First attempts at your novel are almost never right. The second and third attempt doesn’t fair much better but it gets closer. Everyone has false starts but the point is to write those false starts one word after the other and build on that, see what you can make of it. You can’t be proud of something if you never write it in the first place. You also can’t be proud of it if you don’t revise or reimagine. At least, this is how I feel. But beginning’s are daunting. Every time I start something new I have the same feelings and thoughts: I panic I won’t finish it, I fear the ugly work that will come, I worry I won’t get better as a writer, and there’s always little voice that tells me ‘You’re not good at this. Give up now. You’ve nothing to offer.’ I both dread and embrace the beginning of a new project. But then I start. I’m very stubborn. I hate being told I can’t do something (especially when it’s …
I don’t like to overthink my writing habits too much but music is very important to me both during a writing session and after. For See What I Have Done I listened to the same songs (adding very few to the playlist) for eleven years. It’s time again to live in an aural loop until a book is complete. Here is a small sample of music for Blue Mountain that I will be listening to until it becomes a skin, the tip of a pen: Below is a very small selection of songs I like listening to after a day of writing. They change all the time (unlike the loop). This week I listened to:
I often forget I should regularly post to this blog. I’m working on a new post about Lizzie Borden and writing history ( I figured rather than my usual ramblings, I should, you know, plan a post ) but felt like adding some photos here today. I’m in my composting and early writing phase of my new novel and that has led me to be drawn to particular images as I walk around and explore. All of these are foundations for theme and aesthetic but may not necessarily turn up in the novel in quite the way you imagine. WARNING: Some of these photos are of dead animals I came across while walking and may not be your thing.
In the lead-up to my child’s birth, I’d set myself the task to finish yet another draft of my manuscript and send it out to a publisher. I had already written five, six or more drafts over seven years about the Lizzie Borden case. Now that I was pregnant the current drafting felt different, urgent: I had convinced myself that if I didn’t finish it then and there I never would. Writer friends who were parents warned me that once the baby came, I’d have no time for anything else. The brain would no longer have the capacity to move beyond itself. I may not even know who I was.
I don’t think I’ve ever truly known when to walk away from the work, think of it as done. This may explain why it takes me too long to finish a novel or a short story: this created planet, spinning on its axis, keeps falling into rhythms of day and night that I then eventually accept that’s the way things are, that I have to continue living in the world long after I have to so that the story I’ve told feels authentic, alive. Even today I thought of new ways I could make Lizzie grow into that house on Second Street, make it small like a pocket: there she is hiding dirty clothes in the walls; there rubbing her back against a door knob; there singing at the top of her lungs; there holding clandestine dinner parties while Andrew and Abby are at the Swansea property; there at night going up to the attic to watch Bridget sleep.
There’s been another draft. I won’t go into the specifics (not just yet anyway) but let it be known that I’m really beginning to tire of this novel. There’s a small part of me that feels that I could potentially write this novel for another ten years, that I could keep drilling down, write about the Borden’s all the way back to their genesis, write the code of their DNA and still discover something new about them. To keep my mind focussed I’ve gone on some amazing walks lately. Nothing exceptional – just keeping in my immediate neighbourhood – but these walks have been a crystal time: the onset of winter in Melbourne has produced so many different species of fungus, that I’ve been reminded that there is always something new to be found along well worn paths. And so with that (minus photos of fungus):
This past week I have been talking about Lizzie a lot. When this happens, she tends to dig deep holes in my mind, leaves a trail of herself behind. I’ve been dreaming of her again: there she is at the end of my bed, there she is eating a scone, eating jam, there she is at my breakfast table, there she is holding my hand. That warmth. It wakes me. I was in Sydney last week. I blame that trip for Lizzie’s return. Every time I thought about Lizzie, how I wrote my book, all that, I couldn’t shake the uncomfortable feeling that pinged at the the base of my neck: what part of Lizzie is me and what part of me is Lizzie? Let me explain: I think it’s natural for writers to inject some of their own experiences into their work, give their characters some real life meat. This is definitely true for me when writing about the Bordens. I needed to find a way into that family and as I started to think about why …