Posted in Of Writingly

Of Writing, Getting Ideas and Following Through

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Writing

When things are going well, I can’t write fast enough to keep up with my mind. Writing walks, speech runs and talk flies. Other times, though, it’s like fishing. – Dylan Moran

I always knew learning to fish was an important skill. Most people typically see it as relaxation, a hobby, or something to do while on holiday. You don’t mind the hours till you catch something, because that is the whole point of a hobby – you are allowed to be terrible at it. On the other hand, for those who have to make a living off it, i.e. fishermen, selling their catch daily to fishmongers who, to further quote Dylan Moran, must go about “fishmonging” to complete the linear chain with what ends up on (some of) your dinner plates, it isn’t relaxation. Being good means getting the best, the fastest, in the most possible quantity. There’s a movie to be made here, and I’m sure I’ve heard more than enough stories when I’ve had to go at, beside or near the mongers’. It’s tough.

You might think that was an overblown metaphor for writing, that was merely expanding on what a genius has already stated, and you are right. But, you see, I used to see writing as fishing too, though more unimaginatively. I always thought that when low on inspiration, it was simply pulling chits of paper out of a hat until something makes sense enough to add to what’s going on. Usually, since I don’t often find myself scant of ideas, I let them simmer in my head until they are somewhat ready to be tried out on a word processor. Many wither away or even vanish, which is why in the past year I’ve adopted a pocket journal to write things down when I hit upon something. It is reassuring, because I have loads of ideas sitting there still waiting to be worked on, which might make the fishing process easier, now that I know what to look for.

I know this is not something wannabe writers often admit to, but I’ll just say it while I still have the courage: people don’t think you’re a real writer, even a bad one, unless you’ve written a book, especially a novel. They want you to have solid proof that you sat by the riverbank day after day, from dawn to dusk, looking for the same species, until you have gained especial expertise. I think that’s what most of us who desperately want to be writers suffer from – a scattered attention span that is caught up with the many other species of fish. Oh look, a Pomfret! There, a Trout! Oh look, a Poem! There, a Paragraph!

I don’t remember who it was, but a writer said, and I paraphrase, he gave up blogging when he realised one blog post per week = 52 posts in a year = might as well be a book people pay to read. I am too much of a blog snob to use that logic, at least for now, but I see his point. A blog is a scattered writer’s soulmate – having a platform to test drive all the ideas you get, following through them until they are more or less shipshape, and sending them out into the ether, hopefully to be greeted by likes and comments. There are two plus sides to this: one, you get more ideas, because you have a place to try them out, and two, you’re not alone in your creative process, because you often get feedback on if it works.

When things are going well, I too can’t write fast enough to keep up with what I’m thinking. What is classic in the case of making things – they always look better in your head. The balance is never right, either your mind is too slow and there is only one fishing rod for the surprising amount of fish around, or you’re back to normal, writing/fishing like it’s a hobby, though you aren’t having as much of a chill time as the hobbyist.

Writing is great, an absolute privilege, but it is dull and frustrating too. There are tons of articles and books on finding inspiration and following through that don’t solve the problem for you (like this half-deceptively titled essay). But, I suppose, you just have to get more used to the idea of being fishermen, always in the right time and place, no matter how many they can catch. Survival has always been the easiest drive to do something.

How do you follow through?

Author:

Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

12 thoughts on “Of Writing, Getting Ideas and Following Through

    1. Ha ha, thank you! Actually, I’ve surprisingly been on a roll this week. Except for the essay I posted on Monday, the other three posts have all been spontaneous ideas – they came to me, I wrote them down, I put them up, all in the span of an hour. I haven’t written and posted so many essays in a week in a long time! I’d say, if inspiration hits you, might as well go along with it the whole way.

  1. My following through involves taking a wide view. There are ebbs and flows in most things in life. In writing, that means I’ll sometimes write a little and others a lot. It’s all OK, and that OKness is enhanced by my not fretting.

    I’m glad I published a book. I’m glad I’ve written others I might or might not someday edit. Ultimately, my satisfaction in having done the book thing is having had the experience and learned from it. One of the biggest things I learned was that I simply like blogging better. That’s where I really find my connection to something bigger through words.

    1. But, that’s just because you are so good at blogging, Debbie! I like how focused your posts are, even if they often take you on a journey. Ultimately, blogging is like conversing, and being a conversationalist means being able to tell a good story, even if there isn’t always an obvious story. You certainly do that!

  2. Really liked this post because it speaks to where I started off with blogging and where I am now, and there is a big change between the two. The broader point about writing a book is valid on many levels. I fear that the nature of my blog as it stands now will not benefit from being worked into a book. Its tough for purely a reader to understand my words without the song attached to it. But, I did a couple of fiction prompts last year that I got a good response to, and as I mentioned to you the other day, I have a research project in mind that may lead to a book down the road. Maybe, if the evidence for my topic is really there.

    But where I am now from when I started as a blogger is similar to you. I always keep a notebook with me and past blogs have definitely sprung to life as a result of one idea, or sometimes even one single word underlined in my notebook! In fact, my newest blog One Hit Photos came as a result of a post I made on a Facebook tribute page for a group just before Christmas. The words came out without any great thought on my part but once I saw them on screen I just thought…oooh! That’s a blog idea right there. Sometimes I struggle in knowing that the idea is there as I jotted it down, but remains elusive as to how to work it through, which I suppose is the dilemma for every writer. I just finished reading a novel where the character was a writer himself and had kind of a JK Rowling coffee shop moment of aha! I have had blogs that have written themselves because they were more stream of consciousness, but I have had others where every word is a struggle. I just have to stick with the idea though and the reason I am writing any given blog. Which in a way is my own type of follow through.

    1. Thank you for sharing your process! Inspiration can come from anywhere, you just have to be ready to see it, eh? I’ve had this idea “simmering” in my head for a post, but part of the reason why I consider myself a blog snob is because there is potential to this form that just isn’t translateable to other existing, more traditional forms of literature, art etc. There is already a sizeable amount of experimental “digital” literature being made, and I am sure that must be true for other art forms. But, even for a 100% text blog like mine, there are elements that don’t translate to traditional book-writing. Believe me, I have tried with that book I was writing a while ago! First of all, this is an evolving form, whereas a book or even a magazine is locked in time. Next, there is a lot of reference, not just to current events, but anything at all that maybe relevant to the blog post. Most of all, because it is free, you can draw in external forms of inspiration, like a recording of music or a quote, that you would otherwise have had to pay for. The thing is, most people think blogging is easy, lazy “making”, and it can be that, but it can also be a carefully wrought thing, that brings together ideas that would not have been possible on other platforms.

      Let me use your blog as a case in point. It is a very clear concept – Soundtrack of a Photograph, where you use your photography, biographical material and connect them with a piece of music and its lyrics to blend into an overall theme. While transferring this to a book form would prove immensely costly, though it is doable of course, the very fact that you get to do it as a blog means that you are able to let it evolve, gather readers who are interested in either or both, and test out different ideas. It doesn’t pay, but it still is something that stands on its own right.

      1. Precisely on all that you just said you are correct! On the one hand I like the idea of a digital media work. But as you say, to legitimize it and get it ‘published’ properly I would have to get permissions to recreate lyrics and songs. I would also have to legitimize and copyright my own photographs properly. All costly things, whereas with a blog, I can manage all these things. I always give credit to the songwriter in my blog and thus far, no one has asked me to take anything down or alter it in anyway. Considering that most of the artists I have written about have given it a thumbs up I know I don’t have to worry. Should I go a proper book route that would definitely change.

        I understand why some would consider blogging to be lazy, and I have seen some that perhaps qualify in that category. You are definitely correct that it is a platform that allows for different, disparate ideas to come together. As I have gotten in deeper to the blogging world, both reading and writing them, I think that is my favorite aspect.

  3. Great post. Blogging has helped me put a few book-length things together. It has not helped me finish them/market them. I think of blogs as sketchbooks/scrapbooks, which can be very useful for writers. At least they force one to write consistently and constantly. They do not replace the role of editing, producing a “fish” and getting it off to a publisher. Sadly. That would be awesome if they did. Sometimes work keeps one too busy for the final steps that could actually lead to fish.

    1. Wonderfully said! And I feel exactly the same. I certainly wish there was an editor, if not an agent, a publisher, a marketing and social media team! I think scrapbook is a wonderful analogy! I wrote a manuscript for a book of essays based on my blog, but I’m yet to edit them, let alone publish. I think it is more of a way of promoting your evolving blog than validating yourself just because you managed to make a book out of it.

  4. Hello Amrita,
    thank you for the metaphor of fishing for thoughts and words. For dinner, I had fish tonight and found it delicate. It could be a writing experiment, how it felt to move like a fish. I imagine the movement, the environment. Also, the perspective of the fisherman is quite inspiring. The shore, the boat, the net, not to talk about the fisherman’s friends.
    Let’s keep on fishing
    Bernd

  5. What Dylan Moran said reminds me of myself in this way: I frequently start out with a bit of writer’s block, Playing with things this way and that way — with plenty of distraction checking my email, The New York Times, Facebook, Twitter… But at some point it’s like something catches — everything starts flowing and I often can’t write fast enough to catch up with the words! I think that’s why I do most of my writing in the evening. It’s not until then that I’m really into the flow.

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