Thursday, 21 August 2008

Coffe Break: Deliverance

OK I'm on a deadline so grab some coffee from the machine and lets get down to it. My delivery deadline for my new novel is Tuesday and I think with a little bit of luck and a hell of a lot of graft I'm going to make it which is something of a minor miracle as my personal life is going through quite some serious upheaval at the moment (I'm not going to detail it here, we haven't got all day) PLUS its the summer holidays. Hours in the day to write constitute basically none and yet the book still must get done, because writing - apart from being my joy and my dream - is also my job. I have a fantastic publisher I don't want to let down, fantastic readers who so sweetly write and tell me they can't wait for the next book and when it comes right down to it bills to pay. And life becomes, rather along the theatrical lines, all about the show and how it simply must go on.

Traditionally of course writers embrace upheaval, some even seek it out to feed their creative urges. You'd never see Hemingway looking for a quiet night in and a nice cup of tea or find any of the Miss Brontes deciding to arrange flowers instead of committing their passions to paper. For the most part we consume life, good and bad and absorb it all, ready for that moment when all we feel and fight for comes back to us in the form of fiction.

Many of you are going through difficult times now, and I'm sure that all of you have had your ups and downs - even if at present you are sailing on a calm sea there are bound to be stormy wates ahead somewhere. So my question for you is how do you write when everything around you is going to hell in a hand basket? How do you focus your mind and carry on regardless or do you stick your head under the pillow and hang it all?


KayJay said...

PLEASE TELL ME!! I have no idea and I need to get focused!

The last year has seen me buy a house, move house 3 times in total, move COUNTRY and sell my business. Talk about upheaval! Any tips from anyone would be greatly received...

Caroline said...

A great topic.

This year has been awful on so many levels. I am being faced with trauma after trauma and mostly I don't blog about it.

But even when I am crying and full of angst, I still know that I have to write. If I curl to the floor and give in, then nothing will be gained and I will simply layer an extra helping of depresion onto myself.

I don't know how, but even with all of the financial mess of TFP's liquidation, I have written/finished my novel for this year and will submit next week. Writing gives me hope and distracts me and if I stop writing, then I don't know quite what I would do. I actually don't think I can do anything else (which is rather worrying!).

I am feeling all drama-queen-like tonight :)


Leatherdykeuk said...

I have writing goals. I'm taking August 'off' but still keeping five blogs going. I let myself off everything except my daily poetry if I'm not at home, though. I'm not one to write longhand.

wordtryst said...

Rowan, this topic really goes to the heart. I wrote my first novel at the darkest time in my life. I had suffered a horrible heartbreak and I think that I finally began the novel to save myself from going nuts. Maybe it was simply a form of escape. Maybe it was desperation to feed my own soul for a change.

I generally tend to be the 'stick your head under the pillow' type, but when the worst came to the worst, the writing got going almost of its own volition.

When I think of the dramas and upheavals in my life, I remind myself that without the growth afforded by learning to cope with them I would have nothing to write about.

Graeme K Talboys said...

It is a grim joke in my family (not there's much left of it) that my books are dedicated to dead people. I am not allowed to dedicate one to anyone living, lest it hasten their demise.

Writing is actually the one constant in my life. It is something into which I can retreat and over which I have control (well, more than the real world). It is the thing that helps me through the bad times and the upheaval. I have never used it to hide from my responsibilities, but it has kept me steady and sane. Like Caroline, if I did not have the writing, I'm not sure what I would do (apart from climb the curtains and chew the wallpaper).

So, if I was to offer advice it would be to try to make your writing the thing that gets you through rather than being the thing you get distracted from. Quite how you do that, I'm afraid I don't know. Perhaps I'm just built that way. I was a fairly solitary child and writing was what I did then, so I guess it has become deeply ingrained.

Lucy said...
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Calistro said...

Gawd what a timely post. Have you been reading my diary? ;o)

I can write (just!) when my life is a little bit stressful but when it feels like absolutely EVERYTHING is going tits up and I can't breathe for the stress I stop writing. My mood really influences my writing and if it's dark then whatever I'm writing will will take a decidely murky turn. I can still think about writing though and I enjoy the escapism of thinking up a new story or novel or building up my characters in my head...but I can't write. That requires too much concentration. And besides, stress increases my alcohol consumption and I make far too many typos when I'm drunk! ;o)

K.Imaginelli said...

Excellent & very timely topic. The semester and all the chaos that comes with it just started here. I didn't revise my novel this summer, so now I've got to figure out how to get back into it and make time for it while prepping for the courses I'm teaching and making progress with my academic research agenda. I usually use the novel writing as an escape, but I find that I've started daydreaming less and less about my characters. I'm not sure what that means. I'll be eager to see if anyone else has coping tips for writing around the chaos.

JJ said...

What a great topic, thanks Rowan. I think there are different issues here though. Writing through difficult times is essential for me; carthartic, definitely. But, when everything has gone mental and a person is under mental or emotional strain, writing to a brief (your own or anyone else's) must be very very difficult.

Debs said...

Great post. Good luck with your deadline and I hope the upheaval in your life calms down for you soon.

I wrote my first novel by writing from 10pm to 5am in the mornings for seven months, it kept me sane during my marriage breakup. I think that being able to disappear into a fantasy world where I was in charge (most of the time) certainly helped keep me sane.

During other times of stress though, I've not been able to write easily. I think it depends on what it is that's causing the stress.

Mostly though I keep writing even if it isn't that good.

Lucy Diamond said...

Rowan, I just laughed out loud at those labels - fantastic! Best of luck with your deadline.

Good topic. I immediately thought of the time three years ago when I had a 4-yr-old, 2-yr-old and baby to look after and absolutely no money, constant financial worries, trying to scrabble together some writing in the evenings to pay for kids' shoes and bills etc... Really tough time of my life. And then in an awful accident, my baby broke her leg and I was in hospital with her, she had her legs strung up in traction so was bed-bound for weeks, and social services were checking up on me (routine, apparently, but still made me feel so so crap and the most unfit mother in the world) and I was just so miserable for a long time.

Sorry to get all mournful but it really was the worst, most horrible time of my life...and yet somehow I managed to keep writing whenever I had a free half-hour, and writing became an escape from all the bad stuff, a bit of time where I could tune in to my imagination away from grim reality.

And then everything turned a corner, her leg was healed (and has been fine ever since thank goodness), I got my 'Lucy Diamond' agent and just after her first birthday, I got my book deal.

So for anyone experiencing a rough time right now, I totally commiserate and sympathise, and just want to say, Hang in there, everything is a phase, just keep going, writing can be an incredible comfort as well as a chore, honestly...

And Rowan, sorry but I am one of those annoying fans eagerly awaiting the next book. You can do it!

Fiona said...

What an apt topic for many of us at the moment.
I've now given up writing the oh, so long and slow, novel - just for the holidays. This is so I can be a better mother, cook, cleaner, taxi driver etc. Trouble is I can't stop thinking about my writing so I forget to buy important things like food.

Helen said...

This is incredibly apt at the moment for many of us isn't it?

For my first draft of my first novel I wrote this when I was recovering from a really hard time after having my baby. It was cathartic and I put the writing down to my gradual recovery.

However. I am now pregnant with baby number 2, we've just had major rennovatins done to the house (starting in February and on and off until, hopefully, this afternoon) and writing has been neglected. I am still writing two posts a day - 5 days a week - for Trashionista - but after I've done them I just feel I can't do any more. It is disheartening when the brain is willing but the body is weak!

However, I'm thinking about a little change, a new project, something that will challenge me, so hopefully this will help me and in turn inspire me with my fictional writing.

Kate.Kingsley said...

Marvellous topic ~ I’m looking to pick up tips from the comments here, as keeping going with the writing during times of flux is a major weakness for me ~ running and writing are the first things to go when time and circumstances conspire against me, and yet conversely these are the activities that calm and soothe me the most.

I’ve had a pretty crappy year - not relentlessly so, but enough to knock me off kilter - and there have been times when the writing has been completely neglected. But then again there have also been times when I’ve found solace in sinking into my WIP and blocking everything else out ~ swings and roundabouts, I guess.

Eventually I have to pick myself up & shake myself down and remind myself that writing is what I have wanted to do since I was seven years old, and you can only be a writer if you actually write. But still, I do lack focus and application at times, and I’ve been dipping my toe into meditation as a way to try and bring myself “back together”. I think I do need to find a way to keep my writing focus, because the one inarguable fact about life is that it just keeps bloody well happening!

Wishing millpond-calm Bank Holiday weekends all round!!

ChrisH said...

A really interesting post with some fascinating and useful comments. Rachel - wow! - you are so focused! I think Graeme's advice to aim for writing being the thing that gets you through is excellent and I know, like Kate, that it's running and writing that gets me through although either can be a real effort when I'm really in the pits.

I'm getting better at taking writing knockbacks, after all it's part of the job description, whereas in the pastI went into major writers' sulk mode - no use to anyone.

What motivates me is good writing news... I have a tiny glimpse of an opening in new door for FTT. Don't want to say more in case I jinx it but I must remember my own advice about taking it on the chin if it all goes pear-shaped again! Wishing you all a peaceful bank holiday (Hotel H currently heaving with guests. Sigh. Plus ca change).

Cathy said...

I'm another who has been having a horrendous year.

Something has had to give and largely it has been the writing and my blog. I have stuck at my OU course because it is a huge part of my plans for the future and that, with my paid work, has taken all my time outside family responsibilities.

I am now on the final stretch with the course and my paid work for this year. In about a month I shall be free to concentrate on my writing again and I think that what has happened in the last six months can only add depth to it.

I'm just glad that I haven't had to write to deadlines amongst all the chaos. I don't think I could have done it as I feel creatively drained.

Lane said...

I think you can add mind reader to your list of attributes Rowan!

When things go 'bosoms up' I find it tremendously difficult to stay focused. I need to find a way to take Graeme's advice on board.

This thread has been perversely comforting. It's always so easy to imagine that we're all happily writing away with perfect relationships/lives/etc. The reality is we're all struggling in one way or another and I've found some of the comments this week quite inspirational.

KAREN said...

Great topic. I agree with Lane! Even published writers have their daily struggles, which you just never imagine. I do find that like ChrisH, good news motivates me hugely but in order to get the good news you have to get writing! Luckily, I'm finding that even with so much going on around me at the moment I'm making time to write something every day. It's about the only time I really feel like 'me' and it's also a great distraction!

Helen Shearer said...

Hi everyone. Maybe I'm the odd bird here but I find that I write most and best when my life is in the crapper. When I'm down and depressed it's difficult but I find that somehow the good stuff comes out. When I'm pissed off it's even better and it tends to be much funnier. For the past several months my life has been a bit of a bore. Nothing exciting going on. Nothing bad (thank God) going on. And rather
surprisingly, given the large supporting cast of idiots in my life, no one has pissed me off. I almost wish someone would do something monumentally stupid and annoying just so I could get ten solid pages. When I'm content, the writing , especially the blog, suffers.

Have a great week everyone!

Anonymous said...

I hereby declare that it's most definitely beer o'clock. Cheers.

Writing is a good activity for escaping the rest of everyday life; whether that's going well, or even if it isn't. It can also be good therapy. One advantage of having multiple projects on the go, is that some are well-suited to spleen-venting activities! Others are just good escapism.

In fact, one of my novels got started when my job was made redundant last year. In my story, I decided that a terrorist bomber would blow up the whole company building (names changed, of course). Now that is therapy.

I think it can be good to write when you're down and depressed. Probably not such a good idea to submit it though. Better to just keep the raw material and re-edit when you're in a better mood. Personally, I find that my descriptive ability gets better when I'm down. I don't know why this is. Or maybe I just think it does.

To all my NR colleagues who are down or stressed at present: Keep writing, and I hope things get better very soon. Just remember, our lives are probably not as bad as Jude Williams' was.

Have a good long weekend everyone. I'll be taking a break for about three weeks in Canada, so no blogging for me for a while. I'll try not to write while I'm away, but no promises.

Paige said...

When things are getting too much for me, I can't write. I can't even THINK about writing. I need to concentrate on the problems or whatever it is that is causing me distraction.

I can't use my writing as escapism as I find that when I'm stressed anyway, I just get more stressed because of my writing. It drives me mad. The writing side to my life slides when I'm stressed so you can usually tell when I'm having some problems in my life as I do no writing.

At the moment I do have a few problems and I haven't written a word for ages. I went on a blog break to try to sort it all out and it helped and I can see the end of the tunnel now. So hopefully I'll get some writing done now!

liz fenwick said...

Great post Rowan and great thoughtful comments......Graeme, I will posting yours on my study wall when I get back to Dubai.

I thought about this past year which has been a bit of a roller coaster - not bad but certainly filled with uncertainty. I worked through the lot. It was something to focus on. As G said - I had some control over it. Having said that I threw my own scheduling off quite badly the last six weeks before we flew here. I didn't work on the rewrite as I needed to focus on other thing (long story) and I suffered or more importantly my kids had less of me this holiday. I normally block the summer off as kids time/reading time/thinking time but this year it was mad rewriting time to meet the NWS deadline which thankfully I did. I think I have learned my lesson though. Keep to the original schedule and everyone will be happier all round especially if we have a summer.

I have made writing my career now even though I am pre-published. By giving it that weight I can't throw it away too far. I can't say to 'the boss' sorry this is an inconvient time. Plus I love escaping into other worlds.....

Hope everyone is enjoying the long weekend :-)

L-Plate Author said...

Hi Everyone, sorry to be late, puppy power rules. No time to do anything now!

I had a great time reading all the above posts and probably being last means that no one will read mine but what the heck!

According to all the above comments, I seem to have had life pretty sussed for this year. Had my fair share of ups and downs in the past though, so it's nice to get a break. Writing however is a different subject as things seem to be going one step forward, two steps back all the time. For two and a half years I thought I was made when I had an agent, then she retired (still not sure I believe that)and then I nearly got another one and now...well, there is something in the mix but I daren't say with my track record. It kind of makes you not want to brathe just in case.

During the time with the agent I worked part time, couldn't afford to so, like Lucy was, I am suffering financially. But that won't stop me. I can't stop writing, it's in me. Scrapping book one was a huge achievement for me because it made me focus on what I wanted from my writing and I know now that I am on the right track again. I am working with a mentor who has had an amazing influence on me, pity I didn't get that from the agent.

Discipline is easy for me with my writing, it's the rest of life that I can't put discipline into. If I could I would have lost that extra stone I am carrying!

When I am drafting, I write 1000 words each time I sit down to write. These words can be complete drivel but there has to be 1000 of them before I can stop. It usually takes me about an hour, I'm well planned so kindof know where I am going but I can't stop until the words are down. It seems to work for me. 1000 words and I'm off. It's 100 sessions, broken down into 1000 words, it seems achievable. I also have a calender on the wall which I update with my word count every time, so all the numbers get larger. I like that, it spurs me on and I can see at a glance how many words I have written that week.

And to spur me on I joined the Novel Racers. That's been my best achievement this year by far. I've made some fab friends, cheers you lot! x

Flowerpot said...

Late here as life has been in turmoil. I find writing is my escape, but also journalism is what brings in money at the moment so that is a Must. How much time I have for fiction depends on my deadlines. But writing is a drug for me - sometimes I can't write, but I have to come back to it. I get withdrawal symptoms otherwise. Having said that, I'm writing several pieces at the moment which has been opportune as I had problems with the fiction. Starting to long to go back to it!

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Great topic, Rowan - fabulous labels, too! And best of luck with the deadline.

Like Graeme, I often find that writing provides an escape for me.

Also, I have various 'reminders' by my desk:
Write Every Day
Just Get On With It
Apply Bum Glue
Don't Give Up
You Can't Edit A Blank Page

But when things get too bad, when there is a reason that I truly can't write for a day or two, I think about what wonderful material the current trauma(s) will make, how I can translate my own misery, anxiety, pain etc into entertainment for others. And I find that helps with the stress, a bit, as well as the writing.

Rowan Coleman said...

Hi Everyone

Thanks for you brilliant imspiring comments which remind me of my constant motto... ITS ALL MATERIAL.


sexy said...
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