One of the things I’ve struggled slightly with when writing this blog is the personal / professional balance. As a reader I’m not overly interested in reading what a blogger ate for breakfast, or the exact number of words he or she has managed to write that day, but equally I like to know the person behind the words. The unique quality of blogging is that to some degree, it’s a journal. Unedited. From the heart.
And whilst, as those of you who regularly read my blog will know, I’m a big advocate of keeping your personal life separate from your writing – letting it influence sentiments and scenarios, but not completely take over, so that fiction remains fiction and not an autobiography – when it comes to blogging, the lines are blurred. The rules more fluid.
Just flicking through the offerings of the Word Press ‘writing’ tab is a good enough example of this. Some bloggers are historians, writing blog posts like school assignments. Others literally use their blog as a computerized diary, including information of little interest to anyone other than their closes friends.
And yet, in my experience, my most successful posts on The Elementary Circle have been those which have come from the heart. Tales of my background – My Crazy Unorthodox Life – my aspirations as a writer – J.K Raises the Bar – my career ‘solutions’ as I endeavour to become a career author, – Don’t Forget Your Day Job – and even my internal debate as to whether I can ‘officially’ call myself an author still – So Am I an Author Yet?
So, with all that in mind, I HAD planned to write a post about ‘Emotional Jump-starts’. The various triggers that have kicked me into action with my writing over the years. The things which have driven me to put pen to paper with definite passion. Ironically one of the biggest jump starts I had in writing was a really big break-up. I say ironic, because yesterday I was dumped! And that’s where the good old personal/ professional line comes in, because it’s not something I particularly want to talk about, and yet in some ways it’s very pertinent to this post.
I’m a Comfort Writer. When I’m upset, I WRITE! It’s a pattern I know, and understand, and to be honest, it’s the very reason I’m typing right now. I kept a diary from the age of 14, and whenever I was upset or feeling down about something, I would write. Over the years, I kept the diaries almost daily, right up to the time I began to write Flicker in Australia. And when my journal-keeping disappeared into insignificance, it was my fiction which took it’s place – using up all my desire to write each day, but remaining my emotional outlet.
And whilst obviously a journal is hugely different to fiction, and it wouldn’t be fair to anyone to simply narrate your life day by day, for some reason it’s actually more cathartic to write about other people’s fictitious lives than it is to wallow in your own sad tales.
Writing is my chocolate. My Bridget Jones bowlful of ice-cream. It’s how I forget my troubles, and gain perspective on issues, whether my characters are facing those very same issues as I am, or whether I’m writing about something completely unrelated. Writing is another world, a world where you’re not a girlfriend, or an ex-girlfriend, or a troubled employee, crap best-friend, or over-burdened mother. It’s a world where you hold all the reigns. You’re in total control, and you can completely craft the outcomes without having to encounter the variables of other people.
Writing isn’t just a retreat for heartbreak. It’s an escape from grief, and from whatever else causes your pain. Or rather, that’s what I’ve realised writing has become for me. I tend to write something each day. Not because I’m forcing myself to write (Check out my views on that here! – ‘Falling into the Forced Writing Trap’) but because for me it’s a necessary wind-down to the day – whether that writing is on this blog, or a book, or editing, or even just planning out a story. But the thing I’ve noticed is that my writing behaviour changes according to my emotional state of mind. And if I’m stressed or upset about something, not only does the writing help me organise my own personal headspace, but the calibre of what I produce is genuinely better.
‘Flicker’ was a book written from heartbreak, and grief – so much so that I spent a LONG time editting out the more journalistic sections of the novel, until I felt happy that I had skimmed out the ‘Charly’ elements from the book, and that Felicity Firestone, the main character, wasn’t simply an image of myself.
However, ‘The Dream Navigator’, my second book, and the one which is currently with publishers, was formed from a different passionate reaction. Those of you who have been reading my blog for some time will know that I had a different agent at PFD before I was represented by the lovely Lucy Dundas, and that other agent actually asked me to sideline Flicker after about 6 months of editing, the most major edit being cutting the word count from 180,000 words down to 90,000. I’m sure any writers reading can imagine my sentiments, when I was told to forget a book which I had spent a year and a half writing and perfecting.
I was pretty bloody angry! And it was that anger which bred determination, and that determination which saw me put pen to paper and create the first chapter of The Dream Navigator – the section of my writing which has probably received the most critical acclaim.
So, what have I learnt from all of this (apart from that my choice in boyfriends apparently sucks?!) …
I’ve learnt that I’m an emotional writer. And that when I’m feeling down, or angry, or passionate about something, I ought to put pen to paper. Because the things I create will not only make me feel ten times better, but they also might turn out to be pretty damn good 🙂
What about you? What gets you writing? What makes your writing good? And what turns it into something you’ll simply delete it the next time you read it?
As ever, please comment below, and feel free to tell me what you think on Twitter – http://twitter.com/#!/CC_Lester