Youngblood Blog

Writing weblog, local, topical, personal, spiritual

‘Writing’s the one thing I can call my own’

Featured Writers Corner

Oftentimes we have no choice: the keyboard calls

Margaret Atwood once said:

“Writing is not a job description. A great deal of it is luck. Don’t do it if you are not a gambler because a lot of people devote many years of their lives to it (for little reward). I think people become writers because they are compulsive wordsmiths”

I think I would put it even stronger: we are compulsive wordsmiths, yes, but sometimes we are actually unable to put the pen down or — in this case in the 21st century — abandon the computer keyboard. We may, like my adorable blogging compatriot, Tara Smith, be compulsive people-watchers and take notes or store the info in our heads until we get a moment to write it down; or we may just be of the temperament that it takes us over, we have no recourse but to let it and we set aside somewhere, some time apart from our Other Life in order to do it. It drives us. It controls us. I am no longer fooled into thinking I have a choice in the matter.

Virginia Woolf said: ‘A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.’ That was an early 20th century view. Nowadays, all we ask is a tiny corner in the middle of the madness, so we and our Muse can be together for a brief (illicit) rendezvous.

As you probably read in my blog on John LeCarré, this little corner is my attempt to feature my favorite real-life struggling authors. By that I mean those of us who are continually pitting our wits against the ever-growing behemoth of the Publishing World: the world we writers are so NOT equipped to tackle and yet, as agents keep on telling us: we don’t get there unless we try. So in addition to being tied down with imaginary ropes and shackles by our Muse, our flow is constricted by being constantly reminded that to publish we must become marketers.

To refute this assumption, Barbara Kingsolver says:
“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.”

I present you with persistent blogger, Princess of Procrastination, ChickLit author of Cardiffella and my Welsh Sista, Tara Smith.

Featured Writer: TARA SMITH

When Marian asked me to guest on her blog, I immediately decided to do it without thinking about it at all. For those of you that don’t know me (which I’m guessing will be the majority of you), that’s very typical of me. I’ll agree to almost anything and I never think about the consequences. I over-commit myself, I allow myself to be persuaded into projects, and I tell myself that it would be rude to say ‘no’ (well, it would be rude to say ‘no’, especially when people specifically think of me to help them with something And I really don’t like to be rude).

Cambrian Princess, Tara Smith

Anyway, along with my Can’t Say No Attitude, I’m also a Procrastinator of the Highest Order. You would think that the two wouldn’t go hand in hand – indeed, they shouldn’t go hand in hand – but unfortunately they seem to be Partners in Crime.

So here I am, at the eleventh hour (24 hours before Marian’s deadline to be exact, and when you consider that I was asked to do this weeks ago, you can probably see how much of a procrastinator I really am) typing up this blog post.

Those of you familiar with Marian’s blog will have come to expect detailed, well thought-out posts which show care and loving attention to every sentence, so I should probably apologise because my efforts are definitely not of the same level at all. As with all writing, I’m a Fly By The Seat Of My Pants kind of girl, which means I rarely research and just dive right in, hoping against hope that I will have produced something legible at the end. I really shouldn’t call myself a writer at all, I’m far too haphazard in my approach to it.

But the thing is, I enjoy writing. No. Scrap that. I love writing.

It doesn’t matter if I am writing for my own blog, for other blogs, for my fan fiction stories, or for my original stories, I just love to write. Sure, I get frustrated more often than not when my Writing Mojo doesn’t do his job properly (my current Writing Mojo looks suspiciously like Jensen Ackles, by the way, and as he’s been so naughty lately I may have to punish him accordingly), but when I get into the flow of it, writing makes me about as happy as it is possible to be.

Writing, for me, is escapism from the busy life of a working mother. I only work part time, but add the 16 hours of my earning job to the endless hours of my ‘mother’ job, and there really aren’t enough hours to go around. Sometimes I think that if I paused for a moment, everything would come crashing down upon me, such is the balancing act that is my daily life. I don’t really have any hobbies (aside from an addiction to reading [and procrastinating] ), so writing is the only thing that I can do that is especially for me. My kids can’t get involved in it, my husband can’t get involved in it, and my cats can’t pester me about it either. A working mother (or any mother, for that matter) is spread so thin that sometimes she can forget all about herself, so for me writing is the one thing that I can call my own that is not accountable to anyone else.

It doesn’t matter if I don’t write for a while, it doesn’t matter if when I do write it is nothing more than the mad mutterings of a crazy person, the writing comes from me and me I don’t really have a current project as such, more a pile of unfinished projects that could probably do with a good dusting off (part of the problem of being a procrastinator is that you tend to be a starter and not a finisher, if you know what I mean). I’d like to say that I have written a novel. Well, actually I have written a novel, it’s just it’s nowhere near ready for publishing yet, so it’s technically a draft.

Soon to hit the bookshelves -- if the Muse is willing -- Cardiffella by Tara Smith

This draft was the finished product of last year’s NaNoWriMo challenge (National Novel Writing Month), and it was the first time I had ever written something so long in such a short space of time. You would think that after achieving 50,000 words in a month I would be able to go back and add another 10k and tidy it up a bit with no problem at all.

Alas, the bane of procrastination!

Still, with another WriMo coming up I am hoping that another month of sleep-deprived crazy writing will give me the kick up the butt that I need. Last year I wrote a Chick Lit comedy – which, let me tell you, was a complete surprise to me, as I had been sporadically working on a fantasy-based novel for a good number of years (yes, years: it’s not a typo. I’m not the most prolific of writers to be sure). This time around I’m thinking of taking another genre path and going for contemporary drama instead. I’ve been known –- despite my reputation for being slightly loopy -– to write good, solid drama over the years, and I’m thinking that’s what I should maybe do. If I do it, that is. Yeah, we’re a dithering bunch, we procrastinators, and can never decide what we are going to do until the last minute (hence this eleventh hour ramble blog post).

That’s the beauty of being a writer though, there aren’t any boundaries. Most jobs in the real world have a routine to them that borders on mind-numbing. Unless you are extremely lucky and have a job that you love, or you work in some sort of challenging academic field, your place of work pretty much fences you in and you have to deal with the same stuff day in, day out. I work in a newsagents three days a week, and although the tasks vary a little for the different days, it’s still the same things that I have to do one week after another. The only upside (or downside, depending which way you look at it) is that along with the regular customers that frequent the shop, you are almost always guaranteed to get a few new people every day. And for a writer, that is good news.

People-watching (or nosing at strangers; you decide) can be a fountain of inspiration if you do it properly. On the few occasions when I am not running around like a headless chicken with newspapers flying out of my hands, I’ll stop for a moment and observe a customer. It may only be for a few seconds, but in that short space of time I’ll have given them a name, an occupation, a relationship status, and a little back story.

Not that I’m a stalker or anything, you understand, I’m just a curious person (as in curious about other people, not curious myself. Then again, I suppose you could call me odd if you wanted to).

NaNoWriMo: writing every day in November

Anyway, that’s what I do in between counting the magazines and putting stock on to the shelves. You see, even when I’m supposed to be working, my brain is still in writer mode. Which is why I call myself a writer. It’s not something that you can make yourself do, you either are or you aren’t.

I’ve had people say to me over the years that they can’t understand how I can write stories from thin air, as they wouldn’t know where to begin. Others have commented on how I can fill blog posts with (mostly) legible words on a daily basis (though, to be fair, that was only during last October and November, which were the only two months that I managed to blog every day. . . *shifty*). But to me it would be inconceivable if I couldn’t write a few paragraphs about any subject in the world. I can’t understand what is so difficult to understand, if truth be told.

Writing, for me, isn’t a job. It’s isn’t a hobby either. It’s just a part of me, like my arms or my legs. I can go months without physically writing anything, but the storytelling instinct lurking inside me is never far from the surface. I could no more stop writing than I could stop eating (and I do love to eat, it has to be said). And let’s not forget that I’m just an ordinary thirty-something woman. I have a crappy job, two kids, a mortgage, and bills to pay (or not to pay some months, let’s be honest). I’m no J.K.Rowling or Dan Brown, I’m just me, Tara Smith, living my ordinary life for the time being while I sit on the pipe dream of becoming a published author.

Everyone needs something to hope for and to aspire to, or life would become stagnant. My writing dream may only ever be a dream, but it’s a darn good one that I’ll keep having until I stop breathing. I love to write. That’s it, that’s me. It’s what keeps me sane in my insane life, and it’s something that I’ll always do, no matter what.

And no-one can take it away from me, because it’s mine.
©2010 Tara Smith

That, folks, was TARA SMITH. Isn’t she fabulous?
OTHER featured writers soon to appear (or appear again) are:

Cathy Evans
Hart Johnson
Pete Madstone (May 2010)
Natasha Ramarathnam
Genie Rayner (October 2010)
Rob Read
Mehal Rockefeller (April 2010)
Catrien Ross of Energy Doorways
Tara Smith (September 2010)
Jim Vires (October 2010)

ED: Tara Smith is author of hilariously funny Cardiffella, a dedicated NaNoWriMo participant, working wife and mother and Blogspot blogger Princess of Procrastination. Enjoy.

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September 29, 2010 - Posted by | authors, culture, Muse, novel, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

6 Comments »

  1. Thanks for having me, Marian – it was a pleasure to write a post for you! *hugs*

    Comment by Tara Smith | September 30, 2010 | Reply

  2. oh no, thank YOU Tara – great to have you here. Good luck for all projects this autumn x Marian

    Comment by siderealview | September 30, 2010 | Reply

  3. […] Ramarathnam Rob Read Mehal Rockefeller (April 2010) Catrien Ross of Energy Doorways Tara Smith (September 2010) Jim […]

    Pingback by Equinox Signals Powerful Changes « Youngblood Blog | September 30, 2010 | Reply

  4. Marian, great intro, with all your ‘women on writing’ (and I think I’ve figured out my topic, for when I come in as a guest… now to see where I can fit in the writing of it)… and Tara, very nice–the writing IS OURS, isn’t it? You can and will get your stuff done. I know it.

    Comment by Hart | October 1, 2010 | Reply

    • Thanks Hart – always good to see you here, and Tara, she’s right, you know: what’s so lovely about both of you is the way you both flow…. looking forward to reading yours, HJ

      Comment by siderealview | October 1, 2010 | Reply

  5. […] all extremely busy at what they do. The writerly occupation, after all, as we’ve said before, is not something you can pick up and put down. It lives inside. It has its own form of […]

    Pingback by Energy, Intent and Writing by Jim Vires « Youngblood Blog | October 5, 2010 | Reply


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