Things I wish a bigger writer had told me or how to write real good without even trying, part two.
by SJ Griffin
What have I been all this time? Finishing The Replacement and starting The Perfectionist. Truly I am a servant to two masters and this blog is a cruel mistress so I have been avoiding her. I haven’t been avoiding you though, never you. Right, this is the second part in our new series (title above) the first part of which you can find here.
Write something they’ll enjoy, not something they’ll admire.
You’ll remember, regular reader, that when I was a whippersnapper I harboured a secret desire to be the Greatest Novelist That Ever Lived. Well, we all do embarrassing things when we’re younger, things our older self looks back on and holds a less secret desire to exercise serious bodily violence on said younger self. Poor younger self. And yet not poor, in need of a slap.
There’s nothing wrong with having ambitions, dreams, whatever you want to call them. The problem for me was that this idea, that I was the Greatest Novelist That Ever Lived was holding me back simply, I think, through the sheer overwhelming pressure it placed on me. Everyone word that I wrote had to be perfect, every sentence had to be so beautifully that formed that Hemingway and Fitzgerald would rise from their graves and offer thanks for my presence on earth. Seriously. It’s little wonder that not a lot happened and what did happen was not… well, not the work of the Greatest Novelist That Ever Lived.
So how come I am writing, writing, writing all the time? What changed?
There’s not one answer to that question. Part one gives one answer but today’s answer is that I stopped trying to write something I thought people would admire and starting writing something that I hoped they would enjoy. As Nietzsche once said:
“Admiration for a quality or an art can be so strong that it deters us from striving to possess it.”
In trying to write something perfect I had sent myself standards so impossibly high that I was doomed to fail and it’s very hard to do anything when you know it’s not going to be good enough, anything at all.
This is not to say that I set out to write something rubbish for the lowest common denominator, or to make money. I don’t enjoy books like that Fifty… no, I can’t bring myself mention it, or the stuff that intelligence-vortex Louise Mensch dribbled out as Louise Bagshawe so I couldn’t sit down and write like that, best selling though they are and financially sensible it might be. I wouldn’t enjoy the experience of writing like that anymore than I enjoy the experience of reading that stuff. Instead I thought about a story I’d like to read and a character I’d like to spend time with and I wrote about that. I found I enjoyed writing. I found the words flew onto the page, the character came to life and I had written a book. And then I found that I had written another one.
Of course, I had to work this all out by myself. Tthere was no bigger writer who came along and to tell me the score, no epiphany, just a slow realisation and a willingness to experiment. And to commit, but more on commitment next time…