For someone who loves to write as much as I do, I don’t do that much of it.
I am a bit of a thwarted artist – entirely self-imposed I suspect, but I have a history of starting to write books, then losing interest and dropping them like Miley Cyrus on the boyfriend scene. Recently, I’ve felt the burning (no trip to a Gyno required, but thanks) to get back into it, to get creative. I have an idea with legs for a dark-spec/science fiction/urban fantasy story and I’m all hot for it.
I like working in HR, but it’s not very creative. The way you relate to employees is often trapped in legislation, or if, like me, you work in remuneration, you are bent over a desk modelling salaries. I get people commenting, “Why would you want to work in the squinty part of HR when you can write” but the two aren’t mutually exclusive. If I had to make a choice, I would choose a pen and blank piece of paper over a spreadsheet, but that’s part of my problem. I’m interested in everything. I’m a friend to everybody and nobody. My brain splits itself into fragments, dichotomies – introvert/extrovert, mother/employee, blogging with humour/fiction writing with darkness, maths/literature, gym/couch – god, no wonder I had an aneurysm.
Ali Tait (guru of both blogging and novel writing) recently introduced me to the concept of the “authorpreneur” – something I absolutely aspire to. But to get there, I have to overcome three obstacles. One is fundamentally part of my personality, one is a throwback to my childhood and one is the story-telling craft itself (and everyone knows I’m shit at craft).
The Diabolical Trinity of Thwarted Artistry.
I had always assumed it was my short attention span and huge interest in everything that triggered my not being able to finish anything, but it’s more complicated than that. I am self-conscious about my desire to write, something that stems from my childhood. In my early teens, my mum would tease me about writing the “Great Australian Novel”. She encouraged me to write, but was always commenting on it, drawing attention to it. She did it out of love and pride (and possibly for shits and giggles), but it had the opposite effect on me. I didn’t like to be seen writing.
Like all writers, I have areas I kick arse in and areas I’m a bit shit at. I can create wonderful characters and a sense of atmosphere, of place. I also have an alarming imagination, something I see in my eldest daughter as well. But where I drop the ball is in my understanding of how much of the plot to give away and how much to hold back. When I look at the genre I like to write, a cross between Stephen King and Margaret Atwood (whilst acknowledging that both could defecate all over my stories), there has to be suspense, there has to be mystery. I want the reader to make their own connections, to have emancipatory “Aha!” moments, so themes and messages can’t be delivered like an axe to the head, but they also can’t be so obtuse the reader wants to put their head in a toilet and flush it (although they may find some good Stephen King novels down there). It’s something I really struggle with, this balance, and it’s critical for me to get it right.
In the spirit of aiming high but starting small, I am entering the Lord Mayor’s Writing Competition in the short story category. I’ve not tried my hand at short-story writing before and it’s a different art, but my god, have I loved writing it. Even if my story gets tossed to the bottom of the Lord Mayor’s pile, it has been a remarkable exercise for me – being able to practise the craft in a short burst (although 3,000 words can very well be damned).
Next stop. Novel. Gulp. Start small. Aim High.
Retrieve imagination from the bottom of the toilet. Read some Stephen King novels down there.