The winter solstice (in the southern hemisphere) seems the right time to reflect on my writing journey for the first half of 2020. As well as being the shortest day, there is a Ring of Fire solar eclipse and the new moon is in Cancer, which kind of goes beautifully with the sentiments in Morcheeba’s song and indicative of what I’ve learned about writing so far.
The grand take-a-year-off-and-write plan started strongly, although when I set the plan in motion back in 2015, I had no specific idea that writing was the plan. As the year began, I had created an ambitious writing routine and engaged a mentor. There were regular research trips organised and a lace making retreat booked. I’d firmed up travel to Morocco and Ireland. I’d started shakti yoga.
Then Covid 19 hit. Would you like lime with your Corona? jokes wore thin as events were cancelled and lockdown took hold.
Just because you have developed a title, synopsis, chapter summaries and character outlines doesn’t mean you will spring into creativity in an iso world. I missed the interaction of writing workshops, and the buzz of finding information in a hushed library reading room.
There were days, then weeks where I did more gardening, baking, viewing and reading than writing. Trips to the grocery store and random chats with neighbours were the limit of face-to-face human contact. Texts and messages with family and friends seemed to fit the year’s eeriness, while my monthly full moon meditation group switched to zoom.
Then in early May I spoke, via zoom, with Mark Sedore (University of Toronto) about writing and blogging. I took several days to reflect over our discussion and how I’d mentioned writing as an entertaining process. And since beginning an online writing workshop this month, I maintain the idea of entertainment as integral to my writing process.
So, to run through a few cliches, that’s not to say it’s been all beer and skittles, or a bed of roses, or even plain sailing. It’s more about the simple actions that cements the routine that allows the words to appear on the page (or screen). It works if you work it.
I’m midway through the second draft of Woven and this time, my aim to simply get the whole story down on the page. I’m writing the what, who and how, leaving emotions and why for the next edit. It’s messy but satisfying.
When the questions are loudest, the writing can be the most rewarding. Just write through those niggling thoughts: is there enough tension? should it be in first person? did I mention she meets her in that chapter? Oh yes, ‘just’ write through it. Just.
Just this morning, I woke with the conviction that my writing was technically good – clean sentences, crisp images – but soulless. But isn’t that what this draft is about? Yes, but … After coffee, I sat before my laptop and read through my three sentence chapter outline. I was introducing a new character. Ok. Just write.
And here she was – waiting for me. This character was originally a co-protagonist, but is now referred to in a handful of chapters. I’d almost forgotten her importance as inspiration and here she was, making herself and her achievements known. This was fun. Enjoyable.
It’s very much about learning, about being open to learning more about your writing style and voice. I happy as both planner and pantser. As the song goes:
stop chasing shadows just enjoy the ride.
*featured image from the official music video for Morcheeba’s ‘Enjoy the Ride’ produced by animator /director Joel Trussell and released in 2007.