Tuesday, 25 August 2009

My writing process: A metaphorical musing

Once upon a time, I approached writing in the way a builder approaches a satellite dish. Writing was the high point I was working towards, but there always seemed to be something more important to do first. I had foundations to lay, walls to build and all sorts of other things that needed to be in place before I had somewhere to install my dish.

After many years of construction, I bolted the satellite dish to my roof, positioned myself in front of the screen and waited for the stories to come beaming in. I realised then that I wasn’t just receiving Channel Write. I’d subscribed to an entire catalogue of entertainment, from blogging and online newspapers to movie reviews and Minesweeper, which tempted me into channel-surfing when reception from Channel Write faltered. Which, to my dismay, it often did.

Like many writers, I’d have some days when the signal was clear and flawless. It was as though words were beamed straight onto the screen from a dazzling distant satellite. Productive though those days were, they were rare and presented a standard against which ordinary days just couldn’t compete. On days when the reception was weak, I’d decide I just “wasn’t inspired” and tune in to something else.

It took years of not enough progress before I concluded that I needed to hire a team of electricians. I hunted around for recommendations, and decided that PWE were the people for the job. Once I had teachers clambering around my roof with tools like deadlines, marks and fellow students, my reception improved dramatically.

Alas, just when my dish was adjusted just right, the entire satellite was knocked off course by Comet Baby. These days, I can only tune in to Channel Write when he’s taken out of orbit, either by another carer or by sleep, something he only does for longer than 45 minute intervals at night.

Complicated Foxtel metaphors aside, a lifetime of procrastination has yielded a few thoughts for writers with self-discipline issues. These are:

1. When inspiration does strike, run with it as far as you can. When it doesn’t, make yourself write anyway.

2. Give yourself permission to write badly. If your scene isn’t working, don’t stop: sling something dodgy together and fix it later.

3. If you know what’s going to happen but can’t bring yourself to write the actual chapter, dot point your way to scenes you *can* write. Writing a scene that works usually helps you see how to write the scenes before it.

4. Don’t kid yourself that your genius needs no writing course! Writing courses can be very helpful for honing your craft and making you write, especially if you’re the sort of person who thrives on structure and deadlines.

I’d best be off to tend to the Comet now. Not sure if the above constitutes a discussion of my writing process, exactly, but hey – if I’m told it’s not appropriate I can always file it under item 2 and whip up something else.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Fiona. I'm not sure that it's that much about your actual process either, but it's a great post nonetheless, and one that makes some really important points. And I love your metaphor -- you know me: anything vaguely space-like will get me in, every time!

    I completely agree with point one. Persistence really is the key. If we only write when inspiration hits, then we can forget novel writing. And the bit about it all that I love is that the quality of those hard won, slogged-out words is really no different to those that come in a furnace-hot blaze of inspiration!



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