Monday, 28 May 2007

If I were truly anonymous... (caution, contains foul language)

I would write a very different blog about writing...

Magic Pills don't exist, there's only Cinnamon Hearts

I would write that in all honesty I doubt if I will ever get this fucking novel written. I would say that I am blocked - utterly and hopelessly blocked, and that it is not laziness, or unwillingness, or fear, or any of the other reasons the writing self help books provide me with.

I would write that despite getting a stupid and unwarranted distinction for my Masters in Writing, I still feel shite. I have tons to say only can't seem to say it very well. Not as well as I'd like. Not like Sandra Cisneros, or James Joyce, or Toni Morrison. Hell, I can't even say it like Barbara bleedin' Cartland - and you gotta admire her productivity, eh. But there is no magic pill, is there.

I would write that I am not a writer because I choose to be. I'm not one of those lucky bastards who finds writing the most fun they can have alone - like Stephen frigging King, or Terry bloody Pratchett. Like Red Smith, I find writing is like opening a vein, only unlike self-harmers, opening a vein is not something that brings me any relief or pleasure whatsoever. It only hurts a lot and makes one helluva mess. It makes me cringe when people read my work. I have a student who feels like this and I would say, if I were anonymous, that I know how you feel dude.

I would write that the thought of having to write every day makes me feel physically ill, and I spend most of my writing day, writing about the fact that I can't write the thing I'm supposed to be writing. No blockages there then. In fact, I think my conference paper is going to be all about the fact that at the moment, I can't write a bastard thing. And it isn't because I'm short on ideas, or too lazy to put the hours in. It's because everything I write is crap. It does not do what it says on the tin. The words fall short and the dialogue is a pig's ear. I can't get to the re-writing because I can't get to the first effing draft. I want to hang my head in shame, or maybe just hang myself.

I would write about how much I hate writing, how much I despise every last scrawl I feel compelled to make. I would explain that I wish I had never had a writing lesson in my life (although of course I am lying). I would tell you, with hand on heart, that I wish I'd had a normal, boring, ordinary life so that I had nothing to make sense of, nothing to feel compelled to write about (but, ah, I am being the mistress of untruth once again). My husband said, just the other day, how it would be nice if I would go to bed when he did, just once in a while, but that he understood how much the writing meant to me. I sat up that night and cried all over the empty bloody page. Hating it. Hating it. Hating it. I can see why Van Gogh cut his ear off, but at least he was a genius, and I am most definitely not, because if I were, I would be producing something. Anything other than rants and raves about how miserable writing makes me.

If I were, truly anonymous, I would write all this without fear of my supervisor reading it - and maybe worrying her that I won't finish the project even though I'm sure she can see me writhing like a wildcat on a leash. And I do hope I finish it, and probably will, because I felt like this all through my Masters, and I finished that. It will be finished. It will be utter bollocks, but it will be completed, and then, after it, I'm going sit down and seriously consider my options for the future...

... knowing that it will most likely, involve writing something else :(


Anonymous said...

I don't really think anyone thinks of their own life as normal, boring or ordinary. I don't believe writing can be taught - the finest authors are generally those who could simply sit down and spill. Either you can or you can't. Best of luck, anyway!

Anonymous said...

What a sad post Lisa.
It's temporary though and it WILL pass. I'm sure you've been here before and come through it, and you'll do it again.
Look after yourself in the meantime; eat properly and rest - you won't help yourself if you don't.
Lecture over.

JJ said...


I want to write more to you about this. I found this post (and the previous one) very early this morning, but I have a deadline for some artwork at 5pm tonight, and I'm out this evening...

Some of what I'd like to say, I'm not sure I want to say publicly. If you want to 'talk' email me on 4pmteatimeATgmailDOTcom. if you don't want to get into that, I will understand, and I will attempt to support from a distance.

I am there with you, though possibly further on in the process. Don't despair. Do be kind to yourself. Don't try and write; read, do something you enjoy.

Lastly, I don't agree with Anon at the top. It isn't easy for all writers; the finest don't just sit down and spill.

alternatefish said...

A friend stops by to visit James Joyce and finds Joyce wallowing in despair about his writing. The friend is worried and tries to determine just what has been so bad about the day's writing.

"How many words have you written today?" asks the friend.


"But--that's good, at least for you!"

"Yes," says Joyce, "But I don't know what order they go in!"

even geniuses have bad days. good luck.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

The thing is, writing a novel is really hard (I know this from my own experience and the experiences of friends) and doing a PhD is really hard (I have several friends who have done PhDs, not as novels either, and have struggled and struggled and struggled). So I'm thinking that combining the two, rather than being a kind of 'killing two birds with one stone' thing that makes each part less difficult than it would be alone, may in fact be more like 'difficult squared'. What do you say to that student who feels the same way as you? And why can't you say that to yourself? This is a well-written and passionate post (although I'm not sure you can get away with asserting that a Masters distinction is stupid and unwarranted!). So what is it that is blocking you? The need to be perfect straight away? Work out what it is, and you'll be able to work out ways of overcoming it. Hang in there!

hesitant scribe said...

Phew - a lot of things to think about here!

anon 1 - I don't think any writer just 'spills' great writing. I can sit and spill, but it's shite unless I rewrite, and that's even more hard work and probably where the skill comes in! I read the letters between Dickens and Poe and both of them were strugglers who were never satisfied. But thanks for your thoughts anyway.

anon 2 - Thank you for my lecture! Will do captain!

jj - emailing ya later today x

alternate fish - I love it. Even just to feel like Joyce has cheered me up no end!

zinnia - I think you're right here. It is difficult squared, and then some. Lots of pressure - self imposed and from outside agencies. Will have a break and then crack on again.

But I will be hating it every step of the way!

p.s. Thanks for all your support. Isn't there anyone else out there who writes but hates it too? Am I the only writerly freak in existence?

Anonymous said...

You're not a 'writerly freak' at all - just having a rough patch, like all the best writers do. And it will pass.

Anonymous said...

I should append my comments: some good writers can sit and spill, but not all, of course. I simply mean that inspiration comes from different sources, and some seek harder for it than others. I do think that any long work will hit tough spots. Try to see beyond this stage; you know it will pass.