Monday, 14 November 2016

Out of the closet:

‘Write every day’ said Dorothea Brande in Becoming a Writer – my first ever, and still most-loved ‘how-to-write’ book. I stumbled on it by chance, and hid it on an upstairs shelf rather than risk friends or family see it, and learn of my writing ambitions. Dorothea was an advocate for morning pages, free-writing when first awake. I managed to write like that on high days and holidays – special occasions when I wasn’t at work or if the children were both away at sleepovers. I’ve still got my notebooks. Most of what I wrote was in diary form, despite myself, but at least I was writing, though I would never have described myself as a writer.
            With the children grown up and living away, and my working hours thankfully reduced, I finally have time to do all those things I wanted – and to write. I discover a new skill in the art of procrastination. I’m up to date with the housework. I write lengthy letters to old friends, make speciality teas and play online scrabble. So I signed up for Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) for the first time, committing to writing 1666 words per day throughout November, ending with a 50 000-word novel of dubious quality (if I succeed). I’ve read many articles (over those mugs of tea) debating the pros and cons of writing like this. My main reservation concerns quantity over quality – I’d always valued quality.

            However, more than anything, I need to inculcate good writing habits. Daily writing habits. (Old habits and strong and jealous, said my guru Dorothea.) I need to be able to write anywhere, anytime (and especially in front of others) rather than being precious about having the house to myself, my favourite pencil and notebook and the right kind of tea in my best mug. Whether my ‘novel’ will be of any value remains to be seen, but I do firmly believe that no writing is ever wasted. Maybe the piece will be workable as a whole, or maybe it’ll develop into a string of short stories, monologues or radio drama… I’m hopeful of gaining something worthwhile. Two weeks in, I’ve been broadcasting my word count to polite friends, and I’ve learned not to leave writing too late in the day. I’ve just written 25,000 words, of very variable quality. Some days it’s a struggle, and some days it flows – but I’ve even written on the train in front of strangers! I’ve forced myself to make time for it, and that has to be a good thing.