Learning To Write The Story I Want To Read

Song: Shirley Bassey – This Is My Life (sing it, girl!)

I said I’d do this blog malarkey once a week, didn’t I? Oh deary me. Life seems to get busier all the time, but the nice thing about it all is it definitely seems to get better all the time too. I’m learning that ‘better’ and ‘easier’ definitely don’t mean the same thing, but I think I’ve stopped minding.

This week I was idly perusing over my blog posts from this time last year. Not just because I’m some sort of narcissist (granted – debatable): this week it is a whole year since I moved into my cottage (more to come on that later this week) and it’s also almost two years since this blog began. I’ll do an ‘anniversary’ post next week (‘Oh, GOODY!’ I hear you cry…silently) but something really stood out to me that I felt I should talk about.

I’ve almost totally lost my fierceness. Not the ‘danger to poor little woodland creatures’ fierceness, I mean the Tyra Banks “Girl, you are fiiiiierce!” fierceness. I used to have it in abundance, to the point that it’s become a catchphrase amongst my closest friends who have perfected saying it in the absurdest way possible, but I think I might have hidden all mine away under my bed or mistakenly packed it away in the loft with the Christmas tree.

This time last year I had ferocious ambition, infinitely firmer self-control and – to be honest – I got more stuff done, and wrote better blogs. I enjoyed reading some of them this week because they reminded me I could be a good writer. No one has called me that in ages, not even me, and that can’t be too smashing. If you’re not writing something that you, at the very least, want to read, then you’re failing epically somewhere along the line.

I’ve replaced ambition, self-discipline and a sense of achievement with washing up, wasting hours in bed and ‘muddling along’. This time last year, my blogs were full of the former, but recently my head has been so full of the latter that I’ve not even bothered blogging. Who wants to read about that stuff? Not even my Mama would bother tuning in for that, and she thinks buttons are exciting (true story).

It stops now.

Reading the blogs from this time last year filled me with such potent senses and memories that it felt like I was back there, and I remembered how it felt to be that together. I was so on track, and I didn’t even realise. Now I’m going to stop just accepting stuff, and I’m going to start to take risks again, and doing what I want to do rather than just what is easy. As I said at the beginning of this post, sometimes you have to choose between life getting easier and life getting better.

All this spiel applies to my writing more than anything. I have a confession to make: I haven’t written anything of merit since MAY THIS YEAR! All my short stories and novel ideas have belly-flopped at the first hurdle, crumpled by a lack of self-belief, and more firmly stamped on by a ridiculous amount of distraction. This is how it goes:

“Ooh, now that would be a great idea for a story! Okay, I’m going to write it. Wait, this first paragraph isn’t as good as it should be… I’ll rewrite it. And again. And again. And ag-OOH SOMEONE POSTED A SHINY GARDEN CENTRE CATALOGUE THROUGH THE DOOR!
… Wow, I can’t believe it took me an hour to read that catalogue from cover to cover before I remembered I don’t even have a garden. Where was I? Oh yeah, this story. No, it’s not working, I’ll have lunch and then start again. Ooh, Scrubs is on. Ooh, they’re showing eight episodes I’ve already seen back to back!
…Oh no, now it’s dark and I’m hungry again. Ooh, I have a text. YES SOMEONE WANTS TO GO TO THE PUB! Well, the wine will inspire me
…zzzzzzzzzzz.”

And that, my friends, is how every single one of my novels has died over the past few months. I have a little novel graveyard in a box in my room, most of which consist of less than a thousand words, and I don’t believe in any of them enough to try and revive them.

I read a quotation around Christmas last year that reached out and slapped me across the chops, and I keep forgetting about it:

If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.

Toni Morrison

I’ve got to stop giving up on stories because I’m scared no one else wants to read them. If I want to read them, then TALLY HO. And I just have to take risks and wrestle the story into what I want it to be. I’m presuming by now you’ve worked out that this also works as a relatively cheesy metaphor for my life. Let’s just say I’m picking up my pen with a firmer grip from now on.

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2 thoughts on “Learning To Write The Story I Want To Read

  1. I can relate to just about all of this, specially the totally brilliant novel that buckles at the knees at the sight of the first hurdle. Scary! Part of the Writing Condition, you think? Where resolve has a depressingly tidal quality about it? Good luck with yours – let us know how it goes!

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