Wants and Needs

I’m trying to get back into the daily writing flow. It’s surprising what you can do with 30 minutes, you know? Even 15 can get you started. And getting started is the important part. Once I hit my stride, I often keep going. Sometimes I can’t get into what I’ve started, and that’s fine. It goes on the scrap heap. Maybe there will be a sentence or two good enough to go into the Sentence Bank.

I’ve written three days out of five this week. One of my problems with writing regularly is the oh-shit-I-didn’t-write-today guilt. That shit derails me something fierce. It’s not even a rational thing, it’s like the guilt will take up a place in my head and push the writing out. So I write less and less. The gap will just keep getting bigger, until the regular writing idea falls off the wagon altogether. “I missed a day, so fuck this idea entirely.” This time I’m trying not to feel guilty for days I miss, and just try to get something done more often than not. So far, so good; the work I’ve done more than makes up for the days I missed. I have one story that’s about half-finished, and another that might actually turn into something longer.

That second one started from an initiating line from writingexercises.co.uk. I didn’t use the line itself, but it conjured – as these things do – an image in my mind, the beginning of a scene, and I went from there. The character, the setting, the basic problem of the story all slipped immediately into place. I’m not entirely sure where to take it from here, but I’m interested in what the character is going to do next and how he’s going to find out what needs finding out. The problem is what to do with him after he finds it out, but I’ll deal with that when I get to it.

Why are all my babies middle-aged tragic dumpster fires? I ask this of you, friends. There’s something somehow attractive about a person halfway to throwing themselves off a cliff. Perhaps I identify with that appel du vide. (I learnt that phrase this week. “Call of the Void”, that weird compulsion to jump off of something high.) I am sure there is some sort of mystical wossname tied into that impulse, that melancholy drag of empty space. Maybe that’s why I keep writing about these people. I’m trying, on some level, to reason through it. It’s why Batman appeals, I think. A man teetering on the edge of something, drawn to the ledge yet afraid of falling. Some of my women are like that too, but others are more passionate, striving towards something they can’t reach or articulate. Different elements of sensation, desire, need. Warring whispers.

My current writing notebook is a Chic Sparrow Odyssey in black, in the narrow (regular Midori) size. I keep three notebooks in it: my writing workbook, a writing journal, and something like a writing commonplace book. I numbered the pages, and made an index; this is my “bank”. Names, titles, plotbunnies, seen and overheards, good lines that need a home, character quirks, words I like, short poems, and quotes (writing-related, beautifully worded, and inspirational). This is the thing I dip into when I need a little something je ne sais quoi. I have, for example, Kerouac’s 30 beliefs and techniques for modern prose. I typed them up, printed them out, and pasted them over four pages. I also have those little bits and pieces you scribble on the next free line of a notebook – names, ideas, places. If they stay just where they are, I’ll never find them again; so I lift them out and assemble them in lists.

The workbook is for work. Anything I think up, anything I see or hear or like or think or dream, that all goes in here, to be sifted through later and expanded upon. It’s also where I write my daily words. I like writing by hand. Scrivener is all very well, but I mostly use that for large projects. When I’m just thinking on paper, playing with an idea or exercise, a poem or short story, I write that by hand. (Even with novels I like to write by hand and then edit as I transfer it to a word processor, but I usually write first drafts during NaNoWriMo, when time’s a factor.) It’s messy, but it’s messy in a very deliberate, specific way. When I open it, my mind focuses. It’s a place where work happens.

Then there’s my writing journal. I’ve talked about having a writing journal before; it’s the scruffy urchin between my nicely put-together commonplace at the back and my Serious Business writing workbook at the front.

I’ve been dipping into the notebook regularly lately, and I’m loving it. The Chic Sparrow cover was new in February, and while it’s very well made, very stylish, it was taking me a while to warm to it. Now I’m in love. I love the leathery creak when I press it between my fingers, I love the feel of it in my hands. It’s a great sidekick. Plus it’s classy as hell.

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