It has finally happened. I have conceded. I have joined the ladies-who-lunch brigade and have been accepted into what is, by all accounts, a rather smart book club on 5th Avenue.
What was I thinking? I have yielded to my vanity!
This is not an opportunity for a bit of Joanna Trollope and a girly natter over chocolate biscuits squeezed into someone’s cosy flat. No. This book club is for grown ups. Smart women with multiple degrees, serious careers and a penchant for reading Virginia Woolf. Shall I be caught out on day one as an imposter and fraud who loves the merry romp of a Jilly Cooper rather than anything marginally, even fractionally heavier? Quite possibly.
Well, I shall just have to stop ruminating and clutching madly at my hair with tremulous hands and go to the bookshop. I have to purchase not just one, but two books which need to be read within 3 weeks. I’ve made my bed and now I shall lie in it, with the books no doubt.
Just a teensy thought, I wonder what one wears to a book club meeting on Fifth Avenue? Hmm … my book shopping might need to include some clothes shopping …
If we were to travel back thirty years, I would have been daily banging my fingers on the typewriter keys making a click, clickety click as the type bars struck the inky ribbon and left their imprint of blackened letters onto a white sheet of paper. And when the words in my mind refused to flow, I could rip the sheet of paper out with a forceful and resounding whoosh of the roller, scrunch it up between my hands with fury and hurl it into the waste paper basket across the room.
In today’s modern computer-abundant world, just holding down the delete key doesn’t give that same painfully exquisite release of frustration. It’s a shame really. Of course I could simply throw the iPad at the window or indeed the nearest person, but somehow the repercussions of that would most likely not be proportional to my momentary frustration.
So, I continue to write, edit, rewrite and drive myself mad with trying to create something that is, in my mind, not perfection, but the very best I can do. After all, isn’t that what we should do … our very best?
Any tips or suggesstions for getting through over the last hurdle?
I am now a modern woman. I have an App and it is called Audible.
I have precisely one book in my Audible library and of the twelve hours of listening that is required before I can pronounce I have finished it, I have completed just one hour, thirty-five minutes and a smattering of seconds.
Presumably, I can only imagine that because the book is about various women, it is therefore being read by a number of women, one of whom has a rather irritating voice. Nasal, whiny, like a cat in a fight. I don’t enjoy her chapters very much and thus far she has read a lot of them.
The issue I have is one of multi-tasking. I had imagined that I could walk around New York listening to my book whilst running a few errands, window shopping, picking up the groceries. No. It simply doesn’t work like that.
I find myself walking aimlessly in the wrong direction clutching at my ears trying to stop the earplugs from falling out, yet again; I stand, endlessly staring into shop windows, seeing nothing, just listening to the story; I gaze at displays of fruit for so long that I am asked by random strangers if I need help; and all the while I am trying to concentrate on a book, a plot, numerous different characters and all delivered by a nasal, whiny voice.
Perhaps I should persevere. Perhaps I should revert to a physical book with lovely pages to touch and feel. Perhaps I am simply too long in the tooth for this audiobook malarkey. And yet, when I heard of people who by June had already read fifty books that year (were they showing off?) I question how on earth they managed this. Do they too have audiobooks and spend their days plugged into their phones, whilst simultaneously running their multinational conglomerates? Or do they read through the night with a torch under the duvet?
I shall, for the time being, persevere. And if I reach the stage whereby I want to bludgeon the nasal voice to death, I shall revert to a proper book with proper paper pages. I shall hide with it late at night under the bedcovers, with a torch and its undoubtedly dying battery, just like I used to as a child. After all, isn’t that what normal people do?
To travel and to explore surely encourages one’s mind to expand and to stretch out the personal boundaries of one’s self. I’d like to think so.
It has been several weeks since I moved to New York and I fear I have neglected any writing both on WordPress but also on the book. So after a metaphorical whipping I am back on the sofa tap, tapping my fingers and urging the grey matter to shake off the cobwebs. Ah, but I sit here and there is such a view, so I simply gaze and gaze.
We are high up in a building where light floods in through floor to ceiling windows giving views to the west and north. The Hudson River is a constant moving body of water with boats and cruise ships travelling up and down. Beyond the river, cars and trucks can be seen in miniature over in New Jersey and below, people rush around doing their daily business; all busy, all with purpose. Fire trucks and ambulances scream their sirens every few minutes; horns are blaring, there is shouting, laughing, arguing. A glimpse of the green trees of Central Park gives a little respite to the hard angular surroundings. The buildings, the glass, the steel, the concrete, the brick; the beautiful, the ugly, the noise, the chaos. And I gaze and gaze ….
I explore daily and osmosis is forcing an absorption of the sights, sounds and smells. It is inescapable and dirty, exhausting and so very noisy. But it is also exhilarating and liberating. Anonymity is freeing and here nobody pays any attention. Anything goes.
So I shall continue to explore and absorb, but will now find a little balance in my day and write and tell you all about it (if you can bear it!). The book also is toddling along but now with renewed vigour and the desire to find the light at the end of the tunnel. But in the meantime, the river is an absolute mill pond today and there are three small sailing boats barely moving across the water and the sun is just catching their sails in the light …
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?
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.
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 …