I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful Christmas and apologies for the lack of new blog posts throughout November and December.
November was almost entirely lost to Nanowrimo which I managed to complete but with distinctly less enthusiasm than previous years. During December, as for most people, Christmas took over with countless hours devoted to list writing and shopping and list writing and baking and list writing and, well, you see where this is going.
That brings me to today which is generally a turning point in the year for me. Christmas is done, all the gifts are given and though there are still friends to meet and glasses to raise, thoughts turn toward the New Year. It's now that I begin to dissect the year gone by, pulling out the good bits and setting them to one side. I tend to spend little time thinking about these and whilst that's sad, I imagine it's true for most people.
The mistakes are a different story though. Mistakes, bad decisions, missed opportunities, things I said or did, these all become fodder for hours of analysis. I get cross with myself, I make strict resolutions for improvement in the coming year. I promise myself I'll be better, kinder, stronger, smarter, all the while raising the bar impossibly high so that there is little question I'll be in the same position in twelve months.
Writing has been a big positive over the last year and it has taught me a great deal. Many of these lessons will form the basis of my posts throughout 2015. The one lesson I want to highlight today is the importance of mistakes. I'm certainly not unique in holding on to my mistakes long after they should be done with. I tend to linger over superficial inadequcies that many of my friends wouldn't think twice about. Mistakes are fantastic for a writer; making a mistake means you took a risk and taking risks is part of life. You might be out in the world clattering from one mishap to another, making a complete hash of all of it but at least you're out there. It's wonderful source material. Mistakes teach you things; they teach you about life and they teach you about yourself. Mistakes make you feel. They also teach you where the line is between the person you are and the person you want to be.
Look at it this way; if you pick up a book and the blurb tells you it's about a good looking, successful woman who is incredibly attractive, has an amazing career and a satisfying stream of good looking lovers, always knows the right thing to say and never puts a foot wrong, it's going back on the shelf. I'm not interested in reading about perfection. Flaws are intriguing, they give us a way into a story and they make characters relatable to us. We know what it is to mess up at work. We know how it feels to drink too much and make fools of ourselves. We've all done stupid things for love or money or five minutes of fame. We're human so we want our characters to be human too.
You can't write if you don't live and you can't possibly be living if life is all sunshine and rainbows. If you want to create honest stories with real heart, there are three things you need to do:
1. Give yourself space to be human-that means allowing yourself to navigate the bumps in the road, embracing the missteps and giving yourself permission to get it wrong once in a while.
2. When you do mess up-and remember, if you're doing it properly you will-exploit the feelings, mine the experience, take everything you can from it. Write it all down, hone in on specific elements, write the situation differently, put it in your novel, put it in your bin. Do whatever you need to get those thoughts out of your head and onto paper.
3. LET IT GO. I know, revolutionary! The truth is, people make mistakes all the time and most are far too busy dealing with their own problems to worry about the stupid thing you said last Tuesday or your recent wardrobe malfunction. At this stage, there's really nothing to be gained from beating yourself over the head with whatever guilt/shame/embarrassment you feel. It's a waste of energy , a waste of time and a waste of your brain power. All of those things could be better spent on writing.
So what are you waiting for? Let's see the new year in with pens in our hands and resolve in our hearts; life is too short to obsess over the things we got wrong and time is too precious to fritter on regret. Use it, then lose it.
All the best for the New Year.
See you in 2015!