Saturday 7 May 2011

This above all, to thine own self be true

I've wanted to be a writer ever since I can remember. I was the oddball only child of two reading addicts, and my parents would rather read than do just about anything else. This is something I inherited from them, and I started reading before I went to play school. For as long as I can remember I have had a book on the go constantly. I read fast and if I haven't got at least another two books lined up for after I finish my current one then I start to get panicky. 

Since I loved books so much, I knew I wanted to be a writer from a young age. I was good at creative writing in school, so it seemed like a logical extension of my book addiction. My grandad tried to put me off by telling me that I'd never make any money as a writer so I should do something else. But I still wasn't deterred.

I wrote short stories and poetry, and some of them did well in competitions. But then there was my novel. I tried to write a novel so many times, but always fell at the first hurdle. Or the first chapter.

There were three main reasons why I didn't get very far. One was that I just didn't have the discipline yet. I expected to write a novel from start to finish, read over it a couple of times and submit it. If only it were that simple. Second of all, I couldn't turn off my inner editor. I would pour over the paragraphs that I'd written sighing internally. Now I write without pause for the first draft, then start to edit. And because I've had time to cool off I tend to find that the prose isn't as bad as I feared at the time.

But the big block to me writing my first novel, was that I was writing for other people. I love literary fiction, and I've read reams of it. Literary fiction is widely regarded as having more merit than popular or commercial fiction. I was writing a literary novel to impress other people, when every competition I'd won was for my more popular chatty style of writing. I was writing the book I wanted other people to think I'd written, rather than the book I wanted to write. Once I gave myself permission to be myself, the writing process became a lot easier and a lot more fun.

If you're going to finish your novel and write a book that other people will enjoy, you have to be true to yourself. That is the single most important piece of advice out there. And then maybe editors will liek ur submishuns.

P.S. I got a Versatile Blogger award from Michelle. How cool is that? Thanks Michelle :)


  1. this is lovely, and so very true. you need to write for yourself first and foremost -- that's more important than anything else.

  2. I completely agree with everything you said. Writing for other people is a short trip to disasterland! It's so important to write for yourself, that way you're writing not only things that you would like to read, but also something you can be proud of having written.

  3. I am an avid reader too and like you, if I don't have 2 books ready to lined up, I am in a panic too!

  4. Call me a dreamer, but I think that being true your own voice is the shortest path to creating work that has the kind of depth that literary fiction aspires to. Chatty or ponderous, that voice--when true to the writer--is closest to the writer's own truths and pain. How can that be considered mere 'entertainment'?

  5. Very true, Christine. If you don't love what you write how are you ever going to get through 80k words? Middles are hard enough to get through as it is. O.O

  6. Hi, Christine, Sorry to post here but I didn't see any other way to contact you. I believe you subscribed to my blog via email (for which I am very grateful) but I'm getting "undeliverable" messages regarding your Imagagination Station email address. Hopefully we can straighten this out.
    BTW, LOVE the cat picture!!

  7. I learned that too. I've always had my nose in a book and my mom would tell me to stop reading to play outside or do something! It is so important to write what you love and not to please others, then they might like it. :)