I think I have worked out why I am addicted to the internet and why I can’t stop trawling through it when I should be working. It’s because I’m looking for answers. Looking for magic. A way to make things easier, better. When my writing’s going well I completely fall into it and don’t need to go off reading people’s blogs or book news. But when it’s not going perfectly, which is more often than not, I find myself searching for something. First on my email, then on writers’ blogs and sites I go to. I think I’m looking for the magic page that is going to show me my novel and what I need to do and how I can do it. It’s almost as if a part of me believes that my novel is already written – I just need to find where I left it on the internet.
I am also becoming overwhelmingly sleepy every afternoon and I tend to deal with this by laying myself down and having a wee nap. But I realise this is wrong, that when it is going badly and I am sleepy that I should go out for a walk – even better finally get around to joining the university gym. I know that my novel and I will benefit from this and yet my head still says to me ‘but you haven’t done enough work to just swan off for a walk’. Somehow I seem to have tricked myself into believing that if I stay in my office (having my little nap) then the possibility of work is still there.
I’m having trouble finding the voice of my main character. I have written quite a lot and it is helpful to know where the book is going, but I haven’t reached that stage when the character’s voice is so strong that it just takes over. At the moment it’s too much like my voice, which would be fine if I was writing a memoir, but this is a novel and I get bored reading things in my own voice. I think the solution is to read and read, and I don’t mean to pick up someone else’s voice, but rather just to get away from my own in order to let my character have the opening to pop in and start speaking to me. Perhaps this is the problem I have with writing a contemporary novel – by necessity I am drawing on too many of my own experiences, assumptions and descriptions, whereas the freedom with writing something historical is that you have to let that voice go. That’s also why I like writing from the point of view of a man, because my imagination has to work and that’s when I start to produce work that I’m happy with.
Don’t get me wrong – I would love to write a searing tome of modern-day life based on what I know. I just don’t think I’d be very good at it. Yet.
The Next Word: Contemporary New Zealand Poetry
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