Sunday, 16 May 2010

Wrestling with where and what

I've been doing a lot of thinking about writing recently. I've been thinking about when I'm going to write, where I'm going to write and what I'm going to write.

In reality, I'm not so worried about the 'when'. I might not be in a good habit now, but I know that once I put my mind to it I can find that 1 hour (or more) in every day that is required to keep surging forward. All this requires is discipline from me, and when I want to be writing there's nothing that will hold me back from that.

So where has my 'want' gone? Part of the problem, I'm convinced, is in where I write. I live in a small unit with too much stuff, and the room that gets used as a dumping ground is my study. Over and over again I clear it out, and then it fills up again with junk - empty wine boxes, bags for the op shop, gifts I don't know what to do with, objects I do actually want but haven't gotten around to installing yet. There's so much clutter in there (here) that I start avoiding the room. In desperation I've tried using my computer in the living room -- or in bed -- but I really do prefer to be sitting at a desk.

And then there's the whole being 'at home' aspect. Home, where there's not only the study to declutter, but housework to be done, cupboards to sort, a garden to tame . . . This is why going down to Phillip Island for writing retreats has been such a godsend. Aside from a brief cleanup before departure, there are no distractions and no clutter! For the past year or maybe two, it feels as though the only times I've actually achieved anything substantial has been on those weekends.

I've had discussions with various members of my writing group about writing spaces recently, and a few have started escaping to libraries to simply get some writing done. Maybe this is something I also need to explore.

The other big question is what to write. Right now I'm wrestling with the choice between having faith in the novel I've been working on for years now, and starting something completely new. Realistically, the chance of novel #1 actually being good enough for publication is negligible -- statistically because it's the first novel I've written, but also because I know I've been patching up novice errors for years now. There's a strong argument for stuffing it into the bottom drawer and getting onto something that has strong foundations, that is fresh, that is exciting.

And every time I think I've actually convinced myself it's time to lay #1 aside, I think of my characters who I'm not ready to leave, and the monumental task of fantasy worldbuilding that I would be faced with . . .

Still wrestling. And not writing.


  1. I think a good writing space is really important, especially when you don't have deadlines to meet and no-one is calling for your manuscript. It is too easy to defer writing for 'real' jobs around the house, so any excuse not to sit there will always be enough.

    Now, as for the topic of YOUR novel; you are in a unique situation where your first novel is actually your second, third... tenth(?) novel given the number of times you have re-written it. So the first novel rule no longer applies. That novel IS good enough to believe in! But sometimes it is also okay to just take a break and work on something else, it doesn't have to mean giving up on an old love.

  2. The small home problem is something I've wrestled with over the years too. Libraries and cafe's were my main places to escape too but I found libraries often had uncomfortable chair /table heights so I settled on cafes.

    I used to sometimes go into the city early and sit in a cafe for an hour before work. Don't know if that'd work for you, but it put me in a good mood for the morning!

  3. I love that idea, Elizabeth! I've been eyeing off all the cafes and yearning to go inside and sit down. But
    a) I've been starting work at 8am and to get in here by 7 would, um, test me considerably!
    b) I don't tend to cart a notebook around with me. Not that this couldn't change, particularly if I slashed out on a little Asus or similar . . .

    And, Nat, there's something to be said for the multiple project theory. Perhaps I should take a leaf out of both your books and give it a go.

  4. Well the trains are delightfully empty at 6:30 in the morning on my line - so that's a plus. :)

    Obviously I'm all for multiple projects! But hey, the worst that can happen is you find it doesn't work for you.

    Come over to the 'dark side'...

  5. Some good food for thought there. I can definitely relate to the "correct working space". Pete and I have been arguing where the arena will go for 4 years now. I think in the end we will never agree and end up with two arenas.

    As for working from home, I think you just need to learn to put the "house chores" out of your mind, and focus on the writing. There is a real "mental process" around this that anyone can learn. If you can master it, you will be far more productive with everything. As to where you learn it ... not sure. I've learnt it by "accident" I guess, through spiritual healing, but I am sure there are more scientific courses.

    As for multiple projects. I am all for it ... to a point. I wouldn't give up on your first book. The grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence, but it rarely is. There is also another well known psychological block with relation to finishing off projects - it's referred to as "fear of success". It's a well known problem to all career coaches, success coaches, whatever you call that area. Just by persisting, and finishing off the first project you will gain much much more as a "writer" than you can ever see or grasp on the surface.
    Well, this has been rather long winded. Sorry.
    Good luck, A