THE BLOG
22/11/2013 10:11 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 16:01 GMT

Writing a Novel? Find the Joy

I'm writing, slowly. The words crawl from me, like a newborn kitten, gingerly pawing unknown surroundings, searching for a safe route, full of indecision.

The hesitancy makes the words jar on the page and ideas weak. I'm easily distracted; the TV and Internet are never more than a click away. I get distracted for hours, feel guilty, return to the unfinished sentence, delete it, write a worse version, scream and return to the TV. I'm fighting with myself again.

Henry Miller said, write joyously, pick a time, get on with it and get the job done. Treat it like a job, like the best job in the world. He doesn't buy into any of that tortured artist trope because he managed to transcend it. He wrote because it made him happy to do so, that's how he wanted to live his life.

In a Sunday morning daze, it occurred to me that this writing thing, this 'novel' or story or whatever it is that's driving me, demanding to be work, is feeling like just that, work, when before I did it simply because I wanted to.

I'm abandoning deadlines and thoughts of publishers, literary genres, competitions and agents. For the last two months I've been struggling to keep to any sort of schedule when before I just did a certain amount every day and the thing got done, a simple discipline. Writing was rarely effortless but it was consistent.

Miller is right. The only way to have consistency is to have joy. Writing is a thankless task if the validity of doing it is dependent on external approval. That's fine if you're JK, King, Mantel, Boyd or Rushdie. The rest of us bottom feeders have to like the taste of crumbs and get a big kick out of small things like the possibility of a feral word.

Because that pleasure, that taming of the unruly sentence, that capture of the feral word, it's all we have. Put constrictions like deadlines, benchmarks and qualifications in place and all that's left is frustrated ambition.

I have just done a Masters in Creative Writing so my head is full of rules about genres, tenses, diction and dialogue; publishers, agents and manuscripts. While these rules are fundamental for anyone hoping to get published, they're useless if they stop the process that gets the writing done.

I was drowning under the expectation of myself. I had planned out the novel in my head and could see its end but was overwhelmed by the day-to-day process of getting there because I'd forgotten the joy.

Tonight I sat down to write and rather than picking up where I left off yesterday, I went back to an earlier passage and rewrote it. It was an experimental passage and my not have a part in the final cut but I wrote because that's what I wanted to do and I did so joyously.

This is totally counter to the guidelines that encourage pre-planned plots and carefully orchestrated dramatic moments but what is creativity if every moment of it is pre-planned. In my creative world, the final decision lies with me and for the first time, in a long time, that thought fills me with joy.

So here are my new rules: play, have fun. Happy writing.