19th October 2012
Colarado days like this one are called Blue Bird days with skies so blue, like a child took the bluest crayon and coloured it in thick and deep. You could lie on your back in the grass and look into a blue like this, broken only by the lazy flap of a raven, until you're abducted, not by aliens but by the sky. Snow has been creeping from the tops of the far peaks down the slopes, a little more each night, telling us we will wake one morning soon and find its footprints on the stark trees, on the wall that I put together round stone upon round stone, two sides coming together to lean upon each other and call themselves one wall, a Scottish wall under blue skies, shifting uneasily, robbed of its moss and lichen.
Last week I was about to embark on a few tips for aspiring writers, but I got waylaid in talking about why writing is a craft and why some writers are craftier than others.
Here are a couple of tips:
(1) FORGET THE AUDIENCE. I know you wouldn't be writing anything down at all if you weren't thinking some one else would read this some day (some writers are very dishonest about this fact.) So, acknowledge them, then turn out the theatre lights and go to your writing desk. The greatest hindrance to writing is the editor parrot perched on your shoulder. Just like you wouldn't invite anyone into your dressing room to watch you undress, keep those same people out of your writing space. You don't want to know what they think of your last sentence or your writing project. When I was co-chair of a writer's group, we'd often have people come in and read the one chapter they had written and then ask if anyone thought they should carry on with the project. That is not only listening to your editing parrot, but raising him to king. Shoo him off! The reason for your writing has to come from deep inside, not any place that ever sees the sun, or a Colorado blue sky, and especially not the opinion of others. You write because you can do no other. If there is any other reason, then maybe you should find a different outlet for your creative urge. Which takes me to Advice Number Two.
(2) FORGET THE FAME AND MONEY: The fame part is harder to let go of than the money, just because we really do write to be heard. Now, I know it happens now and agin that a writer strikes rich with half a book completed (like "Clan of the Cave Bears," for instance.) It happens, but not that often. If you're after riches, there are far straighter roads to that particular goal. I've yet to make any significant money from writing, and it has always been my sense that fame and riches could actually undermine the writing process. It was my goal from early on to have a collection of books before any one of mine was published, because I didn't want to end up a JD Salinger, a one-hit wonder (he still qualifies as that, even though he wrote other things.) I could see the danger of the success of a first novel and the pressures that are brought to bear on that author. So, I wrote a collection of five unrelated novels, and at that point felt able to start sending them out. To date I have about eight novel, which I think gives me a nice cushion for Blue Bird days and doing nothing but getting lost in the sky.
Next week's blog and the following one will be sent out from Scotland, home of my birth. I plan to make a mad dash down to the Emily Bronte Museum in Yorkshire, then back up to Alloway to the Robert Burns Museum, and finally to the Writer's Museum in Edinburgh.
I have many more writing tips, too, which I will get round to by and by.