All writers have days, sometimes weeks when the words will not flow on the page. It is frustrating when you think you know what you want to say but it doesn’t come out right. I have had that experience in the past when describing myself and my writing for my website author page, and this week when making several false starts on my new novel. I have learnt that the reason I cannot find the right words is because I do not truly know what I want to say. I am not ready to start writing because my ideas are not fully formed.
I have been working on my author page this week and after a year of grappling with my identity as an author, I am now able to write confidently about who I am and what I write. It sounds simple but any author who has tried to do this in the first few months of their career will, I suspect, identify with this. There is a bit of imposter syndrome. Fear of exposing who we really are – being authentic makes us vulnerable, as we get used to presenting to the world the image of ourselves that is most acceptable. Writing this blog and digging deep as I write my stories has helped me to see and value what makes me unique. That thing which once seemed so nebulous – my writing voice. If you are struggling to describe yourself as a writer – don’t read other author’s pages looking for inspiration – go within. Sit with yourself and take the time to understand who this amazing person is – because you are extraordinary. Only you can write what you write because it comes from your unique experience of the world.
Starting to write a new novel is exciting. It is also a little scary as I explained in last week’s blog. I have been thinking about this novel since I had the first inspiration in February 2019. I have pages of notes, loads of research and I know the beginning, middle, and end. What I don’t yet know are the characters or how to get into the story. I read a note by Rachel Joyce in the back of her novel, Miss Benson’s Beetle – a novel I greatly enjoyed and can recommend – she said that she walked around her story idea as though it were a house and couldn’t find her way in. For Rachel Joyce, it was seeing an old photograph of two women that spoke to her and enabled her to dive into writing that story because it was then that she discovered her protagonists.
I have stopped trying to hunt down my ideas because the more I stalk them, the further into hiding they go. It is a waste of my time sitting at my computer attempting to write yet another chapter that will end up being deleted, or scribbling longhand in my notebook. My mind needs to be still and diverted for inspiration to come creeping out. I woke up this morning with a revelation. I was starting my novel in the wrong place and from the wrong point of view. It was as though my ideas had been given a good shake whilst I slept and now, they came tumbling in a different order giving me a new perspective. My first attempts did not work because the ideas were not fully formed. Understanding the heart of your story and the journey you want to take the reader on is crucial. The magic in writing is that the story unfolds as you go along but you need to be true to what you set out to achieve.
When I first started writing this blog, I was afraid that I would run out of ideas. Each week I fretted over what I would write and if I had not written and scheduled the blog by midweek I panicked. Now, I have a weekly ritual. Every Sunday I get up early for a run by the sea. I warm up with 10 minutes of yoga then head out. This morning, I was blessed as the tide was out exposing a long sandy beach. There was a mist on the horizon and the air smelt so good – of roses from the green slopes above mingled with the scent of the sea and a promise of rain. It is easy to empty the mind running in such a beautiful setting. I never set out to think of a topic for my blog but at the end of each run, I know what to write. It is a time of quiet reflection when I listen to my inner voice. On my return, I scribble a few notes to capture ideas for future blogs, before doing ten minutes of post-run yoga and my daily meditation. This is the only time in my life when I can honestly say that I completely let go of control and trust the process. When I was running today, I wondered what might happen if I applied the same faith to my daily life.
The creative process is a miraculous thing. It comes from somewhere deep inside. We are conditioned to be busy and productive but that is not how creativity works. It takes its own time and requires us only to be still, to trust, listen, and to be patient. Because that is when the magic happens.