Wednesday, 14 December 2011

love/ writing/ love

The thing, you see, about love... is that it is like writing.

I'm a prolific writer. I can write 5000 words in a day if I'm in the right space... certainly 3000... regularly 1000. My writing process involves freewriting (writing whatever's in my head) then extensive sessions of editing... reworking, returning to my overall plan, deciding whether a new unexpected dimension is the point of the exercise or a distraction, culling, fixing, and smoothing.

Some people hold back and wait for the perfect sentence to appear in their mind and then transcribe it onto paper with quiet confidence... I tend to write messily, knowing most of it won't be there in the end but that all of it will have got me to the final version. It hurts to edit out so many words, but it's also a joy to learn from each of my clumsy phrases, my red herrings, the times I stare out the window or at the wall behind my desk and wonder if I'll ever find another word.

I love writing.

When I write, all of me is there: I sit at the computer or the paper and I can feel that all of me is present in the room while I start to channel words and fill the blank space. All of my hopes are there... and my fears, my experiences, my training, my family, my travels, my hurt, my joy, my aspirations, my imagined futures, my embarassing pasts... it's all there. Everything is there.

Because everything is there, the writing process is exhausting but also incredibly rewarding. It requires extra dollops of trust in writing as a process, not just a product... I deeply trust that writing will bring me to a better relationship with all of these things that are there in the room as I write... whenever I try to practice writing as a secular, product-oriented, detached activity it just never works. I've got to be there in order to be there. It hurts, it makes things intimate, I risk lots... but it's ultimately why I write!

Of course, writing is not only personal therapy. It's also about the collective... at its heart, it's about communication. As a process, writing provides me with an opportunity to communicate with myself... but the process is only worthwhile (perhaps only ethical) when it is also underpinned by a commitment to creating something bigger... between me and the reader, between the reader and their world. Between all of us.

Indeed, this means that audience is key, and yet in a very delicate way: if I write only for an audience I lose my own voice; but if I write only for myself I lose direction, passion, interest, perspective. The finest finest balance must be struck, between writing for myself and writing for my reader... betwen the process and, well, the final version.

We're all writers, but we all write differently.

There are so many theories about writing. People are always happy to give tips and advice about writing... there are so many books, so many websites, so many moments when people tell me how to write. These tips are almost always shared with love, and the trick isn't to decide whether the writing tip or perspective on writing is 'true' or 'false'... it's to recognise that this truth - this theory, this advice - makes sense to the person telling me about it, and I have to work out how or whether that would work for me.

I have deep regrets about trying to follow other peoples' rules to the letter, which always involves shutting down my own voice for a while and trying to write like someone else. It has never worked for me in the end.

And yet, I cherish moments when I get to sit with other people and talk frankly about writing... these moments always make me a better writer. Sometimes other writers are examples, and sometimes they are cautionary tales. Either way, I learn about writing.

There's always more to learn about writing!

People have said writing comes easily to me. "I don't write as fast as you" they say. "You have this capacity to just keep on writing, come what may." This is all true, of course. It's tiring, but it's the only way I know how to do it and still be me.

Writing is hard work. It's not all flowery sentences and breathtakingly simple yet complex turns of phrase. The best writing is writing that hides the hard work which has gone into its creation. Simple, clear, elegant writing is almost always evidence of a huge amount of work. The more you write, the more you know this is true.

Writing requires commitment, but some writing was never supposed to proceed beyond a draft. Reworking is never going to make it better; it'll always feel incomplete, it'll never be done; just walk away.

Some writing has been with you for so long, and one day you pick it up and realise your masterpiece was here all along. It still needs work, possibly lots of work, but it was already there and you just didn't realise when you first penned it that it was something of a refrain which would keep coming back until you were in the right place, re-reading it in the right light, to see it's your magnum opus.

Sometimes I read something I've written and unless I knew it was by me I wouldn't recognise it... I will have no recollection of being present in the act of writing, and I know that this was a rare moment of true inspiration. At its best, writing brings a writer out in me I didn't dare imagine I could be. I'm so proud of these moments, although slightly in awe of what they might mean. I am also a bit anxious when I realise just how much control I have to give up - how much trust I need to have - in order to be able to write like this.

I want to write like this, this inspired almost out-of-body way. But it's also kind of scary. What risk!

This thing, you see, about writing... is that it's like love.

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