I am supposed to be writing for myself this month but there are six days (about) left and I only have ten thousand words of the fifty thousand minimum limit. I shall give up without much of a fuss this month And hope for the best in the next month I set aside for some writing.
With cheer I say, I do believe I have once again stumbled upon the Writing Blues! Everything seems to come to a juddering halt before the brick wall of discouragement. None of my characters will adhere to my commands. They have wilful souls of their own, and oddly, all seem to be biased towards the defiant, sullen demeanor. This will not do at all, because they can’t all monopolise the brooding inclination. They can’t all have the same damn personality!
These aren’t blues, though, so much as purples. This is not the muffled thump of me falling into a pit of writing misery. This is the tremulous hanging in the airless space between inspiration and avolition. Between red and blue. In purple.
Her brother was off studying to be a doctor. Her younger sister had married a sailor, and was off traversing the oceans. They received a letter from Phyllis every six months, like clockwork, detailing one grand adventure after another. Small notes in the margins to outline the many illnesses she had managed to catch, but mostly tales of escapade after escapade.
Her dearest friend; they were joined at the hip from the tender age of four, had taken herself off to university.
‘What will you become,’ Laura remarked one day, a week before Mary was set to leave.
‘Nothing,’ Mary retorted, ‘I shall become knowledgable and learned, and then marry a rich man and raise some beautiful babies.’ Her eyes danced with laughter and light.
Everything was a possibility for Mary.
Everything was possible.
But for Laura, nothing beckoned to her from the distant, shimmering paths of the years ahead. She had no plans. Her sights were set on nothing.
When they all left, one by one, and she took up her pen at her desk by the window, looking over her rose garden, a deep desolation settled on her shoulders. It shrouded her like a cloak of misery. Her eyes scanned the roses, the trees of the gardens beyond, the acres of forest behind, all with her name on it. And beyond, the hills rolling away pale and blue in the distance.
They all wrote.
John from medical school. Mary from her dorms at university. Phyllis.. yes baby Phyllis still sending bi-annual letters. The days melted into weeks, into months. The letters became scarce.
She was busy enough, of course. She taught at the school on Tuesdays. She wrote for the paper, and soon her published pieces were so numerous that Aunt Martha, her mother and Mrs Norton no longer exclaimed over them with the same gusto.
‘Oh, Laura, another piece! Well done, dear,’
Their eyes did not match their words. They scanned her. Scanned her. Expected her to do things.
They invited young males over – parading her. She said as much in one of her letters to Tom, ink spattering indignantly on her face.
And Tom, TOM, they PARADE me. Can you believe the audacity? Your own mother invited Colonel Williams one evening and then decided she had a headache and could not possibly stay to keep him company, and ‘Laura dear’ would you please be so kind as to take the good colonel out to look at your beautiful roses. YOUR MOTHER, TOM?! Of course, my own mother is no better. She informed me we would be seeing Lady Betsy and to wear my best dress, you know, with the rosebuds. So I got all het up thinking the worst. It was all a wonderful conspiracy. Lady Betsy and Mama walked arm in arm ahead while a tall, gangly fellow whose name I cannot for the life of me recall regaled me with tall tales of life in the Navy. THE NAVY?! I informed him I much preferred the life a doctor leads – the only profession I know most about, since I have a bi-monthly summary from you and my brother.
And then Mary’s engagement. To John. Of all people.
She had a fat juicy letter brimming with the details from Mary. A short concise letter from her brother, the few words he had so clearly carefully selected not concealing the great joy leaping out at her from beneath. Leaping at her and stabbing her right in the heart.
She ought to have been happy. So happy. Leaping over the hills happy.
Writing a book is an incredibly hard thing. I fancy myself a writer but I have never properly finished writing a book. Sure, I’ve written drafts, but it’s a mammoth task turning a draft into something that flows with the smooth syrupy confidence of authentic maple syrup over some self-assured pancakes.
I have read plenty of books and judged them mercilessly. Some books feel cheap to me and I can SEE the potential in them, the words leap out in broken shatters, begging to be re-strung, imploring the author to please re-dress them, as they tumble about their pages in clumsy clusters. Some books just need a good editor.
Then there are other books that lift my feet right off the ground. I find myself amazed and defeated all at once. I find myself nursing an ache that won’t go away. How do people put pen to paper and release such magnificent things? Worlds and vivid imagery and passionate characters with all the dimensions of a kaleidoscope.
As an example, I was reading Ian McEwan’s Atonement, and when I reached the end I felt despair when I realised that he had attempted to dumb his novel down, since it was written by his heroine, Briony. I opened the first page of Gerald Durrell’s ‘My Family and Other Animals’ and was floored by the ushering in of a leaden August sky by a biting wind that blew out July. The life in their words seethe and sizzle on the faded pages on which they were printed. And I don’t know how.
So yes. Writing a book is a very difficult thing. And I am sure the people who wrote the ‘badly written’ books must have thought that their books were ‘well written’, else they would be ashamed to have them out in the world. So, that begs the question, HOW do you know your writing is ‘good enough’?
I am walking past a huge Waterstones. And there, in the glass display, is a book written by me. Yes me. You see that? It says Lenora Sparrow on it. The cover design is simple and elegant. No pictures. Just a dark blue cover with little yellow dots all over it and the title in handwriting that is not too airy fairy and not too serious either.
And the blurb on the back makes me so excited because.. well.. I don’t know. I just love it and them and want to share them with you.
And there are lots of my book in stock. And all the signs say, ‘Hurry up and grab this book!’ and inside my heart is surging with joy because that is all I have ever wanted since I was seven years old writing stories in my dad’s university exam answer booklets.
I said to my parents, ‘Just you wait, I will have published a book by the time I am fifteen.’
They used to tease me and take my exercise books and read them to each other!! The audacity.
I wrote it, folks. That book I swore I would write. From age 11 to 14, I wrote it all out using dozens of pens. Seven massive notebooks, filled to the brim with words. Three huge folders with family trees and calligraphy signs and characterisation sheets and land naming and maps and paintings of what I think my characters look like.
I still have them. Shoved in the back of my gateway to Narnia.
I want to write a book that blows your socks off. I want to write a book that makes your heart ache with nostalgia and joy and the pleasure of meeting my people.
I want to write characters that will walk out of the pages and live in your mind and haunt your dreams.
But can I? And will I, EVER?
I walked past Waterstones today and there was a new book in there by a young woman not much older than me, and it’s famous already because she is a relatively well known Youtuber and it looks like a decent book, you know, because this girl actually has something decent to say.
And I felt so excited because it looks completely gorgeous and I have a feeling it is a heartbreaker, and I picked it up and read a few lines and well, I am happy for her, of course, but I am also a little bit jealous. I will definitely read her book because I like her content, and will support it.
It’s called ‘On the Other Side’ by Carrie Hope Fletcher.
I was jealous of Christopher Paolini who published Eragon at age fifteen. I thought, ‘I gotta beat this guy’ because I was thirteen at the time and I had two years ahead of me and I had three books under my belt.
But I didn’t send them to anybody. Because they weren’t good enough. Of course. They aren’t good enough. Nothing I have written is good enough. And I have a wonderfully electric story in my head but my fingers and brain will NOT collaborate to write it how my mind sees it and it is so FRUSTRATING because all I want is to have my books in shop windows and on bookshelves and to contribute to somebody’s childhood.