The leaves on the tree outside my window are dying. But they are so beautiful in their death. Near the top, they still have green hearts, tinged with an acid-bright red. Towards the bottom, they’ve faded to yellow, as if dipped in custard. Every year this tree stands for months with naked branches. Not until March will I see the blossom falling like snow on the road outside my house.
It’s not the only thing to have changed. My desk is now in a different room – the living room. No longer do I feel secluded away in my own private space, but that I’m sharing it with the ghost of my evening self who will slouch about on the sofa. It has its benefits. This room is less cluttered, bigger, so I don’t feel as boxed in. But it has the danger of seeping over into relaxing or non-productive time. This room is somewhere I chill out, not a place that I am productive. I need to compartmentalise my space in order to remember that I am here to work.
There’s also a change in view. To see out of my window, I have to turn around, crane my neck to see the view outside. So has this shift led to an enormous upsurge in writing? Am I newly inspired by the fact that I am, essentially, turning to face my old writer self, left in the shadows in the room next door?
Taking steps into the unknown can be inspiring
The answer is, sort of. Because not only have I shifted position, I’ve also shifted focus. For six long months I’ve been tinkering around with the dreaded novel. An inkling of an idea has been held dormant all that time, but not allowed to stretch its legs. Having read through all the changes to the old book, I’m actually pretty happy with what’s there. Of course, there are still some continuity errors, some bits that need tidying up, tension scaling up or down. But somehow, I just can’t bring myself to make those final changes. Not yet. Going back over those words which are so familiar just didn’t inspire anything other than tiredness. In other projects, I’m re-polishing and sending out short stories (I’ve heard that you should wait for a short story to be rejected twenty times before you give up on it. Try this system of submission to help you).
Editing is of course a creative process. The beauty of it comes from the fact that the main bones are already there. None of the character-creating, scene-bumbling fun that happens when you work on the first draft. You’re working on pace, emotion, depth, getting the different elements to sit round and sound good.
Having said that, there is something wonderful about the process of just piecing something together. This little idea that started out as a scribble, or a few notes, a post-it, has grown to encompass a world, characters, ideas for what they want, how they’ll get there, how you’ll make their journey hard, what obstacles you’ll place in their way.
From scribbles to story…
As messy as it is, wading into a new idea and thrashing it out can sometimes be more chaotic and fun than going back over things that already exist. I’ve scrambled through 5,000 words in a week. Not bad for a start, although already I’ve found a sticking point, a bit I need to make some decisions about before I can move forward.
Funnily enough, now I’ve started splashing around in this new world, I find the idea of editing the old one a lot less daunting. Perhaps its the change of scene, and the colouring leaves outside, that have made change seem appealing. Or perhaps it’s just the shift of the seasons, nudging me towards being a bit more adventurous as the light fades earlier from the sky.
What about you? Do you need consistency in your writing or do you like to shake things up a bit? Let me know in the comments.