I joined a writing group, yesterday, via OneRoom. I’m also paying a monthly fee (one of two birthday presents from my husband – the other is a pair of ear rings) to receive coaching from a writer/teacher.
It’s been many years since I had an educator in my corner. We have a scheduled chat at 7.30 pm GMT, this evening. I’m strangely anxious. But then I’ve been anxious ever since I started writing down ideas, and creating characters, for Breaking Bread. The story has a dark underbelly that scares me. Whenever I try to lighten it up, another dark idea flaps its wings and squawks raven-like at me.
Being a wife, mother, and grandmother, I have very little time to think about dark, dastardly deeds let alone carry them out. Honestly, the events in the story are antithetic to the housewifely activities with which my ordinary life is strewn. But still, when I start to write, up it all comes – shadowy and ghoulish to scare the bejesus out of me.
I hope I can go wherever these strange ideas are taking the novel and me. Perhaps the writer/teacher will have some advice as to how to get out of the way of my inner fears and allow the true heart of the story to reveal itself.
If it does, I shall step out of my customary writing pyjamas, don a ‘back in the world of real people’ outfit, push the rods of the new ear rings through my pierced lobes and go out for a meal with my husband.
It’s been my experience that writing a novel has to be a solitary occupation – away from all the distractions of one’s ordinary life. Especially if one is classified as a housewife ‘who plays about with her writing’, as more than one person has said in my hearing. Writing, when there is little possibility of being published, is somehow regarded as wasting time ‘when there are so many other worthwhile occupations you could (meaning should) be doing: volunteer work; charity work; looking after the grandchildren; cleaning, washing, shopping…’ The list is endless – and it’s true. Except for the worthwhile bit.
I believe writing to be a worthwhile occupation.
Although Breaking Bread may never be read by anyone other than a proof reader, a beta-reader, and an editor, writing crime fiction is far more than ‘playing about’. It’s like being on a solitary, dangerously exciting trek into both the frightening known and the terrifying unknown. It’s worthwhile because it stretches me intellectually, and encourages me to be observant, perceptive, receptive, open to new ideas, and to use all five senses. The last being essential when writing – well – anything.
Writing leads one towards the magical world of philosophy. A place where anything is possible.
I’ve discovered I’m not a pantser (auto-correct wanted to change pantser to panther – I’m neither) i.e., one who writes by the seat of their pants. I am definitely a plotter. I have no actual gun-powder it’s only figurative – but as a plotter, I want to know who wants it, why they want it, where it is, how to access it, what to do with it, and when it’s going to be used. Kipling’s six serving men serve me, too.
In these early days of planting ‘idea seeds’ and encouraging growth, I also need help in the form of mentors and tools. Below are links to those to whom I go/use most. Mentors first.
K. M. Weiland https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com
Mary Carroll Moore http://howtoplanwriteanddevelopabook.blogspot.co.uk
Scrivener (for Mac or PC) https://www.literatureandlatte.com
Contour (for Mac or PC) http://marinersoftware.com/products/contour/
I’m writing my first novel. It’s called Breaking Bread, and has nothing to do with that popular TV programme.
The short story is my default format. A comfort zone where I know what I’m doing.
Novel writing is a whole new ball of wax. Or maybe a large bowl of mercury. It shimmers seductively and dares me to understand its complexities. It knows that I’m afraid, and reminds me, from time to time, that too much exposure to its elusive essence (especially when it keeps me awake at night, and makes me forget to eat and exercise) could kill me.
Writing a novel, with the idea of a stranger’s eyes scanning it, feels like (I imagine) getting naked in public. People are going to see bits of me that they’d really rather not – but I’m going to do it anyway.
Writing this blog, which will probably be read by as many people who might read the finished novel, is also a first attempt (actually, a second. I wrote one an hour or so ago, on an unrelated subject) to expose myself through writing and publishing to The Web – maybe foisting is a better word.
When I hear back from a mentor who has her own website, and whose permission I have sought to include her details on my blog, I shall do just that.
In the meantime, I shall endeavour to knock out a few thousand words for Breaking Bread – that might, possibly, be read by someone other than myself.
A conversation with a visitor this week, encouraged me to think about those who are driven to heal others. I’m talking not only about those in the medical profession, but also spiritual healers like my visitor. This, in turn, led me to revisiting an memory when I’d wished I had healing powers.
I’m a ’cause and effect’ thinker, myself. This happens and then because of that something else happens. And yet I have to admit I have found myself wishing that I had healing powers from time to time: when my husband had to have a biopsy after a scan showed something abnormal in his left lung, and when my daughter fell ill and it looked as though she might have had a stroke. They have both since recovered, but for a while there I felt utterly powerless.
My mind did that terrifying thing of launching itself over the present to the bleak future of life without the two people I love most in the world. My spirit felt again those historical fractures that occurred when I was abandoned as a small child and left to the mercies of those who did not, unless it suited them, have my best interests at heart. But I was an adult now; surely I could draw on my own resources? I found I had none.
I prayed in garbled, incoherent way. I sobbed and pleaded. I went, uninvited, to a kind neighbour’s house and sobbed at her kitchen table while she, a retired doctor, patiently listened and spoke words of comfort. Then I apologised – as one tends to do, after showing naked emotion – said goodbye, and walked the few yards back home where my husband was waiting. He was embarrassed and wanted to know what I had said.
It was my husband’s embarrassment that tipped me over into anger. We were both shaken by the force of it. Past and present terror, rage and bitterness tangled and crushed themselves together in a crucible that had been waiting patiently all these years for such an opportunity to find expression. Boiling mad. I finally know what that means.
It was strangely cathartic for both of us. My husband, who doesn’t like confrontation, was relieved, I think, that one of us had found a way to sick up what we were both feeling. We both remembered the wife of a friend of ours who had developed cancer a few years back. She had been in pieces. All the love and attention was directed towards her ailing husband, while she was told: ‘You’re so brave.’ Bravery, I now know, had nothing to do with it. She was hanging on by a thread, caring for his every need, getting little sleep and having to be nice to well-meaning visitors. My husband said to me: ‘People forget that the partner suffers, too.’ The world began to steady after he said that. He’s a kind man.
I went for a walk. I prayed again. This time I had something practical for which to pray. I can do practical.
‘Give me the strength to be there for him. To be there for everything he needs for as long as he needs it. Let me be his rock. Let me do everything with love.’
That became my mantra during the weeks and months that followed. It kept me steady while I washed the blood out of the pillowcases and accompanied my husband to his appointments with various medical professionals, and lunched with family members who didn’t know (my husband didn’t want anyone to be informed) about that abnormality inside his left lung.
I know I shall never be a healer in either the medical or spiritual sense. And that’s fine. All I can do is pray for the strength to be here, in the present, and do whatever is needed – in my limited way – for those that I love.