Thursday, September 7, 2017

Attack the Block

Yes, yes, it’s coming. The new book will be along soon-ish. Just keep—or start—watching this space. Okay, now that’s out of the way…

I recently came across one of the best quotes about writing that I have read in a long time. It was said by American novelist Richard Bausch, whose books include Take Me Back, The Last Good Time, Hello to the Cannibals, and Peace. His words were quoted second-hand by another novelist, Devin Murphy, in an interview about his debut novel The Boat Runner, which is out this month. Though Murphy’s name sounds as though he should be from Cork, but he actually hails originally from upstate New York and currently teaches at a university in Illinois. His novel is inspired by his Dutch grandfather’s experiences during World War II. I am hoping to get time to read it one of these days.

Anyway, here is Bausch’s writing advice, which was delivered to a room of other writers: “When you’re stuck, lower your standards and keep going.”

Now that is brilliant. It is simple, to-the-point, and in fact has basically been my own personal philosophy for as long as I can remember. In fact, I have even taken it a step further. In my case, I lower my standards and keep going even when I am not stuck.

I am only half-joking. Yes, life would be easier if everything I wrote was perfect—or at least really, really good—at the moment it was first entered on the keyboard, but the practicality is that it is often easier to go back to fix and improve later than to interrupt the creative flow or, worse, get discouraged. Yes, that makes more work—something that is all too apparent to me at present as I try, with help, to get my latest in some sort of shape so that I am not completely embarrassed. If I write something bad, at least there is the possibility of making it better later. If do not manage to write anything, then there is nothing.

I have read other writers’ accounts of their struggles with writer’s block and consider myself blessed. I have no memories of ever being paralyzed by the blank page (or blank screen). Eons ago in school, I may have fretted over selecting a topic for an essay or story, but on the whole my problem has always been the reverse of writer’s block. I have too many ideas for things to write, and the dilemma is always to settle on which one to go with next—whether it is the next chapter or the next book. Actually, even choosing what to write next is less a problem than just finding enough time for writing, as well as for doing all the other non-writing things I want or need to be doing.

It is definitely not the worst problem to have.

As I say, watch this space for proximate information on the new book…

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