Gonna get myself connected
Writers dig alone time. It’s our bread and butter. It gives us time to write, to think, to observe, to read…to walk around in our pants. It allows us space to figure out what we want to say and how we want to say it. Also, because we’re writers, we have imaginations, which means that even sitting in an armchair staring at a wall can be fascinating, because hey… what’s behind that wall? What is that creepy painting hiding? Are those scratch marks I can see on the skirting boards? What kind of flesh-gobbling terror monster is sizing me up right now! There are so many possible storylines circulating in our minds at any one time that we never really get a moment’s peace.
I have always equated being alone with forward progress. While I love the company of my family and friends, it’s only really when I’m alone that I get stuff done. And I have a whole lotta of stuff I want to do. Run and build The Riff Raff, pitch the TV script I’ve been working on for years, finish book two…all while keeping a roof over my head and food in my belly via various freelancing gigs. That’s a lot of tasks. And so I do what I’ve always done - actively seek out alone time so that I can attempt to achieve maximum efficiency. Offer me a cabin in the woods and I’ll bite your arm off. Somewhere I only have to interact with humans one day a week? Sure, easy peasy. Hell, I moved to Spain – a country where I understand 40% of what’s happening at any given moment – just so I could have more time to focus on my writing. While in some ways, it's worked -that’s a lot of pressure on making every single word count. And I've realised when I put that much pressure on my writing, I can stop appreciating the act for what it is…a chance to make sense of life and, most importantly for me, to connect with others.
The Riff Raff is great for feeling that connection. It was started because of a very real need to meet other writers and to feel less alone. To speak to other people, who also aren’t massive fans of eye contact, about what they are writing, how they apply themselves, and how bloody difficult it can all be sometimes. The Riff Raff forced me out of my metaphorical cabin in the woods and helped me to meet people – and lovely you are too! It allows me to speak about writing, to attempt to understand it, to indulge the part of me that eats, sleeps and bleeds writing, but standing in front of a crowd of people has never really been my sweet spot. Public speaking makes my knees shake and I get a bit rash-y. Having Rosy standing beside me made it okay, but doing it alone is a different story. When you set something up as a duo, you’re protected. You’re seen as a collective, rather than one mind. And since Rosy left, I’ve felt quite exposed. And again, quite isolated. No more right hand woman to speak to about every thought that pops into my head. No one to sense check me or what I’ve written. Now, everything that The Riff Raff puts out comes from me. It’s exposing – and I'm an introvert - so at times, that makes me want to pull on a balaclava and army roll under a sofa.
But, I’m done with behaving and feeling like that. That was Book One Amy. This time round I don’t want to go into hiding. It's hard enough working on a huge project, without feeling the need to keep everything to myself. My plan is to write about writing my book in the hope it will finally help me shake my troublesome tendency to second-guess every single word, because when you have 75,000 to write - that approach doesn’t get you anywhere fast. And because I am very much in ‘it’. I have gathered my tools. As I type I am surrounded by post-it-notes, lists, colour-coded charts for ticking off my daily word count, highlighter pens and index cards (Yes I do love stationery – what of it?). There is a coffee pot and two dirty mugs within arms reach. I’m wearing the uniform…namely, ear plugs and a dressing gown at 2pm, plus the slightly crazed expression of someone who wakes up at 6am every day, to put down imperfect word after imperfect word in the hope that eventually those words might come somewhere close to perfect, at least in my eyes.
Being connected to other writers is fuel. It helps you remember why you want to write when your characters won't behave themselves (mine are so naughty) and you have no idea whether you'll ever make it. Hearing what other people are going through and how they tackle their blocks and hurdles head on offers insight that can change the course of your whole project, and how you handle it. It also reminds you of the magic, because when it's going well, that's exactly what it is...magic. I hope that by sharing my journey with those of you currently frowning a lot over your work in progress, and those of you who are absolutely bossing it, we can all feel less alone in our ambitions - and, more importantly, a little less barmy.
So let’s connect - talk to me. Only 50 of you can fit in that room at the Effra Social every month and although I want to speak to you all, it's often impossible. Let's use the magic of the Internet. I would love to connect with you more. Tell me what you're writing? What are you stuck on? What drives you bonkers and what keeps you going. Hit me up on Twitter or via email. I want to hear everything and would love to hear from you.