Last week I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Tinder Press New Writer’s Evening at Foyles Bookshop in Central London. It was a lovely event with free wine and pizza. They even had goodybags, filled with beautiful full colour postcards of their book covers, and a free book! I can’t wait to read The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop!
The journalist, Anita Sethi, interviewed the three authors: Maggie O’Farrell, Sarah Winman and Sarah Leipciger about their creative process, how they write and when they began writing, as well as their individual paths to publication. Maggie O’Farrell is the author of six novels, including After You’d Gone, which I’d highly recommend, and Instructions for a Heatwave, which I’ve yet to read. Both Sarah Winman and Sarah Leipciger are fairly new novelists. Sarah Winman’s second novel, A Year of Marvellous Ways, about an 89-year-old woman who lives alone in a remote area of Cornwall, will be released on 18th June. Sarah Leipciger’s first novel, The Mountain Can Wait, about a single father living alone in the Canadian wilderness with his two children, was released in May. They both look to be excellent reads, which I can’t wait to dive into. You can read more about them here: http://tinderpress.co.uk/our-books/
For me, the most memorable part of the evening was when a man in the audience asked if any of the authors had ever read what they had just written and thought it was absolutely ground-breaking work. All three authors seemed to agree that, for them, and perhaps for women writers generally, it is more likely that they will have the opposite reaction to their writing. They tended to re-read what they had written and decide it was awful, and to overall be very self-defeating in response to it.
This was familiar to me, as it is how I often feel after reading what I’ve recently written. I would tend to agree with the writers too, that more women than men seem to have this response. I’ve known several women writers who tended to approach their work this way, often deleting whole chapters because they didn’t feel they were good enough. I did this myself for years, always deleting more than I wrote, not because this was my process but because I lacked the necessary confidence in myself as a writer.
Sarah Winman went on to say that to have either a grandiose or a self-defeating response to your writing, is indicative of a self-conscious writing process, and that self-conscious writing is the enemy of good writing. The best writing is the purest writing, and comes from deep within the author. She said that all artists need to have a good knowledge of who they are and a good relationship with themselves, because the work they do derives from their own individuality.
This reminded me of Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, when she talks about the need for creative people to nurture their inner artist, or muse.
So, how can we get away from self-conscious writing? Getting into your ‘zone,’ or ‘bubble,’ as these authors called it, helps. But this can be difficult. Sarah Leipciger and Maggie O’Farrell said that they light a candle to help get into the right mood. Sarah Winman admitted to having to close the curtains at times, to keep from being distracted.
For me, getting into this bubble is about allowing my mind to turn inward, to the story I’m trying to create. Sometimes altering my environment helps, and sometimes it doesn’t. I’m more likely to achieve this when I give myself permission to write badly, even terribly, because for the time being, I’ll be the only one who will read it. And I’d rather end the day with 2000 poorly written words which I can revise, than nothing at all. It’s about letting go of my current reality and allowing the writing to take over, sometimes having very little idea of where it will take me. And, finally, it is about saving the editing for after the story is finished. Because editing requires a very different thought process to writing.
I’ve also discovered that if I have another task I’d rather not do, I can use writing as a way of putting that task off. Then my writing goes really well. 😉
How do you feel your best writing comes about? Do you think it’s necessary for writers to have a good relationship with themselves to write well? And, if you’re a woman writer, do you struggle with self-confidence issues in relation to your writing? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment below.
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