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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Coping with Chloe, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. When Writers Play - by Rosalie Warren

How often do you play? In your work, I mean? In your writing, if that's what you do?



Most writers start out, I think, by 'playing' at writing - however young or old we may be at the time. In those early days, writing is probably a hobby - perhaps an escape from real life in the form of a dull or demanding job and/or a challenging home life. At the beginning, we are often bursting with enthusiasm and ideas, and what we lack is the space, time and (perhaps) expertise to get them into shape.

If we persevere and have a hefty dose of luck, we may end up earning something for our efforts. In the past, if not so much so today, some writers could make a part-time or even a full-time career out of it. If they were very lucky, they might even become rich, though of course most never did, however good they were.

The danger is that as our writing careers progress, it's so easy to lose that intial sense of fun and play. Writing becomes the thing we have to do - either to please a publisher or even just ourselves. I'm all in favour of self-discipline - the 'sit down at your desk at 9am (if only!) so the muse knows where to find you' and the 'minimum word count per day' frame of mind. Mostly, these things work for me. But it's when I lose that sense of play that trouble looms.

I've experienced this before, way back in another life, when I studied for a PhD and then became a researcher and, eventually, a university lecturer. As a student, my research was mostly fun. OK, I was lucky - I know that PhDs can sometimes be a terrible slog. But I happened upon a topic that fascinated me, had a good supervisor and made encouraging progress from the start. My main problem was combining this with caring for two young children. Not easy, but still, on the whole, satisfying and fun.

The fun continued when I gained an EPSRC research fellowhip for three years to do postdoctoral research. In fact that was eaiser, as it was actually a 2-year fellowship spread out over three years, which suited me fine.

The trouble started after that. My marriage broke up, which didn't help. I spent a year looking for a job in the city where my ex worked so my children could see us both. After months of struggling to get by, doing tutoring and gardening and PhD supervision, often all at the same time (well, in the same morning, anyway), I managed to get a lectureship at a unviersity. Perfect - except that I was now so busy, with several hours' commuting each day, a high teaching load, masses of admin, supervising students, giving pastoral advice, etc etc etc - my research slid into the back seat. It was no longer fun - and all my creativity dried up. It became something I had to do - in order to keep my job - and something I had to do well. In the odd hour or so between other commitments, I had to come up with earth-shaking new projects and theories. Hmmm....

The human brain just doesn't work that way. Or mine doesn't. A move south (the children older now) and a new job helped a bit at first, but the pattern was soon reestablished and the commute even longer. What's more, I now had an invalid mother-in-law waiting for me with all her demands when I got home - and two teenage step-children. Then my mother died and my father (110 miles away) became very ill. Something had to give and it was my health. I had a breakdown and was very lucky to be offered early retirement on a small pension, which put me in a position (just) of being able to fulfil my lifelong dream and spend my time writing.

That was wonderful - and still is. But just recently, six years on, writing has begun to feel l

8 Comments on When Writers Play - by Rosalie Warren, last added: 5/21/2012
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2. Pearly Gatekeepers by Rosalie Warren

In one of my recurring nightmares, I'm ascending the golden staircase that leads up to the pearly gates, and there stands St Peter in his robes and spectacles, frowning.

I clutch my bundle of documents, all 12 point Times New Roman double-spaced (or should that be single-spaced, where the synopsis is concerned? Or 1.5? I've consulted a bunch of archbishops on the matter - no one seems to know. Not that it matters to them, they're already in the system...)

I've counted my words, headed my headers and footed my footers. My printer's been well fed with the choicest cartridges and the smoothest, whitest paper money can buy. I've define my genre and 'placed' myself with respect to other authors, though I haven't mentioned Charles Dickens, George Eliot or JKR. My pages are pristine, my sentences grammatical, my metaphors well-chosen, poignant and surprising (though no longer so surprising, after nine revisions, to me).

I hand over my submission with trepidation.

St Peter casts an eye over Chapters 1-3 of my life. Shakes his head, tuttting solemnly. 'Typo on page 2,' he intones. 'I'm afraid this is completely unacceptable. We can't consider anyone who has a typo on page 2 of their life story. And this is even worse - an exclamation mark on page 4!'

Chapters 1-3 are dropped (passive alert!) carelessly to the ground, which I notice is soggy and slush-like, consisting as it does of a thick layer of decaying manuscripts. St Peter glances at my letter and gives another frown.

'I didn't mention that my children love my work,' I venture (no, sorry, I say. One must never use a different word for 'say'). 'Nor did I tell you anything about my garden, my goldfish or my penchant for golden syrup sandwiches.'

'Adverbs...' intones St P. 'Three of them. To say nothing of four adjectives in the first two paragraphs of your synopsis.'

I bristle. 'There may be the occasional adverb, but only where strictly needed to make my meaning clear.'

'Strictly?' bellows St Peter. 'That's an adverb if I ever heard one. Save it for those dancing programmes on TV. I've sent devoted believers to hell for less.'

'But surely...' I adopt a pleading tone. No, make that a wheedling tone. 'St Peter, please. I've spent a lifetime honing and polishing my life story. Is there nothing I can do to get you to read it - so you can actually judge my life on its merit

16 Comments on Pearly Gatekeepers by Rosalie Warren, last added: 2/2/2012
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