I live with my head in the clouds a bit. I’m the first to admit it. I could quite happily walk around all day staring up at the sky, making up little tunes and stories.
When I was younger people found this quirk of mine quite charming, referring to me as eccentric or fruity. There was a tolerance for my idiosyncrasies because I had time. It was expected that with all the time that I had in front of me I would mould my quirks into something productive, something that would earn me money.
I even tolerated myself. I remember dreaming about becoming a famous writer, thinking how good it would be to earn a living doing what I really love except that the problem is I don’t love doing it as much as I love thinking about it. Writing a book is bloody hard work.
It’s like living in exile in Siberia without adequate heating, where your only nourishment is borscht, three day old bread and vodka which you eat and drink for every meal so that eventually you not only think you are in exile hanging out with Dostoyevky, you know you are in exile.
I’m doing NaNoWriMo at the moment. I’ve written 15,000 words of a novel in one week. My dearest friend Jules who is the only member of the cheer squad I have left (the others dropped out because I just kept not delivering) says it is one of the best things I have written. I don’t know if she’s right, but it is certainly the book I have written with the heaviest of hearts.
I am drinking my final whisky in the Last Chance saloon with this book. I am Scheherazade trying to ward off execution with her 1001 tales. I am watching the Titanic go down knowing I can’t swim for it.
I’m telling you this not so you will say Oh no, no, no, you are brilliant. You’re going to make it, you really are. You are kind if you do say that even though you and I both know it is not necessarily the truth. Because I don’t deliver. It’s been proven.
I could give you every excuse in the world as to why I either never finish books I start. Or leave them sitting in my desk after three drafts. Or why I dump them after one rejection. And you would hear those excuses and offer your sympathies and feel bad for me for a moment, but it wouldn’t make any difference. I would still not deliver.
Many people have tried over the years to get me out of this mindset. They have harassed me, cajoled me, begged me, killed me with positive reinforcement, but to no avail. I still cannot deliver. This is the fatal flaw in my character that even the most successful life coach in the world would not be able to address.
Is it lack of self belief?
Is it a fear of success?
Is it laziness?
Is it apathy?
I don’t know.
What I do know is that I don’t take the advice I give to others and I perplex and annoy myself in equal measure.
In my time on this planet I have learnt that there are only two ways to get what you want – put one foot in front of the other on a daily basis and work hard.
Should be easy enough even for me to follow.
Yet my head remains in the clouds.
But there comes a time when even the greatest daydreamers among us give in to the forces of gravity and land with a splat in their middle of their lives. When we realise that we shouldn’t leave the things we really want to do until it is too late.
Elvis is singing on my iTunes selection. It’s Now or Never. Couldn’t be more timely.
There’s no time like the present is what the King is saying.
Tomorrow will (might) be too late.
It’s now or never. My books won’t wait.
Do what you want to do. What lies deep in your heart. Find a way. That really is what life’s about.
Don’t leave it too late.
This is the second post I have read today that has really moved me. It is so sincere and honest. Quite a few people I know , myself included, seem to be at similar crossroads in their lives. You are right. “Do what you want to do ” . Thanks for the inspiring post Selma. My very best wishes to you and your writing.
Well, you *are* a wonderful writer.
I hope that you continue with your pursuits… but I certainly won’t judge if you don’t. Maybe it’s not that you don’t have the the capacity to finish something, but that you haven’t yet written the novel you really want to finish. Maybe all the other times have been important warm ups for the real thing. Or, you know, maybe not.
Whatever happens, you are a naturally gifted writer and always will be. No amount of what you perceive to be flightiness can render that untrue. Keep writing. Especially because I would like to keep reading.
I am definitely at a crossroads of sorts. It’s time for me to engage in a few cliches like ‘biting the bullet’ and ‘grabbing the bull by the horns.’ Thank you for your best wishes. They mean a great deal!
What a kind and lovely person you are. You could be right. Maybe I have lost interest in previous projects because they weren’t the right one or were warm-ups. Your insight is always such a comfort!!
I dont care wether you deliver or not. You’re a great writer, full stop.
When you’re ready and captivated enough, you’ll finish it.
Wonderful and honest post. Your last two sentences say it all.
We have the same dream, and suffer from the same inertia. It is a weird paradox isn’t it? One of the things that I find stops me in my tracks is when I’ve openly elaborated on a story before I’ve written it. Its like its not fresh anymore or something and then I lose interest. Does that make sense to you Selma? I don’t know if this is the case for others who have managed to complete the monumental task (your descriptive analogy of Siberia hit home). Do they also have to keep the inspiration and drive moving forward by “containing” the story inside their head in the clouds and not hashing it out beforehand?
Here is a piece I wrote after reading Paul Coehlo’s The Alchemist…. I think it sums up the reasons why we struggle with the completion of “the dream” When I read his words, I was struck with some insight. I’ve yet to get over the hurdle…. It will come though, as it will for you. http://mayfairplace.blogspot.com/search?q=its+calling+and+calling+upon+reflection
And never say never. Keep going.
Well, it’s no secret that you are a better writer than 99% of those published, but that’s not the point. What if you couldn’t write? It would feel like the death of an enormous part of you, wouldn’t it. No, giving up the ghost is not the answer – as you said.
This is just an idea…what drives you in other areas of your life? Some people are competitive in nature, some people are driven by an ideal, for me…it depends on the situation. Maybe think about what it is – in general in your life – that propels you no matter what, and apply that to your writing. I think it could be a matter of framing the entire process – start to finish – in a different way.
By the way, the Elvis song coming on when it did was no accident. It’s called synchronicity, and it’s the Universe telling you to “get on the good foot”! (This is me being New Age) 🙂
Lately there have been so many posts that have made me stop and think, and I’ll wander away to do that very thing. But I never post a reply because I’m still kind of reeling from it all.
But… to be honest, the thought of you not writing makes my head spin, and not in a good way. I love your words, the way you put them together.
I also have a couple of “finished” manuscripts on my hard drive, and another that might be ready early next year, and so on. I want to submit them, but I know they’ll never be ready in my eyes. There will always be something that needs to be changed, something I could have written better, a plot point that pointed the wrong way… There are also MANY that I’ve started and stopped cold with no rhyme or reason. I’m sure those will be joined by others.
So, a question for you. What if you worked with someone? In my former writer’s group, we often talked about how different our styles are, how our strengths and weaknesses overlap each other. Then we thought how cool it would be to write a book together. We never did, which is sad, but if we’d continued as a group, I’ll bet we would have finished it and one of us would have submitted it for publication.
You’re not alone in your exile, my dear. I have a feeling that piece of Siberia is well populated with folks like us. Maybe it’s time to lean over to the next table and ask, “May I join you?”
Oh, and congrats on the NaNo progress!
sounds like you are doing well, I’m sure you’ll finish this book, but I think we all procrastinate sometimes especially with writing. I, too find myself quitting now and then. Still it’s worth the struggle to continue even if you don’t succeed. What do they say about success – that is 99% perspiration and 1% talent? I think that’s wrong but you know what I mean
Fantastic progress Selma. I think by telling us this you should see it as a promise. Please don’t let us down! Finish that book and get it to a publisher.
A bit of practical advice- do you have a plot map? Even a loose one? If you set out your main plot point and the ending then it is just connecting the dots. I used to just let the words flow where they would but those words sometimes led me to deadends and made me give up. Now I take control at the front and let the words play around in the back seat as we get on our way.
That means a lot. It really does. XX
As I’ve gotten older I’ve felt the need to be more honest with myself. Sometimes it can be hard, but in the long run it seems to be the way to go!
You have summed it up so well. How can the two states be possible simultaneously? It’s very strange. I think what it is for me is that I love the story when it’s in my head. I really love it. So I’m afraid that when translated onto paper it loses some of the zing it has in my head. Upon reflection, I think that’s what is holding me back. I will come and read your story anon. Thanks once again, for your wonderful insights!
Well, never saying never worked for James Bond, right? If it’s good enough for 007, it’s good enough for me!
Oh, I am big on the synchronicity. I think there are signs all over the place trying to steer us in the right direction.
It would be hard for me not to write. It would feel like losing a limb. What drives me mostly is economics. Putting all that energy and time into a book that may or may not amount to anything doesn’t pay my bills. Whereas editing and writing content for websites does. It’s hard to marry the two. However, I am determined to get there!
I would join your writers group in a second. There are days when I wish I didn’t live all the way down under. I was in a writer’s group for about five years but the whole thing gradually fizzled out. People had babies, moved, got ‘proper’ jobs. There were two girls though who got publishing deals and I edited their books (non-fiction) so I was really happy to be a part of that. The fiction writers seemed to give up for some reason. It is a tougher market to break into in Australia. That isn’t really an excuse but because it is so tough it does challenge your level of dedication. I have a new mantra – ‘If I write it they will come’ they being the unsuspecting publishers and/or agents. I wonder if it will work for me.
I think it’s 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration 😀
That is so true.
It’s only natural to wonder if it’s all worth it. I call it having an ‘Alfie’ moment. I know you like the old movies. Do you know ‘Alfie’ with Michael Caine? The theme song had a line that said: ‘What’s it all about, Alfie?’ Hence the Alfie moment when questioning things.
Hope your NaNo progress is going well too!
I won’t let you down. I mean it.
I do have a plot map and a character bible, so it’s not like I’m sitting there for hours trying to figure out what should happen next. I just need to colour in the outlines. I actually learned about those things from you when you wrote that article for The Blood Red Pencil a while back. It has proven to be absolutely invaluable. Thanks so much for writing about it.
I am not good with finishing long-term things either. I have kind of adapted to that and simply don’t set any. It’s probably not a great strategy but for now it works.
But I am rigorous on short term things. I quite like short-term goals – small work projects, challenges of maybe up to a year but more likely a month. I really get enthused by those and I always see them through.
But I can’t seem to go beyond that.
I do not have the sticking power to write a novel. I admire you for having the guts to stick at long-term targets and not give in as I have done. I hope you do succeed. But I hope that if you don’t you won’t beat yourself up about it.
I knew it’s something perspiration but I always seem to forget the inspiration part
& no I have not see that Alfie movie – I have heard of the movie but I am not compell to watch it
& my NaNo’s so-so – I’m using the computer and also writing on paper but it’s going slow
good luck with your writing/NaNo
One thing it never is, is LACK OF TALENT! You are loaded with talent Sel. The muse can take it’s time, it can be hard to keep. Perhaps you can recall my David Thauberger story (over at Karen’s place). I bring his words to mind when I am feeling at a loss to work or complete a creative project. We MUST push ourselves at times. Through the muck of every day BS and all things ordinary. If the talent is there, anything is possible, remember that, hold on to that and NEVER GIVE UP. You have too much talent to waste. So much more than most people ever dream of knowing. Share it with the world Sel and keep on writing!
I am sooo proud of you for taking part in NaNoWriMo. And for writing so much already. And I know you said you dont want to hear this, I am going to say it anyway:
You ARE brilliant. And you ARE an amazing writer!
Selma, Selma, Selma. You are, indeed, gifted.
Now…whether that translates into commercial success is more a matter of a publisher’s acumen/myopia.
Regardless, you remain gifted.
I do prefer short-term things too. It’s hard to sustain energy levels on the long term things, but it can be done with extreme organisation. So that’s my challenge from now on – maintaining optimum organisation 🙂
Don’t give up on your NaNo. I know you can do it!
You are such a good friend to me XXXX
Aww, thanks so much. XX
You’re not lacking in the gifted department yourself 😀
Go Selma Go! I am in awe of all the people who try this!
(on a side note, I remember thinking how very cramped and dark it was in the Last Chance Saloon…)
Reminds me of something I once wrote:
‘Writing a novel is like a fight or a love affair. Anyone can start one, but very few can end it tidily’
But seriously, I think the main reason for so much for unfinished work is fear of rejection by a publisher when it’s finished; if one doesn’t finish, that’s an excuse for not submitting.
(Mind you, a lot of publishers wouldn’t know a good book if it hit him on the head … but maybe that’s just sour grapes :D)
That Last Chance Saloon is a cramped and dreary place indeed. The plan is to write my way out of it. I’m tired of listening to that old out of tune pianny!
Not finishing is a perfect reason for not submitting. You are spot on with that one. I agree with you about the publishers. Sadly, I don’t think it’s sour grapes. I think it’s realism. Some of the stuff that is published still perplexes me. ❓
So how is the writing going now Sel? I’m inclined to agree with what Faiqa says….maybe you just haven’t written the book you really want to write yet. Whatever happens….don’t be too hard on yourself and enjoy it for what it is….something you love to do.
It’s going really well. I don’t know where it’s come from but I am writing like a woman possessed. You are completely right – I should just enjoy it and be grateful that I can write. You always remind me to search for the positives. XXX
“It was 1925 before Thurber’s first wife, Althea, a beautiful girl who had twice been elected Campus Rosebud at State, persuaded him to go to Paris and write a novel, like everyone else.
The novel fizzled, and Thurber never tried another”.
JAMES THURBER http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,938279,00.html#ixzz0Wk28JzKu
“In 1929, “Big Blonde” – about an alcoholic serial mistress – won the prestigious O Henry award. Fitzgerald declared her talent equal to his own and she took an advance for a novel that she would never complete. But somehow, this failure seems to make her stories seem more precious”.
Now, seriously … http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2005/jul/30/edinburghfestival2005.classics
“He is, in my view, the best American writer there has ever been,although he never wrote a single novel. If you want to take a look at American life, read one of his stories”.
Raymond Carver Praise http://www.abctales.com/node/519541
One thing I’ve learned about myself is that my best writing comes from being PASSIONATE about my theme or subject, and if the passion isn’t there, the writing will be flat and tedious. Maybe that’s the first angle you’ll want to examine.
Also, I think it’s important for each of us to find the form that naturally works best for us. Are you sure the novel is your form? Or do you get more satisfaction from writing short fiction, essays, poetry, etc.? It’s got to be enjoyable, or why do it? Find where your heart really wants to go and then go there. There’s no shame in admitting that something isn’t working for you, and no reason to beat yourself up about it!
Thank you for your wonderful comment and links which really are a huge pep talk. I do so appreciate the effort you put into your comments. I am sure it is not just me who benefits from them. Thank you, my friend!
You are SO right. Sometimes I do think it is a form thing. Maybe I do need to go shorter. I really appreciate you saying this. I needed to hear it!
I have not even logged on to NaNo since I lost that part of my manuscript. I’m so sorry – I should be on there to cheer you on more.
Truly, I truly believe if we never give up, even if it takes us much longer than the others, when we are finally done, we will be dazzled by our own brilliance.
But first, we must not give up. And still play in the clouds a little, because that’s what we do best. 😀
It’ll be like a meteor landing it’ll be so brilliant. 😆
You’re right. We shouldn’t give up. These things take time. And playing in the clouds is so much fun XXX