On a day I was beating myself up for not getting ‘enough’ writing done while I am off work for treatment (despite my best intentions, I continue to be surprised by how little I can do), I read How to Be a Writer: 10 Tips from Rebecca Solnit I’d coincidentally read her excoriating piece on Trump that week, so I recognised her name.
It’s one of the better ‘writing tips’ pieces I’ve read, realistic and passionate. As well as reminding me that writing is a practice, she reminded me to take joy in my writing.
Writing is facing your deepest fears and all your failures, including how hard it is to write a lot of the time and how much you loathe what you’ve just written and that you’re the person who just committed those flawed sentences…When it totally sucks, pause, look out the window (there should always be a window) and say, I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing. I am hanging out with the English language (or the Spanish or the Korean). I get to use the word turquoise or melting or supernova right now if I want. I’m with Shelley, who says that poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the universe, and I am not fracking or selling useless things to lonely seniors or otherwise abusing my humanity. Find pleasure and joy.
I’ve made three submissions in the last three months: my novel twice, and one short story. My second ever short story submission (I told you I’m not good at this). So far two have rejected me. This is a Good Thing though: it’s a numbers game.
I hit on the idea that I need not submit completely new work. I’ve never sent anything out, so it’s all still ‘fresh’. So I’ve been revisiting my back catalogue. There’s a couple I kind of cringe at, but overall its been a boost to my confidence. It really is a joy to revisit old work and have it bring a smile to your face.
If you have a few minutes, here’s a small selection of the stories I’ve enjoyed rediscovering, each with quite distinct styles.
The Man-Faced Boy. Inspired by a boy I saw on the tube whose peculiarly adult face haunted me for days. I can still see it vividly now.
On the perils of enabling the evil of rich men, Man Hunt. Written a few years back but even more relevant today! I like the characterisation in this one.
Knocking off the edges hits a couple of my key themes. I remember it came really easily at the time. Has the bonus of my Mum’s comment at the time I first posted it. Thanks, Mum!
I agree with Solnit that there should always be a window. For the natural light. For sun to stream in through, and for rain to batter in a storm. And for your cat companion to sit in beside you, as you work alone, conjuring the words to make new worlds from nothing.