Wednesday, 22 February 2012

When Is A Writer Not A Writer?

When I started (re-started, actually) this blog, it was going to be all about writing. I was going to write about historical settings, research, the locations around London that I'd been to and written about. It was going to be all big and clever, and I was feeling ever so smug about it. Then the novel I had pinned my hopes on was ditched. Firstly by Lovely Agent (who was not so lovely for a brief moment, I can tell you) and then, after much soul searching, by me. It was definitely the right thing to do, and my research and trudging will probably come in handy one day.

And then I started blogging about being ill, which I hadn't intended to do at all. But it seemed like the right thing to do, the thing I wanted to say, and I bunged a bit of writing stuff in as well. But this is not a blog with which to purge my soul, nor is it a blog for talking about cancer all the time. Yes, it's part of me and my life, but it's not everything.

And now? Now I feel like a bit of a fraud writing the blog. I'm writing it as a writer, but at the moment I feel anything but. I have an idea for a new novel. I have a plot. I even have a sub-plot. I have characters. I have settings. I have character sketches. I have character interviews. I have a synopsis (of sorts). I have a chapter plan (ditto). But I have hardly any words. I turn the computer on, I open Scrivener, and I look at the screen. It's not blank. There are 72 words on the page. But that's it. I like this story. I like the protagonist. Yet I just can't get going. Surely writers write. So why can't I do it? Is it because I don't yet have Beckett's (aka Ben Barnes) voice? In my heart I know that by writing the damned thing, his voice will come. Did I spend too long on the ditched story, so that I can't wipe the characters from my subconscious? Was the ditched story it? Will I ever write another one?

Or maybe I should just Get On With It. If anyone has an anti-procrastination mallet, please can they come over and whack me on the head with it? It may well be just what I need.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Crisis of Confidence or Getting Ready for the Real World Again

I'm beginning to think that perhaps it is OK to look forwards again, that perhaps I can allow myself the luxury of planning for the future. I still have a way to go - one more round of chemotherapy, another few weeks of feeling really sick and drained, another ride on the CT scanner - but then it's over. No more treatment. No more hospital appointments. No more drugs. The end of so much, but the start of so much more.

I am one of the 20%. It's sickening to think that 80% of women with ovarian cancer don't make it. But I have. And I will. And I am so very, very lucky. I feel that I need to do something worthwhile. I don't want to waste the opportunity I've been given. I want to do everything I can to stay healthy, to remain a 20 percenter (yes, I made that word up but it does the job). I want to grab every bull I come across by the horns (not literally). But it is so very scary. I haven't even been out in public since September. Well, I've been to Hopscotch (my local café) but that's different. The biggest crowd I've been in has been the Oncology waiting room at Guy's Hospital. Can I even have a conversation that doesn't involve cancer symptoms? What will I say? What will I wear? Will my hair ever be long enough for me to stop looking like a convict? I feel rather scared.

But my biggest crisis of confidence is my new story. I've researched it. I've downloaded the trial version of Scrivener (not yet convinced but willing). I've cut out pictures. I've made notes. Have I started writing it? No, of course not. The characters aren't yet real, but they're forming. The place is almost there. Actually, it really is there; it's based on Wakehurst Place. The plot line is coming together. I even have something of a sub-plot. I think I've rinsed away the dregs of my last novel from my mind, leaving a sparkly, shiny space for the new one. Yet I faff, and I sigh, and I dream, and I plan. When will I make the leap from my head to the page? Do I wait for the characters to speak to me? I don't think I should. I think it's only by nudging them onto the page, reluctant and shy, that they really will take shape. Where I need to step gingerly into my new world, I think they need to do the same. My characters and me, we're not so different. We need to be brave, we need to be confident, but, above all, we just need to make a start. 

Friday, 3 February 2012

New Beginnings and Letting Go

It seems that 2012 is the year of new things and letting go of old things. I'll let go of the chemotherapy and say hello to new hair. My lovely daughter will leave her lovely school and set off for sixth form. And I will be letting go of the novel I've been working on for years, to start work on something completely new.

Although it seems a daft thing to say, losing the novel seems the hardest. I've worked on it for so long. I know it so well. The characters are real; to me at least. The setting is so vivid. I've invested so much of me in that story. It's been a huge part of my life. How can I just ditch it, leaving my characters destitute and directionless? Because it just wasn't working. I thought it was, really I did, but it never quite came alive on the page. I feel I should bury it in the garden, give it a little ceremony, a gravestone perhaps. Only the cats would dig it up, and, anyway, it would be silly. But I loved it!

So what next? Can I ever write anything else again? Can I find a new story, new places, new characters? Will I love them as much? Will they even speak to me? I think so. Who knows? But I'm going to give it a damned good try. And I've already updated my pinboard with new pictures, so that's a start!