For years I have been a writer, an editor and a teacher of creative writing. Now I want to share some of what I have learned along the way. Write On The Fringes is a blog about the dangers, the disappointments and the rewards of writing. It's a record of the writing of a novel, from the tantalising first inklings of an idea, through to the final draft. But above all it's an exploration of the art and the craft of writing and the nature of story, as well as a search for the essence of creativity and the complex nature of truth.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Writing Space and Time

'Stay at your table and listen. Don't even listen, just wait, be completely quiet and alone. The world will offer itself to you to be unmasked.'
Franz Kafka

Last week I wrote about the helplessness that can overcome the creative process. Overcoming the helplessness meant also facing the other factors that had held me back. The major one, or so I thought, was time or more precisely, the lack of it. I had been complaining for weeks that I had no time for my own creativity, that the needs of others always came first: family, friends, students, work. . . My 'To Do' lists were getting longer and longer; each day ended with fewer jobs crossed off and my novel even further out of reach.

'The only thing stopping you, is you,' said my husband, fed up with my complaints. Irritated at his lack of sympathy, I went back to my 'To Do' lists and studied them to see what chores I could drop, looking for a way to prioritise my time. Then I noticed what I had been doing all along. Each day's list contained notes on meetings, housework, places I had to drive my children, marking . . Of course I always included, 'write my novel', however that particular one was at the end of each list. In a sense I'd been punishing myself, setting impossible standards - if I couldn't complete each day's work then I had no chance of getting to my novel. My solution had been to work harder and harder in order to create a space for writing but of course that left me exhausted, which is not a good place to create from. So last week I turned the list upside down. Each day the first thing to go on my list is 'write my novel'. At first I gave myself an hour from 8-9am, then I extended it to 10am. In those two hours I lock myself up in my study, away from the phone and the internet and out of view of the dirty dishes and washing basket. One or two hours a day doesn't seem much but it's possible to achieve a lot in that time, sometimes words on paper and sometimes simply a mental space for the novel to grow.

Then I realised that time wasn't the issue in my writing life, not really. I had written my way through busier periods, such as when my children were very small and I would get up at four in the morning just so I could have some space to create and of course to keep my sanity because that's one of the many blessings writing gives me - in our family a writing mother is a much nicer person than a non writing mother! So if time wasn't the issue, I began to wonder what was. I pondered this for a while and came to the conclusion that it was a lack of legitimacy around the act of writing itself. Even after I've had two novels published I still feel as if I'm sneaking something forbidden when I write. Partly it's a money issue. If my writing fully supported my family then perhaps I wouldn't feel this concern. Partly it's fear too. I worry that this next novel will struggle to find a publisher and I'll have to go through the whole heartbreaking process again. And I worry too about the discoveries I will make about myself on this next writing journey because from past experience I know that this is not always a comfortable process. But more than any of this I think the reason for my reluctance to settle down with this next book is a belief that I don't deserve the joy that comes with writing.

As an adopted child, illegitimacy is a word I am most familiar with, having heard it many times in the context of my own childhood. However, more importantly it is the feeling behind the word that has crept into my life and in part formed who I am. A sense of being undeserving that permeates the way I relate to myself and to others. That stops me from doing what is best for me. We all grapple with our own demons and having taught creative writing for many years I have heard all sorts of excuses for not writing, some of them more authentic than others. There are times when it isn't possible to write but for the most part the only person who is stopping us is ourselves. If we have a story to tell then I believe it is imperative that we find a way to tell it and if the way we choose is through writing then we probably have to carve a space in our lives to make this possible.

Students often ask me about my own writing routine in the hope that it will help them to find their own. But our routines have to grow around our circumstances and our natures. Some people write daily, others only once a week, some in the evenings others in the mornings. We don't need an office to work from or the latest computer, but we do need to make a regular space for our writing and commit to it in the face of life's distractions, many of which are self created. It's not easy to ask our friends and family to help provide this space and they won't always be supportive as sometimes creativity can be perceived as a threat by those closest to us. We live in a society where success is measured by externals and without the justification of a publishing contract it's hard to maintain confidence in our writing. But the hardest part of the commitment we need to make to our writing is to look closely at our distractions, peeling back the layers and discovering why we make them in the first place. Perhaps the blame doesn't lie in our circumstances or in those closest to us. Perhaps it lies squarely at our own feet.

The stories we tell help us to see the limitations in our own lives and to overcome them. But in a sense it is the commitment we make to telling our stories that is most important because although many of us might at times describe writing as torture, it is really a form of self-nurture. We have to love ourselves in order to create. And by that I don't mean an egotistical loving; I mean a forgiveness of ourselves, an acceptance of who we are and what has formed us. It is only through this acceptance that we can move on.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Rosie Dub. All rights reserved. You may translate, link to or quote this article, in its entirety, as long as you include the author name and a working link back to this website:http://writeonthefringes.blogspot.co.uk/

16 comments:

  1. I believe you have remarked some very interesting details , appreciate it for the post.

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  2. Nice post and now following your blog, follow mine if you wish, a true story at
    http://thewrongplaceatthewrongtime.blogspot.com/

    Nice to connect.....

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  3. Hi Rosie
    As I read your post, I feel like giving up! I have time in the evening to write but I am feeling like I am wasting time with my writing. I feel like its not " good enough" . I have read encouragement like " write for yourself" but what is the point of that, I know the story, it's in my head. Thanks for the blog, making me think what are my "demons" that stop me. Tavonga

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    1. Hi Tavonga. It's amazing how many self created demons we can find to stop the writing process. If we turned that incredible inventiveness to writing we'd be really prolific! Keep going. all the best, Rosie

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  4. This constantly amazes me just how blog owners such as your self can find the time as well as the dedication to keep on crafting superb blog posts. Your website is good and one of my personal must read weblogs. I just had to thank you.

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    1. Thank you so much for your lovely feedback. It came at just the right time, as I was beginning to question the worth of my blog. Much appreciated
      all the best
      Rosie

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    2. You're the author of two novels, tell me how can i find them?

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    3. If you're not in Australia or New Zealand it may be a little difficult as there are geographical restrictions on their sales as the publisher is still trying to sell to overseas publishers. So although they are available on Amazon as ebooks, I'm not sure if you can buy them outside of Australia.

      If not, the new novel, Flight can certainly be bought as an ebook or hardcopy through Booktopia which is an online bookstore in Australia. I'm hoping that the geographical restrictions will be lifted in a couple of months which will make them both available world wide.

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    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    5. well I've been to like so many places around the world, but unfortunately never been to Australia or New Zealand. but I really appreciate your blog and looking forward for new posts.. and thanks for the reply.

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  5. This post was very interesting. I have found myself to be in your shoes many times. Finally, I had do to the same thing you did, prioritize my writing.

    Thanks for sharing this!

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  6. I have found myself to be in your shoes many times. Finally, I had do to the same thing you did, prioritize my writing.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thank you so much for your lovely feedback. It came at just the right time, as I was beginning to question the worth of my blog. Much appreciated
    all the best.Thanks for sharing it with us.

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  9. This unvaryingly astounds me just how write possessors for example your self can discover the time and the devotion to continue making brilliant blog entries. Your web space is great and one of my private must read weblogs. I simply needed to thank you.

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