Every morning, before I start my editing work, I write. This morning, though, I was at a loss as to what to write. I have several projects on the go. My first novel, third draft, I am waiting for my husband to read and wondering about whether or not to self-publish. I don’t feel convinced enough of that one to send it to agents, though of everything I have written so far, it is perhaps the truest expression of my feelings. That scares me, and exposes me, because it is cynical and dark.
My second novel is feeling its way out into the world. I’m realistic, and I understand it’s likely nothing will happen; chances are it’s just another warm-up. It’s not perfect, for a start – perhaps too subtle (or not subtle enough). The ending might be considered cheesy. On the other hand, I am immensely proud of it … and the ending in particular. Whatever happens, there is that.
My third novel is struggling to get going. I have two possible leads, but they haven’t dragged me in yet. In short, there is nothing bubbling away at the moment that I quite feel I can sit down with of a morning and churn out 800 or 1,000 words, and just plug away at, happily abiding with the characters in their universe. I’m still scratching at things, trying to reveal their shapes in the dirt.
And yes, there are some short stories. I have a new one that is just about complete, and I like it very much, but I am worried it’s too obscure. There is an aspect of it that seems like two stories fighting to punch their way out of a paper bag (quite a beautifully constructed bag), and not managing. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere, if I could only locate it.
Flash fictions – fun to write, but about as substantial as a Polo that’s been sucked a bit. Perhaps I’m not doing them right, yet.
Across all endeavours, I have themes: ghosts of the past, hallucinations, trapped women, the beauty and the terror of the natural world. But are my themes just insubstantial sketches, or can I mine them for deeper meaning? Deeper meaning that people will actually want to read … It’s a conundrum.
I started writing properly when I stopped drinking, at the end of 2015. No coincidence. I am very disciplined, but as my husband pointed out last night, also too hard on myself. Has this become just another thing I feel the need to achieve at? Anxiety levels can sometimes go through the roof.
Like many people who work with words, I consider myself not so good with people, in person. In a group I sometimes feel too quiet, like I don’t want to inflict myself on others. I almost feel relieved for them when they finally get away from me, so they can find someone more exciting to talk to. When I write, though, that feeling goes away. The buzzing in my head recedes, the voices telling me I’m not good enough, and if I let myself I can attain that perfect state where I feel at one with things, where I am walking through a vivid dream and controlling what happens, and communicating it as faithfully as I can.
This is why I write, even on mornings when the internal buzzing is loud, while my surroundings seem to be on mute and I’m looking at everything through a layer of grubby polythene, and to cap it all it’s Monday. I write to send my voice out into the world (and don’t get me started, again, on the world at the moment) in the best way I can. Even if only a few people read it and nod, that’s something. Or even if it only stays as words on a screen, sometimes. Still, it is a flare of flame in the darkness of my head.
Liz Jones has worked as an editor in the publishing industry since 1998, and has been freelance since 2008. When she’s not editing, often she’s writing – and some mornings, it goes quite well!