Wednesday, 2 September 2009


There are some really good excuses for Not Writing. Even if the novel is going well, even if it's already taking up half the space in your head and writing those characters feels like coming home, sometimes Life decides the novelist is having it a bit too easy (thanks, Life). Moving house was my latest good excuse. I knew that if I said it out loud: 'I'm so annoyed with myself for not writing today', anyone who has ever packed up a family's belongings would hand me a Get Out Of Writing Jail Free card.

The trouble with good excuses is that they have a habit of morphing into crappy ones. They creep slowly... The day after we moved house, I was physically shattered and had some RSI in my arm. Hmm, I should probably leave it for today, I reckoned. The next day I was less tired and the arm was feeling better BUT the house was chaotic and there was a sense of unease in every room. Hmm, I should probably leave it for today, I reckoned again. The next day and the next and the next, as the house was put together and the RSI became just a niggle, I found myself - in that familiar way - stretching out the excuses.

I had a novel to finish reading (admittedly a very good one: Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell; do try it if you like original, edgy fiction in the older YA bracket)...I had a documentary to watch (on the Ten-Pound Poms of the 1950s)...I had dinner to cook...emails to write...I'd accidentally had one too many...I'd accidentally had one too many the day before and needed an early night...the cat was sitting on my feet and I didn't want to disturb him by getting up to reach my laptop. That last one was the final straw. I missed my book; I'm a nightmare when I'm not writing; why was I delaying something I love doing?

Of course, it's all so simple when you look back. I was shit-scared that it wouldn't feel like home any more - I wanted to remember the good old days rather than step into the future. And the solution is simple, too. Just start. Fifty words. That's all. Scroll through the chapters - it's like running your hands over an old dress you haven't worn in years. Write something. Anything. Take baby steps. Let the characters back in; let it all seep into the front of your mind.

Kick the cat off your feet and begin.

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shadow said...

Oh I see. It's going to be like that is it? I'm just some pawn in your introspective psychological games.

Fine. I can take it.

I'm off to leave you a special 'present' somewhere you wont find for weeks.

Emily Gale said...

Fine, then next time you sit on my head purring like a 2-stroke motor at 6.45am I'll tell you to get your own bloody breakfast.

The Dotterel said...

What if you haven't got a cat?

Emily Gale said...

Well then I can't help you. Could you borrow one?

Chickenlady said...

I've got three and they all conspire to stop me from writing...not by sitting on me but by making the garden the rodent Killing Fields and singing about it loudly...all day.

You're welcome to one.

Great advice - 50 words, just dive in, begin.

Emily Gale said...

Chickenlady, hello! I didn't realise that cats were such Trouble - being a dog-person I figured that cats were low maintenance. Ha! My cat - gorgeously affectionate as he is - is like a third child. Mind you, if my child was sitting on my foot stopping me from writing, I'd kick him off too. Or maybe 'nudge gently in the direction of the Lego', before anyone gets worried.