Writing, How much effort a creative practice requires, The need to tell our own stories, and be supportive of one another.
‘To be a writer you have to write. And the more you write, the better you’ll be. That’s the only thing I can think of doing, and yet, so often it feels like a vanity to be producing more and more words’
Words Words Words
Hello and welcome to all and any new Subscribers this week.
Especially those that are joining for the first time via Orbital Operations. It was in fact an off hand comment from Warren that was the impetus to get this show on the road. A big thanks to him for the shout out.
Continuing with the newsletter theme. Another big thank you this week goes to to the writer and author Huw Lemmey. He mentioned permanently moved in his newsletter Utopian Drivel. Which can be found at huw.substack.com. In the personal section at the end of his essay on ‘Britain’s Dad Crisis’ last week he said the following.
I’m sure he won’t mind me saying that not every episode is for everyone, but they’re short enough that you listen anyway, following the ebb and flow of his intellectual life on a weekly basis. Having that constant this year has helped ground my own writing,
This week he wrote a brutally honest essay for subscribers called Working Away. Reflecting on his creative discipline, the need for graft to improve his craft, and how obsessions with productivity and a healthy regime can simply be functions of depression and anxiety.
He wrote that there is something suitably final about words. It’s something that can be narrowed down to a word count. That they can also be a desperate attempt to reassert control over a floundering brain and floundering practice.
I’ve mentioned before that making this podcast in an hour every single week is a creative challenge that has done wonders for my mental health. Something that is in the calendar and needs to get done. Some days I wake up with a clear idea of what I’m going to talk about because some idea came a long in the week. Other days like today I start the clock and let the show emerge in the space of 20mins in front of me in google docs.
Whilst my bio says that I’m a writer, theorist and strategist, I do a lot more of the last two than I do of the former. I have my own excuses for not writing. Dyslexia and a personality that was best designated as ‘special needs’ at school in the 90’s. With a tendency towards perfectionism and self doubt. Growing up, I always preferred throwing my creative energies at music than writing. Most of my friends who wanted to be writers at school have become english teachers.
There is something deceptively simple about words though. I truth that i didn’t realise until I attempted my first NaNoWriMo a few years ago. I’m not sure if anyone in the audience has done it. Most of my friends have tried it at least once.
For the uninitiated, you just have to write 1600 words a day, everyday for 30 days. And at the end of it you have a novel – more or less.
Considering this podcast is about 1000 words it sounds simple. But it is in reality incredibly hard. The longer the month goes on, the words have to keep coming. You have good days and bad days. Some days you can knock it out and others you have to drag every single word from your fingertips.
The most annoying thing is when you go back to read what you have written. The good days and the bad days all disappear into one voice.
There is no discernible difference between the hard words and the easy ones. At the end of the day they are all in need of a hard edit.
Until my first NaNoWriMo the last time I had written that many words in a year, let alone a month was writing my dissertation at university in 2006. I had forgotten or perhaps even never appreciated the amount of time and effort that goes into getting that many words out onto a page. Writing is as much about graft as it is craft.
And massive props to anyone who has ever written a novel, let alone published one. Even if it’s just you’re favourite fanfiction.
There was a tweet going around this week that was asking the question what is the nicest thing anyone has ever said about your writing. My reply was, I think you should keep going.
Which is genuinely the most encouraging and important comment I’ve ever received from someone about my own creative work. In fact it should also be the default response from us when anybody has shared their creative life with you.
There is an urgent need for us to collectively imagine new stories and new worlds. To tell stories of our own instead of being content to consume the output of the culture industry. But we can’t do that if people live in fear of criticism and mockery int he form of a rage thread. It requires support and encouragement at both the individual and collective level.
Start a blog, or brush the dust off an old one. I’m sure those with an rss reader will be happy to have you back. Fire up your synthesizer or pick up your guitar and make some music like you used to. Sing, dance, do improv or whatever.
Encourage those around you to do the same.
Let’s tell our own stories.
Anne Lamott says in Bird by Bird which I think is one of the best books on the realities of a creative life. She says the following:
Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.Anne Lamott – Bird by Bird
The script above is the original script I wrote for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in the episode in the edit.
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