Friday 3 October 2014

Yesterday's Fear

So its Thursday and I still haven't submitted my book for consideration to any agent or publisher. I have looked up 'calls for submission' and 'how tos' on submitting but I haven't actually submitted anything. I have re-read my first three chapters, synopsis and covering letter and attempted a final edit...and then that was it. Crisis. I read it and it was awful. I couldn't remember what was good about it. It seemed dull and lacking in forward momentum. I tried reading aloud. That was worse. All the sentences seemed to catch. I went back to not reading aloud, hoping if I read fast I would just fall back into the groove. Fade to dull. I had read it so many times I felt less than nothing for it. It was 'blah'! 

Under the Pier on Brighton Beach
I could not in any way, shape or form imagine how I could do a final edit when all I could read was 'blah'. It probably didn't help that I wasn't feeling well but I allowed for that. I could think of no other way past it apart from leaving it in a drawer for a couple of years so I could forget it and come back to it fresh again.

I discussed my crisis with Tim. He understood how it felt. He is a writer. He didn't however come up with an answer. He said I would. I didn't that night and went to bed desperately reading Stephen King's book On Writing. He probably said something in the book somewhere about the 'blah' but it wasn't the bit I was reading. I turned to Ted Talks for inspiration. I couldn't find any so went for catharsis instead and chose on the basis of 'funny' ratings. I watched Ken Robinson hilarious description of how schools kill creativity. He convinced me, and more importantly he made me laugh. I was able to sleep.

I felt worse in the morning. I hadn't had any divine inspiration or even a dream that might have given me some ideas. I read some more from Stephen King On Writing (2000). Still nothing on the 'blah'.  I got to the bit on telepathy. Yes telepathy. It tickled me. The idea that when we read we can see into the mind of the writer. I love the idea. It didn't help me with the problem but it did inspire me to try again.

I sat down at the computer before work and started to read aloud again. This time I tried to read it differently. I wasn't sure how, but I read it with a strong and harder voice (possibly in an attempt to conjure up some interest). It was working. I tried to not be myself. Or at least the self that had read the day before. I think I started to read as the character, an older man describing childhood events or maybe that's what I'm imagining. I don't care - I was able to edit. Some of the writing sounded right and some was off and with a little tinkering sounded right, or at least sounded like what had gone before. I was able to imagine a voice again and what that voice would and wouldn't say and how they would say it.

Now its Friday and I still haven't submitted my book. I am feeling pleased that I have found a way forward but haven't moved on from that. I went back to the Stephen King book before breakfast. Lo and behold what does he say but whatever you do you should come to the page 'anyway but lightly'. I remembered what I wrote in the previous paragraph about going back to editing and reading it in a 'strong and harder voice' - not lightly, but with purpose. Ok he was talking about the blank page but all my pages might as well have been blank. 'Blah' pages are worse than blank pages.They make you step back and disengage. Force you to take the heat off. To turn the dial down. To tip toe around the problem. To try to tinker with a light touch when the life is gone out of it because you extinguish it as you go along like a wet rag. I stopped being the wet rag as soon as I got fired up about it, whether it was the fear or the anger it didn't matter. I was switched on again. 

Come to it any way but lightly. 
(Stephen King, 2000)

King, S. (2000) On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Scribner, New York

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