Tag Archives: Persistance

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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Writing Fiction: Rant

Pardon me for me for being overly-dramatic, but sometimes it is literally like someone is standing in front of me, hands against my chest, pushing hard in the opposite direction.

Literally, figuratively – whatever.

Is my comfortable life in check? Certainly. The flat has recently been painted, a lovely new relationship started, I have enough money and work to see me through to next year.

So, what’s with this self-defeating mood? Every now and then it pops up, looks at what I’m writing and says, there is no hope and certainly no point. One of those moods where if, in a year-or-so’s time, London is invaded and reduced to rubble, I’ll think, what the hell was I worrying about?

Psychological tricks and motivational games come and go, but the answer is what it has always been: keep turning up and keep putting one foot in front of the other – that, and the support of fellow writers and friends. Oh, and meditation and exercise.

In the end, I know it will pass. If I come up with anything new, I’ll let you know.

Persistence: Keep Turning Up

In the nineties, I worked in the probation service running groups for offenders. An analysis of the evidence for effectiveness produced a very interesting finding. The best predictor someone changing their behaviour was not participation or interest in the course, but the number of sessions attended. If they kept turning up, they were more likely change.

Recently, I was co-leading a mindfulness-based cognitive therapy group, and mentioned this fact to my co-leader – a Buddhist with over twenty-five years’ experience of meditation. He laughed and said it was exactly the advice given to meditators. It matches my experience. Often, the day I don’t want to meditate – but do – is the day I make progress. As if I am coming up against the bounds of my resistance and, by ignoring them, breaking through to something new.

So it is with my writing. This morning I sat down after a lousy five hundred words yesterday, and wondered if I could just get away with a couple of hundred. But as I persisted, one of the characters did something I didn’t expect them to do. Soon, I was flying.

If I had to give one bit of advice to my younger self it would be to keep turning up. Whether that means doing two hundred, five hundred or one thousand five hundred words a day. Keep turning up. As soon as you enter a dialogue with your doubts, you will find the knots pulling tighter.

Missed a session? Keep turning up.

Everyone else seems to be achieving far more than you? Keep turning up.

Tired of the idea you’re working on, and other ideas seem so much more appealing? Keep turning up.

No hope, no agent, no interest, no progress? Keep turning up.

Tired of people who keep telling you to keep turning up? Keep turning up.