A few of my friends know me well enough to know that when I slip off the radar, it's because 'I'm writing'.
I never thought it would be like this, and yet I did discover while writing my first novel, especially during the editing stage with the publisher that you have to shut the world out. You have to narrow your focus and stay in the world of the novel. It’s like weaving a tapestry of words. And one where you don’t want to be careless and let a thread break.
Writing also takes a tremendous amount of energy. It’s not for wimps. You have to constantly feed ‘the little grey cells’ as Hercule Poirot would say, and they consume all the nutriments in their path. By the end of day, I was usually brain dead and only able to have a silent conversation with food, a glass of wine and the TV.
I’m not bemoaning this situation, in fact, being a bit of a loner, I actually relish it.
During the lock-down, I’m one of the lucky people who feels comfortable in this domain, this need to stay quiet and self-isolate and not hangout in bars or go to places where there are lots of people refusing to social distance enough.
The other thing I’ve noticed is my productivity has gone up a hundred fold.
I’m no longer carrying around huge subliminal guilt about how I like to spend my days - hunched over (well trying to sit up straight and take breaks) - my computer. I have an excuse, I’m being COVID safe. And a big benefit of feeling less guilty has given me access to more energy.
So what have I been up to – apart from not writing in this blog - just posting articles I like (oh I can feel guilty about that and have been) - I’ve been writing short stories and now have four that I think are actually not bad. Not enough for a book, (together they add up to about 18,000 words), but a variety I can send out into the world.
I’ve been working with a fabulous editor – Clara Findlay, she’s my go to person keeping me on the straight and narrow. Her notes for each story terrific pointers about what the next edit needs to encompass, whether in story, plot, character or in some cases a line by line edit. I also have a few readers who have given me invaluable comments.
I’ve been told time and time again that shorts stories are not really a gift to a publisher or agent, that no one’s that keen in Australia, because they don’t sell. And yet when I look at the oeuvre of every well-known writer - short story collections are littered throughout their bios.
Following my intuition to ignore this wisdom gem, by spending 4 months working on my shorts stories has been an unbelievable source of creative richness. Essentially, I’ve been working on my craft in an in-depth way.
I’ve actually been learning how to write and what I want to write about, mostly surprising myself in the process.
Writing these short stories has also given me the eternal gift of deepening my connection to my muse, yes I believe in that creative energy source and hopefully, the lessons I’ve learnt will be put to could use, in the next few weeks, when I take up the novel writing baton again.
Looking back, writing my first novel was more of a trial by fire. I’ve been told, I choose a difficult route - first person, subjective, historical fiction and writing as a male protagonist.
Considering my lack of experience at the time, I think I did ok. I’d written screenplays and treatments before, but discovered very quickly, novel writing was a whole other ball game. And thanks to the MUD Literary Club I was honoured to receive the The MUD Literary Prize for the best debut literary novel by an Australian writer.
Hopefully with what I've learnt over the last 4 months, I'll be able to in the not too distant future have my second novel published.