Thursday, April 13, 2006

Auctorial aspirations

by Suw on April 13, 2006

So, if you're a long-time reader of this blog, you'll already know about my writerly leanings. You'll have seen me talk about my scriptwriting; you'll have seen me writing about learning languages (still not finished); you'll have heard about my acquiring a literary agent (whom I still have, by the way, and who is still helping me out with one thing and another). You'll also have heard me gush about Neil Gaiman and what a spiffingly lovely/talented/generous/friendly guy he is.
Forgive my name-dropping, but I've been thinking a lot about Neil lately. Actually, I've had three dreams about him in the last week. The first two dreams were about me staying in a big house that was a bit like something out of MirrorMask which then turned out to be Neil's house. The third dream was me having a coffee with Neil and telling him that I'd had these dreams about staying in his house. That one was really confusing to wake up from, I can tell you.
Anyway… a few splinters have stuck in my mind, and they have reached a point of irritation so great that I have to do something about them. Due to the timely reduction in my consulting workload, I now have both the will and the time to do what needs to be done.
The first splinter was unknowingly embedded by Neil. When I met him to talk about the Open Rights Group (of which he is kindly Patron, and which I would be grateful if you could support so that we can afford to hire talent to help expand the group, thus providing me with more time to write this blog), I ended up going to dinner with Neil and some of his friends. I did one of those things I do sometimes where I mindlessly say something really inane, and then have to rely on everyone around me to either ignore it or be kind. The inane thing I said was that I 'really ought to do something about this whole book reading thing'. The look Neil gave me in response to that I interpreted to mean 'Well, why don't you then?'. Quite right too. Why don't I?
Next splinter. People all around me keep writing books. Bastards. Cory, obviously, all the sodding time. Jeeze… ever been in a room with Cory typing at full speed? It's frightening. Tom. Ben. Half my geek friends have books on the shelf at Waterstones. Where on earth to they find the time? I know how busy Cory and Ben are. And I know Tom doesn't exactly sit on his arse all day. So, being busy is not an excuse.
Final splinter. I met up with Ben Whyte from the British Library a few weeks ago, and before we got down to the nitty gritty of copyright and licensing, he showed me the gallery they have there. You'd never think to go to the British Library, but my god, they have an astonishing collection of manuscripts. The Lindisfarne Gospels, Leonardo da Vinci's notebook, Handel's Messiah… they even have the Magna Carta. Wowser.
But the thing that really struck me was the fact that they have Lewis Carroll's original hand-written Alice's Adventures Under Ground. Eventually, they may carry Neil's original notebooks for Anansi Boys, who knows?
The thing is, it's a physical thing. My first instinct when writing anything is to crack open the iBook and start there, but that instinct is causing me to pause. Is that the right way to go about this?
I used to be on a mailing list of Cory's, where he was writing a novel and sending out to a small group of people about 250 words a day. I don't know what happened to that – he stopped for a while, and I'm not even sure if I'm still on the list, but I thought it was an interesting way to try and keep motivation going. It was exciting for me as a reader, but fascinating for me as a writer to see how things would develop and whether it would work as a tactic for getting oneself to keep writing.
As a blogger, however, I was thinking that maybe I should start a new blog, and publish my 250 words a day on that. Again, having an audience would put a comfortable pressure on me to write regularly. But then again… I have an audience here and we can't exactly say that I've felt any pressure to write here regularly, can we? Besides, I'm not sure I actually feel happy publishing my first drafts. Writing a book is not writing a blog, even if some publishers at the moment are happy to hunt through blogs for stuff that might make a decent book, the two are not interchangeable. Just ask Tom.
Then there's that saying, “If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got.”
If I sit and write on my iBook, maybe, just maybe, it'll go the way of all previous books of mine. It will languish on my hard drive and never actually go anywhere.
So… add up all the pieces. Extract the splinters and try to figure out why they have been bugging me. That's what writing this post is for. If I recognise what's been stopping me, and what motivates me, maybe I can clear whatever mental block has been in the way and stopping me doing what I frequently claim to want to do but never actually seem to get on with doing.
Final piece of the puzzle. It's my birthday on Saturday. I'll be 35. Shit. How did that happen? I mean… where did the years go? I don't feel 35. And I feel a bit like I haven't really fulfilled my potential, and that the only person to blame for that is me.
Walking round Brugge at Christmas, I announced to T'Other that I would damn well write a book this year, or else. Christmas/New Year is a really bad time to make resolutions, but birthdays are much better for it. So I have requested as my present from my beloved a nice Moleskine notebook. In it, I shall carefully write my novel. I shall remove my thumb from my arse, and I shall get on with it. And the next time I see Neil, I shall be hoping to say 'My new novel will be out soon…'

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