PROCRASTINATING?

A clean house is a sign of a wasted life

Not my house.

Should you be doing something else right now?

Is there something you could be writing?

Writers need to be extremely disciplined to be able to work consistently and diligently at home, or in the coffee shop, with or without any external deadlines.

There are times when cleaning the kitchen cupboards or even the toilet seems more important. Children, friends in need, paid work and the ever-present lure of checking emails (just in case a publisher has offered you a contract) and surfing the net are constant distractions.

But, if you want to get your own writing done you have to learn to ignore or at least postpone these other tasks. Screaming toddlers won’t wait, but the washing basket will. Look the other way and put your writing on the top of your list of things to do. And if you’re in danger of being sucked into the web and getting stuck squirming there for hours then DISCONNECT your modem or bribe yourself with the promise of doing all that later, after you’ve done an hour of your own work.

In an interview in the Paris Review, Ernest Hemingway said that creating a work of lasting value is a full-time job. FULL TIME people. It’s not something you can squeeze in after you’ve done everything else, after you’ve checked your emails and responded to every funny remark on facebook. If you want to write you have to give yourself the time to write. You have to be able to focus on what you’re doing and focus in deeply with ALL your attention, not part of it, interrupting every now and then to see if that email has arrived.

It’s not easy to keep your focus, especially on days when the writing isn’t coming easily, but it’s worth it. The emails will still be there waiting. The blogs will wait another hour or so. Your facebook friends can cope if you don’t answer immediately.

Put your own writing on the top of the list.

Oh, but thanks for procrastinating long enough to read this!

Good luck with your writing.

Edwina

WHO’S ON YOUR SUPPORT TEAM?

Like most writers I swing between ridiculous delusions of grandeur and the depths of morose self-loathing. A publication starts an upswing, followed by a terrible downturn when yet another rejection follows hot on its heels. In order to help keep me on an even keel I need a strong support team.

I have my writing friends, my husband and family, and they all help a lot. But it was only when I discovered a team of supportive writer ghosts that I felt as if my gang was tough enough to weather all storms.

Especially with Old Uncle Ernie (Ernest Hemingway to you) at the helm. I’d always admired his writing, if not his machismo and despair, but while I was studying my masters degree I read an enormous volume of his collected letters and fell in love with him as a mentor. I loved the way he complained about chest colds and bottom issues. His letters made him very real, and he was kind and warm and funny and had lots of good advice about the writing life. I also liked him because when one of his grandchildren was born and Edwina was forwarded as a name he said it was a good one. I found a photograph of him in his boxing gear and used it to protect me the evening I first presented my work to my masters workshop group. Since then he has been my protector. He’s smiling at me now, all hairy chest and bushy beard, from the picture that still hangs on my wall.

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway, my champion.

He’s team captain. Since then, I’ve added lots of other favourite authors. A big gang from the American south, Steinbeck and Faulkner and Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote. Walt Whitman turned up and he and Ernie came to blows over who exactly was captain of my ship. Ernie won. I don’t think Walt was much of a boxer. Thoreau, D.H. Lawrence, Thomas Hardy, Chaucer, Shakespeare – no ghost was too big to join my team.

And the women? Tove Jansen – my beloved creator of the Moomins, pipe smoker, trench coat wearer, adventurer. Josephine Ulrick because she too smoked a pipe and is a great supporter of emerging writers. She and Tove get on like a house on fire. Jane Austen of course (she’s much in demand) the Brontes, Willa Cather, Olga Masters, Katherine Susannah Pritchard,Thea Astley, Miles Franklin, Henry Handel Richardsen, George Eliot, Margaret Mitchell, even Barbara Cartland. 

You should’ve seen the fuss when she turned up. Ernie and the other fellows were about to blow their stacks till I pointed out just how many books she’d written and how well they’d sold. Not only that – she’d done it all while looking glamorous and reclining on a couch! She stayed. I’d like to add Susan Johnson, Helen Garner. Tim Winton and Margaret Attwood but they’re still alive!

The team is growing all the time, but Ernie remains my champion. Every morning I check in with him. When I’ve been procrastinating or busying myself with other work besides my writing, Ernie gets grouchy, tut tuts and taps his foot. On days when I’ve been working hard he grins and punches the air with glee.

The other day he said “You’re on your way now, girl.”

I hope he’s right. He  isn’t always but it’s good to know he’s on my team, along with all the others.

Of course it may be, and probably all is, my imagination. But hey, I’m a  writer of fiction – I live in my imagination.  My characters are real to me and so is my support team. What’s more, they keep my spirits up as the publishing world seems to be swirling down the gurgler.

So, who’s on your support team?

I’d love to know. (Oh and I’m happy to share. these guys are like Gods – omnipotent)

Love to you all,

Edwina

STUCK IN THE MIDDLE

Writing a novel is a marathon of a task. As John le Carre says “every novel is an impossible mountain.”

What seemed like a fabulous idea at the time it arrived and the feverish outline was plotted, pales significantly around the middle. It’s then you have to grit your teeth and just keep on writing, a little every day, ploughing your way towards the finish line for as long as it takes.

My favourite African writer Chinua Achebe (check out his wonderful book Things Fall Apart) puts it like this. “For me there are three reasons for becoming a writer. The first is that you have an overwhelming urge to tell a story. The second, that you have intimations of a unique story waiting to come out. And the third, which you learn in the process of becoming, is that you consider the whole project worth the considerable trouble – I have sometimes called it terms of imprisonment – you will have to endure to bring it to fruition.”

That’s where faith in the project and faith in yourself as a writer come in very handy. It helps to have a cheering squad of supporters too, driving along behind you with water and supplies in the form of praise and encouragement. But most of all you’ve got to keep cheering yourself on, something I’m sure every long distance runner knows. We writers too must “break through the pain barrier” and keep on striding forward even when the finishing line is out of sight and the excitement of the start has long been forgotten.

In the words of Ernest Hemingway, or good old Uncle Ernie as I like to call him,

“There is only one thing to do with a novel and that is to go straight on through to the end of the damn thing.”

And so I’ll keep on putting one foot in front of the other. Thanks Ernie.