I am happy when writing, somewhat to the annoyance of my writing friends. Most of them are better writers than me, because they work at it. I just tend to disengage the brain and set off, seeing where my fingers take me.
I no longer dictate: i tried it for a year, but my writing altered. Indeed, i’ve spent a whole chunk of time this year rewriting the book manuscript i dictated around change, because dictation caused me to write too long, and too mangled. C’est la vie. A painful lesson, because editing is my least favourite activity.
I’m not scared of the hard work: i end up scared of losing the thread. I fear, especially with longer pieces, that some strand of magic ran through it, and that by editing i may unintentionally sever it. An arrogance, of course, that it ever made sense.
Whilst i’m on my list of failures, i also hate using ‘external’ editors, even though i am sure they would make my work better. One once said to me ‘did you mean to say this…?’. But i didn’t. If that is what i had meant, that is what i would have said.
Arrogance, but perhaps all writing is an arrogance, unless it’s a secret diary (although perhaps even there we vainly hope for post mortem fame, when our brilliance is discovered.
Some writing is truly beautiful: Patti Smith bought me to tears this year, and Oliver Sacks i worshipped.
I find my writing has a half life of around five years: if i read a piece from before then, it reads like the work of a stranger. Often i no longer think what i wrote, and often i detest the artifice. Indeed, my own self reference is my greatest fear. As ideas form, i often revisit them, time and again, until they shape in my head, and then i write about them as if everyone shares this view. I do the same when i speak, so i suspect that the experience of consumption is somewhat like coke, fizzing out of a shaken bottle.
Writing has made me better: it’s a structured cognisance, a way to make sense of the world. And a way to chart your journey. But i try not to take it too seriously.
I only write for myself, not from selfishness, but pragmatism. If you write for others, you are trying to chase someone else’s dreams. I write for myself, and am touched when people like it, hurt when they attack it, and frustrated if they ignore it. But the act of creation is more important than consumption. Certainly more important than the quantity of consumption.
If i work at one thing, it is to ensure i never write what i feel that i should write. Anytime i write ‘what i think people want to see’, i fail. If i want to write about boats, boots, or bravery, then i will: i find inspiration a dozen times a day.
Writing is not my final answer, it’s my field notes, and reflections. And i guess, at heart, it’s an exploration of one’s own struggle to understand, to make sense of things.
And it’s fun.