Sunday, 6 January 2013

I'm trying something out this week.

Yesterday marked the end of a 4 day run of days off from work with no big commitments to tend to. Over the busy-ness of Christmas and New Year I knew these 4 days were coming in January and I was so looking forward to them.

For most of the days I'd have a good stretch of time on my own while my other half was at work, and I imagined - as I'm sure we all do when we think of a day off entirely to ourselves to write - I'd get so much done! Oh the things that would spring from my fingers would be magic and vast and plentiful... do you see where this is going?

It wasn't too bad, not really, I did make some progress with a few pieces. But not as much as I wanted to, but that's not too unusual - I'm not sure I ever do as much as I think I can do in a day. This is partly down to what I expect of myself, but it's also partly because I waste time, sometimes. So that's what I'm trying to tackle this week.

On Day 1 of those days off I did some research into the Northern Writers' Awards which I knew closed for submissions at the end of January. I'd had a look at the guidelines a couple of weeks ago but hadn't taken in what a task it would be to apply - an exciting and brilliant opportunity of a task - but it's not just sending a few short stories away so they can see you can write. This is an application for funding to support a work in progress which is fully formed and well established enough for you to be able to write a synopsis, as well as submit 3000-5000 words of it. There is also a personal statement and a biography to write, and some questions about your circumstances etc. 

My over-riding feelings about this are good ones - it's really rare for an organisation to support you in such a way. I started to think of the half-formed ideas I have, the kind of book I would love to show I can write. My head, a-buzz with ideas, set out to feel around these potential projects.

On Day 2, I got the news about Litro publishing my short travel piece, and that took over my activities for a while. Most of these activities centred around being online, tweeting, writing a blog, responding to stuff. I let this get in the way a bit, though it was nice and good for my ego, it took up most of the time I had for writing that day.

Day 3 and I got up early, set out to a coffee shop with my little laptop and divided my time between looking at word documents that contained some of the work I might work on for the funding application, and looking at the internet. After 2 hours I'd hardly done anything. I felt rubbish about this, disconnected the internet and moved to a different coffee shop. I did an hour, internet-free, and made some slight movement forwards with one story. By the time I got home I'd been out of the house for 5 hours and had very little to show for it.

Day 4. I didn't know how much time I'd spend writing because it was my boyfriend's day off too. He had to pop out to pick up a guitar so while he was gone I disconnected the internet and opened up those word documents again. I noted there are about 3 of those half-formed ideas I could go with at this point. I also note that everytime I get into trying to develop one of these ideas, all sorts of things start happening in my head.

I think this idea is too big for me.
I think it is a rubbish idea.
I can't imagine how this idea could become a good story.
I am rubbish at stories.


I close the laptop. I don't think I can sit at it without knowing what I'm doing anymore. Why would anyone do that anyway? It's not quite looking at a blank page because some of the work is started but I'm expecting to be able to make something when I don't even know what it is I'm trying to make. I'm ten steps ahead. I need to pull back.

So, I know - as soon as I start to feel these thoughts - that I'm doing it all wrong. Quickly, in my notebook I write out these ideas:

For this week
- don't write fiction on the computer
- all fiction to be written in notebook
- max 1 hour per day online
- read more

And that makes sense to me. I'm in the early stages of developing an idea/ideas, they need to breathe. I feel better when I make this plan, though I'm slightly annoyed with myself for it taking me until Day 4 to reach it.

I'll keep an eye on the time I spend online and an hour a day is enough to keep in touch with things. I'm almost at the end of my hour for today, then I'll have a bit of time with the notebook before I head out to work. A busy 4 days follow these quiet 4 days I've just had. That's okay. 

Oh - and - a rather nice and timely gift - from my boyfriend, on his way back from picking up that guitar, he picked up a book for me - knowing I'm playing around with some ideas for a children's book - Tove Jansson's  first Moomin picture book : The Moomins and The Great Flood.

I love the cover. I'm a Tove Jansson fan, having read some of her short stories a while ago, but I haven't read any of the Moomin books. The Moomins always felt exciting, a bit scary, other-worldly, when I watched them on TV when I was a kid. I'm looking forward to reading this, and a Richard Yates collection a friend bought me for Christmas. Feeding the fire, I hope.

So I'll let you know how I go. Anyone want to join me in this experiment? Let me know if you do and I'll link to you.


Carole Anne Carr said...

Liked your post, meant something to me as a writer and I used to read the Moomin books to my classes. Loved them as much as the children. Shall be interested in how you progress and how you deal with the inevitable critique in the head. :0)

Jessica said...

Great post - good luck with this week's challenge. Which Richard Yates book did you get?

Rachel Fenton said...

I think it's because there's too much pressure in making the most of those days.
Combine that with a deadline and you have the recipe for stress not creative outpourings. And the stress feeds reluctance into the psychology of sitting down to do the tap-tapping.

That's my Sound Like You Know It notebook raided.

Honestly, maybe a half hour each evening - even though you're dead tired from work - is what you need to beat the gremlins in your head. Plan the free time then, so that when you come to that fresh, free day, even if your head's a panic blur of nothingness, you can look at your plan and tune into some good relaxed work vibes.

(Another tip - a happy tune when you're mid week doodle writing/planning - play it on your free day when you're feeling stressy - bring back some of that good writing feeling, because the writing IS fun and good and that, after all, is why we do it). xxx

Good luck. Let me know how you go.
And I'm uber interested to know more about the funding app. x

Teresa Stenson said...

Hello Carole - I'm loving the Moomin story so far. Yes, that critique is a bit annoying, less chance of it I think away from the pressure of the computer screen. I've been working these past 3 days so the real test will be later this week on my days off. I'll report back. Thanks for your support - hope your writing is going well.

Hi Jessica - it's 'Collected Stories' - some have been published in previous anthologies ('Eleven Kinds of Loneliness' and I forget the title of the other - it has the word 'Liar' in it) others are new (well, prev unpublished). Thanks for your good luck wishes, hope things are going well for you.

Hola Rachel - all brilliant advice, you totally KNOW IT. Thank you. I'm going to try those things. You're right about the pressure, I managed to make something good and exciting (funding opportunity) all about what I can't do rather than what I can. It is fun and good - that writing thing we do - you're right, so right, hate it when people get moany about it - shurrup love, yer not going down t'mines.

I'll write more on the funding app as I go. I feel excited about it again. I think you should apply (you are 'of the North' in soul) (technically that *might* not make you eligible).