Evening classes

I’ve created a reading list my gut tells me is related to my work-in-progress. I went around the house scanning shelves and pulling out the books that tugged at my attention. One of them was The Complex, which surprised me, but perhaps I need to remind myself of the level I’ve reached before I try to aim higher. It’s all orientation of sorts.

The ideas around the work-in-progress have tremendous energy even after a long break, which is both exciting and a relief. Nobody else has written it. I’m not surprised, but that’s the fear, right?

Sometimes I write summaries of my notebook entries to remember what I wanted at the time and to appreciate progress in spite of life’s curveballs. This weekend I’m trying to understand how five years have passed since I finished The Complex and I haven’t written another novel. I know I write about this all the time, but it’s important to me I try to put a line under it.

I don’t see how I could have written anything last year. Before that it was lockdowns, fear of Covid, fear of Trump, Brexit, but being honest with myself, as much as anything, it was the dispelling of my illusions about the publishing industry and not believing enough in myself.

Finishing a novel and getting published is the first move in a bigger game. If that novel doesn’t catch people’s attention then you have to write another, but it’s tough to find motivation when you have no agent, no contract, no deadlines, no community, no external structures, and you know the odds of you having much cultural impact or getting any financial reward are close to zero.

There are people with incredible levels of belief in their own talent and the quality of their work. They might even self-publish, whether to prove a point or try to make more money. I suspect many writers who don’t break through stop after a while and do something more rewarding. Others enjoy the practice of writing enough that they keep going even knowing only a few friends will read what they’ve written.

Creative writing is an art, a craft, with all the pleasures available that people get from pottery or painting. My mother loved going across the road to the community college one evening a week, and over the years learned sign language, glass engraving, embroidery and calligraphy. I’ve done that in the past with Italian, counselling skills and, yes, creative writing. One of my neighbours makes wooden love spoons. My father-in-law made garden furniture.

There are pleasures in making independent of external measures of success. (Crazy, right?) They are the most important part of the experience. That’s the energy I’ve started cultivating.