My artist friend told me, 'I was in my life-drawing class, and the tutor looked at my work and said, 'stop trying too hard.' I nodded. My friend continued. 'I often wish that I could go back to doing another Foundation course. During that time there were no rights and wrongs. I could do whatever I liked. There was a freedom in making mistakes.'
I nodded some more, and asked, 'Do you ever feel that if you work at a painting too much, you begin to destroy it, strangle the very soul of it?' 'Yes yes,' she replied.
I continued. 'Do you find that if you allow yourself to scribble away, without thinking, you create something real, something raw, that you wouldn't have if you thought about it too much?' 'Yes, absolutely,' she replied. 'But there's also when you stay with a piece and come back to it, again and again, changing something here, doing a little more there.'
'Surely that's only after you've found the resonance, that unspoken otherness, the magic of what you're creating, isn't it?' I asked. 'Yes,' she replied.
'Surely that's only after you've found the resonance, that unspoken otherness, the magic of what you're creating, isn't it?' I asked.
Everything we learn to do in life has to start with failure. From failure grows determination, from over-thinking grows effortlessness. It all becomes second nature. You no longer have to think about the nuts and bolts of what you're doing.
When I took my driving test, I reversed around the corner and up on to the pavement three times. After each unconventional manoeuvre, during which, thankfully, I hadn't flattened a cat, a child, or an OAP, I pulled on the handbrake, checked my mirrors, and set off to try again.
Thankfully I hadn't flattened a cat, a child, or an OAP, I pulled on the handbrake, checked my mirrors, and set off to try again
When I finally succeeded, the examiner offered me a polo-mint. I gratefully accepted. We returned to the centre, went through a few points of the Highway Code (thank God I did my test back in the dark ages before this new regime), and was told I'd passed. I can now drive enormous distances without any recollection of how I got there.
Learning to play the fiddle in my thirties, meant hours upon hours of tortuous cat-strangling in the kitchen with the door shut. It was the only place I could be relatively unheard by my long-suffering children. Taming the wild instrument that is the violin is no easy task. The seemingly impossible combination of finding the right note on the fingerboard whilst at the same time making the string sing with a tightened stick of horse-hair, took me to unseen corners of my patience.
Taming the wild instrument that is the violin is no easy task
The more I struggled, the harder I tried, the more bloody-minded I became. But what joy I eventually found. There is something magical about being lost in playing music – you forget about the mechanics, and become a part of the whole.
And writing? Hmm. Well. My success has been in short stories – every one of which I wrote either as a flash (timed, with no room for thought) or as a very close first draft. Yet the more I consciously mess around with words, the quicker I kill them off. I am more afraid of making a terrible noise with words than ever I was with music. I'm more anxious to succeed the first time around, to capture the magic in one fell swoop.
The more I mess around with words, the quicker I kill them off
My WIP, a novel about a boy who discovers that living alone on a ship in space is anything but normal, has had him on so many false starts he's beginning to wonder if he'll ever get out of his predicament.
But I know, it is only through failing, again and again, that my words will ever sing without the faintest hint of a cat being strangled.
Monday's interview with Melvin Burgess, by K. M. Lockwood. If you missed the conference workshop, have a read of Philippa's perceptive questions, and discover Melvin's answers on the difference between plot & story, and the importance of fairy-tale.
Tuesday's Ten minute blog round-up. I don't know where we'd be without Nick's comprehensive filtering of all the good stuff that's out there. There are some real gems in this latest haul.
Wednesday's Breaking into Educational Publishing – an eye-opening report of the conference panel, and the options out there to break in to the educational market, by Anita Loughrey
Thursday's Janet Foxley gave us a fascinating overview of SCBWI British Isles Conference 2014's Craft Intensive on Writing for Reluctant Readers. And there was sad news that our North West Network Organiser, Steph Williams has unfortunately had to step down from the role due to ill health.
Friday's Procatsination – another neat snippet from the life of cat & dog immersed in the creative world
Saturday's call-out for a Celebrations' Editor – this could be YOU! Get in touch pronto if it is...
Monday Clare Bell shares her experience of writing a non-fiction book for Cadbury, in honour of National Non-Fiction November
Tuesday Another bodacious Blog Break with Nick
Wednesday Interview with Anthony McGowan by Celia Anderson, getting all the insights in to school visits, scatology and dyslexia
Thursday Something amazing...
Friday Interview with SCBWI BI's member of the year - Anne-Marie Perks
Nancy Saunders is gradually stepping in as the new Editor of W&P, with a generous helping hand from Jan. You can find her short stories here, and on Twitter @nancyesaunders