Saturday, 5 June 2010

the problem with writing – episode 3...

with this bilious reality forever goading me, its perhaps not surprising that the longer i leave it, the more impossible the idea, let alone the act of, writing becomes; the more severe my allergic reaction to the terrifying glare of that accusatory sheet of blank paper. a flick through this journal over the past three years amply attests to the tedious cycle of self pity and naval gazing i regularly succumb to.

but what strategy for thwarting all this lamentable wallowing can best be deployed by the reluctant writer? part of my own aversion to committing ideas to paper is the fear of not being ready, of my thoughts not being polished and honed to perfection; of exposing myself to ridicule or disdain by others more expert than myself. of delaying and procastinating until i am absolutely sure of my veracity and authority – but when, in reality, is there an end to research, when is meaning ever complete, definitive or total?

perhaps it’s best to rid oneself completely of all this mythologizing of the writer, let go of the intimidation emanating from all the books already written and embrace the idea of writing as a processual, dialogical process; as a work in progress, constantly under construction and revision. of recognising the notion of the artist/writer/creative as one more voice in an open ended, ongoing collaboration of ideas and enquiries: an ongoing conversation with yourself as well as all the others out there trying to make sense of the world. a strategy that acknowledges the fallacy of the written word as the perfectly resolved articulation of the 'genius' mind, a definite authoritative full stop. if we can accept the principle that as individuals we are ever in flux, always growing and changing, constantly being influenced and transformed by everything and everyone around us, then the proposition of a fully resolved definitive piece of writing becomes implausible - a veritable intrusion to scholarship, a prohibition to learning.

so far, so sensible, even obvious. but how to action this new modus operandi, this potentially liberating tactic?

in recent months it has come to my attention that a couple of bright young bluestockings, whose keen minds i rather envy, share some of the anxiety and discomfiture about the practice of writing that i all too often describe to you dear diary. so despite the blatant absurdity of attempting advice on this thorny topic given my own state of mind, here for the benefit of anyone else labouring under the weight of their perverse compulsion to communicate ideas in words, is my humble Advice To Reluctant Writers:

strategies for writing - i dont have one:

- i just cry for about a week before i'm due to write anything, procrastinate endlessly, stop dressing or washing (this is shamefully true!), crawl in and out of my bed in my pajamas for a tearful, headache ridden snooze, get up again, feel sick, take migraine tablets, wander round the flat for a bit in a hopeless daze, open my laptop, look at my notes and research files to fuel my depression, go on facebook, look up loads of things instead to intimidate myself with the fact that the subject im attempting to tackle has been thoroughly and expertly covered by everyone else anyway, cry some more, fall asleep for hours, get up at about midnight in a snot filled, delirious haze and desperately stay up all night til a version is churned hysterically out, go back to bed about 5am, get up at 8am and do it all over again........

things to avoid – rushed deadlines; i know i tend to leave it all too late:

- im fine with the reading, the looking things up, the thinking and mulling, but find it impossible to create a plan or precis to follow. i tried all that planning and ordering during my masters and it always defeated me - i was still finalising the abstract to my dissertation as i was photocopying the body of it in triplicate for binding on the morning of the hand in day. not funny or good practice....

ideas to hold on to – ‘practice’; understand the way you write and prepare and accept this practice rather than try to alter it:

- it’s the only useful thing my tutor told me. he said that maybe the crying, the blockages, the not-washing and going to classes in my pajamas (again this is tragically truthful - the masters stage of my course saw me regularly arrive for tutorials and seminars still in my bedwear, and i would start to cry in class if anyone just looked at me....awful) was my 'practice' (i should explain that this was the art school so my behaviour was seen as creative not deranged) and that writing was as much of a process as drawing or painting. this, though probably obvious to most people was something of a revelation to me and has been a useful mantra ever since. it has allowed me to attempt to work with what i’m actually like rather than try to over analyse or change it. i now (in theory) understand that i need to start the whole sorry process much earlier than i think i need to, to allow it to proceed along its natural course.

- also i try to recognise that my obsession with research is more to do with insecurity as academic rigour and eventually stifles any fragment of faith in my own initial idea or thesis - so remember that you should stop when 'they' (all those pesky experts) start intimidating you. write what you feel, take a break and then start smoothing and editing this initial, unruly stream of consciousness. i find writing smaller things regularly for no one other than myself really helpful - its why i started the diary. a private vehicle for trying out ideas and topics of interest that might eventually be useful for something bigger.

- lastly have someone to talk to – often an problematic idea becomes suddenly clarified when you’re describing it out loud to someone else....

well that’s it - thats the advice. the sum total. that’s all i’ve got.

...all i have to do now is practice what i preach.


davidada said...

My deepest and most heartfelt thanks for this wonderfully wise and endearing piece! It has helped a lot.

Bluestocking said...

well im most glad and flattered to hear it - but really if one examines this strategy closely it will be quite obvious that this is yet more evidence of procrastination! 3 whole posts dedicated to why i dont write anything is blatantly ignoring an ever increasing pile of items im too intimidated to tackle....lovely to speak to you on here though whatever the topic! xepn