Thursday, 29 January 2015

Notes From An Aspiring Author

Since it's a New Year, I'm going to try something new here: an update on my status as an 'aspiring' author, just to keep you in tandem with my new observations and thoughts on the writing process, the various trials and tribulations and small victories there may be. If you are an aspiring author too - which I know many of you are and more - do feel very welcome to chip in and share your own experiences. It's a lonely profession this writing. 

Besides, I really like that prefix 'aspiring' don't you? It has so much... desire in it. Yes, if desire and ambition were to be coupled and melded into one word it would very much be: aspire.

My definition: To aspire is as necessary as to respire. It denotes living, breathing, doing, seeking, an earnest ever-there trying. It speaks of a life that is lived in the hope of fulfilling, of becoming. To hope and to hold the horizon in your heart with all your breath, with all your power. To be always leaning towards a destination, like a newborn bud to the light of the sun. To grow in the light. To follow the light. To be a bud brimming with a bloom. To direct all your energy towards one bright and shining goal. To nurture it. To push potential to actuality, carefully trilling the tutting, pouting, hesitating, posturing of 'im' out of impossible, to clear the way for the possible. An unconquerable Sisyphus. To say 'I am almost there', 'I want', 'I believe,' 'I know where I am headed', is to aspire to. To gain gargantuan heights. I will be, I will do everything I can to become this which is my fixed ambition. An affixed promise of becoming that which you desire the most, in all the world. In this case, a writer. 

And why is it that every aspiring writer seems an incognito, undercover, hidden one? It seems to be something you keep to yourself, like a secret - a heroic Superman kind of  secret. When it is revealed, it's like the air colours somewhat, a freshness, a revealing like none before.  But do we aspire towards a dream or a set-in-stone career? Because being a writer - ah - I mean an author, is a bit of both isn't it? It's both possible and impossible. Possible if you try outrageously, pour your whole self into it - time, energy, wherewithal; impossible if you don't - if you give in to doubt, to block, to rejections and all those afflicting bad vibes. But what's so exciting and unnerving about being an 'aspiring author' is that we are always hovering between these two polarities, torn between their different energies. We know it could all go one way or the other and so we stand on the cusp of potential poised to dive into a pool of stars or fall face-down on the floor. But, the very word 'aspiring' is a positive one I think. It is laden with intent, a foreseeing, a believing in what will be the next logical outcome: bud to bloom, amateur to master, effort to reward, writer to author. 

~New Writing Paraphernalia ~
I've started the New Year off in positive fashion buying new notebooks in the hopes of  kickstarting a whole new writing schedule (well, schedule is a bit optimistic - let's go with routine instead, ahem.)  My plan was to have one as a general notebook, another as a sort of journal for things like morning pages and observations (see The Artist's Way) and then I was thinking maybe another one for prose while I was at it, an additional one for articles, then one for keeping track of submission dates etc in what would be a super organised extravaganza, a first of its kind on my part. But alas, thrifty sense got the best of me when I thought hold on a sec, I need to stop buying and just start writing! So with their purposes a little eschew, here they are in all their shining finery: 

There's just something about a new notebook that makes you feel all shiny and new. And more motivated you know, to fill them. I think every aspiring author revels in buying them. So working from my first few fledglings of notes, here I am on this new blog endeavor. 

It's worth noting that I also bought a new pack of pencils, the novelty being I NEVER use pencils, even though so many writers swear by them (stodgy traditional stylists hmpf!) My thinking being maybe they'll stick around more than pens as they come in a case which I am determined to keep them in. (I can never keep a pen around me - I seem to repel them. In all my years of writing, I think I've gone through hundreds, maybe thousands of lost and found pens. Remember that film 'State of Play' with Russell Crowe as the hardcore investigative journo and the pen necklace he made for his rookie assistant Rachel McAdams who was always losing pens? Well, I'm thinking that's the lengths I will have to go to if I want to keep a pen on me. A writer with no pen, a builder with no tools - the irony, I assure you, never ceases to jab at my doubtful self's sensitivity to the query of 'am I in the right profession??!'). Anyway, the pencils are spectacular:
In pencil font, words flow across the page like water smoothing benevolent bedrock beneath. Nothing is permanent, so everything is possible, flourishing with a soft assurance. Words are a silk caress, a scarf blowing colours into the breeze. No longer blunt objects, hesitant scrapes and scores, but a confident fanfare of swirls and suave creations, curves of comfort, like ships put out to sea, unfurling their sails finally to the wind, sun shining starboard. 

I've also acquired a desk in the past few months, a real writer's desk. Well, what I like to call a real writer's desk - my desk for writing at least. It's a basic prop, but its symbolism is not to be underestimated. I've never really had a desk before assigned solely to writing, I've written anywhere and everywhere, laptop ad-hoc. Now I take to the testing task of sitting at it a few hours every day, without fail. Discipline. Does every aspiring writer possess this necessary quality (more like a Herculean feat at times) that the pros have I wonder? I forget which writer it is now, but I read that he uses an app that will delete all the words he has written in a day if he doesn't make it to such a number. Now that's scary motivation. Discipline is a stern enforcer which I am trying to cultivate. This desk, I hope, will be my trusted ally in this.

~Honesty and Writing~
I've been reminded lately of how writing has an inherent sort of lie-detector radar. You can speak untruths, but you can't so easily write them. Lots of things brought this to my attention recently, most especially the free speech debate which has erupted since the tragic Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris. If we are not allowed to write (and publish) what we think, what we want, no matter how offensive or unappealing it may be, then what? This I say in reference not just to the controversial magazine's content, but to the impassioned language that has sprung up in the debate in its wake. Why should we censor and repress ourselves? Language is a mode of expression - we may or may not use it wisely, but it must be up to each of us how to use it as it is a means of expressing one's self. We must be free to use it whatever way we choose, the only limits being those we impose upon ourselves as personal parameters. 'I shouldn't write this' is a million miles away from 'I am not permitted to write this.' We already impose sanctions on our speech in relation to social settings and sensitivities, but when it comes to print, to the written word, freedom of speech must reign. Provocation has always been a shock tactic, but have we always been so susceptible to shock by it? There have always been insults and out-of-line offensive publications; there has not, however, always been violent retaliation. If nothing else, what the whole Charlie Hebdo tragedy proves is that language, art, is a powerful, powerful medium, capable of eliciting passions and pains. 

See there's something about putting words on paper that filters through the residual sediment of speech to the embedded core of truth. Take diary writing for instance. It's confessional or not at all. Honesty is part and parcel of every writing process. People write letters when they have trouble expressing their true feelings to people. It's a way of tapping into the essential content of ourselves that can often get buried or submerged beneath layers of posturing and pacifying and social-pleasing. You can't write without honesty, and therefore it goes to say, without showing your self, without being your self. I think it was Jeanette Winterson who said: 'language is for revealing, not for hiding'. It's an implement of discourse, not disguise. And for people who use language slyly and strategically to confuse and to camouflage and to disguise their true feelings and intentions, then I say diddly squat! to them. Say what you mean, write it clearly and concisely and truthfully, or don't bother at all. In declarations, not obfuscations. And with no fear. No hesitations.

~Submisson Status~
Ah, time to face the minotaur in the labyrinth, take the podium stand naked, to enter a ticket - more like your ticking tenuous self with a holdall of heart and hope - in the harsh lottery of publishing. Yes, potential submissions are still in my head as we speak. Still mind-calculating what will go where and when the pieces are to be deemed 'ready' and me, their maker, willing. More on that next month! 

More ramblings to come, 

~ Siobhán 

~aka an aspiring author~ 

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