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The creative leap to happiness

Man, oh man, I forgot how much I love this writing lark. And not just any writing, but shiny new writing.

More specifically still, the initial draft of a short story. The buzz of spewing words onto a page and not having to worry if they’re the right words, the perfect words, because it’s a first draft. The excitement of figuring out the story, the characters, where they fit in the world, knowing you can neaten it all up later.

I’ve been taking some space from my novel recently. I don’t want to tamper whilst agents are reading it, theorising that it’s more beneficial to concentrate on other projects whilst I wait to hear back (like short stories and plotting novel number two.) This has the dual delight of not only giving me distance from the book, the most crucial tool for editing, but also giving me time to take my mind off the fact that real life agents are reading my book.

Yes, I know, I’ll never ever be able to take my mind off it, both the thrill and the utter terror.

But the added benefit, the one I really didn’t see coming, is that I’ve remembered how much I bloody love writing. It’s been so long since I’ve written anything completely new; even just planning the characters for my next novel has been more invigorating than I expected.

My short story, however, has been the biggest delight. A miniature universe written for these characters, a slice of their lives in a few thousand words. Writing without the pressure of its being read.

But perhaps most importantly, its refreshed my confidence. The void between an agent asking to read your work and the moment you hear back feels timeless, agonizing, a stretch when I have questioned myself and my ability as a writer almost constantly.

Not all the agents will like my work, and that’s fine. It is actually, honestly, fine. Literature is hugely subjective, whichever genre you write in. Even if they all come back and say no, that will be ok too (even though I will probably cry ugly tears.)

What matters is that I’m still writing and I’ve remembered why I started in the first place:

The love of the words and the worlds they create.

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Normally, I like silence…

Normally.

When I’m writing, for instance (hence the reason Hubster International wears headphones to watch TV; I can’t write with noise.)

But when the silence comes from agents, the silence is unbearable. I thought it was bad when it was just my initial submission I was waiting on, or rather the much anticipated, gut-punching rejections from my initial submission. But I have discovered that the silence following the submission of a full manuscript is worse. Oh, it’s so much worse.

First come the questions. Is it good that I haven’t heard anything, because they are reading and not yet rejecting my work? Or is it bad that they haven’t contacted me straight away? Should I pester them? (No, the answer is always no. Do not, repeat, DO NOT, pester.)

Next is the slow spiral to despair. Several of my friends have been signed in the last few months, highlighting the fact that I have not. (yet, I keep telling myself, I have not been signed yet.) I must be terrible. Worse, I must be blind to my own terrible, terrible writing because I actually like my book, a lot. Which must make me a self-important, arrogant show-off. (“Jesus, honey!” Dominic says at this point, as I have gone way past the stage where I can talk myself round, “chill out! It’ll happen!”)

What I have also discovered is how terrible I am at taking my own advice. “Write something new!” I say in an irritatingly chirpy voice to friends in a similar position. “Take this opportunity to research your next book, plan the plot for your next book, write an article or short story to take your mind off it.”

I CAN NEVER TAKE MY MIND OFF IT.

Because the IT I’m waiting for isn’t just an agent contacting me. It’s not even a rejection anymore, despite the statistics telling me how very likely this is. No, the IT I’m waiting on now is far scarier, far more important. It’s the word that will make the past two and a half years of bloody hard work and no social life worthwhile.

The IT I’m waiting on, obsessively refreshing my emails for, is that magic YES.

And until I hear it, read it, see it, the silence is far from golden. It’s goddamn unbearable.

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Those gosh-darn deceiving looks…

I had the joy of visiting Germany this week for a very brief, but very wonderful, trip to attend a friends’ wedding. It was awesome; great weather, great company, great food (German food is my FAVOURITE of all) and so much dancing I developed blisters on the soles of my feet.

I love that country and I don’t visit it nearly enough, especially as I am half-German myself and look it, apparently.

Thanks to my Germanic looks, my height and my blonde(ish) hair, I was presumed to be German and was frequently asked to translate. Guests at the wedding assumed I could speak German. Market traders and shop keepers looked astounded when I said I could speak very little of their language. “Ah, but…” then a pause, a wave of the hand to take in my face, hair, my Helga-esque wide shoulders, and a look of disbelief tipped with disappointment.

For all my Germanic heritage I can speak very little of the language itself. The one phrase I know fluently is of absolutely no use: “Ach, nein, Flipps ist mein Kaninchen.” Never, in all my years, have I had to explain that Flipps is, in actual fact, my rabbit. I don’t even have a rabbit.

I digress.

Being asked to translate gives me feeling similar to the one I get when asked what I do.

I’m a writer.

But my novel is not yet published…

And no, I don’t technically earn any money…

And I don’t have an agent, yet…

I am German, yet I do not speak the language.

I am a writer, though you cannot read my work.

One may almost get downhearted. And one does, quite often. Too often.

And this is when you need the delightful input of sympathetic folk. Be it a stranger in Frankfurt, who, after mistaking me for a German-speaker, said very kindly “Ah, but you still have time to learn!”

Or a close friend, normally so cynical, saying to me this week after another agent requested my full manuscript: “It’s not a matter of ‘if’ you’ll get published anymore: it’s just a matter of when.”

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When your head isn’t quite your own

 

My fingers are itching to get stuck into something new. Well, not new, per say, but different.

I‘m in the somewhat enviable position of already knowing what my second novel will be about. I know the characters, their back-stories and, er, future-stories (Is that a thing? I have either coined a new term or exposed my gross ignorance.)

For the past two years this story has been invading my dreams, sometimes my hallucinations. The characters regularly interrupt my train of thought, always asking: “when are you going to write about me?” One character in particular is driving me mad. So much so that, this week, I finally sat down and thought “Right, fine, I’ll write your damn story.”

Ah, if only it were that easy.

As it is, I still have the characters from my first novel firmly imbedded in my head. I can’t quite switch them off. As soon as a new character pipes up to say, “Oi, you, woman with the gaffer-taped laptop!” an old character rears his fat, white haired head and yells “What about me! You can’t let me go till I’m published!”

I am well aware that anyone reading this who is not a writer, or is not at least familiar with the writing process, will probably think me stark raving. Perhaps I am. But the problem still remains; how can you write emphatically, absorbedly about one set of characters when another set entirely are demanding your full attention?

I have a somewhat unusual plan. I don’t know if it’s unorthodox as such, as I haven’t discussed it with anyone other than my husband and he thinks I’m half way gone already. My plan is this: to write a couple of short stories about inanimate objects, piling as much back (and future) story into their creation as I would a human being, to give them purpose, drive, character whilst keeping their inherent non-humanity.

So far it has worked, it’s cleared my head quite effectively. So much so that I may even post one of the stories on this very blog .

 Or maybe, as with so much of my other work, I will hide it away, dismiss it is an act of foolish hubris and blush whenever I think of it.
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Too many hours in this day…

Ah, children. They seem to have the opposite problem entirely to that of writers: they often think there is too much time in one day. I had to disappoint my son with this very thing, earlier this afternoon. Sitting patiently in front of the turned-off television he looked up and asked if he could watch CBeebies, to which I said no, not yet, not until four o’clock which was still three hours away. The poor chap sighed, puffed out his little cherry lips and said “Too many hours in this day.”

Too many hours? My God, if only. I would grab hold of those extra hours, the ones annoying all the people (children, mostly) who just wanted rid of them, and write the HELL out of that extra time.

There was once a television programme called Bernard’s Watch, an oddly silent children’s show following the eponymous boy and his magical timepiece; a pocket watch that could FREEZE TIME. He tended to use this extra time (my god, even writing that phrase gives me shivers) for good; solving problems, helping people, never, ever stealing money from open tills or sneaking a peek in the girl’s changing rooms.

If I could freeze time I would write. Obviously. But I would also do so much more and how beneficial those other experiences would be to my writing. Pressing pause in a crowded room and following every line of sight, see where people were looking and who was looking somewhere they shouldn’t be. What expression their faces would hold, the tension their hands and feet would betray, whose eyes were meeting whose. I would rewind to those amazing moments in our history, the births and deaths and marriages, and pause again, savouring those moments of human vulnerability from every single angle.

And I would write.

And I would write.

And I would write.