I’ve been asked ‘How do you keep your writing going, after you have captured the initial idea?’ My answer, for now is, I pay attention to conflict, desire and I’m not afraid to be brutally honest. Look at your character, are they working towards a goal? What are their smallest desires?
The real truth is I apply that same attention to my actual life and feel every particle of the stories around me rubbing themselves into my skin, on a daily basis.
Stress has been a parasite in my house this year – it has eaten my husband alive. It’s sat, fat and heavy like a tape-worm in his stomach, getting fatter and fatter, while he expanded in shape to fit around it. His face mutated, to give those around him a clue that his insides did not belong to himself any longer. He became claimed by the darkness that called him. That lived inside of him. We’ve lived in the heart of a storm.
I am often asked, how do I get ideas for writing? There are many ways to approach the task, over the next couple of weeks I’ll be sharing some of my top tips.
Top tip number one: Eavesdrop, do not be afraid. Go into bars and sit alone with a notebook. Hide in supermarket aisles writing any fragments you can stumble upon. Sit in a busy park, catching the words as they fly through the air.I’ll share with you my favourite way to collect words, the advice I give myself when gathering words to create a new story.
First get invited to lots of parties. When you have arrived at your destination, head straight for, under the kitchen table – get comfortable, you’ll be there a while. Crumbs of conversations will get dropped, if you’re lucky you’ll get a full meal.
A demonstration: I arrive at the party, greeting my host graciously, whilst keeping my pace towards the kitchen table. After settling into my spot, in the darkness, protected by a table cloth made from twilight sky; I lick my finger and carefully collect word fragments. Balancing all the little letters on the edge of my hand, my eyes drink them in before I devour them. The way the words fall to the floor affects the taste. My experience changes when the speaker has been mulling them over, masticating each consonant, something like ‘if I could have anyone, it would be you’ contains an earthy sweetness of roasted vegetables or strawberries, soaked in balsamic, a kiss of sugar erupts into my mouth.
Stephen King says his muse ‘…lives in a cellar, chomps his cigar and makes magic.’ I wanted to know who mine is, so I decided to get in bed with my writer-self. I felt I have been neglectful lately, I expected her to perform, without knowing which buttons to press, or how to get her going. So I asked her to talk to me about babies, mine are growing up fast and I certainly won’t be having any more. She didn’t want to talk to me about no babies. She said she has had to be a grown up for so long now, it’s her turn to be a child. She doesn’t care about babies, she said if she’s going to do any baby talk, first she would have to make a doll and it would go like this:-
If I were to make a doll
I would first gather
sea-weed and bone
tie her together
Her eyes would be
sea-glass. They would show
all the lives she has lived
reflected on the sea
I would dress her in
leather and decorate
her with blood of my own.
As a writer I reckon I should be setting up this mystique and persona around what I present to you, my audience. However I’ve never really been one to conform, I’m the kind of person who’ll tell you anything. I’ll happily tell you what colour my knickers are, or if I’m contemplating running away from my family responsibilities. I don’t keep secrets well, they sit inside of me until my insides boil and the words seep out through clenched teeth. This is all well and good and yet, as a writer I feel a certain obligation to work on my slight of hand, enhance the magical touches that are created behind the scenes before an article is published. In other words agonise over the editing process, cry over spelling mistakes, be shamed by grammatical errors. I have an impatient streak, that’s as ingrained as my veins. Born a month early, I don’t do late. Or waiting. Once I’ve written something, my fingers itch to press publish, as natural as completing a sentence with a full stop.