Holding uncertainty


I write quite quickly. I can do about 3 pages in 45 minutes, if in that section I don’t have to keep checking things on the internet as I go (research!) I did a calculation once – maths is not my strong point, but I figured out I could probably write a whole manuscript in 24 hours if I didn’t eat, sleep (etcetera) or stop!

Some of you who are writers will know what I’m talking about. Writing a book is like driving a freight train that picks up speed. Your family and others better get out of the way. Especially when the hero and heroine are about to you-know-what. There’s an urgency, right?

What makes it worse (or better) is that I don’t feel in control of what I’m doing. I get a general feel for the book, I sort of know what must happen, but I can’t tell you chapter-for-chapter what it’s going to look like before I start. I’ve tried, believe me. But it always does its own thing anyway. So I have notes that go, “Is he her half-brother?!” and so on. More about the importance of notes later.

It’s hard, not knowing exactly how everything will pan out, but it’s also wonderful. I am always delighted by the little unplanned links and twists. In fact, I write to be surprised. Otherwise I think it would be a very boring exercise.

The flip side is that you may go around in your daily life with the gnawing thought that you’ve just finished Chapter 7, and you know you will write 8 tomorrow, but right now you have no idea what that will look like. And to trust that it will come.

Because it does.

Take breaks. Don’t write the book in 24 hours, just so you can nail it down and release yourself from the clutches of anxiety. So much good comes when you’ve rested, eaten well, and played in other areas of your life too.

That’s Elektra, by the way (Marvel Comics). She doesn’t look afraid of much.

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