Sunday, 27 June 2010

A Writer Needs to Learn to be Alone

When I did the creative writing course at "Jakan" in Stockholm we did a field trip to Norstedts - one of Sweden's biggest publishing companies. What I remember the most is that the editor who showed us around said that in order to become a writer you need to learn to be alone.

When I was younger being alone was my natural state. (In my early teens I didn't have many friends and spent my time afternoons and evenings doing homework, reading and writing.) I was also alone when I first moved to Stockholm and when I first moved to Brighton and when I lived in Thailand and New Zealand. Durings these spells of loneliness I started or worked intensly on novels.

As I got older and more confident I made more friends, and nowadays I have to force myself to be alone. Brighton is a very sociable place and is great for sparking off your imagination. Brighton is also a great distraction.

This week I did a bit of an experiment. I made squares in my diary when I had time off and put "Lou" in the squares to remind me that this week I'm going to spend time with myself. It proved succesful.

First I had itchy fingers and wanted to text everybody in my address book and suggest beers and on the beach. Then I realised that I'm fully capable of having a beer on the beach on my own. Because it's in my own company, when I create reflection time for myself that I come up with ideas and feel creative. I love sitting on the beach or in a cafe with my notebook and write down random thoughts and allow myself to let my mind wander. Then I go home and transfer some of my thoughts to the computer, seeing if anything could make it into a short story.

The result this week:
*I worked on CLEANING IN LINGERIE - a story for the Bridport Prize
*I wrote a piece called THE ART OF MISSING ROXANNE
*I started a story about my death and loss
*I started a story about a pillow fight
*I worked on a story for the Short Fuse Edge of the Sea festival event
*I worked on a story that was called TOUCH ME LIKE YOU WOULD TOUCH HIM and renamed it. It's now called THE PARTY IS OVER.

Sometimes my scheduled writing time in the morning before I go to the library is not enough. To come up with new ideas I often need evenings and weekend to float about in. The mornings are great for getting on with things, a bit like an office job: right today I'm going to work on this story kind of thing. Whereas evenings and weekends are better for coming up with free ideas and do some wild writing. I have to remind myself not to fill every evening and every weekend with other people. I need to re-learn to be alone.*

*A lot of people who are alone watch TV or do housework. TIP: throw out the TV, ignore the dirt and be creative instead!

1 comment:

  1. Finding your own space and time is very important, and I think your Lou Box strategy is a good one.

    There are writers who are exceptions to the rule mentioned by the editor at Norstedts ... such as the great and wonderful novelist Joseph Roth, who wrote in noisy cafes while chatting with friends and acquaintances.

    You're right about the wasteful distractions of TV, it's a plague on consciousness. And I've never been that fond of dusting.

    Sounds like you had a really productive week!