8 March 2006

To all writers

I think I have a problem. Almost certainly most writers out there will think it’s a nice problem to have, but at the moment I still consider it a dilemma.

I have too many ideas! I want to write in too many different genres, I want to write too many stories at once (does that count as three problems?). Then again, I can’t read less than three books at the same time, so no wonder I can’t write less than three novels/short stories/articles at the same time! (Of course, I don’t mean literally at the same time – I mean having three or more books on the go. For example, at the moment, I am reading five books: The Electric Michelangelo, The Shadow of the Wind, Agatha Christie’s autobiography, Desert Solitaire and Status Anxiety. I guess I like variety.)

Why is it that I automatically assume that anything I do, however I do it, is a weakness rather than a strength? It took a lot of cogitation but I have finally come to understand that having several ideas for several genres is an advantage. I have realised that while one short story matures at the back of my brain, my novel can be written; while an article is put to rest for a few weeks, I can edit a few pages of my children’s novel. The brain doesn’t stop thinking about all these projects just because you have stopped working on them. Au contraire – it does all the background work, and when you come back to that article/story/novel, you can see it with fresh eyes and have new ideas to add to it. You also have the distance that you need to read it critically and edit it. And all the while, the ‘resting’ time, the ‘distancing’ time was used efficiently to work on another piece of writing! Fantastic!

Yes... except that if I’m not careful, there still is one slight problem – I panic. I suffer from ‘Too many books to write’ syndrome. And usually, I want to read the kind of books that I want to write, so I also suffer from ‘Too many books to read’ syndrome. Not a good place to be.

That’s when meditation comes into play, I suppose. One thing at a time, one book at a time, one idea at a time. Go with the flow, go with the inspiration. Even if I’m going to write in three different genres that day, I still need to focus on whatever I’m doing, the moment I’m doing it. Even if I spend only 15 minutes on my latest short story and then switch to a page of my novel, let these 15 minutes count and make them productive. As long as I write, I’m OK, I’m making progress. And maybe one day, my projects will all be finished at roughly the same time and I’ll have this massive pile of manuscripts to send off!

If only...

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