(‘So, what are you up to, now,’ says Alpha Girl, glancing over my shoulder at my laptop screen. ‘Blogging? Online dating? Writing recipes, or whatever it is you do all day on that thing?’
‘I’ve started writing a book,’ I say. ‘I’m trying to be a writer. It’s about time I started.’
‘A book,’ she says, with an air of incredulity. ‘You’re writing a book?’
Sometimes its exasperating having to justify everything I do to her, but I’m used to it by now. I guess I blow off a little steam in my response.
‘Yes, a book. I intend to be a writer and writing short stories, novels and blogs is part of that. I know you look down your nose on the things I do because you consider them unimportant, but they’re important to me. I know you probably think I’m wasting my time, and maybe I am, but if I don’t try I’ll never know if I can do it. I have time on my hands and now’s the time to do it, rather than stagnating and wonder ‘what if’ for the rest of my life. Happy?’
She steps back. The silence hangs heavy. ‘What?’ I say. ‘Are you going to tell me to stop wasting my time and get a real job?’
For a moment, I could almost believe she’s hurt. Her mouth is a thin line. ‘I was going to say good luck with it. I’ve read your blogs, and you’re obviously passionate about writing.’
She leaves the room, leaving me feeling like more of a tool than I usually do.)
I’ve started my novel. I’ve written unfinished novels in the past, but my intention with this one is to actually write an entire book. Maybe I’ll toss it in the trash at that point, but I have to write it, anyway. I would like to try to get it published.
I read some good advice in a book I’m reading, The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing. In one of the many essays, Bill O’Hanlon advises to write in small increments. This ensures that you write every day and that you can fit writing into your busy schedule (yes, I have one of those. In between uni work and sitting around, that is). O’Hanlon also comments on overcoming the mental barriers associated with big and daunting jobs, using a process called ‘externalising’.
Externalising is taking the unhelpful inner voices (you know the ones – am I good enough? Why is everything so hard? Did I leave the gas on when I left the house?) – the one’s that affect motivation – (okay, so I meant that, not the gas thing) and begin to consider them as external.
One of the examples O’Hanlon uses is: ‘I self-sabotage by telling myself I’m not a good enough writer to get published’. He suggests to think instead: ‘self-doubt is trying to convince me that I’m not good enough’. The change, he suggests, helps you to challenge negative thoughts, rather than allowing them to undermine you. This works for all things, not just writing.
O’Hanlon has written 28 books, so I can’t really argue with him. It’s one way he managed to overcome his own self-doubts as a writer, along with some other Jedi mind tricks he discusses in the essay.
So, I typed my first chapter with a newfound sense of confidence, clear headedness and purpose. Maybe this is what I was meant to do. Maybe this is my true calling.
Time will tell.
(I find Alpha Girl in the kitchen, making herself a huge, multi-layered sandwich.
‘Sorry if I lashed out earlier,’ I say. She turns to face me, a tight smile pinching her features.
‘I was going to say what you said, about getting a real job,’ she replies. ‘But then I thought to myself, maybe I shouldn’t shoot you down over this.’
I’m not sure how to respond. Is this a trap, another mental mind game wrapped in duplicity and deceit? I swallow involuntarily.
She turns her attention back to her sandwich. ‘I like seeing you all insecure and confused. It makes it all worthwhile.’ She turns back, the malevolent glint in her eye has returned. She tears the sandwich with razor teeth, chews and swallows, like a shark consuming a dolphin that’s irritated it for too long. ‘And I still think you should get a real job.’
I’m imagining the dolphin’s death throes, the water permeated with blood and pieces of frayed meat. The shark tears and tears, and it’s sinking into the red-hazed waters, plummeting deeper and deeper…)
Yes, my spelling is English, not American. So stop wincing every time you see an ‘s’ instead of a ‘z’, or a ‘u’ in ‘Humour’.
To find out more about Bill O’Hanlon’s books and methods, visit http://billohanlon.com/
To find out more about ‘The Complete Book of Novel Writing’, visit http://www.writersdigest.com/qp7-migration-books/novel-writing