Not far to go before Clarion West now, and my drive to get my novel completed before I leave has that distinct look of doom about it. However, recognising the look-of-doom and having to take a step back and think seriously about what I would do next has been interesting and, I hope, useful.
Last week I spent 5 days on a writing course for MMU students at the Arvon Foundation centre at Lumb Bank, outside Hebden Bridge. Incredible place: beautiful view over the valley, black-chimneyed mill at the bottom by the river, wooded slopes, open fires, excellent food and even better company. It was a disaster.
I had intended to make a Great Leap Forward with my novel. Write like the wind. Have it close to completion when I returned so that I could go into the last stretch before heading away on June 15th, and send it to my workshop group for review before leaving. Total failure. I needed to write around 5000 words a day to acheive this goal, and I topped out at 2000 w/day. Oh, I wrote other things. And I had a couple of nice walks, did some workshops, heard some excellent work read aloud, drank a lot of wine, talked to Ted Hughes (the cat)… But the novel progressed at the exact same speed it had been doing at home.
Being surrounded by other writers, I of course took the oportunity to whine, whinge, moan, complain, yeah, bitch about the fact that I could not seem to get the novel out any faster no matter how hard I squeezed. And what did they all say? Essentially, the answer was ‘Well, duh.’
I realised it’s not shameful not to be able to crank out novels at the rate Barbara Cartland did. It takes as long as it takes, and that’s a lesson I can usefully apply to all sorts of areas of life at the moment. Too used to working in business, where meeting a deadline is generally just a question of good planning and hard work. Creative work benefits from discipline and planning, and by ‘eck, it certainly takes effort, but it’s not like dusting crops. It’s not even like writing code. It takes a certain kind of emotional energy, and the simple fact is, I have 2000w/day to give, and not a drop more. And that’s OK.