Friday, March 27, 2009

On writing fiction

I have been a Bad Blogger. For so many reasons, which I won't bother to go into. But right now, it's because I'm trying my hand at writing fiction. It's something I used to do all the time as a child - from the ages of four to about 19. When I turned 20, and got a job with a publisher, it all dried up.

I know there's a connection there, but not sure exactly what it is. Seeing other people's good work and feeling inadequate? Seeing other people's bad work that they think is good and feeling worried I could be one of them? Distracted by being in a job I was passionate about, which took up all my headspace? Seeing more clearly what was not good about my own work, and being disillusioned? A bit of all these things, I think.

I can't say I'm a big fan of the 'you're only a writer if you feel you must write, if it all pours out of you' school. (Charles Bukowksi, I'm talking to you.) That concept is one thing that has put me off, I think. The subconscious (and quite ridiculous, I think) notion that if it's hard, you're not doing it right.

I still don't know if this is something I can do, or just something I've always thought I could do if I tried. But I figure that I can only find that out by giving it a proper go. So, I've been forcing myself to sit down with a notebook, or on the laptop, and just have a go. 'Write through the crap,' is my mantra. I'm not naturally good at that, because I do't like to produce bad work.

I'm really pleased so far, not because I'm producing great work, but because I've produced some work that I don't hate. That seems like a good start.

And I've decided, after much prevarication, to (probably) enrol in a creative writing course. Just for the discipline of it. And the workshopping. And because even while I do write professionally (and some have said I'm crazy, that I know how to write so why pay to be taught), I haven't written fiction for a really long time and I like the idea of regular feedback, of having someone to steer me as I go. I know how to write, but do I know creative writing? I'm not so sure.

Anyway, I do hope to get back to the blog too, because I miss the conversations with other bloggers. And blog-writing does 'pour out'. It is pure fun. And it's good practice: putting words down in print, playing with their sequence, and trying to make meaning out of them.


Kath Lockett said...

Welcome back - blogging is a good form of keeping 'fit' in terms of writing. It's a fairly forgiving format that is intellectually years ahead of emails and SMSes but allows you to post short, medium or long posts about anything just for the hell of it.

Best of luck with your course!

ThirdCat said...

write through the crap...snap! that's one of my mantras too.
don't stop blogging altogether, will you?

Penni said...

You know I'm your cheer squad. I love your writing, adore your blog voice, and can't wait to read some of your fiction.
Lovely to see a Jabberwocky post pop up on my Reader.
Ooh, let's do lunch! I am quite lunch available on Mons and Chewsdays at the mo.

Ariel said...

I KNEW I missed blogging ... and you all.

Kath, thanks for the encouragement for my 'exercise'.

TC, I'm so pleased that's your mantra too. I loved your recent posts on the writing process. And I won't if you won't ...

Penni, you're an ace cheer squad. And one of the people who (quite honestly) has helped give me the courage and impetus to try this. Love to do lunch - will email you.

genevieve said...

Have just heard that someone whose fiction I have been expecting to read for many years has been accepted at RMIT. So, go get 'em, A.
I'm sure you will go from strength to strength, you Almanackian, you.

Elsewhere007 said...

Just do it, with apologies to global capitalism, has been my motto. Get thru the rejections stage and it'll be worth it. Goodness, you show enough ability here.

Don't worry, everyone's been slack with the blogging of late.

vye said...

I wrote fiction with ease as a child. As an adult Aspergian with an interest in psychology, fictional orientations dried up after i decided I wanted to know more about real life first! Maybe some young writers can turn out accomplished fiction often if they are from literary families. Myself, although I tried fiction, it never took me very far. My essays were published and recorded instead. That felt safer. There are good bits & pieces in some of the fictions I kept & have some encouragement at last. I love to read fiction. I learn so much about real life and the music of language these days. Go for it. You already write so well. It's all basic storytelling, I guess! Lavina

Helen said...

Great to see you're back!


Watershedd said...

Welcome back and happy writing. I had to pull the pin on my studies when it became apparent that I just couldn't work full time in shift work, exercise, maintain a home and have a social life without winding up sick every 6 weeks. I enjoyed the course, but it's was just so much work for someone from the defined world of science. Arts is so much less well defined! Perhaps I'll get back to it again some day. for now, my writing is purely academic, with a view to a text!

Damon said...

I tinkered with fiction for years. It never quite came together. It was clumsy, meandering and tepid.

But after I finished Distraction, it just poured out. And it worked - not brilliantly, but enough.

I haven't quite figured out why, but I think it was a combination of:

- the discipline of writing a large work;

- the need for an alternative to non-fiction;

- the influence of Henry James (confidence, focus and concern for the nuance of the psyche);

- the input of interested, informed, attentive friends.

(The first story was in Meanjin 67 4, earlier this year.)

Lou Swinn said...

This is awesome, awesome news, Jabberwock! really totally awesome. Let us know where you decide when you decide to enrol somewhere (so we can all join the class ;-)

Alby Mangroves said...

Well, at least you haven't been on Facebook.. AAARRRGH, I'm so sick of it, and hopefully everyone else is too! Well done.

R.H. said...

I think you're pretty good.

Ariel said...

Thanks again for the kind words of encouragement, all.

Lavina, I find your experience really interesting - do you think your dwindling desire to write fiction had anything to do with being an adult Aspergian? I have - as one myself (not sure if I'm come out of the closet here before or not but anyway) - wondered if it would hinder my ability to get inside the head of a fictional character unlike myself. To properly inhabit another person's way of thinking.

Watershed, what you werre doing sounded a bit superhuman. If I study I think I will lose the little social life I have.

Damon, so that's what I should do? Write a full-length non-fiction book first ... (Joke) Having her first fiction published in Meanjin is pretty damn good.

Ah, Lou, I very much suspect you TEACH the classes! (Or could, if you don't.) I'm thinking about RMIT, which seems to be The One.

Damon said...

Yes, not really helpful advice, I grant.

And I forgot this: the first story sprang from an intense longing for the company of the characters. It was a seance, of sorts - unfinished business after Distraction.