I’m seriously in need of a writing day! For the last ten days or so I’ve been travelling, visiting, or involved in the activities at Wild Ginger Witch Camp. It’s all grist to the mill, but the machinery begins to feel rusty if the grist piles up and the wheels aren’t turning. No matter how well-intentioned people are, they can’t seem to help talking to you if they see you sitting with notebook and pen.
“What are you writing?” they ask. And they really do want to know, but while you’re talking about writing and thinking about writing, and getting ideas about writing and gathering material for writing (and there’s been a ton of that), the fact is that you’re not writing!
“I want to write,” people say, “But I don’t know where to start.”
“Butt in chair, pointy end of the pencil down,” is always my advice. It doesn’t matter where you start. It doesn’t matter if the first three paragraphs or the first three pages or the entire first chapter is nothing but throat-clearing. It doesn’t matter if the sentences aren’t perfectly crafted or you have to put “[WHAT YEAR? LOOK UP!!]” in the first draft of your memoir or “[check dosage]” in your murder mystery. Put it in and move on.
I have a first draft of a memoir which is in serious need of rewriting, probably more than once. But I did the core dump, bulling my way through and making notes as I went along of things I’d have to check. And now I have that first draft, all – gasp! – 100,000 words of it, out of my head and on the page. That’s how I write.
I know it’s not how everybody writes. Some craft every sentence before moving on to the next one; some blurt it out and fix it later. Some, in the immortal words of Lewis Carroll, start at the beginning, go on until the end, then stop; some jump around from chapter to chapter. Some have a detailed mind map of the story they want to tell; others wing it. But they all have this one thing in common – they put their butts in their chairs and write.
This is the first time I’ve had a chance to write anything longer than a limerick – and it wasn’t a bad limerick, either – in over a week.
There, I feel much better.