Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Come 'ere, go away.

I'm sure that this happens to all writers, but no doubt like all writers, I think this is unique to me when it's happening. Because surely nobody can be as indecisive as I am. I'm talking about the "come 'ere, go away" phenomenon, and not in relation to relationships with men (although I've had a few of those). This time it's about works in progress, bits and pieces of writing, short stories, novels, you name it. I can get hugely excited about my brilliant new idea (the "Come 'ere" phase) and work on it for a long time - months even - and my confidence in it starts to erode gradually, perhaps triggered by a fact I've researched that no longer works, or a comment from someone near and dear when I've told them my idea (there's an obvious lesson there), or perhaps just by that niggly little voice inside telling me I'll never amount to anything. The "Go away" phase.

So I decide it's time to suck it up and throw it away. Start afresh. Put those months of work down to experience, and maybe I can come back to it in a few years and mine the idea for a tiny amount of gold dust that surely must be in there somewhere.

So I start something new. And it's fabulous. I'm in love, I'm brilliant, it will break new ground, it will keep me enthralled for the year it will take me to write (because part of the "Come 'ere" phase is mind-busting optimism and faith in one's work ethic).

And then this will happen: I am in a rush at home and I accidentally copy the wrong file onto the memory stick I am taking into the office. I have copied that old novel, the abandoned one. Let's open it up and take a look at it, I think. And there it sits on the screen, giving me flirtatious, come-hither looks. Come 'ere, it's saying. And I print it out and I read it, and it's good. What the hell was I thinking chucking this out?

At least I have two novels trying to entice me, which is a lot better than having none. So over the next couple of days I am going to have to think seriously about which one I have a relationship with first. Which one will sweet talk me the most, buy me flowers, dinner? Which one can I rely on to not push me away the moment things get rough? I guess I might have answered my own question, because the first idea has already proved it can't be trusted, whereas the second is yet to break my heart.


Heather said...

Hi Rachel! Thanks so much for visiting me and commenting! I hope you continue to visit my blog and find the subject matter of interest.

Your post was great, I know I relate. I have many bits and pieces which have been abandoned, most during my pregnancy when my brain turned to mush. I often read them and see their merit but the hard part is definitely picking one up again and gaining momentum again. Congrats on your novel!

Oh, and my blog design was a template I got from bloggerbuster.com It was SUPER easy to use. No tech head required :)

Hope to see you again soon,


Christine Leov-Lealand said...

I think many authors have dozens of half-written novels, stories and ideas listed that they thought up one day, week, year and then have put aside for whatever reason. Life gets in the way of writing and perhaps it should.
The last time I visited Michael King before his death he said he knew a writer who had informed him that she was locking herself away from the world to simply write. He expressed what a shame that was, to put living aside for writing.
Then he inquired what I was writing and I said that while I always write, I am also busy living an interesting life that is often too busy with relationships and caring for others to include long spells of finishing my work. He smiled and approved.
Your blog also reminds me of that other stage of writing, when you have most of the finished product and you want to toss it away. That point when you are entirely fed up with it. I remember Lloyd Jones talking about an occasion when he stood in desperation on a high bridge, considering whether to throw the novel, himself or both of them from the bridge.
I'm glad he chose none of those options.

Rachael King said...

Yes I think living is an essential part of writing too. When I think about how much my writing has improved since my early 20s, I'm sure it is simply because I have experienced more.

On the other hand people can be quite critical of those who choose to write full time over other kinds of jobs, saying they are not in the real world, and I disagree with that. Periods of writing away from the action can give distance clarity to all those experiences and make for much better writing.