Monday, 19 August 2013

Dreamy or Disciplined?

This past few days I have mostly been distracted from writing thinking about what kind of writer I am. This is procrastination of the highest order, of course, but MrT point blank refuses to let me return to the 'research' I was doing last week - see previous post!

The key question: Is your writing fuelled by dreams or discipline?

Do you meander with the muse or do you muscle your imagination into motion? And, more importantly (I'm learning here), what's best?
My best days are my 'writerly' days. I'm fortunate to (usually) be able to secure one of these a week. I absolutely LOVE these days. I get up early, sip coffee, wonder, imagine, scribble, read, write ... They are special days and I appreciate that I am VERY fortunate to have them but they are essential too. I would never have travelled the (relatively short) distance I have as a writer without them. They are the days when anything and nothing might happen. Usually something does. I'll read something which will inspire me to think differently about my writing, myself, the world. Occasionally I'll even write a small few words that mean something more than the nonsense that generally fills the pages of my notebook.
During my writerly days I have time to relax-into being a writer and banish all notion of more-important-things-I-should-be-doing. On writerly days, there is nothing more important than writing and it is only by carving out this time for myself that I have been able to begin to develop as a writer. It's only by having this extended time (I have mentioned before how slow I am) that I am able to meander imaginatively with my muse, mull over ideas; wonder, explore, play.
“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” Albert Einstein

On my recent holiday (did I mention I've been on holiday!) I had endless writerly-type days. Utter luxury! Endless days to meander with my muse and ... BUT life is not one long holiday (MrT is very insistent on this) and even with my regular writerly days assured, I need to be able to be more efficient, more productive, less meandering ... more methodical.
“Inspiration is the windfall from hard work and focus. Muses are too unreliable to keep on the payroll.” Helen Hanson
In the real world I function in lists. I feel comfortable in lists, I'm (slightly) less likely to get distracted with a list! I have lists for the week and lists for each day. I also have a long term 'must-do' list and even a long term 'would be good to do' list. And the absolutely best thing about having a list is ticking off completed items!
I once read that 'compulsive' list makers should keep completed lists. 'Don't throw them away.' You have to keep them so that when your to-do lists are getting out of hand and you feel a little bit overwhelmed by them, you also have evidence of everything you've achieved in the past. Over the course of a year my working diary trebles in size with all the post-it notes of lists I accumulate. It's a 'strategy' - it kind of works ... I get stuff done, mostly, and if something has been on any list for too long I can strike it out anyway - it can't be THAT important.
Through lists I discipline my dreamy, erratic mind and galvanise myself into action and the more I read about writers writing successfully I realise they do so more through discipline than dreams.
“If I ever saw my muse she would be an old woman with a tight bun and spectacles poking me in the middle of the back and growling, "Wake up and write the book!” Kerry Greenwood
Clearly, rather than fighting to keep my writerly world and my 'real world' apart, I need to let them spill over into each other. I need to take the strategies and routines that galvanise me into action in the real world and utilise them in my writerly world. Maybe even occasionally allow myself to meander in the real world too?

Friday, 9 August 2013

Research ....

This last few weeks I have mostly been distracted from writing meandering in magical Mexico.
We had an amazing two weeks. It mostly involved making the most of the 'exclusive' all-inclusive food and drink at the resort and trying to look vaguely confident in public wearing less clothes than I usually wear for bed.
In truth my self-conscious bikini wearing was soon forgotten on two counts:
1 - very few people look anything like bikini models and the beach is a beautiful place to celebrate and wonder at the human form in ALL its shapes, sizes and guises.
2 - sunglasses are the perfect outfit for people watching.
I very quickly became too absorbed in my writerly research (general nosiness) too give a second thought to my lumps, bumps and sags.
Stressed young parents, grappling with toddlers, remembering relaxing holidays. Teenagers full of hormomes, egos and hopes of attracting the gaze of other teenagers whilst avoiding the attention of 'embarrassing' parents. Couples who, not unlike myself and MrT, have managed to shed all responsibilities for a couple of weeks to recapture a sense of each others and themselves.

With so few props to project and protect them people more easily expose themselves (literally sometimes but thankfully not too often!) but the constant ebbing and flowing of the ocean, the generous sun scattering crystals on the sea's surface, the white waves from the blue depths overwhelms human insecurities, puts us in our place. We are small, insignificant. Each grain of sand holds a millions memories but is brushed aside to make way for the present. I think I have never more fully understood the idea of living in the moment and observing and recording the moment in my notebook. I also came to realise the power of place (I know! But I'm new to this writing thing, and slow to learn!) I realised, really realised the importance of setting on character and narrative. I was really able to observe and reflect on the impact setting has on how people relate to each other and themselves.

I read books, drove MrT nuts with my incessant narration of life as I imagined it evolving before my eyes, sampled many cocktails (piƱa colada is still my favourite refreshing afternoon treat, margarita for pre-dinner indulgence), I made LOTS of notes - still unable to adequately find a way to capture the magic of the sea in my clumsy prose but I tried every single day. And every single day I noticed something different about it, as well as building narratives about the lives being lived on the shore.
There are LOTS of notes, I'm not sure what I will do with them all but I am sure that the trip did allow me time to develop as a writer. I've shared this reflection with MrT, how great an opportunity the holiday presented for me to hone my skills of observation, my writerly eye, in the hopes of more and frequent 'opportunities' but I also realise I need to find ways of capturing that at home. I need to observe my tree view as carefully as I did my sea view.
I live in hope of more 'research' trips though!