A good day to write

It’s cold and wet this morning, the wind gusts are polar, the sky low and grey. It’s almost the ideal day to be in lockdown as, even if you could, you wouldn’t choose to stray far from home. It’s the sort of day, in fact, I would wish I could stay home, cosy and warm, on those occasions when I would have to head out into it instead and to work.

A lot of people complain of weather like this. I like it. It has character. I like how dynamic it is, as if there is a tempestuous personality ruling it. I like the cold and the chance to dress up warm, I like the sound of the wind as it comes and goes, like waves on a shore, and I like the shadings of rain as it falls, sometimes heavy, sometimes light, and sometimes easing off altogether. Though it likely depresses many, to need lights on during the day adds an atmosphere absent otherwise. It’s dim outside, the quality of light shifting, but never bright, as if we’re enclosed within it. Right now I sit here, lights off, but lit by the glow of the screen.

Of course, it’s different if you have to be out in it. It’s truly miserable then.

As this is my designated day off, I’m free to make the most of it. I could lay on the couch and watch Netflix. I could crank the heater up and read through the day. I could even go back to bed, fully clothed, as I have on occasion. What I’ll do likely is perhaps a little of some of that, plus my usual cooking – a chicken curry today – and perhaps, if I can, will write a little. (I do have a single 30 minute VC I have to attend for work).

I got out of the habit of writing when I finished the last draft of my first book nearly two months ago. I took a break from it because I deserved it. I’d written almost every weekend for the three years previous to that. When I returned to writing after a few weeks of ordinary life, it didn’t gel for me. I’d picked out some old stories, hoping to revamp them. It was hard work, and after a while, I set them aside. Then the whole pandemic thing hit the fan, and I was working weekends to deal with that. The only writing I produced was for these pages.

Over the last few weeks, I tried again, this time returning to the second novel and the second draft of that. In the time since I’d set it aside, some firm ideas had emerged of the changes I wanted to make. That’s the point of setting it aside, to get some distance from it. Clarity of a sort emerges. You see the bones and observe the fat. You come to know – or so you believe – what is necessary, and what isn’t. And you return to what the story is about, which is more than just words.

I knew all of that, but when I sat down to write, I was uninspired. I know how to write, but what was lacking was the flow that makes for easy reading, and that’s because I was confused at how best to represent it. To a degree, I had over-thought it. The best stuff comes naturally, organically. You know it in yourself, and so the writing comes easily and barely considered. It contains a natural liveliness because it comes true from you.

It’s taken me a few weeks to get to that point – hopefully. I’ve found I’ve got to live with the idea of writing again to make it right, and not just launch into it. I had set myself to write again, but rather than rushing it what I needed to do was to become acquainted with the story again in my middle, and to let it breathe. Gradually, I found it returning to me in snippets. I’d be reading something or listening to music, and a scene would come to me. Likely it’s a scene I’ve already written but know it isn’t right. But now, emerging from my deep insides, is an insight my conscious mind knew nothing of until I type it out. Gradually these little snippets coalesce into a theme, and then you know you’re ready – I hope.

What I’m after are authenticity and truth. It’s fiction, but it has to be true fiction, and the characters, the personalities, the things they do, authentic. These are things you know in your stomach, both as writer and reader, but it’s a lot harder to produce than that it sounds. I guess it’s not meant to be easy, and it isn’t. It’s a good day to write, though.

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