Friday, 4 July 2008

Neurotic Writers


It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do a little. -Sydney Smith, writer and clergyman (1771-1845)

This week hasn’t been one of my best. Not sleeping well and a huge amount of emotional as well as hormonal turmoil.

As most of you other writers know, fiction comes from the subconscious – or at least, when I write it, it does. (Journalism comes from the conscious side of the brain, whichever side that is.)

For those of you that don’t write, I can only describe writing fiction as like meditation. Though meditating is not something I’ve ever been able to do.

When I write fiction, I go into another place. I inhabit another person. I have to be able to breathe, think and feel like that person – or people. I have to BE that person, and live in their house, look out on their view. I have to know their likes and dislikes, understand their insecurities, know what makes them laugh or cry.

When I start a novel, I have an idea of a person who might have come from someone I’ve seen or know. But once I start writing, this person takes on a life of their own. They are in charge. They have their own hangups and talents, headaches and insecurities. They make up their minds what they like and what they don’t.

I can remember going to a talk with Julie Myerson, a fabulous novelist. She was asked why she had written about the death of a two year old – the character’s daughter. She said that one of her deepest fears was that something should happen to one of her children. In order to deal with this fear, and perhaps to prevent it happening, she made herself write about it.

One of my deepest fears is that something should happen to Himself. Which of course it will one day. But this has been bothering me more than somewhat of late. And it struck me the other day, that it’s ironic that I should have written about what I fear most. No wonder I haven’t been able to sleep.

The good thing about fiction is that it’s cathartic. And you can, to a certain extent, dictate what happens. (I say to a certain extent because quite often the characters have other ideas.)

But in the case of Arthur, all is not doom and gloom. He has to understand why things went wrong, and learn to let go. And then he has a second chance of happiness.

So whenever life is bleak, don’t despair. (I have been telling myself.) Weep and wail, grieve and rejoice. Somewhere, round the corner is a letter addressed to you. It could be your chance at happiness – or luck – or love. Or all three.


Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Yes, sometimes characters have other ideas. But one thing I like about writing is that I get the casting vote. Which is very satisfying for my megalomaniac tendencies!

Flowerpot said...

Zinnia - I quite agree - an element of control is a wonderful thing!

Akelamalu said...

My greatest fear is the same as yours and I too have been thinking about this a lot lately. I think it's just a phase we go through periodically Flowerpot. Keep writing honey.

Cornish Dreamer said...

I'm sorry to hear you're still having problems sleeping FP, and no wonder.
I agree, there might be something around the corner that ensures we all have the chance of happiness.

Flowerpot said...

Ak - while I'm sorry you've been thinking about it recently, too, it's comforting to know that it might just e a phase. Thanks for your reassurance! Don't worry - writing keeps me going!

Flowerpot said...

RT - you don't have much luck sleeping either, do you? I think you in particular - and your family - deserve a lot of luck NOW. But sometimes out of awful things can come good. Or so I like t believe, otherwise life can look pretty bleak.

avi said...

Flowerpot - remember the traumas of my past - I will never forget it, its in my memory for ever, but I am so happy again now. Good friends like you get one through, and you can count on me if any such thing occurs. Anyway, enough of morbidity, SIEZE THE DAY!

Liane Spicer said...

Definitely one of the things I like about writing - being in charge of the way things turn out. Such a relief after the random messiness of real life.

The thought of that letter keeps me going. I couldn't get by without hopes and dreams - and a tenacious optimism that gets stronger the more crap life throws at me.

Hope the insomnia improves. Thank goodness I don't have that to deal with. My curse is lingering headaches.

Anonymous said...

I definitely meditate to reinvent my characters. As my current main character is based on me anyway I find that it isn't too hard to become her! But life is life and we have to make the most of it, however it comes.

Take care, CJ xx

Flowerpot said...

avi - thanks my love. You are a dear dear mate. Look forward to our weekend away - not long now!

Flowerpot said...

wordtryst - yes I think we all need our hopes and dreams. Life would be very mundane without them - that and an overactive imagination!

Crystal - I always find my characters become other people even if I start them like me - or someone else. And yes we must make the most of every day.

Terry Finley said...

Right on.
I do most of my writing
when I'm asleep.

Terry Finley

Flowerpot said...

terry - good to meet you. sounds a very sensible way of working - why didnt I think of that?

Maggie May said...

I found this post to be really fascinating. i have never written fiction, but at the back of my mind I think I will one day. maybe I am leaving it a bit late.
As regards fears, losing people, the ones you love must be in everyone's fear threshold. Must be disturbing to write about but maybe therapeutic?

Flowerpot said...

maggie - glad you enhjoyed it. And it's never too late to start writing!