A friend gave me a jaunty box set as a gift: 'No Plot No Problem!' - how to write a novel in thirty days. Perhaps it was a hint? There's a book, stickers ('Ask me about my novel!' - maybe you are supposed to plaster it across your forehead?), even a reward chart that looked rather like the ones we used during potty training (ooh, good girl! 2000 words!). If the idea appeals to you, check out the 'letters and light' at: Nanowrimo.
Motivation is a funny thing. What works for you? Stickers just don't cut it with me I'm afraid (though Green & Blacks, Sancerre or Jude's Ginger Spice ice cream from the village Post Office have been known to push me towards a deadline). The pilot is in Mexico so I've been going to bed early with Richard E Grant. Have decided the only way to survive these exotic long haul separations and keep my sense of humour is to do stuff I wouldn't do when he is here (pesto, entire series of Sex & the City, weepy French subtitled movies, going to bed at the same time as the children with a good book). 'With Nails' is wonderful - has had me alternately weeping in recognition and snorting with laughter into my tea. There are so many parallels between the worlds of acting and writing, though one's essentially a public and the other a solitary way to work - the section about his feelings of vulnerability during the emotional rollercoaster of moving between agents really struck a chord ... Last night REG was on more bullish form, having dinner with a famous director. They were comparing notes about what motivates their work, what drives their ambition. For both of them it came down to revenge, pure and simple. They wanted to prove every person who told them they weren't good enough wrong.
Seems something of a bitter victory - though there was that tutor at Cambridge whose interview technique consisted of taunting a green 16 year old instead of say, I don't know, talking about books for example? I was thinking of this watershed point in my life the other night while I was merrily watching 'Class of 2008' - Daisy Lowe and pals. I had one of those wake-up moments when I suddenly realised these kids were literally half my age. Where has the time gone? My nieces and nephews are now facing university interviews. I am officially old. Flashback to a lamp lit fuggy study, 1988 ... I'd been prepped at school to think this was going to be an interesting chat about literature. He made mincemeat of me, then with a leer tossed a copy of Yeats' 'Leda and the Swan' over. Incredible to think now, but up to that point my life had been so sheltered that no one in a position of authority had ever been deliberately unpleasant. It threw me completely and I flunked the interview. Whoever he was, he ensured I never studied English as planned - if Cambridge didn't want me, I wasn't going to study it anywhere else ... (I know - drama queen, nose - face etc ... I've mellowed since then).
Twenty years on, I have heard so many tales from wet behind the ears Oxbridge rejects I feel I'm not alone. The one, for example, where the boy walked into the study and the jaded don didn't even bother looking up from his paper. 'Surprise me ...' he sighed. The boy set fire to his paper). I don't feel I lost out on literature. It is still fresh, still a passion - studying art academically with all the Post-Mod deconstruction and theorising killed my simple joy in it. I can no more walk into a gallery and just relax than the pilot can be a good passenger (driving back from a friend's party the other night, he started giving me instructions 'You do know there's a sixth gear?' mercifully falling asleep before a full blown domestic kicked off). I still love books as much as when I discovered Francoise Sagan and Colette the year I flunked Cambridge. That's when I decided I wanted to write - not literature perhaps, but stories people will enjoy and want to read.
One of the exercises in the 'Novel in a month' book is to note down all the elements you love in novels - it's a good test of what you will enjoy writing about. My list scribbled in the margin reads: escapism, beauty, landscape, houses, travel, global nomads, bobos, love, passion, family, glamorous eccentrics, redemption (I still believe in happy endings). Give it a whirl ... day one of the school holidays and just thinking about writing about that lot makes me smile and the Wiggles fade into the background for a moment. Someone said 'Write your joy and good things will follow.' I like that - so thank you to the anonymous tutor at Sydney Sussex who unintentionally ensured the joy I find in writing and books stayed fresh. Revenge? Too cold. Stay warm - rise above it, keep the joy alive.
If your juggling skills could give the Cirque du Soleil a run for its money this is definitely the blog for you. Books, art, music, family life and daily prompts to help you write that book you have in you.