If you are reading this and you are a person who is in a creative profession, I admire that you have what it must take to be constantly strong in that conviction. I guess that conviction must waver, and I can see it any one that stands beside their creation, that at some point they began. You began, and goodness knows, I am trying to learn from you somehow, how you did that.
I’ve decided to start recording what seems like an epic battle to begin what I’ve always wanted to do, what everyone has been telling me that I should do – teachers, tutors, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, strangers,- many already successful at what I dream of doing – and yet, what I seem so unable to actually begin.
Although wait…I’ve never really stopped..so it’s not a beginning at all, it’s just…like lots of almost-beginnings. The Never Ending Prologue.
I am always writing, but I have an intentional longer story that has been with me for years in notes, thoughts. Every day in some way influences the story and the characters.
I want to to write the story, I want to begin. But the beginning….why is the beginning so impossible? The story is itself is in so many ways, already written anyway. When I say beginning – it’s in some sense, not the beginning of the actual story. This, I think, is what I am learning in these months of feeling like a constant failure.
It’s the beginning of me. It’s the mental shift of allowing myself to become that person, who is deliberately writing with a view to then trying to, well, I suppose I can say it: I would, one day, like this story to be read by others. Some people close to me even know the title by now.
Being closed and secretive about my ambition hasn’t worked, so now I’m wearing it on my sleeve to make it harder to hide and shy from. It’s my ambition. My ambition is to share the story. Not just the actual story, but the story of trying. To show that even when there is failure and rejection on my journey, which with writing is inevitable, in this is learning and growing.
Five years ago, I started a postgraduate diploma in Creative Writing because I thought this might get me over the fear. I got to the point in the course after one semester, where we sent our work out for critical review and I didn’t die! At that point, I realised that I could survive having my writing read and could cope with the editorial process from strangers. I had everything out of the course I needed. That work that went out for critical review was the opening chapters of this story.
That’s how long I’ve been hugging this close to me.
So yes, the story does have a beginning already. But, I am terrified of reading it. Why? Well, every time I go back to previous writing, I shred it. Literally in some cases. I destroy it. So I’m very scared to go back it. I don’t trust myself to be gentle.
What if I destroy it because to me, it seems to be so awfully written?
So, I’m trying to start it again, which may not be wise either.
Every time I sit down with the intention to write this story, demons rise up. I feel like a caricature. Foolish. As if anything extraordinary can come out of sitting at my desk at home.
In Edinburgh recently, I found out about the cafe where J K Rowling would sometimes sit to write. It struck me that I have never thought of writing anywhere except at home. So today, with some time to myself, I decided I would go to a cafe and once and for all, write just the opening paragraph. That’s all, one paragraph.
I sat there, outside in the cold, and although alone, I felt self-concious and like a fool. I had a notepad and pen, although I rarely write much with a pen these days. I ended up writing to do lists. I felt like the world was watching and waiting to see if my opening words would be any good. Of course it wasn’t watching, right? 😉
A man sat down on the next table, with a dog, and said “You look busy” and I smiled and said “Just writing some lists. But lots of lists.” and I patted his friendly dog and had a chat. His coffee arrived and he left and I was alone and strangely feeling even more conspicuous!
I then wrote the title of the story on the page, and stared at it for a long time and then drew some clouds and some ideas and feelings about the story.
I did not write a single word of the opening paragraph.
My coffee was finished and this felt like a good excuse to have run out of time. So, a little numb from the cold, I walked up the road to one of my favourite shops and this is the conversation on entering:
Shop owner: “Hello, you must be the photographer!”
Me: “Oh, no….sorry… no. I’m just having a look around.”
Show owner: “Oh sorry you look like a photographer! It’s the way you are carrying your book.”
Me: ” Well, I do actually like photography, but I’m not a photographer as such”
Person: “Actually you look more like a writer!”
And thank you, universe!
I will keep trying. One cafe a week. One coffee a week. One word a week if it has to be that way. Small slow beginnings.