Monday, 9 March 2009
Image: Tomorrow's Vow by Parnell D.
I thought Hilary Mantel was kind of desperately hilarious on the subject of writers and procrastination in Saturday's Guardian.
I procrastinate a lot: I blog. I write articles. I read. I review. I rearrange the kitchen. I actually write very little fiction or poetry, but I consider myself a writer. There's nothing I love more than when the writing is going well, flowing, existing at all. But the longer I do this, the less I write. I can blame all sorts of things but, really, the not-getting-on-with-it is probably based in fear, or an assortment of fears: Will I only write crap? Is there nothing left to say? Will I re-write the same story/poem again and again and again? If I write it this way, I won't be able to write it a different way; I'll kill the initial impetus with something 'wrong'.
Here are some of Hilary's thoughts:
"Why does a writer have to divert herself, pray for interruptions or devise them herself?...There may be something else you have to do before you can push through the enterprise. It may be just a good deal of thinking. Or it may be that you need to write another, different book, which bridges the gap between where you are now and the self who is ready to keep her initial promise. That said, why is the act of writing, the moment-by-moment compression of the keys, so dreaded by so many writers? Why do they have to interpose opium, or alcohol, or some other stimulant or sedative, before they can perform their trade's basic function? You don't hear of accountants who can't open a spread-sheet, or farmers who take against fields."
And I love this next paragraph, because it is so the way my mind operates i.e. 'If I make x happen to y character, then z can't happen...Then I'll have to start again. Impossible...':
"The experienced writer says to the anguished novice: just do it; get something, anything, on to the screen or page, just establish a flow of words, and criticise them later. You give this advice but can't always take it. You dread setting off down any one narrative path, because you know your choice will make most of the others impossible. Select one, write it, and it begins to seem in some sense pre-ordained, natural, correct; the other options fade from memory. Fear of commitment lies behind the fear of writing. Writers, as generations of jealous spouses have learned to their cost, are not naturally monogamous. We don't want to choose; we want to keep open all the possibilities, fill a lifetime with fresh and less-than-final versions."
Writing fodder doesn't occur to me as much as it did even 5 years ago. I simply don't write as much as I used to, and I certainly don't write as much as I'd like to. Yet I spend my life steeped in words/books/literary festivals/reviews etc etc. I think I'm waiting to wake up one day and be back to that old creative-prolific me, whose mind and pen were tumbling with the makings of stories and poems. I can hope, right?
The rest of Hilary Mantel's article is here.