Getting vs. Having

03 June 2011

Yesterday, it must be said, was one of those less-than-productive type days. I may have possibly been suffering from Writer’s Block, but I don’t believe in that. I was suffering, more likely, from Writer’s Frustration At This Book Writing Thing Being Hard. I was not blocked, ideas were coming right, left and centre, but none of them were grabbing me…

Let me tell you about Yesterday first, then we’ll move on to Writer’s Block…

So, yesterday. I’d nearly convinced myself that the outline I’d finished a few days ago was The One. That I had to convince myself, should’ve been an indication that the outline wasn’t going to work right – it’s hard to explain exactly how it’s wrong – but it’s sort of like when you try clothes on in a shop and though they may fit nicely, and the colour suits you, there’s just something Not Right and you know if you buy whatever it is, dress, shirt, belt, that it will never see the light of day. Same thing with the plot. It worked as a series of events, but just didn’t feel… right.

There’s a bit at the beginning where Heather’s going to the premiere of her crappy reality TV show, and she’s hoping it’s going to be really glam and fancy and star-studded (she’s picturing the Oscars or BAFTAs or something really big) and when she arrives it’s just a soft launch, no red carpets, no gowns, no press, and that’s a crushing disappointment for her. Except that, the thing is, with novels, the interesting bits – and this goes for life too, I think – are the struggling bits. The point of a novel – I think – is to watch the characters struggle to achieve their goals, and then how they deal with the consequences or repercussions of their actions. So Heather, whose goal is to achieve fame/celebrity status, doesn’t get to really struggle for her goal if she’s on her way to the launch of a TV show she’s hosting. She’s already reached her goal. This is a problem.

So I’m thinking of options:

  1. She could be on a version of Big Brother, and be the first to get kicked off, which would give her cause to a) understand how ‘great’ it is to have cameras/eyes on you 24/7 and that would then b) give her reason to hire a stalker.
  2. Or, what about if after her TV show airs, there’s a resounding silence and she’s not famous, or a celebrity, and the world basically ignores her TV debut and that’s a crushing defeat for her, so she has to go out and make herself a star by faking it til she makes it, and thus hiring a stalker would be the ultimate in celebrity status.
  3. Similarly, the show’s not a hit, doesn’t make a ripple, not even commented upon in the TV listings, she could then, as a celebrity expert, make a list of ways to get famous and then set about achieving those goals – which would include: fame by association (with Robin’s father Iain, who is an artist whose degree show was shortlisted for the Turner Prize) by being a victim (hiring the stalker and then crying wolf basically), and by being attractive (which would involve Heather going out and spending heaps of money they don’t have on Botox, clothes, facials, waxes, mani-pedis, etc).

I think the best option is the failed attempt at reality TV. But I’m not sure yet.

As for Writer’s Block…

I had a lovely brunch a few weeks ago with an old writerly friend and she was asking me what I do when I get Writer’s Block, and I told her I don’t believe in it – for myself at least, I mean, just because I don’t believe in it doesn’t mean you can’t get it. I don’t believe in it because…

  1. Being a writer doesn’t mean being someone who types all day long. Being a writer involves lying on the couch/bed/floor and daydreaming. This often does not look like the writer is hard at work. But this is a key part of the process, because writing is more than typing, writing is thinking and thinking doesn’t involve much physical activity.
  2.  Writer’s Block tends to attack people who are really fussy about sentences whilst they write. To me this is like getting dressed for an Important Event (job interview, wedding, whatever) and standing in front of the mirror worrying about your hair/makeup when you’re still in your underpants. Misses. The. Point. Your first draft – anything before the final draft probably – is going to be a bit funny looking. That’s okay, the point in editing and doing more than one draft is to fix that shit. If you write it perfectly the first time… I think that’s the hardest way to go about writing a book.
  3. Lack of discipline. That sounds awful, but I think it’s true. Writing a book takes years – YEARS – and you have to do it nearly every day. So there are bound to be days when you don’t want to do it – the key thing is to do it anyhow. How often to you wake up and dread going into work? Just because you like being a writer doesn’t mean you will never have days when you don’t want to go to the office. The key is to go. You have to sit at your desk/on your couch/in bed with the laptop or notebook or whatever every day.

On that note, I will now get back to work.