Wednesday, 6 January 2010

The heart of a story

Happy New Year! I'm late to the party, but I've been enjoying catching up with people's resolutions, all of which seem very sane and sensible. Realism is the order of the day, as I've been reading around. Who says creative people have their heads in the clouds? In fact that's probably one of the silliest myths about artists of any kind. Who gets their hands dirtier with the messy business of life than artists, of every kind? But this isn't a rant. It's a celebration. Of stamina and staying-power and sheer bloodymindedness.

Over the past few weeks and months I've come closer than I've been in ten years to giving up 'this dream of writing'. Not that it has ever felt like a dream. Ref my earlier point about mess. Then I spent a few quiet hours with some great books (I'm reading more of Alice Munro, and discovering Raymond Carver), and in my own company, asking myself questions (gently, rather than the interrogative, reproachful angle I tend to take) and I reached a conclusion that's helping me find my focus again. I'd strayed too far from the heart of what I was trying to do. In a couple of specific cases I'd been trying to tell a story from entirely the wrong perspective, in the wrong way.

I knew these were good stories, but I was beginning to think I was not the person to be telling them. Well, over the last three days I've written a clean draft of one of these - a short story that's been part of my life for years, to which I feel a debt that was probably putting too much pressure on my instinct as an artist, skewing my approach to it. I've written a clean draft and I think it's good. Too soon to say that for sure, but what I can say is that it's the closest I've come so far to telling the heart of this story in the way it deserves to be told.

In addition to this I've got a little project going on which is just a tickle at this stage but a very exciting one. I feel like a writer again, and it feels good.

24 comments:

Nik Perring said...

Hurrah!

Sarah Hilary said...

Thanks, Nik. Are you snowed in yet?

Nik Perring said...

Thoroughly!

Sarah Hilary said...

We have snow here and it's pretty deep but I was able to walk into work, so...

Nik Perring said...

Goodo. It's definitely walkable-in up here (we've had about 10-12 inches), but it is very, very slippery. Looks good though

Sarah Hilary said...

I much prefer it to the ice. I was trying to find a word to describe the sound fresh snow makes when you walk on it. Crump, was the closest I came. I do love that sound.

Nik Perring said...

I think it sounds like someone moving in a leather jacket

Sarah Hilary said...

Ha! I like that, Nik.

Gay Degani said...

Yo Mama. It strikes me so funny that this is the year you've received so much recognition for your fabulous work. Thank goodness. It is amazing how easy it is to slip into "what's-the-use" mode and how terrific it is to have the doubt about yourself (your talent, your drive, your deservedness)knocked down and buried by nominations, prizes, and just plain old fan-love.

For each of us, the "good" thing that happens is always different, depending where we are on the path, but your path, dear friend, is spiraling higher and higher. I never doubted that for one minute.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Sarah, to hear that you've had such doubts makes me feel both better and worse. Better because I don't feel so crazy myself, and worse because how could you feel that way?! Through your blog, I've witnessed your amazing successes, and I am so glad to hear you're back on track. :)

Sarah Hilary said...

Gay, you do me good. I think it's just that I expected to be further on than I find myself right now. But 2009 was a good year for forward movement, for both of us, I think.

Sarah Hilary said...

Madeline, thank you, and I think this is the writer's curse (and blessing): to always want to be better. I need to learn to be more patience, with myself and with the world of writing. A good friend reminded me that wishing too hard for anything seems to scare it away. So I'm going to try to stop wishing and concentrate on writing. Happy New Year (and I love the new blog!)

Tania Hershman said...

Sarah,
I'm so glad to hear that you came through your period of doubt, it would really have been a terrible loss for all of us if you'd decided to give up writing. But I am sure these questioning times are a vital part of it - and look what came out! I can imagine how wonderful that revision feels, so happy for you - may it be a great year of those kinds of writerly experiences!

Caroline - (Choille) said...

Go Tiger Go.

Awra best.

Sarah Hilary said...

Thanks, Tania! I did dream last night of more wonderful things happening, sadly just a dream, but who knows? Right now I'm back in a good place, anyway. Lunch sometime soon, or are you avoiding the snow?!

Sarah Hilary said...

Thanks, Caroline. How's the mentoring going? I think that much be amazing.

Jenzarina said...

Hurrah for 'sheer bloody mindedness'!!

Happy 2010,
J x

Sarah Hilary said...

Thanks, Jen, I'd be lost without it!

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

I'm glad you feel like a writer again, Sarah. You are ALWAYS a writer but sometimes, I know, the going gets a bit slippy. Hang in there and trust your talent. I see great things for you. N x

Sarah Hilary said...

Nuala, you made my weekend with this supportive, lovely comment. Thank you! x

Gerry said...

Don't give up the dream!

Sarah Hilary said...

Thanks, Gerry! (Intrigued as to how you found me - your site looks very exciting but it's new to me.)

Pete said...

I'd strayed too far from the heart of what I was trying to do. In a couple of specific cases I'd been trying to tell a story from entirely the wrong perspective, in the wrong way.

Hi Sarah, these words struck a chord with me. I've found when I try to write for what I think people will like, or in genre, rather than on instinct, then it comes out wrong in that way you describe, or if I plan too much or have a whole story laid out before I write, it always comes out wrong - the narrative somehow isn't 'inside' the story, it's just jogging along outside looking in and missing the beat at every turn. Trouble is, the instinct stuff only seems to come in fitful and unreliable bursts. Need to develop some marriage of the two streams somehow...
Pete

Sarah Hilary said...

Hi Pete, it's very interesting what you say about having the story too well plotted. I'm just the same - although I know all the advice says have the major plotlines in place first, it can make the writing process over-formulaic, to the extent you describe (love the image of the jogging narrative). If you find a way to arrange the marriage, please do share!