Why do I write? What do I believe are the key attributes to being a successful writer?
There are many books in the marketplace on how to write a novel, come up with a plot line or develop characters but not much help when it comes to the decision of being a writer and how to make this happen. This leads on to another question; is my work original or copied?
I sometimes find myself in a dilemma when faced with originality and something that is derivative – i.e. based on an idea originally developed by someone else.
I believe the important thing is for the writer, to be completely clear as to whether or not you are being derivative. There is nothing wrong with using other influences in your work – indeed; the best writers often do – so long as you are honest about it and be sure to give credit where credit is due.
Many people feel they might have a book in them - but how do you know whether you have what it takes to be a writer, whether your writing is any good, and what you should write about? Is your work is intended for publication? There are many good reasons to write.
Writing is an inexpensive pastime, requiring just pen and paper and I can do it anywhere. It stimulates my imagination and keeps my brain active. It allows me to articulate my thoughts and to express myself. It helps me understand communication and how to be more critical of the misuse of language in advertising and politics where words are deliberately manipulated to deceive, persuade or cajole their audience or readers.
Writing offers as its tools the entire lexicon of a language, an extraordinary range of old and new words, expressions, phrases, slang, and colloquialisms out of which to construct an article, a short story, a poem, a novel, or a script.
I’ve always enjoyed writing, the act of creating a sequence of words describing a personal experience or a character I've met, to argue a point, or even to create an entire fictional world. When I was young, I wrote short stories or poems for my classmates and sisters. I did well in class compositions on those favourite children’s’ topics — my family holidays at Christmas, a trip to the beach, my favourite person.
Wherever you do it, writing offers a pleasurable, stimulating and inexpensive occupation that can be carried out in your own time, home, and at your own pace.
When I was relieved of my family responsibilities as my children reached adulthood, I took to writing like a duck to water. Many women join Writers' Centres, enter literary competitions and submit poems and short stories to magazines and journals and many have considerable success.
I’m now at a critical step in my writing. With one novel already published, I am busy devoting considerable time to honing my skills in preparation for my next publication.
Some of you readers may say; ‘So what?’
Well I’ll let you into a little secret. I believe this is a courageous decision, because as a writer, surrendering my work to the gaze of others can be an act of exposure of your my intimate thoughts and feelings. It may open me to criticism, it may cause me embarrassment. It is a lonely, challenging occupation spending hours sitting in front of a computer or desk, but only determination will let me complete the task towards publication.
Writing is a craft and takes practice. For most writers it takes time to become proficient in choosing your words and arranging them on the page in a way that best expresses what you have to say. It's not easy, but the effort is immensely rewarding.
I often hear people say, 'I know there's a book in me', or 'I could write a book if only I had the time', or 'My life has been so interesting it would make a great book', or I could write something just as good as the book I’ve just read', or 'I'm going to write about a serial-killer because they’re hugely popular with publishers at the moment', or ‘I was always top at English at school so I know I could write a good novel’, or ‘Now that I’m retired I think I’ll write a book’.
The only possible response to these often annoying statements is, ‘Do it, don’t tell me about it’. It’s not enough to have a vague idea of wanting to write. Writing comes from a deep-seated need for self-expression and to make sense of life, tell stories, entertain, and capture what we feel when we read fiction that moves and enthrals us. The art of writing fiction successfully requires not only talent but craft.
But once I’ve written a book, is it clear that it's a useful thing to publish it? Wouldn't it be easier to just blog it? The goal isn't always to spread an idea. Sometimes the goal is to make change happen. A book is a physical souvenir, my ideas in a physical object. Out of context, a 140 character tweet cannot change someone's life. A blog post just might. A movie can, but most big movies are entertainments designed to make a lot of money, not change people. But books?
Books change lives every day. A book takes more than a few minutes to read. A book envelops us. You start at the beginning and you either enjoy the ride with the author to the end or you get off and stop. And you get to read the book at your own pace, absorbing it as you go.
The best thing for me about writing fiction is that moment where the story catches fire and comes to life on the page. It suddenly all makes sense and I know what it's about, why I’m doing it and what the characters are saying and doing, and I feel like both the creator and the audience. Everything is both obvious and surprising; and it's magic and wonderful and strange.
I don't always live in the book when I write. It can be a long hard walk, a trudge through fog and I’m scared I’ve lost my way and can't remember why I set out in the first place.
But sometimes I fly! That for me is the honey, the ultimate. It pays for everything.
Sunday's Sample Cookout.
Delicious, delightful Crab salad – something different for an Easter Treat.
Go easy on the citrus because too much can mask the crab's flavour – do taste before you squeeze. Serves six.
3 cooked brown crabs, brown and white meat picked and kept separate
2½ tbsp good-quality mayonnaise
1½ tsp finely chopped chives
Little gem lettuce leaves
2 large hard-boiled eggs, white and yolk chopped separately
A few pinches of cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Brown bread slices, buttered
A few lemon wedges, optional
Put the brown crab meat in a bowl, combine with the mayo and chives, and season to taste. Pile some white meat on to a little gem leaf, spoon over some brown meat, then some chopped egg, and sprinkle on a bit of cayenne. Repeat with the remaining leaves. Serve with buttered brown bread and lemon wedges.
This is simply delicious - enjoy your Easter!