Sunday, 25 October 2009

On Praise

A bit more of the novel is done. I hope.

There was a lot of sitting and thinking, thinking about what I was going to write and writing whenever a thought of what the next line should be popped into my head. But this was happening a lot slower than I would have liked and I thought back to the time of the first draft when 2,000 words felt like they took a minute. I would think about how Richard Laymon says it takes an hour to write a page if an average author is having a problem.

I've been talking to a few authors recently, or maybe that's rather, friends who write. Of them, two others have said they're having problems. One who says the stuff they write now isn't as good as the stuff they wrote before and the other professed that their second novel isn't as close to their heart as the first had been.

I think it's something to do with experience. We know we're capable of writing a story or a poem but are any of us capable of writing a good story or poem? We know what we're capable of, we see it everyday, but is that good enough? Could we be better? We want to see in our own work what we see in other people's. We think it's good but is it really? There's plenty of overconfident amateurs who think their new piece is The Bomb and then find they're the only person to think so and writers, who pride themselves (sometimes) on being overthinkers can think 'Hey, I like what I've done. I'm pretty good' and then think 'that’s how one of those overconfident writers think. Ulp!'

There have been stories that I've written and then read months maybe years later and thought to myself, 'hey, this isn't half bad' and actually enjoyed it but when you try to see that in something you're writing currently that very rarely happens.

That's where praise comes in. I think right now, I need some. Just some sign that what I've written is at least readable, if not actually good. I would even like a 'it isn't there yet but it has potential. You should do this, this and this then it’ll be good.'

But who to get it from? There are always friends, colleagues and family members (if you can persuade them to sit down and read what you've written, which is sometimes tricky if they have other things on). And if they say it's good? Then you don't believe them because they know you and don't want to criticise or perhaps don't know how to criticise beyond an 'I like it'. So it's the praise of strangers you need. People with no stake hold in your emotional well-being. But how to get them to read it? Well, you either give it away for free or you get published and so there's the rub.

I suppose a writer at our stage needs to be strong, to just work at the novel, tell the story and let others read the good in it. To just keep going and hope that all those things you can't see are still there because in the end there are no words that scientifically make someone laugh or cry on command. You need them to bring the emotional content and enthusiasm for the story that you lament that you can’t simply write in for them.

At this stage you don’t write for what comments an imaginary person might give. You write in despite of them.

Thanks for reading.