June 26, 2011
I can see this becoming a waypoint for all the moments when I shit myself because of what I’m doing.
My next task, probably one of the most important (which makes it all the more terrifying because if I mess this up, the novel caves), is to write a book within the book, not to illustrate the act of writing but to illuminate the act of reading.
My fear of writing this book is a form of transference, I think; an act of rebellion to displace the obligation to write a novel and claim it as mine, my own body of work. So in creating a fictional text that will secretly exist, will in all probability never be read, is a covert move.
I keep seeing a shape in my mind that reminds me of a type of screen saver. I want to say it’s doughnut-shaped but it has no centre or hole that would mark the boundaries of a centre that could be plunged into; it’s not a solid shape but a mass which moves and draws out from itself in a constant motion so that the thread at which it pulls creates an endless folding, a flowing of itself over and over, with no end and no beginning.
To write the novel is to write the book within the novel, the book that is a catalyst, a deference, a plot to avoid (a void?), and to keep hidden a personal motive in its writing; the horror of finding my own reading practices numb, devoid? There’s that void again.
Surface anxieties would present the image of an idiot, a bad reader, a poor thinker, a delusional dreamer. Beneath would be the hermit, the arrogant. How far do I want to go? Deeper?
At my subterranean best, I’m famished. I will risk the daylight to eat. Another part of me, one that I’d want to lock away, is waiting with those blank pages and the chance to write that book. Only that part of me knows what to say.
Writing demands that we connect with things that we don’t understand or know, things that are concealed in the everyday, the things we pay least attention to. The things that sit on the periphery.
Why else would the mundane scare us more than the mysterious?
June 20, 2011
I have nothing to say.
This was a stock phrase I dug out whenever I was scared of having my voice rejected, my thoughts and ideas trashed. Writing is not an easy practice. It’s hard on the brain and body but it’s also hard on the nerves. Writing scares the crap out of me. Why?
What if one day I really do have nothing to say?
I’ve got into the habit of calling myself ‘a writer’ which seemed like a great idea to begin with, only now there’s a need to prove it. Even though I’ve written a healthy number of articles for Tiny Buddha and had a piece of flash fiction displayed at The Horsebridge in Whitstable, I’m still considered ‘unpublished’ and few people take unpublished writers seriously. Unless they’re familiar with writing and publishing, people look disappointed when I tell them that I’m yet to be published. Working on my first literary novel isn’t good enough to illustrate how serious I am, it would seem.
I first encountered my fear of writing when I started my undergrad in Social Sciences. The degree needed me to write and I felt confident that I could, on an academic level at least. My grades for my first year were good but the kick in the privates came when I got my first essay back. The tutors agreed that I needed to learn how to ‘write’ an essay.
My A Levels were all exam-based and I’d never been tutored in essays, or any form of writing for that matter, before them. Getting that essay back made me feel a part of something but at the same time, it made me worry that whatever I committed to paper from then on would be judged and scrutinised.
Fast forward a few years to the first year of my MA Creative Writing degree; I took a wild module and chose a creative approach to an academic question. I wrote to the best of my ability at the time and as dreadful as this sounds, I wrote from the heart. I believed that what I was writing was worth reading.
The feedback from the second marker was bordering on cruel. Each criticism felt like they were there, smacking me in the face as I read. I accepted that my grammar wasn’t of a good standard – I’ve never been taught it after all – but their remarks about my own creative explorations of the question and the material I engaged with were heavy blows.
Now I was scared that my ideas were rubbish and not worth writing about.
I’m pleased to say that I’ve come a long way since then but the fear of writing remains with me. Nothing is worse than sitting down and knowing I have to write and not being able to produce anything, or worse, producing crap.
I lie awake at night wondering if I’m doing the right thing, trying to write this novel. I worry about the holes in my plot. I worry about my narrative drive being more of a narrative sleeping pill. I get scared because I’ve been given the thumbs-up and encouraged, and now all I can think of is failing. What if my writing is a mask and behind it is a sea of nothingness?
What if I have nothing to say? What if what I have to say means nothing?
I’m lucky. Forgive me for being a bit smug here but I’m lucky because I love writing and part of me knows that I have an ability to say the right thing to a reader, enough to make them swoon.
I say ‘writing and fear’ because they go hand-in-hand. They’re made for one another and I wouldn’t have it any other way because writing makes me question my fears about it. I learn from other writers like Chekhov and Tolstoy (and my patient tutor) not to run away from my fear but to walk into it and see what happens.
It’s through fear of writing that I come to understand my processes, the things that make me go back again and again to try harder, try something new.
I didn’t want to be too specific about my fears because that in itself is terrifying; I wanted instead to admit that writing scares me and show that … sometimes it’s okay to be jumpy and not know the right words or idea to make something complete.
A bit like this post. I’ll no doubt revisit this topic again in the future when I can find the courage.