A trouble shared…..
Every writer I know has trouble writing. ~ Joseph Heller
I have trouble writing. As I type this, I am struggling to find the perfect opening for this post about myself. I’m fairly sure this isn’t it but as I at least now have momentum on my side I’ll keep going.
I have trouble writing but I cannot not write. As my wife will attest, I suffer from acute Writer’s Grump when I don’t have time to write. Which explains why I have almost always written. In my early years I re-drafted my superhero comics by cutting up the panels and rearranging them by hand. In my teens I wrote bad horror stories in a poor imitation of Stephen King. In my early-twenties I wrote pseudo-intellectual comic scripts when I should have been studying for my degree. Now, I write whatever takes my fancy, flitting between literary short fiction, a YA novel in the redrafting stage, a horror novel plotted but not yet written, a literary novel (really five novellas in a framing sequence) currently being drafted and a comic project about to get up and running with my old artist-partner in crime, Chris Askham.
In my late twenties and early thirties I stopped writing for a several years. I taught English in secondary schools in the U.K. for nearly a decade and much of the time I was too busy with work; marking, preparing, organising school productions, parents evenings, etc. Yet even then I carried a notebook, even then I was jotting ideas and images down, sorting them for later use. During holidays and the odd weekend, I even wrote a few stories, never submitting anything–instead filing them away for some undefined later.
By the time I had been teaching ten years it felt as if later might never come. Luckily for me, around that time my wife decided she wanted to return to work after some time off following the birth of our first child. I jumped at the chance to become a homedad, devoting my time to our growing family. As the kids began heading out to nursery and school, time slowly became available to write. It was time to take things seriously.
I signed up for a Diploma in Creative Writing with the OU–which I completed over two years. I started blogging. Most importantly, I started writing. Every day–or as close to every day as being a homedad to three children allows. Last year was a big year for me, getting a fair few publishing credits to my name, completing my diploma with some great feedback from the tutors and winning the Yeovil Literary Prize for short fiction. I might have far less time now than I ever had teaching back when I was single–far, far less time than in my twenties and teens at Uni–yet I write more. I wring each and every second out of whatever writing time I have. Last week, on a visit to my local library, I literally wrote until my laptop battery ran out of puff.
When I’m not writing, I’m plotting, planning, testing out story structures in my head while hanging out the washing, changing pooey nappies or hoovering the house. Agatha Christie said, ‘The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.’ I get plenty of ‘planning’ time. My family is used to me sometimes not answering when they call, there in body but my mind wrapped up in whatever story I am working on.
As a reader of Write Anything for the last year or two I have learnt a great deal from the wealth of experience posted here; something I am sure I will continue to benefit from as I read the posts from the host of new WA contributors. I hope also, as a new contributor myself, to provide similar insights and help to those reading my posts. I know I’ll have trouble to some degree or other with each post I write, but I’ll take solace in the fact that this trouble is what tells me I am a writer. If it was easy it wouldn’t be worth doing or mean as much when it works.
Which brings me back to my opening point. Writing isn’t easy. Every writer who genuinely wants to improve his or her craft will struggle. I have all kinds of doubts about the value of my work. I struggle to find time and quiet to work. I battle with the blank page each time I start a project and wrestle with a manuscript each time I redraft. But in this way I am just like every other writer out there now. Just like every other writer who has come before. Just like you. It is true that every writer has trouble writing, but I would add that every writer will take the trouble to write and keep writing.
I look forward to sharing the troubles and the triumphs of writing with you over the coming months.