‘There is nothing to writing,’ Ernest Hemingway once said. ‘All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.’ I have to say, Ernest was right about one thing – I often tend to open up my laptop screen (someone get me a typewriter for Christmas?) and let the blood flow. The blood from the wounds that I inflict upon myself because I tediously sit there spitting out utter gobshite, delete most of it, cry and then reach for my fourth cup of tea. Ok, this may be a slight exaggeration – I don’t normally have four cups of tea – but nevertheless, the art of writing is without a doubt the most tumultuous relationship that exists in my life. My family are (mostly) a doddle, I never argue with my friends, I always try to get on with whoever crosses my path…writing, on the other hand, is the one entity with whom I have a major love-hate relationship. I’d say writing is the closest thing I’ll ever have to a husband (although maybe one day I’ll have both? Find out in the upcoming chapters of Rhiannon’s life, aka la vie de Rhi.) Writing is the love of my life but frequently infuriating. There are good days and bad days and sometimes I even consider forgetting about writing altogether – divorcing myself, as it were, from this once passionate love affair.
That’s probably a bit of an exaggeration – my passion for stories and words hasn’t waned over the years, so to speak, but it has definitely fluctuated, and this is down to a number of factors. Number one: I am a bit of a perfectionist, and this really tends to hinder any sort of progression when it comes to writing. I am my own biggest critic, and I don’t tend to take advantage of other peoples’ opinions and comments enough. Trust me, when you look at something so many times it can really seem to lose its value – this isn’t true though, and that’s why getting a fresh perspective is such a useful thing. Number two: because my writing skills have improved over the years I have become even more of a perfectionist, reprimanding myself for struggling because at this stage, surely I have no excuse? I’ve got an English Literature degree, just as Ian McEwan does, so the only thing there is to do now is…write. This brings me onto number 3: comparison. Oh, comparison, the thief of joy! In this day and age it is completely inevitable. There are more books out there, more articles, poems, blog posts, tweets and stories than ever before, and this reality, I believe, can often have a dampening effect on our aspirations and goals. It’s really sad, but I guess you just have to develop a thick skin, right? But I digress (typical writer stuff, there.) Writing is more than just stringing words together in a coherent manner. Anyone can do that (although some people I’ve come across have definitely tested that theory, ha.) It’s about so many things – flow, pacing, depth, effect…mostly, in my opinion, effect. Writing can make someone laugh or cry, can make someone fling a book away in disgust, can make someone so engrossed that they are physically unable to remove themselves from the words on the page, can bore someone to death. Writing also seems to be something of an achievable skill, something that anyone can learn. Magazines and newspapers advertise creative writing courses, courses for people who are interesting in ‘becoming a writer’. But, just with acting or art, is writing really something that anyone can learn, or do you have to have a bit of raw talent to go far? I’ll leave you to mull over that, just as I will – the next time I’m at my laptop, my eyebrows furrowed, trying to remember who it was that actually said I had a gift (or if that actually happened in the first place.) I think I’m more inclined to side with Maya Angelou than Mr Hemingway. ‘There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you,’ she said. The agony for me is trying to get that story out, trying to put it in such a way that is interesting, evocative, emotional, funny, thought-provoking. I need to stop writing a paragraph and then editing that paragraph for two consecutive hours. I need to stop thinking about whether I’ve written enough about a certain event in my story, or if I’ve used the best words, or put things in the best order. What I need to focus on is actually pouring out what I want to say onto the page – in all its unruly, convoluted glory. Sometimes my motivation is seriously low and I stop to ask myself why I’m writing – no-one forced me to, after all. But that’s the beauty of it. When I finally manage to put together something that I’m proud of, be it a blog post, novel chapter or even a paragraph, I get that warm, fuzzy feeling inside my chest. I have literally plucked something from my imagination and enthusiastically spilt it onto a page. I keep pushing forward, with no-one helping myself but me, and produce more, more, more, no matter how slowly. It’s not something I necessarily ought to do, and sometimes it’s not what I want to do. But it’s something I have to do.