My Writing Mood

24 07 2007

I’ve been writing a lot more recently than I have for a long time. School and work kept me busy and now having neither of those for a couple of months I’ve focused more and more on my writing. And I think that’s good. But it’s also bad.

It’s complicated.

I find that writing puts me in a distinct mood – after a certain amount of writing time that is. The odd scribbling here and there doesn’t do, but if I sit down and for days in a row do at least a couple of hours writing, I get myself into a state. I get distracted and antsy if I’m not writing. But then it shifts a bit and I start worrying about where it’s all going instead of just enjoying the writing as I know I should and that makes it hard to concentrate on anything at all (writing included). Time seems to kind of press in on me and I feel like it all – whatever that all is – needs to be ‘now’ rather than ‘some day.’ On some level it seems that writing – or at least how I think about my writing – is bad for me, but at the same time I think it’s very, very good for me too. So, as I said right from the off-set, it’s complicated.

I’ve tried to combat this by switching projects a bit and tried to put the thinking about what to do with the end project on the back burner with my other worries about finding a full-time job and being a disgraceful supply teacher. I can do it sometimes, keep that pot on the back burner, though I am the sort to let that burner simmer instead of switching it right off.

There is one thing that is helping and that is my reading. Because I’ve been reading my summer kinds of reads, I am reminded over and over and over again that reading should be fun, that it should be about being sucked into a really good story, that it should be about taking you away from all those cares and woes simmering on the back burner.

And that above all else helps when I’m in my writing mood. Well, something had better or someone will soon hang a sign above my head that says, “BEWARE – Writer at Work.”



18 07 2007

I’ve been away for a few days, a vacation from the computer so you’d think I’d come back in a more happy state, and yet here’s what I’ve chosen to write about: disappointment.

It’s been on my mind for awhile, this feeling of disappointment. It seems a continual state for me personally, and yes, I realize that isn’t the most positive state and sometimes, sometimes I do escape from it, but then it suckers me right back in. It’s on my mind quite a bit today because much of the first half of my novel focuses on disappointment. Disappointment in situations, but more so in people, in people not being as good as you expect or at least hope they will be. Of course this probably begs the question about the intersection of writing and personal experience. Is my work autobiographical? Not in terms of era or situation and there is no character that is me, but deep down, in terms of world views and beliefs and feelings and reactions, well, yes it probably is. All of who I am and what I’ve experienced inform my writing and have shaped the world I’ve created and the people that have come to inhabit that world. So in a way I am writing what I know, though on the surface the world and the experiences I am writing about seem very distant from me.

And how does this relate to my reading? Well, I was thinking of that today too as I tried to decide on what to read next. I’m feeling a bit indecisive about it not wanting to delve into too much since I am eagerly awaiting Harry on Saturday. I looked through my bookshelves – my to-be-read shelves – and feeling (yes, you can see it coming) disappointed in what was there. Many of the books have sat on the shelves for awhile and looking at them now I feel a bit disappointed in them, or rather sense this aura of disappointment hanging around them. It’s just they all seem to have sounded so much better when I bought them then they do now.

And then there’s the books that I did start and which proved (to say the least) disappointing, probably because I was expecting too much. I was also – switching gears slightly – the tiniest bit disappointed in the new Harry Potter film. I realize it’s a big book and there’s lots that has to be cut out, but the 5th book was the one that I had the most invested in (having published a piece on it) and I just felt a bit wanting in the film. I enjoyed it, though it wasn’t my favourite of the films and did not live up to my expectations for it.

I guess that’s the secret to outsmarting disappointment: don’t expect too much. But I can’t seem to get a handle on that. I still go about expecting a lot, expecting things to be better and even though that means I teeter and totter like Humpty Dumpty on the perpetual ledge of disappointment, I can’t help feeling that learning to expect less would simply send me plunging over the other side rather than placing me safely on solid ground.

Reading about writing

13 07 2007

I’ve begun to read about writing. I suppose “begun” isn’t the right word. I’ve spent a lot of time as a student, especially as a grad student, reading about writing, but this is slightly different. As a writer, I’m starting to read about writing. I’m reading a bit each day as part of my writing routine, as part of the schedule or writerly discipline I’ve imposed on myself. That sounds quite harsh, I suppose, but the whole idea is to help me approach things in a more structure way since I’m more productive.

I’ve begun my reading about writing with Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer. I must admit she had me right near the beginning with this passage:

“Only once did my passion for reading steer me in the wrong direction, and what was when I let it persuade me to go to graduate school. There, I soon realized that my love for books was unshared by many of my classmates and professors. I found it hard to understand what they did love, exactly, and this gave me an anxious shiver that would later seem like a warning about what would happen to the teaching of literature over the decade or so after I dropped out of my Ph.D. program. That was when literary academia split into warring camps of deconstructionists, Marxists, feminists, and so forth, all battling for the right to tell students that they were reading ‘texts’ in which ideas and politics trumped what the writer had actually written.” (p.8)

Talk about having me at hello. Prose summarized so perfectly how I had felt stepping into the world of graduate studies and I felt from the first a kindred kind of spirit and that has continued as I’ve moved further and further into the story. I’ve been reading a little every day, making notes. I’m up to the chapter on “Narrative” and again the little light-bulb is going off in my head. I struggled a great deal with the voice and perspective of my novel. It’s divided in two parts. The first half I had no problem with. I knew precisely who was telling that story and how. The second half, though, proved very problematic. I began with a third person point of view. That didn’t work, it didn’t seem close enough. Then I went to a first person point of view and found that even more problematic. I wanted the reader to be in his mind, but at the same time I didn’t feel that it worked with being as close as the first person point of view seemed to take it. Complicating that is parts of his story told through a confession. I finally went back to a third person point of view, but I still found it problematic. I found it so troublesome that I just gave up on it for awhile. I just could not have anything to do with it – it proved that upsetting. I then had a little break through and what I see now – based on Prose’s book – is that I hadn’t had a problem with who was telling the story, but rather who was listening, and why was this story being told. Once I realized who my second narrator was addressing and why everything feel into place for that half of the story.

It also made the writing more simple and that’s something I’ve really been working hard on since reading The Book Thief. I’m much more pleased with the re-writing I’ve done in that second half because it is so much simpler and now going back to the first half again I feel a bit overwhelmed with getting it to that same point, but it can be done. I have faith – which is good since that’s what the whole book is about. The danger and necessity of faith.

Pain and Frustration

3 01 2007

I read a very interesting post on Susan Hill’s blog and it got me thinking about writing, about my writing – to put it more specifically about my attitude towards my writing.

I’ve always felt that a career should be interesting, it should be stimulating, it should be challenging (in a positive way of course) and it should be enjoyable. It’s one area where I’ve never been willing to compromise. What you spend the most of your time doing should be enjoyable and fulfilling.

Time and time again I’ve found myself frustrated with people who are willing to accept less, who are miserable in their chosen path and yet make the choice to do nothing about it.

I should pause here and qualify that statement – I realize that there are economic limitations and that I am one of the fortunate ones that have not had to suffer those kinds of limitations yet.

Where my frustrations really lie, I suppose, is with those – particularly in one branch of the teaching profession or another – who complain consistently about what they do and yet fail to do anything about it, even if there are not any sort of economic limitations. Take for instance the ill-fated PhD situation. Having a prof tell you on day one that she hates her job and would rather do anything else on the planet if she could with all her degrees and whatnot is not the best role model for the wishy-washy candidate that I was or (I secretly suspect) for most of her students. How can you engage students when you aren’t engaged yourself, when you aren’t really there because you find the work frustrating and a waste of your time?

All that (in a very round about way) leads my back to the point Susan Hill made about writing being enjoyable. I’ve never thought to apply my philosophy about an enjoyable career to writing, to my writing. I beat myself because it needs to be meaningful, it needs to say everything I need to say, but always in that serious, confessional, heart-wrenching, I-must-suffer-for-my-art kind of way which is too exhausting and off-putting. I mean the working title of my first novel is Bleaker for goodness sakes! No wonder I feel like I’ve been knocked down and dragged through the mud every time I sit down to work on it.

There have been moments – particularly one WWI story – where I have allowed myself to just enjoy the joy of writing, but those times are few and far between. Why is that? Where did I get this idea that it has to be so hard?

This whole idea of enjoyment and fun (in regards to writing) is, I’m ashamed to admit, something that the Crafty (and very wise) Mama has been recommending for… well, it’s too long to remember when she first started advocating this fun business. You’d think I’d have learned by now to listen to my mother.

If I did do New Year’s resolutions this would be #2 on the list: make it fun, make a change or just bloody well give it up!


20 11 2006

“Write a little every day, without hope and without despair.” – Isak Dinesen

I have this on my writing board at home, only I haven’t been looking at it for over three months.

Now if it was alter to “Write a little [lesson plan] every day, without hope and without despair,” I’d be right on track.

I haven’t been writing. Not here. And not in Bleaker. That probably doesn’t make sense because I haven’t talked about Bleaker (aka my first novel) here. I probably will at some point or other. When I revisit it. When I have the time and energy to revisit it.

I have been writing assignments and lesson plans and those I do write without hope and without despair. The quote fits quite well with what I do when I sit down and plan out the day for my students. I must do it without too much hope because what is high school good for if not for trampling good intentions (of both the staff and student variety)? But how could I possibly continue if I despaired of them ever learning anything. That’s the point where a teacher should move on.

But back to the other sort of writing, the writing that I should still be trying to do every day. I’m turned to another project, but the potential for more disappointment is seems too much at this stage, especially when I can’t let myself be sucked into the vortex of the empty page when all those young minds are going to be counting on me in a week’s time.

And this is what happens when I’m in a “blah” mood. It really isn’t pretty.