Writing Fiction: Light in the Dark

Going back over the wodge of first draft – of the twelfth draft – chapters has been a dispiriting exercise. The character who had become so clear by the end of that draft, is, at the start, vague, ill-defined, and largely absent. My feet begin to drag, my heart sinks.

Combine this with the usual travails of life. On Monday, having struggled with a chapter before going to work, I then went in and ran a training course. It was a disaster. The participants clearly knew more about the policy that I was there to tell them about than I did, and feedbacks were mediocre. This is for a client who gives me a lot of work. Visions of the contract collapsing, combined with the general enervation of the day, left me in a state of turmoil. In the evening, having hoped to have time to recuperate, I ended up having an argument-by-text with my girlfriend. I went to bed feeling tinges of a depression that occasionally bugs me when things seem hopeless.

In the morning, feeling lousy, I meditated for half-an-hour and something happened. I experienced, briefly, a sense of everything changing, all of the time. I came out of it feeling more optimistic.

Then, after breakfast, it was back to the editing. Another clunker of a chapter, where the bright, bubbly character was absent and there was lots of middling-to-middling writing. I started to lift out what I could, and suddenly had a picture of her in a car, late at night, driving past McDonalds and feeling virtuous. I set aside the editing and started to write. And there she was burbling away in her own style.

So, what to make of all of this? Perhaps, that Edison quote about life’s failures not knowing how close they were to success when they gave up. Or just the way that inspiration comes out of the darkest places. Perhaps more, that it’s my general experience of writing: it comes when it comes, and my role is to be open to it.

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