Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The long, dark Word document of the soul - Simon Cheshire

Don't you flash your
close-ups at me, matey
      I wasn't sure what to blog about this month.
      After a quick and slightly upsetting look at my sales, I thought I might talk about the unpredictable nature of bookselling. After all, hits always, always come out of the blue. Aside from exhaustive efforts to boost word-of-mouth, and/or saturation media coverage, there's nothing anyone can do, for certain, to sell a title. If there was, the nation's publishers would never have printed an unsuccessful word... [insert raised eyebrow here]...
      No, that's a total downer.
      I thought maybe I should talk about the way the new Kindle, the little 'un, seems to be taking the mickey with its screensavers. All those close-ups of pens and typewriter keys and printing blocks. It's as if the cheeky whatsit is sitting there saying "ha ha, look at all this old tech, you don't need them any more, they're just good for arty screensavers now, tee hee."
      No, that's a bit smug.
      And then I realised that all this indecision was just a way of procrastinating, stalling, delaying, hesitating, dawdling...
Great thinker, Orwell.
Bad moustache.
George Orwell once said that "writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness” and the more books I write, the more true that seems.
      I've always admired the kind of writer who can simply sit down at 8am and start typing. The Stephen Kings and Enid Blytons of this world, whose minds just pour forth prose. Not always brilliant prose, I grant you, but at least they're getting the work done.
      I'm struggling to get a book finished. I badly need to get it out of the way, because I want to get on with the seven-years-in-the-making project I mentioned on this blog last month and which, quite frankly, is rather more important to me. I'm making slow progress. I think I'm once again suffering from the emotional tug-of-war which drags me left, right, left, through the mental mud of doubt and anxiety, every time I get to that point in a book when you've gone too far to abandon it, but not far enough to mark an end-date on the calendar that you know isn't laughable optimism.
      Aaaand, drag to the LEFT: If this book of yours was any good, I think to myself, the words would be flowing like wine, instead of trickling like Grandad's battered prostate. You dare not even read it back to yourself for fear of realising what a ghastly puddle of word-poo it really is, correct?
      Aaaand, to the RIGHT: You always think that. Oh yes, you do. And it normally turns out fine in the end. You're an experienced professional. Have faith in your abilities. You know what you're doing.
      Aaaand, to the LEFT: Abilities? Hang on a mo while I gather my innards and sew up my sides. Listen, mush, if you had any real talent you wouldn't have spent the last twenty years on the mid-list. You'd have won an award by now. Or been on one of those table things in Waterstones. Everybody's got an award. Except you. You're better off as a shelf-stacker in Tesco, mate.
      Aaaand, to the RIGHT: This book is different. This book is the breakthrough. You'll be on the Amazon wishlist of every reader in the land, and picking your favourites for Desert Island Discs, before you know what hit you. Remember, you follow your muse for reasons loftier than mere financial gain. This is art you're dealing with, not Wheetie Puffs. Craftsmanship takes time, and care, and inspiration.
      Aaaand, to the LEFT: Well, you're not going to find inspiration filling the washing machine, are you? Or making another cup of instant. Or checking your email. Or doing any of the thousand other things you do to put off having to sit down and compose a few sentences. You weed! If you spent more time writing and less time fiddling with your website and fretting about how many Twitter followers you've got, you'd have been finished six weeks ago and been down the pub by now. You don't deserve a hit.
      Aaaand, to the RIGHT: I do! Gosh, you're so cruel! Look, OK, I've not been going at full speed recently, I admit. But, from now on, it's two thousand words a day. Every day. Without fail. Ian Fleming could do it, so I can do it. Booker shortlist, here we come! (Cue Rocky theme tune).
      Right, I'm going to finish up this blog post now. I only started it so I wouldn't go back to the kitchen and eat something. I'm going to complete Chapter 9 today, and nothing will stop me. Nothing. I'm switching to Word... now!
      Just as soon as I've been to the post office.
      Was it E.M.Forster who said every word had to be dragged out of him kicking and screaming? Well, if it wasn't him, it sounds like the sort of thing he'd have said. Miserable old duffer.

Simon Cheshire is a children's writer who'll be your bestest friend ever if you buy his ebooks. 
His website is at http://www.simoncheshire.co.uk/ 
And his blog about literary history is at http://bookhistorystudies.blogspot.com/

6 comments:

Susan Price said...

God, Simon, I identify...

Lee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lee said...

Not only do I identify as well, but this blog has become one of my favourite substitutes for the fridge or the postoffice queue.

Susan Price said...

Oh say not so, Lee! - Now you've made us feel guilty.

Pauline Fisk said...

This one speaks for me too. Writing the book you've been wanting to for years is a dangerous business and it's one I'm engaged in too. I've written many published novels over many years, so I know I can do it. But not it seems this time. There's always an 'Aaaand, to the LEFT' dragging me away.

Jan Needle said...

i'm about five thousand words in, about a hundred thou left to go. had a really, really successful day yesterday (wednesday. was that yesterday?) i went on my canal boat with three like minded souls and did three fifths of five eighths of...well, you know the rest. some sort of a breakthrough?