Saturday, 27 June 2009

Pressure and acceptance

I have just entered two stories into the Bridport Prize, both of which are 'old'.

Writing something new just wasn't happening this week, even though I've been playing around with a particular story idea for a month or so.

I'm not sure exactly why I didn't get my act together and write it, but I reckon it could be one, if not all, of the following:

- I've been working more late shifts at work, making me less energetic in the morning (my best writing time)

- I'm pretty intrigued by this blogging thing now: keen to read around other writer's blogs, feeling my way with this one.

- I might have got overawed by this year's Bridport judge... (see previous blog)

I guess that last point could come under an umbrella term: 'Pressure'. I've had various conversations with the creative people I know about this feeling of pressure we put on ourselves, to produce and try new things, to get up in a morning and go out and write/paint/film. To push ourselves when we need to. And for the writers: to actually write.

And (perhaps not in the strictest sense) could the opposite of 'Pressure' be 'Acceptance'? Accepting when we need to stop, to let an idea 'stew'. And it's not just the idea that might need a break, but the writer/painter/filmmaker too.

Are periods of rest as important as periods of 'making'?

Does it matter what kind of 'rest' you take? And how long?

And, here's the tough one (for me at least): how do you know you actually need to leave an idea/project? How do you know you're not just lacking confidence, or worse, being lazy?


Anne Brooke said...

Ooh, good luck with the Bridport! I must admit I had something for it this year but then I got sooooo stressed about the failure of the online submission system that I actually sent the story somewhere else instead. Yes, I know, I'm an idjit ...


And also I do think all creative people need creative downtime - it's part of how we create anyway. I get very fed up with people who insist you should write every day. Nonsense! I think you have to find the system that works for you at any particular time (and it can and does change, so you always have to be lightly aware of how you and the writing are!). After all, Vermeer did one brush stroke per month or something ridiculous, and Pollock could do two brilliant paintings by breakfast and still have time for a bevy or two - and no-one says either of those is not an artist ...



Jessica said...

Good Luck with your entry :)

I found your blog via Pygmy Giant.

Was Ali Smith a great reader at the event you saw her at? She's one of my favourite authors too - but I can't seem to find a website for her.


Teresa Stenson said...

Hi Anne,

Maybe your story wasn't meant for Bridport - hope it finds a place where you've subbed it to instead.

I like 'you always have to be lightly aware of how you and the writing are' - that's a great, no-pressure kind of way of looking at it. I also like to remind myself to be 'mindful' too, whether I'm writing or not.

It's just that line between being disciplined and giving yourself a break that I find is very, very fine. But it's all part of the journey, isn't it, finding how best we work and when we need to adapt.

I'll be popping over to your blog in a mo to apologise for accidentally managing to follow it twice - I'm still getting used to all this! Thanks again.

Hi Jessica,

I subbed a piece to the Pygmy Giant that's being published on July 12th so I thought I'd go along and see what's been posted recently. Thanks for clicking your way to here.

Yes, Ali Smith was a great reader that day. I didn't know her writing at all, which might be why it had such an impact on me. She read from her story 'Writ' (do you know it? It's actually included in her latest collection) and it just really caught my imagination.

I thought her words had a great energy when she read aloud, then when I actually read her work I found that energy there too. Especially in 'Hotel World' and 'The Accidental'. She's tres cool.

Not sure if she has a website, but I guess if you've googled it and nothing's come up she probably doesn't.

Take care, T.

Miles said...

Only just read this one dear. I can say from my own experience that keeping a daily balance, and yes taking a complete break once in a while, is vital.

I am someone who doesn't do that as much as I should, and it means that my brain actually starts to work on the project too much, and not always helpfully. I've been by turns enthused, exhausted and utterly mental and anxious about it all because I didn't let myself rest enough along the way.

It's not just rest either. I mean, I just benefitted from a birthday day of treats where I did NOTHING to do with my filmmaking for a whole day, and it helped immeasurably.

So, rest is good, but I think factoring a short period of breathing time into each day is so important; a short walk, making time to cook, meet someone for coffee, living your life, are all ways of letting the brain breathe, in between frantic periods of keyboard abuse.

It doesn't always help, and I'm being a bit of a hypocrite here as I know how obsessed you can get with the process - but I shall try and lead by example!

I can recommend Susan Jeffers' book Feel The Fear & Do It Anyway, not just for help with various life crises but also as a way of managing your time and appreciating and getting the most from your life, every day. Really, really works. For me anyway!