Did I say ‘I love writing’? Scrub that. It’s the most frustrating occupation on earth. I’m sitting here at 7.43pm on day four. It feels like midnight. I have a more or less blank page in front of me, and my ‘editor’ has taken over. This is a disaster. Nothing I write is ever good enough for my editor. I’ve rearranged the last sentence four times already. And now I’ve done the sentence that said I was rearranging things. See what I mean? I’m tweaking grammar. Reading everything to make sure it’s exactly right. Never mind 500 words. It’ll be a miracle if I get to 50. I also have a week’s-worth of laundry to contend with and a Victoria sandwich to bake before I can even think about calling it a day. Oh, and I finished the wine off last night, so I can’t even promise myself a nice glass of Shiraz to celebrate when it’s all done.
For the first time since I started this challenge I’ve worked from home today. I had a clear morning. I should have been able to write a novel the length of War and Peace by lunch time. Instead, I’ve edited. Nitpicked. Juggled and rejuggled words, phrases and sentences. I started out with 424 words of a short story. I ended up with 526 words. A lot of them are different from the original words, so in theory I could claim to have written the whole thing today. But I’d be fooling myself. In reality I’ve only written 102 words, apart from this blog.
I know of writers who use various strategies to deal with their internal editors. Some say the clothes they wear make a difference. Sitting in a different place. Writing and editing at different times of day. As yet I haven’t hit upon the right approach for me. Once the editor kicks in I’m more or less at her mercy and I’d really welcome suggestions from fellow sufferers if any happen to pass this way.
One lesson I am beginning to learn though, is that writing is all about keeping going. Keep your hand moving Natalie Goldberg says. And it works. Rather than waiting for mystical inspiration, I’m actually being forced to write. Or rather, not to not write … and whether I like it or not, there are words on the page to prove it. Thank you One25 for giving me the motivation to do something I’ve wanted to do for most of my life. And thank you to the friend who raised the stakes on Day One by pointing out I’d pitched my personal penalty for failure far too low. I hope you’re reading this. I hope you know who you are. You were absolutely right. Faced with the onslaught from my editor today I would have thrown in the towel if it hadn’t been for you.
And now I think it’s time to share a little of the ‘off-the-blog’ writing I’ve been doing. So I’ll leave you with a short extract from the story I’ve been working on today. The working title is ‘Every Picture Tells a Story’. I just hope I’ve got enough eggs for that Victoria sandwich …
I run it in my head. Saturday afternoon. The first in July and the first hot one of the year. The girl on the edge of the pavement sits with her head in her hands. Skinny and suntanned. Too young to drink. Her friends, a boy and a girl all arms and legs and no more than children, discuss what to do. Brandish mobile phones. I go into the bakery. The queue’s insane. All I want – no, need – is this bottle of water. I think about ripping the lid off and drinking it on the spot. Presenting the confused Saturday boy with an empty bottle. I don’t of course. I queue. I pay for the water and regret choosing a shop without ice cream. It’s that kind of hot.
Out in the street I fumble with the lid. The police have arrived. A man and a woman. They’re asking the girl to stand up. Coaxing her to drink water. She won’t move. She wants them to leave her to die for God’s sake. Maybe she’ll wake up and find it was all a nightmare. If life was only so simple. The crowd flows round her. Heads turn. Shake. What can you do? The boy’s gangly. Huge trousers clinging to his hipbones. T-shirt crushed up in his hand. I bet his mum ironed that this morning. Sunburn creeps pink over his scrawny shoulders. Too young for tattoos, he’s starkly naked. He shuffles. His eyes dart at the milling shoppers. Calculating for escape. The sober girl’s collaborating with the police. Being grown-up. Crop top and mini skirt, washboard stomach. Cajoling her friend one minute. Looking at her phone the next. The blue plastic strip yields to my fumbling. The water’s tepid. I think they only have the fridge for effect. It’s not switched on at all. The girl on the pavement says she feels sick.