Wednesday 25 January 2012

Quickening the eye.

I found the bits of story that I thought I'd use for my third chapbook and made the mistake of reading them. They're not bad, exactly, but they have muddled up my thoughts. I remembered the story idea back in the Autumn and thought it was a goer - but I only remembered the idea and the place where I sat in a park in Norwich where I wrote it (in one of those old-fashioned notebooks). So coming to read it now, I notice far too much of myself and a lot of clumsy writing. I will have to side-step that reading and start again. 

I hope the idea is still a goer....

Someone asked me at the weekend if I believe in "writer's block." I said rather self-righteously that I thought it was just laziness. What I meant was that in my case it is just laziness - I don't know about other people. If I haven't written for a while, I make excuses and then when about two months have passed I have a massive worry and start writing something. It's not a water-tight method (it's not any kind of method) - but it seems to happen that way.

Looking back at old work/ideas can be very odd. Sometimes you look back and don't recognise the work at all (often that is the good stuff). Sometimes you look back and see your former self elbowing in through the page (like the example above). Sometimes you are astonished by how clever you were (note past tense) and sometimes how excruciatingly stupid (often). 

I read a long time ago that you have to write everyday to get better at it (see writer's block above). I don't write fiction everyday - I am too lazy. But I do read a lot and I like writing letters and sometimes this blog. I didn't understand about practising until I started to learn how to draw. It is amazing how rubbish you can get at drawing if you take a break from it. Your eye literally slows down and your pencil doesn't know where to go. I realise by looking back at old essays (more than stories) that I could tackle quite complicated things then because I was reading and writing and practising all the time. My eye has slowed down since I was at university. But the good news is that I can speed it up by reading and writing, by sharpening my pencil and dusting off my books. 

He won't mind me mentioning this, I hope, but a former university tutor of mine (and now, friend) once leant me his copy of Mystery and Manners by Flannery O'Connor. He handed it to me and said that a former tutor of his had leant it to him previously - I felt very important. The beautiful book, of which I now have my own copy, has been a great resource over the years and helps me to speed my eye up for writing and thinking. Andrew Tate's own book, Douglas Coupland, has also quickened up my eye and made me want to jump back into the world of lectures and tutorials a few times (needless to say, I am a Coupland fan). This feeling of eye-quickening is hard to explain, but it's magic.

Thanks, Andy.

So I will try to forget I read those bits of story from the UEA days and get out a fresh sheet of paper...

p.s. I just popped this on etsy - while I haven't been writing much, I have been sewing!


  1. Nice piece, Debbie! Nothing quickened the eye more for me than having children - you have so little time for yourself that you try to squeeze something fruitful out of every free nanosecond, and the pressure seems to make you more creative. Also, if you've given up work, you feel like you've fallen off the face of the planet and you become quite ruthless in trying to get recognition for your work/creativity back again!

  2. Hi Emma, thanks for your kind response. Yes, I can only imagine how being a parent must focus the mind. You seem to be doing a good job at keeping up with your creative work!