About five years ago, my writing broke.
It began happening in chunks. This wasn’t the whole dam giving away, merely sections of it at a time, letting water through, and though I stuck thumbs in the holes, I soon ran out of thumbs.
It was inevitable. I was a happy, purely instinctual writer when I was young, and I loved it. But even then, I wanted to grow and stretch, to push my writing. To take these muscles developing while I wasn’t watching and flex them as hard as I could. And that would only do damage to the thing I was building.
Certain elements turned up in life which, frankly, didn’t help the process of growth any. A long detour onto a writing forum left me, mostly, without any joy in the process. My first son was born and, unprepared, it shattered my already fairly delicate writing ability even further. It crushed it. The dam gave way and the water filled the valley again, to keep this fairly rough metaphor going.
Part of the problem was that I didn’t seem aware that I had to consciously pick up the pieces of my writing and fix them for so long. It was a recent development.
But I’ve been doing it, bit by bit, since about September or so last year. Slowly, slowly, finding the pieces, remembering what they were for, fitting them together.
that part’s not a metaphor, actually, that’s what it felt like. I had to remember how to let a story unwind at its own pace and not get rushed out in a day. That took me switching to handwriting my fiction entirely (handwriting my fiction, it turns out, was the gateway to figuring out everything else too).
Somewhere in there, I went “I used to write a lot of dialog. Why did I stop?” and remembered to put that back.
Somewhere else I went “there are no PEOPLE in my stories. Just flat characters. When did that start happening?” and I began populating my stories with PEOPLE again, in all their glory.
Somewhere in there I went “…I actually see how to do a second draft and revision of this story…” and did, and discovered that I’d figured out a revision and editing process for everything I write.
Piece by piece.
And then, my second son was born.
Fortunately, this time, I was aware of the chaotic harm that does to one’s writing/sleep/reading/thinking. It’s not their fault, it’s just that for a few months, they fill up your life utterly and you have to cram in the bits of your life around the edges. That’s fine, that’s as it should be.
This time, I was ready, and I braced myself and tucked my shoulder into the oncoming torrent of water. battered and soggy, I stayed up, I’m happy to report. I’ve kept writing. slowly, but I haven’t stopped. The stories have people, and the people carry the stories.
The work is GOOD again, for the first time in years and years. And what’s more, the work is BETTER than ever. I finally feel like I’m producing the sort of stories and the quality of work that I should be doing.
It’s a sense of quiet security. Of looking at where you are and what you’re doing and going “This is good and correct. Now just keep pressing onward, and you’ve got it.”
The only thing I haven’t figured out is DISCIPLINE, but that’s okay. That’s sort of out the window with two kids anyway. At least, for the moment.
All of this may be a rubbish post, but it’s 7:11 AM and I keep shutting my eyes to blink and forgetting to re-open them, so I’m allowed to post absolute bollocks.
For the moment, writing feels like a series of koans which I have begun making progress solving, leading me along to enlightenment. IF you see what I mean.
None of this implies that I’m done learning or have simply sorted out my writing and am good to go. One is never done learning. Or if you are, you’re probably in trouble.
ANd now, a post of happiness behind me, I’m going to make tea.