.
That is the kind of writing I love to do. I wish all my writing was like that, and maybe it can be. It only works, though, if I blank out all thoughts of success or failure, all comparisons to other books and writers, all comparisons to my own previous writing. It takes patience to let the story grow from almost nothing. It takes courage, too. The temptation is to invent a brilliant plot and start writing straight away, and it’s hard to just sit with something for a long time until it becomes real. I have a story I’m thinking about at the moment that I have been sitting on for five years. Like an egg. I think it is about ready to hatch, but I’ve thought that before and been wrong.
I think maybe love comes with taking the time you need to do things right.