“Literature is Strewn with the Wreckage of Those Who Have Minded Beyond Reason the Opinion of Others”

How do you write?

howdoyouwriteThere’s a lot of it going on at the moment, with NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo currently taking place. (Both acronyms sound like a weird kind of digi-pet project to me.) I admire the people doing NaNoWriMo in particular, because I’m not sure it’s a challenge I’d be able to tackle while maintaining either my sanity or an acceptable level of personal hygiene. I don’t want to say outright, “there’s no way on earth I could ever write 50,000 words in a month,” as I’m currently going through the job application process and therefore having to exude confidence in my own abilities. This ain’t an easy task, given that this week I gave myself food poisoning for the second time in five months. I’m a VEGETARIAN. Which root vegetable or lentil could I have possibly cooked so ineptly that it left me lying in bed for a day groaning ‘woe is me’…?

I appear to have digressed. The main reason for my unwillingness to take part in something like NaNoWriMo is that I know, too well, how I write. I am so envious of those of my friends able to splurge onto a blank page and then go back and fix what they’ve written. I have tried, but more often than not I spend ages agonising over what word or turn of phrase to use in each sentence before I can move on. It makes editing a much quicker process, but it doesn’t half make life difficult when you are sitting with a blank document and a looming deadline.

I am currently writing a short story (with a much more manageable word count of 3,000) for a magazine competition. I don’t expect to win; I am doing it simply to take the excuse to write. I am finding it more enjoyable than if I was trying to get out that many words in a single day, every day this month. But with an interest in publishing/journalism I realise that I have to stop being so precious about what I am doing, and get into the habit of writing regularly and at a speed that doesn’t leave me with grey hairs by the time I’m finished. For this reason I have loved getting back into blogging and reading other’s posts, and wondering how long it takes people to put together their uploads. Most of mine have taken longer than I’d like to admit, as I tend to sit on them for a few days and keep tinkering with structure, wording, etc. (It also keeps them warm in these cold winter months – sitting on them.)

I’m currently reading a collection of Christopher Hitchen’s essays, which are often so dense and complex that it is taking me far longer to finish than a book would normally. Though despite the intense mind-workout that each essay gives (for this reason, perhaps not the wisest choice of bedtime reading), Hitchens writes in a way that seems almost effortless. This is impressive, given that it is also apparent just how much personal reading and research must go in to each of these well-formed and -argued opinions on a whole range of subjects. I believe this is the trait of a great writer – one who can spend hours, days, weeks, months, and longer agonising over a piece of work, yet for the finished piece to read as though it was no bother to produce at all.

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