Why we write

Having done a lot of ‘work writing’ over the past week, but not much of my creative writing unfortunately, I got to thinking about why it is that we write. As the years have passed, I’ve discovered that many people like to write as a way of helping them through crises – which is great – but for me, writing has always been about a love of words and story, nothing more. As with anything you do which you enjoy, of course it will inadvertently make you feel better when you do it, but as any regular writer knows – when the story sticks and editing seems never-ending, why do we keep with it?dragon-860683_1280

We can write for self-discovery, for escapism, for art’s sake and to make a change, however minuscule, in someone else’s life. Words have the power to change perspectives, be they fiction or non-fiction, and the challenge of shaping them into forms that are new and interesting is perhaps one of the biggest appeals for some people. I know it’s part of what draws me to the craft. We write also for a sense of accomplishment, I think, and this is especially true for those who don’t seek to publish or share their work. It encourages mental exploration and hones our ability to step into another’s shoes and consider the world afresh.

Why we write can also therefore influence what we write, so the question is – why do you write..? :)

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Writing in the ‘in-between’

I read an article this week which asked authors how they had used their experiences to flavour their writing – the old ‘write what you know’ mantra – and I got to thinking about how I do this in my own writing, which I do, of course. I think that you can’t help but have things you’ve seen and experienced first-hand seep into your writing – that we always write a little of what we know – but that this shouldn’t be misinterpreted, as it sometimes is by readers, that what you write is a blow-by-blow account of your life.castle-658042_1280

The other camp proclaims ‘write what you don’t know’ and I happen to think that somewhere in between is a rather good place to be, and is actually probably where most writers are. For, in creating fiction, we draw to whatever degree on what we know to create something new that we don’t quite know – am I right?

Well, there’s no right or wrong – I think that’s the point. Right now, I’m reading and writing and easing into a new project in fits and starts, but I’ve just finished a short story and a poem and I wrote a few pages of something else today, so… I’ll see where it takes me. :)

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Are you a rapidly writing writer…?

As a blogger myself, I try to keep up with other writing blogs as much as I can, as it’s always inspiring/uplifting/interesting to hear different people’s points of views and how their own writing journeys are progressing. This week I happened upon a blog which dismissed the idea of writing rapidly, which I found quite ironic as my friend (a successfully published author) had also written during the week about the advantages of writing quickly, one such example being NaNoWriMo.superhero-534120_1280

It got me to thinking and despite all the theoretical pros and cons, I came to this conclusion – do what suits you best. It’s simple but effective advice!

As someone who likes to be busy and to do things quickly (but well), I write as often as I can and as quickly as I can. Sometimes, this means I write an entire short story or poem in a night, do some editing and it’s pretty much done. Great. Other times, it takes weeks or months to perfect a story (and then, is it really ever ‘perfect’…?) and that’s okay too. And that’s just short fiction.

With a novel, I’m of the opinion that if you can write quickly, get it on paper and go at your own pace, then if it takes an intensive month, great; if it takes two years, great; if it takes 10 years (as the Pulitzer prize-winning novel, All the Light We Cannot See did), then why not? clock

Writing can be done quickly, depending on the writer and the ideas that they have. Pre-planning will assist with the speed, although if you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself going off on tangents all over the show. It’s the editing, the re-drafting, the editing again, the rewriting etc. etc. which happens over and over again that will finally result in the completed novel. And that takes time. A lot of it. And that’s ok.

Writing rapidly? I say, if you can do it, go for it! Things like NaNoWriMo give people a deadline, which tends to keep you focused and motivated, and as a journalist, well, I’m all for that. :)

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Am reading…

Like most writers, I don’t have the luxury of spending endless days writing prose and poetry but instead, fit it in and around my job, household chores and whatever else may arise. Virginia Woolf might have proclaimed that if a woman is to write fiction then she must have money and ‘a room of one’s own’, but unfortunately, to obtain both of those things means there’s very little time for being creative. That’s not to say it’s impossible however, as there’s always time to write if you really want to do it. Point in fact – for the past two weeks I’ve been watching Life in Squares on the BBC, which is all about the infamous Bloomsbury Group, when that’s an hour which could have been spent writing… (By the way, if anyone’s watching that – what are your thoughts?)

Anyway, this week I’ve only managed a bit of editing on a short story and writing a few pages of another, but I’ve started reading Sarah Perry’s ‘After Me Comes The Flood’, amongst other things, which has so far proved quite intriguing and has made me think again about my own approach to what I’m currently writing. Writers often beat themselves up about not writing every day and I’m somewhat impatient and want to be able to produce lots of writing and often, but it’s okay to not have the right frame of mind to write some nights; it’s okay to just read and not write, but to absorb someone else’s writing and be inspired by it and learn from it. Don’t you agree? :)

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Book doctoring in Ballycastle

Ballycastle, as it turns out, is morphing into a literary haven of late and I for one am not complaining! For those of you who aren’t familiar with the north coast in Northern Ireland, this is a small seaside town located just 15 minutes from where I live by the Giant’s Causeway. This weekend, it played host to the Aperture Festival at Corrymeela, which combined a mixture of music, culture, literature and various other events to celebrate the centre’s 50th birthday.

The Book Doctors: Glenn Patterson, Sarah Perry, Paul McVeigh & Padraig O Tuama.

The Book Doctors: Glenn Patterson, Sarah Perry, Paul McVeigh & Padraig O Tuama.

I went along on Saturday and enjoyed a panel discussion on the media, as well as readings from authors Glenn Patterson and Sarah Perry, as well as a session entitled The Book Doctors, which saw both of these writers along with author Paul McVeigh, join Corrymeela’s Padraig O Tuama to chat with the audience and give book recommendations. It was great to hear from the authors, but also, to listen to what the audience was saying in the Book Doctor session about what they like to read, or what they want to read more of.

As writers, we write what we feel compelled to write, of course, and shouldn’t write what’s simply ‘in vogue’, but I found this quite an interesting session. One lady simply said she enjoyed Sarah’s reading because it focused on small details that made her empathise immediately with the character. She said she liked writing that featured experiences which you can often think only you experience. It’s comforting, she said, to see that others experience these things as well.Aperture

Another younger woman said for her, characterisation was more important than plot or any sort of storyline – if the characters were interesting, then she was hooked. Others said they wanted to read darker stories, while an older man wanted recommendations for something to read as a recent retiree.

I enjoyed this hour more than I thought I would and it was also great to note down some new authors to look up. I came away inspired and very glad I went along!

PS Just in case anyone’s interested, one of my short stories – The Mobile Librarian – is included in The Lonely Crowd journal, which is now available to buy here. Fear not if you have no wish to purchase, but there are obviously many more authors besides myself in there and you might well find something you like. :)

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Conjuring ideas

Hannah McPhillimy and Jan Carson

Hannah McPhillimy and Jan Carson

Between business blogging, writing articles, websites and everything in between, last week I inadvertently skipped this blog, such was the need for a little time out from typing, but I still managed to scribble some creative words along the way, so all was not lost. Maintaining a blog on writing while you’re also trying to write creatively may seem like an unnecessary distraction to some, but ultimately, I find that as with attending literary events, writing about writing actually helps keep you on track and motivate you. It’s maybe not for everyone, but there’s an element of accountability there, as progress and experiences are regularly charted.

My own literary journey in the week past saw me attend two inspiring events – one in Belfast and one in Ballycastle. Just click the links to have a read of how they went, as I wrote reviews of both for Culture NI. As I’ve already written all about them, I therefore won’t go into much more detail here, but the first event – Disappear Hear – saw writer Jan Carson and musician Hannah McPhillimy collaborate in an evening of music and literary delights. Hannah wrote songs inspired by Jan’s debut novel, Malcom Orange Disappears, which added a new dimension to the story and also raised funds for the Alzheimer’s Society at the same time.AM Fyfye

The following evening I then enjoyed a poetry reading by London-based poet, Anne-Marie Fyfe, who presented her fifth collection, House of Small Absences. Both these events were inspiring in their own way, not least in the very fact that getting out and immersing yourself in the arts never fails to motivate you in keeping going. It’s also interesting, I find, to see others’ reactions at such events, as often, there are people there in support of a friend who don’t ordinarily read poetry or count themselves as being ‘into the arts’. More often than not, they surprise themselves by having a good time and come away with an added appreciation of the arts…

Suffice it to say, as I wrote a short story the week before, I’ve now turned back to the poetry and am flitting between the two as I work out where to go next with my writing. It’s always good to find a genre you love writing about and feel comfortable in, but equally, it’s good to branch out and push yourself in new directions, or revisit story ideas formerly abandoned and realise that actually, there might be something in them after all.

Right now, I’m still writing words with a hint of magic, but why not also surrealism, philosophy, heck – even realism?! – while I’m at it…

PS I should add here that a few blogs back I wrote about Claire-Louise Bennett’s book of short stories – Pond – and how I wasn’t sure, at the outset, if I liked it much or not. Well, the more I read of it, the more I got drawn into her character’s voice and her world and the more I found I really did like it – the style, the stories and the concept of the collection. Which only goes to show why you should always give a book time to win you over! :)

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Writerly styles…

imageI may be 30 years late to this book, but The Magician by Raymond E. Feist is one that has always caught my eye over the years and finally, I picked it up in a pile of secondhand books a month or so ago. I’m now reading it, alongside Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett, and wondering why I didn’t do this sooner…

The books are poles apart in their content and style, one also being a rather lengthy novel, the other a collection of short stories. With the first, I slipped into the story immediately and am keen to keep reading, but with the latter, I’m finding it harder to love. Which isn’t to say I don’t like it, but the style is terrifically different – a rambling type of prose that I thought I’d really like, given I’m a fan of Virginia Woolf and James Joyce.image

It’s good to read writing that challenges you though, as well as the writing that fits like an old shoe, so I think I’ve got a good mix of that here! I’m still pushing on with my own writing, and managed to pin down a story this morning that I’d made notes on a while back – a story unlike the ones in my recently submitted collection.

I read on with gusto and I continue to be inspired! :)

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