Learning to write again

Imagine you were someone in popular music who, many years ago, made some records that were pleasing but that never troubled the charts very much and then you spent most of the rest of your life doing drudge work in an office till the mortgage was paid off. For your biggest hits, such as they were, you just bashed out the chords on a guitar and reeled off whatever words came into your head and it seemed to work. There was energy. People got enjoyment from it.

What do you do now? You’ve just realised that you don’t really know how to play guitar properly at all. You try to perfect some more Travis picking, learn a classical piece, try something jazzy. You feel like you’re back to kindergarten, trying to play London Bridge is Falling Down on a tin whistle and hitting bum notes. It’s the same with writing. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about deleting this website and throwing my hat at the writing game.

It’s not that I haven’t been writing, I have, but not enough and not purposefully. I start on a whim, noodle about for a while, get distracted and let it die. (Apparently you have to water these creations with words every day.) Or was it going nowhere because I never had any end in view? I think of new things I’d like to write every morning, and before I forget I write a clue to it on the whiteboard in my office. But then the day goes by, and another, and another and eventually, after weeks, I might even forget what the clue meant.

After organising my notes and fragments, which I wrote about in my previous post, I have not come to a place of easy progress with a clear road ahead. Instead, it turns out that most of what I have is unusable, poorly written and sometimes completely wrongheaded and amateurish. It’s better to know that. This is part of moving on, recognising where I am and finding a way forward. The image that comes to me most often is of someone recovering from a stroke, as if my day job had been a long coma from which I have only just awoken. The world I knew has gone. Everything is new to me.

Longhand chaos begone

Now that I’m a full time writer, I regret the years I spent writing everything longhand in notebooks, while doing the day job, which was computer programming. The first thing I’ve had to do while trying to get myself organised is to transcribe everything into computer format, where I can work with it, to “clear the decks” as they say. My mind tends towards chaos, as you would know if you saw how many different writing projects are jumbled and intertwined in the pages of my notebooks. One thing that can help to overcome one’s natural chaotic nature, is to make use of technology to the full, and let it deal with that part of the problem. I bought myself a copy of Scrivener desktop app a long time ago, for this very purpose, and I’m now using it for everything, and it’s great. Instead of having separate files in folders on the computer and having to open and close them, with Scrivener I can jump in and out of things just by one click in the list of scenes, works-in-progress, etc etc. It has other useful features as well, but it’s keeping everything together, yet separate in a list, that is so helpful. I don’t have to riffle through pages looking for bits of text, nor do I have to keep opening and closing documents directly from the computer, nor searching up and down through long computer files. I’d show you some screenshots only I don’t want to give away my work-in-progress, as that’s a sure way to kill it stone dead.

Boo(k)

Apologies to any goose I might have scared by saying “Boo(k)” to them. Although geese are not easily scared, by the way. I’m here to say that, contrary to appearances, I am writing things. If they get anywhere, you my imaginary friends, will be the first to know.

 

Co-Edited with Lane Ashfeldt

As announced on www.newshortstories.com

I have just sent a newsletter to our 1762 subscribers, with the cover reveal, biographies, publication details etc for Willesden Herald: New Short Stories 10 and other news. Link to view online: Newsletter.

Many thanks to Stratos Fountoulis for the cover design and once again to Lane Ashfeldt, to Liars’ League for continuing support over the years, and to the much-missed Willesden Green Writers’ Group, who helped keep this competition going through hell & high water. And all writers everywhere, here’s to you!

Available from:

Co-Edited with Katy Darby

See you at The Performance Space, Willesden Library Centre, 7:30 pm December 8th for the launch. Katy Darby will announce who will walk away with the priceless mug for 2016. Authors are flying in from far and wide. Actors will read a few short excerpts. Fun will be had.

Update: First prize went to Love and Hair by Olga Zilberbourg, a Russian writer based in San Francisco. Willesden Herald: New Short Stories 9 is now available from Amazon.co.ukAmazon.com & other online booksellers. For report, videos and more, please visit New Short Stories.