Thursday, 19 August 2010

'Living in the Past' is history

Well, I’m back from the Mother-in-law’s-caravan; a whole week of self imposed writer’s retreat because I didn’t feel quite up to going on any writing courses or holidays this year while I’m waiting for my surgery.

And it’s been a productive week. I return with several thousand words added onto two of my novels, proposals for two non-fiction books, a couple of articles, one short story, and multiple lists of action points and ideas. Not bad. And the beauty of being away from home, the family and housework, is I didn’t feel guilty about writing once.

But it wasn’t always easy, maintaining the self-discipline and it took me a couple of days to get into the swing of things. In fact I have a confession to make. I wasted the whole of the first day dabbling with a possible re-write of Living in the Past.

Stop! I hear you shout. Surely ‘Living in the Past,’ (previously known as Tango Man,) is now complete? Yes, you’re right. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve tinkered with it, and I’m not talking just a little tweaking but three complete re-writes and numerous cutting and editing besides. I think this is the third year I’ve spent on it. And it’s not as if I ever thought it was the novel that would get me the Booker prize (indeed whether it will even ever attain publication remains to be seen.) I accept this because I recognise the novel served me well in terms of learning the craft of writing – serving my writing apprenticeship – and it was a story I was compelled to write. It’s been critiqued by the professionals, it’s had some positive feedback so I’m as happy as I’m going to be with it. And after all the hard work, I’m going to start sending it out to agents.

I don’t think it’s the elements of the story that keep drawing me back to tinker – the Nan, the husband, the betrayals, demons – they are all in the PAST and I worked through much of it years ago. So why the meddling? Why do I keep going back to it?

Is this normal behaviour for writers - this obsession, the pursuit of perfection? Do you have a piece of work or novel; something that you can’t stop going back to, something you can’t let go of in writing terms? Or tell me is my OCD towards my first novel simply habit or comfort, or maybe even lack of confidence towards moving on.

Anyway, it’s time to move on. I see that. Besides everything else, I’m fed up of looking at it. To mark the occasion (in addition to the blog,) I’ve penned a magazine article and a rough outline of a non-fiction proposal, all about living in the past and how to move on.

This blog is my promise to myself to let it go. It seems somehow symbolic.

So until another day

Bye for now