So there I was, maybe half way through writing my first novel, when everything that had been going so well – the dialogue, clean and concise, the descriptions where I nailed everything in three words instead of ten, the plot points interlocking as though I had planned things that way all along – everything … stopped. The words wandered off. The only action on the page was the blink of the cursor.
Eventually, after a few of my usual tricks to kick-start the process let me down, I looked online. There’s a downloadable instruction manual for most everything else on there, I thought, so why not a work of fiction? There was an uneasy moment where I nearly became distracted, a frivolous image search for cats a possibility, but then I dragged myself back to the moment and typed in, “How to finish your novel”.
The first place I visited was http://www.timothyhallinan.com and it was everything I was looking for, inspiration, practical advice, all delivered with insight and an appealing sense of humour.
Lots of great stuff there, but one phrase stuck in my mind: The enemy is not the badly written page, it’s the empty page.
The principle of course being that the badly written page at least exists, can be honed, shaped into something closer to what your imagination intended.
The empty page is just that … empty, a void.
So what have I gone and done? Started a blog and given myself ANOTHER empty page to fill, another frightening blankscape.
It can infect you, that blankness, go viral through all the well-planned scene breakdowns and the turns of phrase that seemed so perfect when they disclosed themselves on that long train journey or during the morning shower.
The only defence against that infection, the only vaccine, is to keep writing. The virus might mutate, yes, but the writing does that, too, whether it be the fluid, unknowable evolution happening behind the words, or the refining of your approach to the hard, practical work: the field research and the index cards and the deciphering of scribbled notes (trying to inscribe a moment of inspiration in your best, neatest handwriting is like holding back an orgasm. Nope? Okay … Just me then …).
I think, for me, this blog is another little leap in that evolutionary process. One reason behind its creation is that a few people have been kind enough to show an interest in my work, and maybe here I can show them what I’m up to … the pieces I THINK I’m happy with, the ones I KNOW are terrible, and the strange, random thoughts that might crop up in the badlands between.
The other reason, perhaps, is that the blog can be there when the short stories are short of an ending, or the novel’s chapter breaks become just brakes. Maybe this empty page can be pale, untouched skin, threaded with veins of inspiration ready to be mined. Waiting for the syringe, the vaccine, the shot in the arm I sometimes need to keep the words flowing. I hope my Muse doesn’t share my fear of needles …