Friday, August 23, 2013

How I write...

As I slow down a little, the fierce winds and rains enforcing time at home and slow sipping of tea with coughing, cabin-fevered kids, I'm taking stock and reflecting.
I've been thinking a lot about the way I write. Not my actual writing 'style', but the nuts and bolts of sitting down with notebook or computer, the time of day I write, the hours I dedicate.
My writing habits have changed a lot over the decades, adjusting as I've moved from school to uni and into the wilder world, traversed different countries, negotiated relationships, learnt to squeeze writing around kids. I don't think any way is better or worse, but I do think they produce different results - which is as it should be, coming from different life-stages and perspectives.
As a teenager I used to do all my outlining, planning and a lot of descriptive work in class and on the train in hardcover notebooks, generally black with red corners. I've still got dozens of them. As if they were talisman, I'd always use scratchy black fine-liners. I'd then type my notes onto the computer, sharpening as I copied, and then set off on a fabulous writing-roll, which could take me on strange detours no matter how much I had planned during spare classes at school.
For a lot of my twenties, life got in the way and I put serious, dedicated, couple-of-thousand-word-a-day writing on a back-burner for a bit. I generally had a notebook, and I remember coming home from pubs with my forearms covered in scribbled notes, but the four books a year I was writing by my last years of high school... just weren't happening.
I came home from volunteer work in a developing country a little shattered. I had discovered that I wasn't the person I thought I was. The world wasn't what I thought it was. All my neat answers were in pieces and it took a long time to put things together again. I spent a year by sea and my writing was very introverted and I could write chapters and chapters in which not a lot happened at all. My beloved, probably rightly, claims it was because I was 'too stuck in my own head'. I think I realised when I saw a car coming down the drive and thought 'o no, people, I'll have to talk to a real person', that I maybe wasn't in a healthy state.
Now, my life is crammed with little people and it seems I've come full circle. I'm writing as much as I did in high school, not with the same consistency (no wonderful spare classes just to write, no trains, no hours between four and ten just for writing, with meals magically appearing) but I've learnt to fit the writing in amongst the bustle. The richness of my life, the richness of my heart, seems to burst out in hundreds of ideas, desperate to be written.
Baby brain claimed a good few years... but when my brain returned, it seemed ready to write. The time just thinking, pondering, observing, loving,, being pushed to extremes, had done it good.
At present, my writing is mainly done in bed, in the early hours of the morning, or on the day when the kids go to kindy and childcare. And I'll go a few months without proper writing, thinking, plotting, catching up on housework, listening to conversations in my head, then have an intensive month, letting the house turn into a shambles, knowing that the momentum, the being totally caught in story, comes at a cost, but one I'm willing to pay. And yes, my back is killing. As the weather warms, when this damn cold goes, I entirely mean to write solely at my desk. But at present it's like the arctic one breath from the cocoon of the doona and I'll deal with the creaking back.
And now I'm wondering - is it time to reclaim some habits from the past? Time to create entirely new ones? As the promise of spring tantalises I'm wondering about change, about forming new ways.

So, to consider. Is it time to reclaim pen and ink? Is it time to carve out some time for train journeys?

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