Sunday, 10 October 2010
On not writing for pleasure
The sense of freedom to experiment, to play with words, vanishes. Writing for a living is a serious business. It’s a bit like playing sport for money rather than for fun.
This is rather how I feel at the moment after completing a 400 page biography, two academic papers, a number of reviews, talks and a commissioned story. The well is dry and putting pencil to pad feels more like going to work at the tax office. Writing simply isn’t fun any more and without that ability to play, nothing new and interesting is likely to appear on the page. I’ve even lost sight of why I began to write in the first place.
So what to do about this? After discussions with friends, there seem to be a number of different things that work for them. Here are some of them.
1. Give yourself a holiday. Set a period of time and don’t write anything until it’s over.
2. Avoid assignments - if money is tight take a mundane job that doesn’t take up any head-space instead.
3. Read a lot - all those books you never had time for.
4. Open a bottle of wine - give yourself time to daydream.
5. Do a short free-write every day - no more than 15 minutes.
6. Be very disciplined and wait for something to go ‘ping’ in your head.
I’m determined not to write until something demands to be written, and I’m experimenting with free-writes. There are lots of internet sites which offer prompts, but I’ve been looking at a book called ‘A Writer’s Book of Days’ (subtitled ‘A Spirited Companion and Lively Muse for the Writing Life’) by Judy Reeves, which offers a programme of writing, month by month, including a sequence of prompts - one for every day of the year. I’m not a great fan of free-writing, but I’m surprised by what is emerging. My last blog started out as a response to ‘What was forgotten’, followed by a walk on the moors. I think I might put ‘walking’ as the magic number seven on the list - it always worked for Wordsworth and I have several friends who walk enthusiastically when they’re incubating something.