Yeah, so I had a couple of ideas about other things I could be writing. Obviously there’s the second Montgomery novel that I’m itching to get stuck into as I’ve had the full plot planned out for AGES… I’ve even been writing a little bit now and again. There’s also a short story I want to write, about an accountant whose fear of the dark is the only excitement he has in his life. Not only that, but I had an idea about another children’s series of books starring ‘Joe Solo’, who lives in a parallel universe in a post-apocalyptic Earth where he is trying to survive in a world where hardly anyone else is alive. Of course it’s a comedy series!
While it’s a bonus for a writer to have a few ideas kicking around, these things have become a distraction. Or more accurately A Distraction.
They aren’t a distraction all the time, though. When I was building a shelter down the side of my house, these ideas were not distracting me. When I was out for a pub lunch and a walk through the countryside with my wife, these ideas were not distracting me. When I was helping a friend to butcher one of his pigs in his garage, these ideas were not distracting me. In fact, they only tend to distract me when I’m supposed to be writing this novel!
And if I’m writing these other things, I’m not writing the novel.
So what’s the answer? You won’t be surprised to learn that, as with the other blocks to writing, the answer is to keep writing the novel. And nor will you be surprised to hear that it’s not really that simple. After all, if I’m writing those other things, I will at least be writing – it’s not writers block in the absolute sense of the word. And if I’m writing, then I am still, by definition, a writer. I’ll still be pushing out words. I’ll still be satisfying that burning desire to create. I’ll still be filling the void that opens up inside me each day – the void that can only be filled with pages of freshly typed text.
But what I won’t be doing is getting my novel finished. I’ll end up as one of those writers whose life is strewn with the corpses of a thousand half-written works, never finished, never polished, never published, never released into the wild.
And so I am forced to ask myself that most important of questions:
WHY DO I WRITE?
I guess there are potentially as many answers to this question as there are writers, though there are probably a few popular answers such as, ‘I write to make money’, ‘I write because I want to be famous’, ‘I write because I’ve always written’ and ‘I write because I’m rubbish at everything else’. There’s a massive list of responses from authors to this questions here, in case you’re interested. Thankfully this is a question I already know the answer to. Actually there are three answers… or maybe it’s an answer with three parts.
- I write, because I need to create.
- I write, because I love the escape it provides.
- I write, because I want to entertain and give others a means of escape.
The first two parts are focussed on me: my need to create and love of escape. When I say I need to create, this has always been true for me, even before I got into writing. I’ve always loved making things, whether out of sticks and other ‘found’ items as a child, composing music during my teens and twenties, or crafting sermons in more recent years. It goes hand in hand with my need to be ‘doing’ and ‘learning’, which is how I got into microholding and a hundred other things (e.g. golf, boats, cars, Hebrew, eating chillies, martial arts, indoor climbing, DIY, cycling, playing the trumpet and cooking. Can’t think of anything else specifically, so maybe ‘a hundred’ was a slight exaggeration). Creating is the most satisfying of this trio, with ‘doing’ second and ‘learning’ a close third, and if I fail to do any of these for some reason, I go mad. Actually mad. Like needing medication mad. Hence ‘need’.
I would like to make it clear that my life is not dreadful. This is not why I love the escape writing provides. It’s more that this escape helps me to settle, helps my brain to stop its incessant whirring, while at the same time it opens up a whole different world to experience. Reading and films also provides these things, but the difference is that writing energises me, while reading and films lull me. I can’t sleep unless I read, but I can’t sleep if I’m writing.
Anyway, enough about me. The third item in this list is the real key when facing the ‘I want to write something else’ problem. You see, I could create and escape without writing. I could create at my piano or satisfy that desire by learning something new (like fishing!). I could escape by going back through all eight seasons of 24 or reading my way through the entire set of Pratchett’s Discworld novels. But I couldn’t entertain and give others a means of escape by doing so. Only writing fulfils this third desire.
And if I never finish anything, I’ll never fulfil that desire.
Which would effectively render my purpose in writing obsolete. Now, I’m not going to fool myself into thinking that hundreds of people are going to read my books. But that’s not the point. If I complete this novel, even if only a handful of people read it, it will be fulfilling that desire. And so I MUST finish it.
So, even though it’s hard work to pursue writing No Time To Stand And Stare when I have other things I want to write, I have to ignore that ‘want’ if I am to fulfil my real ‘need’.
All that to say… gotta keep on writing! Currently working on chapter 9. Chapter 8, ‘Long Odds’, can be found here: Draft Chapter 8