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Thursday, 11 June 2015

Writerly Frustrations and the Wooden Box

Last weekend I lost the will to live. This was mainly because, yet again, I didn’t have time to write my novel. A house full of people with conflicting needs – a recovering relative (bless him), a stressed A’Level student (bless her), a late-sermon writer (bless it) – is not particularly conducive. To say nothing of thirty annual reports and certain paid writing jobs that have to take precedence.

So I did what I always do at such times. I went for a walk. And a pray. It was one of those blue and white days with birdsong and tree-sighing secrets in balmy air. It was also the Infant School Dino-tastic Summer Fair so I kept passing Flintstone-like children clutching paper cones filled with sweets or tiny plastic animals. The sight of their sticky faces made me wistful – they have their whole lives ahead of them to write novels, build sky-scrapers or dig to Australia (you can tell the kind of mood). I reminded God about the novel-thing and the fact that I'd thought writing had been something he wanted me to do, and that, not being rude or anything, he seemed to have overlooked this one fact – I needed time to actually write it. Also the more time I have, the less money I earn, and we actually need to live too. So what was this gift for exactly?

As always I had my phone with me in case I wanted to take photos. I like to snap images that take my fancy. Even in suburbia there is beauty – trees, poppies, a flower pushing through paving. The first thing that caught my eye was a pattern of light and shade on the road. I took a photo, and as I walked through it, although I heard the question, “What would you write?” I didn’t need to think about the words. They were already floating in my head.  


The road ahead frilled with light and shade.

It occurred to me that my main character does quite a lot of driving. It's a link with her past and it symbolises her search for something stable, something permanent in her life.

The road snaked through trees, frilled with light and shade. Like her life really. After all she'd been through - losing a child, finding another, then losing her too - there were still moments of pleasure slicing through darkness. Life, with all its bleakness and uncertainty, still seemed paradoxically, to allow it, this bubbling up... of contentment, of hope.
    

My walks always involve the graveyard. It never fails, weirdly, to cheer me up. Maybe because however bad things get,I'm not in it yet, and also because it's so peaceful there. I pass this impressive grave guarded by a stone angel and wonder what it's like to sleep at her feet. 
My main character, Daisy, travels back to London to visit her daughter's grave. This could be it.

To her dismay, the angel, whose smooth face and folded wings had oozed protection and peace, was now looking battered. Once her eyes had been open and tender as they gazed down at the child in the earth. Now they looked empty. And her nose was chipped. Daisy slumped down at the graveside. Somehow she should have stopped this happening. It seemed that not only had she let her daughter down in life, but also in death. This was surely a maternal fail beyond belief.


My final stop was at the church. I had to check the rota for something. I let myself in quietly not wanting to fracture the silence. I checked the noticeboard then sat for a while on the back row.

She knew, had always known, that however bad things got, there was this place to run to. This thin place, safe as a womb. She saw the simple cross, the box marked "Gifts". And once again, slowly, deliberately, she put hers in the box.

How do you cope with the frustration of not writing?


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Deborah Jenkins is a primary school teacher and freelance writer who has written articles, devotional notes and short stories. She has recently completed a novella, The Evenness of Things, available as an Amazon e-book and is currently working on a full length novel.. Deborah loves hats, trees and small children. After years overseas with her family, she now lives in south-west London with her husband, a Baptist minister, and a cat called Oliver.






15 comments:

  1. I suspect that frustration is an inevitable result of being a writer. Even when if I finally find time to write, I sometimes find that the words just won't flow, that I'm too tired or distracted to translate the vision to the page.

    But then again - sometimes it does all come together, and something comes out of me and becomes alive in the words and the pictures and the concepts that fill the screen (or page!) in front of me, and there's a thrill that goes right through me because I've created something that wasn't there before.

    That's what keeps me coming back to it, in spite of the frustration.

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    1. That is so true. I'll never forget my Needlework teacher (yes it was called Needlework then!) saying that she got a thrill every time she had a piece of new material in front of her because of the possibility of making something out of nothing. I did NOT get that thrill - mostly I was terrified I would sew the thing to my skirt again. But I so get that feeling when I click on Microsoft Word, Open, New. Weird, isn't it? GOod job we are all turned on by different things I guess...

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  2. The novel's looking good, by the way! Love that phrase 'frilled with light and shade'!

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  3. Lovely to read, as always. Your walk obviously did reap benefits! I think my problem with finding 'time to write' is that I've convinced myself I need big blacks of time such as a week (or six). So, even if I have a couple of hours spare, I dismiss it. This, I realise, is a mistake!

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    1. Fran, I've started doing a bit of writing in the odd ten minutes between arriving at work and starting work. It's only a paragraph - but it's writing, and it helps to keep the frustration under control. (Otherwise I turn green and my cloths split).

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    2. I'm the same Fran but I'm trying not to be - hence the "writing in my head while walking" thing.

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    3. Paul I hope I get to see you turn green one day :) You are an inspiration re writing for a few minutes each day. Fran and I couldn't do it at work though as we are teachers and have to hit the ground running at 7.30 each day or we wouldn't get it all done. But after school perhaps for a few minutes - there's a thought...

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    4. You wouldn't like when I'm green, Deborah! (I don't like me when I'm green!).

      Re. the few minutes writing - what helped me with this was getting a small tablet PC - well, actually a Kindle Fire, but that's close enough for this purpose - and putting a word processing app on it. It's not ideal for writing a novel on (though I've got to over 40,000 words on my WIP!) but for adding a few paragraphs to a chapter or a short story when there's an odd 15 minutes to spare, it works well. And when I'm in WiFi range I can upload it to a cloud site, then download it to my laptop for more work.

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    5. Oh yes I also do that - why do we think we need so much time when God can speak to us, lead us and inspire us in the space of a walk - just need to listen and grab a pen - really encouraging post and comments :)

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    6. Thanks Tania. I think it's all in the mindset. We try to operate like we do in other spheres of life - putting aside time, which is important of course. But sometimes we have to seize the moment...and listen. That's when we might hear the unexpected...

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  4. I loved all the little extracts you put in hopefully going into you book from the distractions within your day, so beautifully crafted so we could see the scene and identify with it. So you were still writing, but in your head!! I get distracted although still writing, blogs, letters, emails, everything but my fourth book!

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    1. I do that too Ruth, but with me it's mostly school work...I'm reducing my days next year (scary but exciting) to try and put aside more time for writing. So I will need to find other distractions then. Thanks for your encouraging comments and good luck with that fourth book :)

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  5. Thanks, Deborah, I like the idea of you going for a walk and allowing the things you see to become part of your WIP. I spend a lot of time driving between schools for my job, so I've sometimes tried having a conversation with my main character while I'm driving around. Sometimes it's been helpful, but other times my head's just too full of work stuff. Sigh!

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    1. That's a great idea! I will think of you doing that Fiona. I hope you watch the road though. Otherwise no one will benefit from your conversations ;)

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