Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Seduced By Strangers

I saw him across the room.  Tall, dark and looking at me with definite intent.  Who, me? I glance around to see if anyone has noticed. My heart is thumping. I look at the stranger again, and our eyes meet. You're not free I tell myself, but my body doesn't seem to have noticed. Nor has my partner - well, we've been together for a while and I love him to bits of course, but we're having a bit of a rough time, we're working things through and I'm sure we'll get there in the end but - the stranger's looking at me again.  I feel drawn to him.  Almost with out thinking I take a step towards him and -

STOP!  

I nearly allowed myself to be seduced by a stranger.

I've got an idea.  It's a really really good idea for a children's novel.  It's for the 6-8 year old market, so it's not going to be long, just a few thousand words.  I could knock up a first draft in a week.  A week's not long to spend away from my current novel is it? The novel's going through a bit of a tricky patch, a break would do both of us good. In fact, it would be entirely reasonable to get that quick first draft done, and then I could go back to the novel, refreshed and even more appreciative of its charms...  

No.

Writing doesn't work like that, at least, it doesn't for me.  Every time I dally with another idea I lose impetus with my novel.  The trouble is, those new ideas are just so seductive.  They look great, they're full of promises about the future, they're fresh and untainted by the drudgery of the daily word count.  But you have to remember that your current project was once a new idea too.  Once you were being seduced by it in just the same way this new idea is sneaking around your consciousness. 

Like a marriage, writing is more than just the initial attraction.  It's about the long haul, sticking together even when the going is tough - those treacle days.  It's about delayed gratification, putting in the hours when there is no prospect of reward on the immediate horizon.  It's about keeping the faith when the writing doesn't seem to be going anywhere.  It's about writing with hope and not allowing yourself to be distracted by flashy strangers.  

Some writers manage to play the field and have several projects on the go at any one time.  That's not for me.  I can't handle more than one project at a time.  That children's novel idea will have to remain untouched until this novel is finished. As a writer, I have to accept that serial monogamy is the only way forward.  

3 comments:

Fiona Faith Maddock said...

I agree with this. I often read advice that a writer should take a break from the novel if it's going badly and work on something else. I can't do it. I find it dissipates my creative energy and I can't do justice to either. I prefer to leave it all alone, have a tea break or go for a long walk and think about if the problem is more serious. I envy writers who can churn out lots of different stuff in parallel. I'm glad there are other writers who feel the same as I do.

Jim Murdoch said...

It’s like people who have several books on the go at a time. I can’t do that. I read one book at a time and that’s that. As always there’s no rule. If you can stop for a week and rattle down a kid’s book then fine. You’re going to have to write something down I would imagine or you face the problem of losing the idea. If I churned out a book a year I might be scared of losing momentum but I’m not that kind of writer. I’ve always written in clumps. Two books had breaks of years in the middle where I went off and did other things. My general rule of thumb is that as long as you’re working on something then that’s okay; everything will get finished in time. In those cases I needed to distance myself from the material and in both cases the end product was improved by not pressing ahead before I was ready. But I never work on two projects in tandem: it’s one thing or the other.

Sarah Duncan said...

Fiona - I think there are more serial monogamists in writing than the parallellers, but they are good are putting stuff out.

Jim - I'm like you, I'm reading what I'm reading, can't do several books in tandem.