A Decade In The Making
I don't know what it is about winter but it definitely makes me reflect more than other times of the year - maybe it's the cold weather when all you want to do is be indoors next to a cosy fire, but actually for most of 2008 I've been quite nostalgic, looking back in a lot of the posts on my blog here, to be honest… Back in January I said this was an anniversary year for me and that’s because it was way back in 1998 when I first seriously put pen to paper and fingers to keyboard to write creative fiction…
To mark this anniversary in 2008, apart from already creating my "archives" story page at the beginning of the year and then in the middle-months putting onto that page my very first attempt at creative writing from a lot longer than 10 years ago, with this final post of 2008, I've dug out a sort of "manifesto" from my younger self of a decade ago, which at the time I subtitled "Why I Write?”... (I was heavily influenced a lot in my early days of writing by George Orwell, by the way, and what follows, when even I read it now, sounds sort of like a different person to myself writing, but it's still interesting to revisit this beginning of my conscious efforts to be a writer, even if I don't have grand delusions of becoming a "literary great" with my writing any more...) Anyway, my writing from way back in those early days always for some reason or another began with a short introduction of sorts, and "Why I Write" was no different:
From 1995 to 1998, I attended Newcastle University, studying English Language. It widened my imagination and ironically I developed a better appreciation of literature and creative writing. By the last semester of my third year however, like every other third year student I talked to, I was growing increasingly frustrated by the amount of work and constraints that the degree brought to bear upon me, and more personally to me, upon my ever increasing creative spirit and very real yearning to begin my writing career. And so during preparation for my finals I wrote the following polemic about my situation…
“Potent without the Inspiration, Alchemy or Life?”(or 'Why
A friend told me that I'd "realised my potential as a writer", after weeks of spouting my ideas of stories I wanted to tell. That was yesterday: April 15th 1998, at about 2 or 3 in the afternoon - it was a wednesday. Now it is 1.25am , the next morning and I feel the need to write down and unravel the twisted yarn that's clouding my mind.
Have I realised my potential? I was told months ago not to let people think I was a "frustrated writer", but I'm constantly frustrated by the lack of space and time I have to write, through the pressures of the Americanised study system which I'm presently a part of. A system which I want... no, long to be apart from, so that I might get just one of my millions of thoughts written down in any satisfying form.
All of my epics are still in titled form - no body of text, only individual titles with their individual subtitles: 'A Short Story'; 'A Novel' or 'A Modern Dialogue'... 'by C.G.Allan'.
But they are titles which trigger in my mind the finished text of each and every one of my masterpieces. Hidden deep within the recesses of my modular brain (there's my Higher Education creeping in again... "thank you" 'Phonological Theory II'), are hundreds of characters with their individual idiosyncracies, their race, their colour, sexuality, religion, their pet dogs' names, how they'll live their life from the point my narration begins to the place I sign off and allow them to be in control of their lives once more. All are there. All are awaiting my call to be released.
Whether they will remain titles on a rough scrap of wide-ruled A4 paper from the local stationary shop, originally from the forests of Borneo , which as I write this are being burnt to the ground, is beyond my grasp at this time.
Whether this all sounds disjointed or if it flows like a river, is not my concern, until I read back through it and tinker about with words or clever metaphors, so that I can feel that it is just right for other eyes to fall upon it.
But I must finish this piece in one sitting... this one piece will be finished by the morning and will stand as the Potent of my life in writing. Whether I can achieve true Inspiration from other writers or from the life I have lived to this moment in time is also of paramount concern - as is too the ever pressing concern of Alchemy and what kind of living I can make as a writer... the amount of gold I can make from thin air and a blank page turned into a work of art. Tantamount to these considerations is the final letter of the conundrum we call potential: 'Life'. Will the life I choose as a writer be the one I was born to do - the life I had the potential for when I came into this world?
This meditation is, as I have said, a potent for what might be - not what is or will be - for we, I believe are the first to live the lives we live (and the last). Our time is not written yet. If this is devoid of meaning, then I'll either improve or remain the 'frustrated writer' I have the converse potential of becoming. If it's thought-provoking, then I'll have indeed realised my potential as a writer and will trust my friend's judgement more often in the future.
Milestones... no I called them 'Memory Stones' earlier didn't I... are important in everyone's life. Perhaps they just need to point to something or need to have meaning in a writer's life, to inspire and keep the creative process rolling.
For me, aged 16 at secondary school, it perhaps first came in the form of the words of a lad who I didn't particularly talk to very often. He came to me at a break time and said: "C.G.Allan - with a name like that you'll have to be a writer"... Then he walked away.
So there you have it. My three memory stones in writing thus far: "You'll have to be a writer (with a name like that)". "Don't give them the idea you're a frustrated writer". "You've realised your potential as a writer".
This meditation will be a 4th memory stone, as I've never wrote like this before. I'm bursting with ideas and yet need the patience to persevere for at least two more months - a valuable experience I'd like to think. But I am the writer C.G.Allan, and I am not and I will not allow them to think that I'm a frustrated writer - and I have realised my potential as a writer. Now the time has come to fulfil the Potent I have at this moment in time, and insert the Inspiration, Alchemy and Life into my writing potential which will come after at least two months of valuable patience and perseverence...
..... 2.06 AM APRIL 16TH, 1998 (THURSDAY).....
…the two months passed, I sat my finals and handed in my extended essays, and got a 2:2 degree for my efforts. I experienced a strange emptiness over the summer months, during which I could write very little... thankfully now, it would appear I am beginning to fulfil the PotentIAL I realised back in April with the completion of several short stories and allegories... all that remains is the approval of publishers who will either accept or reject my work... but who cares any way right?
That sort of end epilogue about "great writers" I especially like now standing ten years down the track, looking back. I wonder where I’ll be in another decade with my writing? (B.C.Carden, btw, in case you weren't already aware is a pen name I've used from the outset of my creative writing.)
Wherever I am in another ten years though, one thing’s for sure - my writing life thus far has taught me the important lesson of patience, so I can’t wait to begin the journey in 2009 towards the next decade and find out more about the writer I’ll become in the future…
The job of a year review for 2008 will be one of my first tasks on the blog in 2009, but all in all, as I predicted at the beginning of this year, I have posted a lot less on this blog (with this post it's actually just over half of the amount set by my first year of blogging in 2006 and the 2007 totals of 30 posts each...), the posts themselves though have become longer and more focused, hopefully giving more subtantial “features” about my writing… 2009 will essentially be a 12-month period for my writing that’s all about my debut novel - a year to make it all work, all or nothing, Publication City or bust - because the next year will actually mark the decade since I first had the initial seed of an idea for the story of the book I'm dubbing "Moon Crater", and so I’m going to use it to really push myself into sending it off to agents. To that end, posts here will be of the kind of how an amateur writer may go about submitting their work and manuscripts, from style guides to covering letters and synopsis writing to publishers queries, I hope to document my own experience sending off my “debut” novel so others might learn from it too…
For now though, I’ll end 2008 and my first ten years in writing with a “Top 5 Tips" list for other amateur writers (maybe in another decade I’ll have a top ten list!) – Happy New Year and see you in early 2009!
- Write every little shred of an idea down, no matter how crazy or odd you might think it is, because once you forget it, it's gone forever - but here's the key thing, NEVER use Post-It notes or scaps of paper to record your ideas on... You may end up with loads scattered all over your room, without any connection to one another. It's better to get a notebook of some kind, no matter how small, to carry around with you all day - if you're working on separate stories at once, you may also need separate notebooks to keep your many, many ideas organised...
- When you do find the best way to record your precious scribbles, guard these scribbles with your life - once they're gone or mislaid they may never turn up again! I'd suggest always having the same place to put the notebooks down in your house and the same pocket of your jacket each time you carry them out of the house, just to help in those absent-minded eccentric writer-type moments!
- Get the place where you write creatively organised too - be it a spare room, the dining room or even somewhere out of your house - a regular, familiar and comfy spot helps no end in getting the writing flowing! It's like your inner sanctum for writing so surround yourself with the right (or write!) books for the job and anything else that might inspire you (like holiday objet d'art or souvenirs...)
- Now, I resisted this one for a long while, partly because I wasn't a natural reader growing up and also because I didn't want to sub-consciously copy other authors' works, but as a wannabe writer you really do, I'm afraid, need to read, read, read the kind of books you want to write - read to enjoy the experience mostly but also take menal notes for research purposes of style and presentation of your chosen genre and age group - I never worry about accidentally reproducing someone else's ideas now either because inspiration is a very individual thing and your own imagination is your unique selling point that no-one else can influence anyway.
- Get your writing online, maybe by setting yourself up a writers blog - they're free, easy to learn how to use as long as you're prepared to invest the time to practise and are a brilliant outlet for your creative ramblings... They say the Internet is the way forward, in some shape or form for publishing, so you might as well have a stake in the big pond, because even if you begin as a small tadpole, your web presence can only grow as you keep swimming and surfing the waves of the Net (OK, my pond/frog analogy went a bit awry there but you get my drift, right?!)