It’s a quiet thing, writing. A going to a place which is known only to the individual writer. A land which no one else sees, hears, smells, or even senses. Mine is known as 1812.
Yet in order to go to this place, in order to hear, see, smell, experience and then write it, there must be some mechanism for shutting out the present world which surrounds one, and going to this place.
Most writers have their own methods. Some require noise and a busy atmosphere. Others, like myself, rely on silence or music to effect the transformation, to allow the imagination to take centre stage, as it were.
And time of course. Writing takes time. It doesn’t just happen.
(It is not, despite what some may think, just a case of putting pen to paper and letting the instrument emit over the page in a vaguely scrawling motion which creates letters, words and the odd sentence.)
I belong to the the write and then rewrite, rewrite, edit, redraft, listen, read, rewrite, polish, rewrite, edit, edit, edit, rewrite and polish school, myself. Hence I do not produce vast amounts of words in any one session, but each sitting pushes the work forward incrementally. Though there will be little rewriting or editing once I have finished.
Then too there are aspects of the work which I find more difficult to write than others. Melancholy, for example, is my hardest. This, I have learned, is a thing I procrastinate the most over. Perhaps because it’s an emotional state I don’t want to spend much time in–I don’t know.
But when it’s melancholy I’m writing, I find I have to screw myself to the sticking point and force myself to work at it. And obviously, as my books take place within the context of one of the most destructive wars Europe has ever survived, there’s a fair old bit of it about sadness and loss about.
But I suppose, the most essential quality in a writer is that willingness or need to suspend his or her relationships with the ‘real’ world, in order to live and write fully in this alternate place of the imagination. To let go of the pressures of reality, the excitement or aggravation of the vociferous media and their endless attention-seeking, and withdraw into the unsilent world of words and images.
To some, it all might appear positively unfriendly. Or even selfish or self-absorbed.
Well, yes and no. I’m surly as a bad-tempered polar bear awakened a month too early and hungry, if faced with endless interruptions when I’m trying to work.
Yet curiously, those same interruptions often wish to know when the next book will be done and am I working hard at it. (You can’t have it both ways…)
And I must admire those writers who managed to create their masterpieces in full view and with their ears fully assaulted by their obstreperous families and relations–Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote her work at the kitchen table, surrounded by her children and the servants.
But I do not belong to their number.
Which is why, I–although I used to rely on the silence, and often still do–I shall in a bit, shut out the world of 2010 and go into the land of 1812, transported by the music which has come to belong (at least in my mind) to my characters and their individual stories.
I shall fill my head with their language, their idioms, their slang; I shall gaze upon their faces, upon the moods passing upon them; I shall taste their words, weigh the images of all that they see and measure their poetry against the masters’; I shall feel the cold sea wind of their journey upon my face…and write.