If you burn or yearn to scribble it’s like trying to shut off the tide.
And later, as I bowled along through the countryside on a chilly spring day with opera playing on the car radio, I ruminated on how I started writing.
Way back when, freshly jobless, and over the hill – I was free for the first time since I was a child to write; within days my eager fingers were pounding the keyboard until I got the first book out. Done and dusted, I passed it to another writer who poured enough scorn on it to make the poor little tome shrivel as if it had been drenched in boiling oil. I put my cherished creation on a dusty shelf to moulder and cracked on hopefully with the next book. This elicited a further hail of criticism and seemed to hold no redeeming qualities whatsoever. This book was also parked on the dusty shelf.
At this point a non-literary pal suggested I sign up for a creative writing course which I did and revelled in it. Having bored my friends and family for months; wittering on about plots, grammar and structure, I’d happened upon a hotch-potch of like-minded souls who were delighted to discourse for hours on the use of apostrophes. Deep joy!
And then my writing-life grew. I joined the writers’ group that sprung from the creative writing course; and soon found I was collating the membership lists and stories for the group. I think my love of spreadsheets may have won me that post!
I can’t advocate writers’ groups enough. It’s hard enough trying to learn your craft, hone your specialties and get useful critiques for free (as writers are generally, perpetually skint) but garnering support when short stories, novels and poems are returned, ignored or slated is, as balm on an open wound. I believe writers need other writers, (but, that’s my view.)
Some writers may be lucky enough to come blessed with an endless store of gripping plots, perfect grammar, and an innate knowledge of structure, characters and dialogue – but a lot do not. They have to bash on relentlessly, some squinting through the night by the dubious light of an EU approved light bulb while the kids are snoring in the room next door, others rise before sparrow-cough to tap out as many words as possible before the 7:30am bus leaves the stop, and them behind – and all because they have to, need to, write.
It’s the joy of writing that drives us, the escapism of vanishing into characters, closing your eyes and seeing the scene you’ve set, living another life, marvelling at where the words come from, checking facts and discovering what you’ve written is actually true. (That’s so spooky when it happens.)
I get a lot of my plots from dreams – this I attribute to consuming unwise amounts of Camembert and red wine before bedtime. And I am always stunned by how much nonsense my subconscious soaks up.