Don’t Get it Right, Get it Written

Don’t get it right, get it written. When I Tweeted this little phrase today, it was favourited straight away. Evidently it rang a little bell with a few people like it did with me. I’m not even sure where I heard it first as it has been tattooed into my writing brain for so many years now. Browsing blogs and Tweets I find it reassuring that there are so many others like me who would happily spend hours staring out of the window letting my mind chew over and consider plot twists and character consistency. But as important as this is, it is more vital to get the words down on the page.

There is another quote with a similar sentiment doing the rounds on Twitter at the moment from Norah Roberts: You can’t edit a blank page. That little gem is going to get lodged in my head too and rightly so.

Both these phrases remind me that the clue to being a writer is in the name: you have to actually write something at some point. In my limited experience of properly writing ie committing to finishing something rather than diddling around with lots of half finished ideas and scraps of stories, I have yet to write anything that is totally useless.

Readers of my blog will know that I hold down a full time job and have two daughters so time for getting those words down on a page is limited and mainly consists of being squashed in a train seat with just a half hour journey to create some magic. Under these challenging circumstances I make myself write something every day because I have to. And with a half hour journey I don’t have the luxury of being able to stare. I have to get my head down and get the hell on with it. So I do. I have had my thinking time the previous evening or in the morning as I am smearing on the make up or driving to the station. I know exactly where to stand on the platform so I will get a seat. The train doors shut, the ipad is out and I’m off.

More often than not it is an effort. The words don’t flow, I am not in the mood, I am not immersed in the story, someone incredibly large is sat next to me taking up all the room, I am sure the person standing beside me is reading over my shoulder. But I push on regardless finding comfort in the fact that those words are mounting up.

And when I come to edit later I am almost always surprised with something that has scurried from my brain through my fingers and onto the screen. There is usually some little gem, a great phrase, a powerful piece of dialogue, a plot point that had not occurred to me before. I can always salvage something from my half hour purge. It is rarely wasted and bit by bit my second book is getting itself written. Without those forced half hour bursts it would still be swishing around in my head.

Which is why I love the sentiment behind Don’t get it right, get it written and You can’t edit a blank page. In my view they are the only way to get anything done.

Give up? I can’t

Or just face it, I am going to keep writing whether I like it or not
I confess to finding it difficult to get back into the Tweeting/blogging habit since coming back from a week’s holiday then falling ill for a fortnight. Before this hiatus I was Tweeting on the in and out journeys to work and writing a blog each week which I would post on a Friday. But somehow since returning to normal life my blogging mojo seems to have stayed in my sick bed or on the beach. Unsurprisingly the world didn’t stop turning and none of my blog followers have been howling in frustration. So why do it at all?

One subject which comes round with unsurprising regularity on my blog is me moaning on about the point of all this. Why am I bothering when I don’t know whether I am going to get anywhere? Writing takes up so much time and effort and there is enough in my life to make me feel guilty without this extra layer on top. It all boils down to this: Because I can’t not.

Over the years I have attempted to give up writing more times than I care to remember. It really gets on my nerves, even now, this constant nagging in my mind that I should be scribbling meaningful things down in a notebook. Never leave the house without paper and a pen. These voices in my head, lines of dialogue that are just itching to be said, reading a nib in a newspaper and then finding my brain snatching it up and scampering away with it inventing a whole backstory, jeopardy, moments of crisis that should be turned into a novel, a screenplay and TV drama.

This seems to happen to me involuntarily. I assumed it happened to everyone else too but apparently it doesn’t. Just us special ones. Constantly thinking in prose and dialogue. All those years ago at junior school my ability to fill exercise books with carefully crafted stories about woodland creatures impressed my friends, my parents and my teachers. Since then, once that audience had gone, it has felt like a millstone round my neck. There was too much to do just keeping all the plates of life spinning without another piece of crockery whirling round needing regular attention.

It came and went in waves. I would make a definite resolution to give up. It was a waste of time and energy and that was that. But then, not too much later, the build up of stories in my head would reach a crescendo that I couldn’t ignore. So I would be firm in deciding that this time I would properly go for it. Pick a project and devote all the time necessary to make it work. And if I got nowhere then that was a sign I wasn’t good enough and I could lay the whole thing to rest. Never have to write another word again. Thanks heavens. Over the years I have neither got anywhere nor given up. However I have amassed a tidy range of courses completed:

Correspondence course on children’s writing
Screenwriting evening classes
Seminar on scriptwriting
Doing the PR for Women Writers Network
Mentoring by a screenwriter
Member of a Writing Group

Now I am embarrassed seeing that list written down in one place. Embarking on each of these endeavours I have been determined that if it didn’t result in a success then I would give up but the fact that the list keeps growing shows that I ought to face the fact that I am never giving up. Writing is second nature to me. Whenever I hear any kind of anecdote, watch the news, read the papers, I put what I have heard into a story. I think about the characters, how their story might have turned out differently, what made it turn out the way that it did, what might happen next. It just happens without me trying.

If you have ready any of my earlier blog posts you will know that I had another frenzy of ‘one last time’ a year ago. I handed in my notice and made a pact with myself not to go back to work until I had finished writing Thicker Than Water, one of my most stubborn stories that wouldn’t go away. But this time I do feel like I am getting somewhere. Although I am back at work now, I did finish writing the novel. Friends and strangers alike who have read it have loved it. Two proper agents have said they have enjoyed it. On top of that I have a blog and a Twitter account which makes me feel very connected to other people like me and I find that very reassuring.

So I am taking this interest in my book with a breezy pinch of salt. Whilst it is lovely and I am buoyed up about it, my confidence boosted, I know exactly what will happen if it fizzles out and comes to nothing. I will start on the next one.