It's been a while since I've had anything published. That's partly because I've been busy working on The Basket Case for WP Comics and as a result I've been hard pressed to find time to produce new work or circulate pieces that are ready to go out into the world
Of course, there are new ideas. Every day, a fresh wave and I will never complain about that. I often hear other writers panicking about writers block or obsessing over where ideas come from, as though understanding their origin will somehow make them easier to pin down.
I'm grateful that I see inspiration everywhere. Snatches of conversation, certain images, a sentence in a favourite novel, a sound, an odd train of thought-I seem to have no filter so these ideas sink their hooks into my mind; some hold on tight but never grow beyond the initial germ, others, like Nina Neptune or the Man Behind the Glass get bigger and bigger until they spill over from mind to page. Others simply diminish over time.
The big problem I have is deciding which ideas to pursue because you never really know where the magic is going to happen. Sometimes you don't know until long after a piece is complete.
I was lucky with Part of the Furniture. I had a moment just seconds before I pressed the to submit button. It was like a bubble of satisfaction growing in my chest. I didn't think it would win-that was an astronomical surprise. But I did feel like I'd touched upon something special. It happened again with Dandelion Clocks and with These Thunderous Hours. I experienced it with Kisses for Curses, my enthusiasm for it so strong that I refused to give up I it, even when I feel like it had been rejected by every literary publication in the country.
Looking at the pieces I've had published, it's clear that I am most successful when I give permission for me to be myself. Brilliant, I hear you say, she's cracked it! Cue commercial success and my grinning portrait on dust jackets everywhere. If only it were that simple...
Aside from being a hopeless dreamer, I am a thinker, a dweller and a worrier. During the editing process, that overthinking kicks in. I convince myself that my instincts are poor. I start altering things, structuring a sentence the way I think an editor might like it, not the way I would naturally convey it. It's pretty much a downward spiral from this point, a transition from a rough draft that's vaguely workable to a bland generic piece of writing that lacks even a sliver of personality. The urge to get things perfect eradicates my voice and in so doing, drowns whatever spark if creativity that gave birth to the idea in the first place.
It's a novel idea, that perhaps less polishing is a good thing. It takes every ounce of willpower I have to stop meddling, stop tweaking, stop reducing the work. But it's a skill I'm going to have to master because when it comes to the writer's unique voice, editors want to hear it and readers want to immerse themselves in it.
It's important to recognise the things that make you stand out and to embrace them. So this is me, giving myself permission to be weird and witty, to geek out, to overuse certain literary techniques and ignore others, to champion the use of the semicolon and to be simplistic without sentiment in my prose. Those are my quirks and I'm stronger when I let them come out to play.
I wanted to give you something to think about before you start beating yourself up about the weirdness and imperfections that set you apart. In musical terms the world doesn't need another shiny manufactured pop group, just like it doesn't need another novel-by-numbers. Be the guy/girl with the guitar singing cover versions that no one recognises. At the end of the day, we all have our own tune to find.
Until next time...