My first blog post. The screen really does look very empty and white!
About six or seven months ago, I started to write a novel. I actually forget what its working title was, but it soon became ‘Bunco‘.
This wasn’t close to being the first time I had decided to attempt writing a novel. I have been a voracious reader all my life, and, like most readers I suspect, I often fantasized about writing something. Indeed, every ten years or so, I would sit down and write. And after five, or ten, or twenty pages I would read my stuff and be appalled.
My attempts were stilted, forced, self-conscious and dreadful to read. I could see that my work was terrible, but couldn’t figure out why, or how to fix it. So I would give up for another ten years or so.
Meanwhile, I was having a fairly successful career in marketing. This meant quite a bit of public speaking, which I enjoyed, and lots and lots of writing – press releases, agency briefs, product plans, project proposals, and so on. And I was pretty good at this. But as soon as it came to creative writing, nothing.
During the years I worked with two people in particular who I thought were excellent writers – Colin Street and Paul Leonard (www.ificanmakeitthere.com). Then, in high school in the States, and especially at Boston University, my daughter developed into a really good writer. But despite close contact with these guys, I couldn’t work out what it was that made their writing so effective.
Anyway, for whatever reason, late last year I decided to try again. I had an idea of trying to explain the attractions of two quite different lifestyles I have been able to observe up close and personal – mobile, affluent suburban America and settled traditional Europe. Of course, I needed a plot to hold my readers, and a cast of characters to execute the story.
To be clear, I don’t think ‘Bunco’ is great literature. Time will tell whether many people think is is even a good beach read (which is pretty much my goal). But what I can say, is that writing it was, all in all, pretty stress-free. Yes, there was some agonizing over a few things, and editing it was a pain in the proverbial (more on that another time!). But I never experienced anything even approaching writer’s block. Indeed, I couldn’t type quickly enough to keep up with the story. (I don’t touch type, or come even close and I’m incapable of typing
teh the or adn and correctly first time.)
The entire experience was just the best fun I’ve had in years. I was obsessive, writing 8, 10, 12 hours a day; and thinking about the story and my characters 18 hours a day. Fortunately, I have an understanding wife and an upstairs study. I actually developed repetitive strain injury In the course of writing. (Recently I’ve discovered the joys of dictating on a Mac, and so hopefully my strained wrist days are over.)
So what was different this time? Number one I think, is that this time I was writing for myself. Sure, at the back of my mind there was a thought that I might publish my book, but fundamentally, I was writing this book because I was loving the process of writing a book.
I am now 63 years old, and I think this is also relevant to understanding what had changed. I am much less self-conscious now than when I was in my 20s and 30s. This time I had no sense of trying to write literary English or trying to impress anyone – I was completely lost in my characters and in my story, And I think this is made the difference.
So, if I have any advice for anyone, it would be to surrender yourself to your writing. Think of telling a story to a best friend or your wife or husband and just be natural, just let it come.