It goes without saying that we all have a book in us; after all, we’ve all experienced something worth writing about or indeed have the imagination to create a story. And so, like many others, I started writing. I wrote with enthusiasm, passion and joy. And when I finally typed the words The End, I had a little cry (more of a dribbling howl in truth).
And then the editing process began.
I now spend more of my time googling grammar, such as when to use a semicolon or a comma than I do on Facebook, cooking and checking my emails combined. This is not normal. Surely I should already know all of this? But now I’m questioning everything. The structure, the grammar, even the actual purpose of the book. I am beginning to doubt myself.
Perhaps that is why there is indeed a book in all of us, but very, very few actually end up on the bookshelves. It’s quite a challenge. It also makes me admire those who have worked endlessly and tirelessly to produce a book. You have succeeded! Bravo!
Now, back to those wretched semicolons (and is that hyphenated or not?) … Give me strength …
What do you struggle with most when writing your blog or book?
Less than five minutes ago I was a respectable and fully dressed woman picking out an assortment of pretty summer dresses to try on. But those dresses are now on the only hook in the changing cubicle and my own clothes have just slid off the plastic stool and are in a heap on the floor.
My husband is enthusiastically thrusting more dresses through the increasingly large gap between curtain and wall, so my semi-naked body is exposed to all and sundry. The shop lady who stands by the door is saying, “Only six items at a time!” in a whiny nasal voice. She is clearly irritated by my husband who bounces in and out clutching more clothes and God forbid he’s now bringing in underwear and getting increasingly overexcited. This is a place for women only and he is happily oblivious to her rules. She tries harder, “No men inside sir, this is a respectable establishment.”
My necklace has become entangled in dress number four and I’m trying, in a muck sweat to free myself.
Another woman comes in with an armful of clothes and her husband, seeing a fellow male in the ladies-only section trots in smartly behind her, ignoring shop lady who is now turning purple. The other woman helps me disentangle myself from my necklace and we bond over dresses and underwear, chatting as though we have known each other for years.
The two men excitedly together run in and out of the changing rooms for smaller sizes, bigger sizes, different colours, all the while, discussing the rugby. They have a role and are apparently loving it, particularly when they find something in the sale section. The other woman and I chatter and giggle as our husbands enthuse about how wonderful we both look. We giggle all the more. A bit of flattery and we’re handing out the credit cards without a care in the world.
Shop lady tries and fails to give our husbands different coloured plastic tickets with the number of items that she thinks we have as yet another floaty, whispy dress flits past her on a clothes hanger. She is now not only purple, but spluttering.
Finally, with our bags of newly purchased items, we happily thank shop lady profusely for her help. She purses her lips and gives a little derogatory sniff in our direction as she turns to her next customer. “Only six items madam! Them is the rules in this establishment.”
Wife kissing handsome husband goodbye at the door as he leaves to go to work.
Wife sees handsome husband wearing the tie that she had tried to wash, instead of, God forbid, paying money and sending it to the dry cleaners.
Silk ties do not like being washed.
Silk ties return to the tie rack neither cleaner nor the same shape, or indeed size.
Wife thought she had discreetly (secretly) thrown away said ruined tie.
The moral dilemma? Should I have let him go to work with dodgy tie, or admit to the consequences of my money-pinching ways?”
I think I might have made the wrong choice …
“Why in Gods name did you wash it?” he spluttered, eyebrows rising dramatically.
“Umm, I thought it was polyester?” I blatantly lied. His eyebrows lifting even further confirmed he didn’t believe me. “I don’t have polyester ties!” he spat through somewhat gritted teeth.
“Well, it was dirty. You had dribbled on it.” I said. The best form of defence is attack. Wrong course of action however.
A stomping back upstairs, roughly removing both coat and suit jacket ensued amid much huffing and puffing. I followed cautiously.
The new and clean tie appeared to be rather problematic in putting on. This caused further and considerably noisier huffing and puffing. “It takes a very precise and careful hand to tie a tie properly,” he informed me.
“Oh,” says I, duly informed. “And, um for how long have you been practising this um ‘art-form’?” I question innocently.
“Since I was eight,” he mutters.
I collapsed in a heap of guffawing laughter, and a small twitch of his lip and a wiggle of his nose confirmed I was forgiven. “I’ll give you a lesson in tying a tie if you like!” I giggled hysterically. “Pah! I’ll give you blasted lessons!” he laughed feigning indignation.
“I’ll bin this one then,” I giggled, holding up the mis-shaped offending tie.
“Pah! It’s got years of life left in it!” he laughed, trying to snatch it from me.
“Not with a socking great rip in it, it hasn’t!” I shouted, running down the stairs with it.
“You wouldn’t!” he laughed and chased me to the front door where for the second time this umorning, I kissed him gently and held him close. “I love you” he whispered, “So very much.”
So. Should I have,
a) Let him go to work in a grim tie
b) Admitted the error of my ways, but been slightly more apologetic
c) Told him it was his own fault for having silk non-washable ties and polyester would suffice
d) Tied the tie for him whilst changing a plug, reading a map and reciting the periodic table.
Sometimes the truth hits me like a slap round the face with a cold, wet fish. Deeply unpleasant with a lingering odour, but eye opening once the scales have been pulled from my eyes, if you’ll excuse the pun.
The more I write, the greater is the realisation that I need to read more, more, and even more. Education is key and that is the truth.
Writing a memoir of course also requires experiencing life so that there’s actually something to write about. It wouldn’t exactly be a bestseller if I wrote about the fluff that accumulates in my navel even if I had a social media following of tens of thousands (unless of course they too were navel gazers).
Not being a highbrow or educationally sophisticated reader, I like a light-hearted book. Bill Bryson is my latest and has me giggling happily on the train, in the bath and sometimes in the coffee shop where I’m supposed to be writing. Thankfully books are not expensive because the truth is, I need a few. I’ve pondered with a Kindle, but I worry about it falling in the bath. I don’t know the difference between an e-book and an audio book, but if they are the ones where Stephen Fry’s dulcet tones come out of a pair of headphones, I don’t think that would be awfully safe on my bicycle. So I think I shall stick to the good old fashioned paperback and remember when it falls into that bath, to fan out the pages before putting it on the radiator, otherwise one has less of a book and more of a brick and that’s not terribly easy to read.
It is rather ironic that I write endlessly about moderation. But in truth, I am fascinated by it.
Now, according to that fellow Aristotle, the Golden Middle Way is the desirable middle ground between two extremes; one being that of excess and the other, of deficiency.
As an example, he uses courage as a virtue, being in this case the Golden Middle Way. But if that courage is taken to excess, it would manifest as recklessness and, in deficiency, as cowardice!
Ooooh I love these Ancient Greek philosophers with their faintly dodgy beards … they were a clever bunch of cookies.
So what is it that makes some people so able to maintain the ‘Golden Middle Way’ in their lives, and yet others follow the path of extremes? Is it simply self control, or are we born that way?
Why is it that I absolutely have to eat an entire packet of ginger biscuits in one sitting, whereas my lovely friends would only have one or two? Perhaps I’m overthinking this and I’m simply more hungry.
Ps. Exactly what is it that you have a lack of self control over? (Ahem! Nothing smutty if you please)
Pps. Sorry about the picture, I couldn’t find one of Aristotle, so this will have to suffice.
Forgive me for sharing, but I’ve been faintly hysterical. To clarify, I am most certainly not looking for sympathy. That was very kindly given, free of charge by the staff in the coffee shop. I think it’s the only thing I’ve had free of charge there, the place costs me a small fortune.
My lovely coffee shop has endured months of me sitting in my usual spot, tapping away at the iPad whilst buying a few desperately expensive lattes and a chocolate brownie or two. We chat and laugh and they ask about my writing, and are the most kind and friendly bunch of people. Suffice to say, should I ever get this wretched book published, I’ll have to sell quite a substantial amount just to break-even, in order to compensate for the amount of coffees I’ve bought.
Each day they hear me come through the rickety door as the little bell above gives a jingle and a jangle. They call out with a cheerful, “Morning! Your regular decaf latte, in a mug not a cup and saucer? We’ll bring it right over!” and I smile coyly, blatantly ignoring the snarls and filthy looks of the other customers in the queue in front of me as I take my place in the corner with the cushions and the squishy seat. As the morning progresses, I change my order a little and try not to be quite so predictable. Sometimes I ask for extra cream or try an Americano in anticipation of moving across the pond, but I don’t really think that’s going to help me.
But today was different. Today I began the final chapter of the book, which is now less of a book and more of a friend. I friend I have created and although at times I have loathed it when I have come to a tricky section, I also love it with a passion that makes me want to weep. And sadly today, that is exactly what happened.
I was writing about the final few kilometres of my trip on a squeaky bicycle called Claude, when suddenly it dawned on me that it was nearly over. Through writing, I had been re-living this ‘journey’ of mine, and now, for the last time it truly was coming to an end. To the horror of everyone, this realisation suddenly found me wailing, howling and dribbling into my flat white with extra cream. Bless them, the girls came straight over, the men more slowly and somewhat nervously. (They wisely understood that women-of-a-certain-age in a state are to be treated with caution …)
As I wiped my mascara’d cheeks with a unlimited pile of Farrow and Ball coloured napkins, I explained how I would miss coming to their lovely coffee shop and writing and as I snivelled and dribbled, I thanked them profusely for all their kindness.
“Err won’t you still have a bit of editing or something to do?” one of the girls tentatively asked.
“Oh! Oh yes!” I exclaimed, brightening somewhat. “In fact, lots of editing and umm re-editing and things like that,” I carried on. “Err, yes of course … you know, spell-checking and things!” I trailed off at this point, quite unsure what on earth I was talking about. But this seemed to appease us all and the world seemed like an infinitely better place, with all-round smiles and lots of slaps on the back and reassuring, ” Well, you’ll be here for weeks then!”
“Thank goodness for that!
The men disappeared with sighs of relief that all was now well, and the girls gave me my first ever free coffee as a get better soon gesture and offered more Farrow and Ball napkins to wipe away the eye makeup which was apparently now on-my-chin-makeup. And we sat and chatted happily together about the benefits of waterproof mascara vs falsies. I thought falsies were fake bosoms, but they’re all a lot younger and infinitely wiser so I’ll heed their advice. So, when it really is all finished, spell-checked and edited, I’ll simply go to America as planned, have an Americano and get myself some falsies. Sounds like a fabulous plan – odd how the Colonel looks ever so over-excited …
Any tips, advice, suggestions for finishing a book? (Including editing and finding an agent or publisher or …. anything). Thank you x
No, of course it’s not really wretched, I’m simply being a drama queen because I am frustrated. Supremely frustrated.
I’m frustrated because with no published books under my belt, how on earth can I really justify the time I need to write?
I feel as though because I’m not (yet) an author, it’s rather self-indulgent, pompous and pretentious to announce that “I need to be alone!” and mop my fevered brow. Whether it was Greta Garbo or Marlene Dietrich who said it, I don’t recall, and frankly it doesn’t matter, my point is that I do need to be alone but I feel a bit of a drama queen saying it. Admittedly I don’t need to do the mopping of brow with a delicate white handkerchief, but in case Renee Zelwegger isn’t available for the film version of the book, I’m happy to practise my craft and step into the role …
So, I keep sloping off from the packing up of the house (we’re moving), the cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing and general ‘life’. (Nb This is also said in a woe-is-me type of voice, despite the rather odd fact that I rather enjoy it) So, in order to give myself a little bit of writing time, I am shirking my responsibilities by hiding behind the door of the kitchen, tap, tapping away. Did I mention that I was moving house?
Once I have got book number one done and dusted and it’s flying off the shelves in every bookstore from London to New York (optimism and a total lack of reality are currently my default setting), then I feel that I am justified in disappearing off for several hours to write. I can then type madly, hitting the iPad with such ferocity simply to get out the words, sentences and paragraphs that are endlessly trying to burst out of my head and are longing to get onto paper before they are forgotten and lost in the dusty crevices of the grey matter.
Oooooh I’m exhausted! Forgive my rant, my frustrations and my inner melodramatic diva who has momentarily escaped the confines of my middle class British background. I shall resolve this. A little self control is required. A little earlier rising in the morning, allocating specific writing time and then using that time correctly instead of drinking tea and looking at Facebook. Oh yes, I can do this! Discipline is all it takes!
In the meantime, I think I need a little lie-down in a darkened room with some whale music, except the sounds of running water .. well, I needn’t go into that …
Perhaps I’ll just hide behind the kitchen door again; there’s a socket for charging my iPad, a very friendly spider whom in hushed tones I like to chat to about the benefits of waxing vs shaving (oh yes, that hairy arachnid needs to know!) … and at least the ginger biscuits are close to hand …