There is something about me, as a writer, that many people don’t understand. Or they think they do, but they have the wrong take on it.
I don’t like to talk about what I’m writing. Not in the early stages of birth and exploration.
Sometimes people think it’s because I’m afraid someone will steal my idea. It’s not that, although I do like to keep hold of my ideas, naturally!
Sometimes they think it’s because I’m afraid it won’t be successful. There is an element of truth to that one, but it’s not the heart of it.
This is the truth, or as close as I can come to describing it: if I verbalise something too soon, pin it down too early, attempt to reveal it when it is raw and sensitive, I can lose it.
My confidence plummets; I feel too exposed. I shy from the very thing that captured my heart. My motivation grows slack.
A couple of months ago I read a book by Robert Benson, called Dancing on the Head of a Pen: the practice of a writing life. It’s only the second book I’ve read by him, but he’s catapulted into my list of favourite writers. I read his words and think: Oh! You understand.
(I keep meaning to write to him and tell him so. He might think I’m a bit silly. But from what I’ve read of him, I don’t think he will. Anyway.)
A writer can go into her room one day to write, and the thing will be gone, the words and the notion and the momentum having been spent on the air instead of the page … I do not understand exactly how it happens, but I can tell you from experience a writer can keep talking about a book until she no longer feels the need to write the book she keeps talking about.
There are questions people always ask me, these days. The first is ‘how’s the book doing?’ (ask my publisher, not me!). The second, inevitably, is something like ‘ have you started the next book yet?’ or ‘What are you working on?’
It’s nice that they ask. It’s lovely that they recognise that I am a writer, and I value the motive behind the question. But I feel a mild terror at having to give an answer. I usually give some cagey reply: it’s brewing. I’m in the planning stages. It’s still in my head.
Even that, sometimes, feels too much. I want it to be my secret. I feel something retracting, going out of reach.
Too many suggestions from too many directions too early and a writer can be devastated and unable to write for days, certain the work is no good and never will be. Too much talk too soon and the writer gets lost…
For me, it’s not just that I can’t cope with discouragement. That does derail things, obviously. Discouragement at the point of the initial idea will kill that idea. But to a degree, I can’t cope with too much encouragement, either, unless it’s from someone really close to me, a real ‘kindred’. (Of course, discouragement from a kindred is the worst thing of all!) General encouragement is OK, but not focused encouragement – not that attempt to draw me out. I need that to come just a bit later, when something concrete exists, when I have something to build on. Expectation paralyses me.
Many may roll their eyes at this, many won’t understand. I don’t know what I can do about that.
I can’t explain it. My writing world, that little bubble… it needs to be my little bubble where I slowly gather confidence. My writing heart is tender.
The writer in me is a vulnerable soul. I need to coax her out. Any kind of clamour, of trying to get her to come out before she’s ready, will have the opposite effect. It will take me ages to get her to co-operate again.
It’s a bit frustrating, as it’s a bit of a conversation killer. She makes me look cagey and unsociable. I am sorry. But alas, that’s how she works.
A to Z posts – reflecting on my writing journey
A to Z theme reveal
A is for … acorns
B is for … bricks
C is for … change
D is for … dreams
E is for … empathy
F is for … forgetfulness
G is for … gifts
H is for … hiatus
I is for … imagination
J is for … jewels
K is for … knowledge
L is for … living
M is for … meaning
N is for … novels
O is for … observe
P is for … persist
Q is for … quiet
R is for … reading