Writer’s Resolutions

Last year, I realised that I was willing to earn less money to gain more time to write. To this day I’m still thanking myself for quitting the 9-to-5 life, which not only gave me quality time for the craft, but also taught me a few things about sustaining a writing life.

So here are a few notes to observe moving forward:

  • I will be mentally prepared for the task. I will set specific goals for each writing session. Realistic goals. There have been too many times when I sat down to write only to panic over the sections I need to revise. Or my lack of ideas to advance the plot. Writing block is stage fright on paper–I have to know exactly what I need to deliver when facing the page.
  •  I will allow my characters to guide (and surprise) me. While I’m the creator of their traits and their circumstances, their thoughts, feelings and actions should come from them. No more worshipping the outline.
  • Just tea is fine, thank you. Because I don’t need the cheesecake to write. It’s hurting the wallet and the waistline, and I suspect it’s not doing much for the writing either.
  • Patience is key. It could take weeks and weeks for a finished story to fly. If the soldier is not up for a bloodbath, there is no point in joining the battle.
  • That being said, AMfC must be finished this year.
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Writing Weary

Posting an excerpt may be a form of writerly laziness, but I fess up to being lazy these days anyway and for that reason I’ve been careful not to publicize this blog. For now this is just a quiet place for thoughts and noteworthy things I encounter as a writer. And what follows is a good example.

I was reading this fall’s edition of The New Quarterly which featured the winning entry for the 2014 Peter Hinchcliffe Fiction Award (in which my short story was a wounded soldier). Pamela Mulloy, member of the adjudicating panel, talked about the process of choosing a winning entry. Her words may just be the remedy for the abovementioned affliction:

It is not enough to write well, but to write convincingly, with depth but without melodrama, and to edit the work so that all the bumps and blemishes have been removed–we don’t want to slow down to observe the flaws, but rather in pausing, take in the brilliant turn of phrase, wince at a character’s bad choices, admire the rhythm and verve of the narrative.

Read the 1st Place Winner Taryn Pearcey’s Flash Forward. Story went straight to the heart without the detours and frills–I was left blinking back tears. Only a good story can leave you feeling gloomy and restored at once.

Okay, back to the blank page…

Do I Really Love to Write?

I wrote this back in 2012 to be posted on yet another blog I closed down. I still ask myself this question now and then, despite having grown so much as a writer since. 

My top-of-the-head response to this question was a flaky “well, I enjoy it from time to time.” It kind of bothered me that I didn’t say “Why, of course, I love to write! I can’t go through a day without filling a page.”

This gives rise to the fear that I’m writing (or a writer) for the wrong reasons. Could it be that I’m only writing because it is the only talent I have?  Maybe all these years I have carved myself a safe, quiet corner in this craft, just because I was driven away from other pursuits that I might have loved more if only they loved me back.

My boyfriend has said a few times, “I thought you love to write. Why do you keep putting it off?” Or sometimes, “You love to write. You should enjoy it.” He has seen me agonize over hopeless drafts and blank pages.

I get defensive during these instances. I know for a fact that a lot, if not all writers find writing as difficult. We have expectations, ideas on what a quality work looks like, and getting one’s draft (or blank page) to that state requires something resembling superhuman strength, while keeping one’s butt glued to a chair. When writing say, a story, I have to stretch my senses, transport myself to a place I have barely fleshed out, re-enact multiple scenarios and behaviours, some of which my relatively undramatic life has not allowed me to experience. All of these to adorn my real experiences, morose or merry. It’s like a bodiless form of  lobotomy, when I know that I have the right words, the mind-blowing descriptions somewhere in my brain, it’s just that I need to invert or unfold its regions so I could put them on paper. Add that to the fact that I do have to make a living. My mind and body ride through seasons—I’m cold and sleepy in the winters,  restless and playful in the summer. Meanwhile, I like to check Facebook, or play scrabble online. Oh, there is no food in the fridge and there’s this month’s pay in the bank. Let’s pick up some groceries, and hey, why don’t I shop for a blouse? I have gained weight and I should go to my kickboxing class. Yikes, I haven’t talked to my Mom for a week!

But I still write.

Because I love stories. I enjoy reading them from magazines, anthologies and novels. I love seeing them unravel in films. I write because I know the pleasure a good story brings: it’s power to haunt or move, to thrill or disturb, to awaken numbed sentiments. This is where the anchor is snagged; I may sometimes doubt my love for writing, but I keep hoping that I’ll be able to give the world a glimpse of the restless playground in my mind and that its souls are made fuller by the sight.