"As you can tell I've not been writing here very often..."
"Sorry I've not been updating much..."
No updates for quite a while then. It was bound to happen.
I got a bit caught up with a short story, and am working full-time again for a spell, and, and - you get the picture.
Setting yourself a regular task requires discipline, and, as anyone who's ever committed to an exercise regime will know, as soon as you start missing one session, then two becomes easier, three, and before you know it, you can't face restarting. It's the same with writing, the same with blogging. You feel like a failure, and returning to it just deepens that unease. So those runs around the park, or daily photographs or weekly blog posts fade and disappear, ready for the next project or New Year's Resolution.
I'm determined to see this one through, so I thought I'd tackle the sense of failure head on. Don't ask me why, but somehow thinking about failure can make you feel more optimistic. Not thinking about it means it threads itself into your psyche.
I've written before about the wax and wane of a novel in your life. It is, for some, the green light at the end of a pier: always on, more noticeable at some times than others. For others it is little more than a dream, a nurtured idea. There is at leats one in all of us, some say.
I was determined to get mine out, and write it as solidly as possible, not to be one of those people who talk airily about "their novel". But, 70 weeks on after embarking on this project, I am becoming one. And this blog is becoming that hand waving in the air.
"How's the book?" my friends ask, but now I can tell they're not expeting much of an answer. It's been over a year, for goodness sake! How could anyone maintain their interest in it? For a month or so I devoted my time to writing a short story - just under than 5,000 words - and it felt good to know a story so fully, from start to finish, and all the bits that happened but go unwritten.
My novel, in comparison, sags in places, bending over itself with the weight of its own narrative and propped up with the odd read-through. And much to my chagrin, my life continues too, taking me away from writing. Once you've lost the discipline of sitting down every day, writing slips further and further away, and your story feels starts to feel distant and not worth it.
There are still some flickers, though: stories I read and watch in films make me think of my own, and I email myself ideas in between meetings and trips to Sainsburys.
There's not just one narrative arc to keep suspended: there's this one too. I wanted this blog to capture what went into writing a novel, and expected it to go from strength to strength. That there would be bad weeks, sure, but I'd learn from them, and be all teh more enthused. And that has happened, from time to time. I've also wandered off and gone on holiday and been left wondering if it's all worth it. How will it end? Might I be writing this forever, another person with only a half-tended dream of writing a book? Maybe I'll finish it. But then what? Will I document my heart-crushing attempts to get interest from agents, or find a publishing deal?
I've written a lot about knowing how my book ends, and how that knowledge helped me come up with a story. I think actually, having had some distance from it, the ending is where the story is. What I thought was the ending may very well be the heart, or even the beginning of the book.
Knowing the ending has helped me with this story immensely: there's still a lot to fill in, and a lot of tempting diversions and procrastination to be had before I get there, but at least I know where I'm heading. I'm not alone in thinking this helps, either. Among the list of storytelling rules recently tweeted by a Pixar animator was this one:
"#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front."
But what about this one, where there is potentially no ending? I might just fizzle out. Perhaps you are one of the two or three people who noticed I hadn't updated my weeknotes in a few weeks. Maybe you thought this was it. You've seen many a blog die before - the inevitable posts, five or six months apart, acknowledging and then apologising for the lack of updates - until one day you notice the date on the final one is more than two years ago, and you stop checking.
The knowledge that you have set up and abandoned a blog, a tiny section of cyberspace, that will be there forever, untended, its 0s and 1s still out there, bearing your name and directionless thoughts, and spiders crawling all over it, picking at its hidden significances with their computerised feet.
It is like watching a helium balloon soar on its own into the sky, still able to feel its string in your hand, or the bob of a bottle, your message folded inside, on the gentle waves of miles of ocean. You know the outcome - a withered slither of rubbery plastic in the field next door, or a swampy bottle wedged in sand on the ocean floor, its bit of paper long disintegrated - but you are still entranced by the sight of it.
Oh god. This one.
And so it may it be with this one, and with the novel it documents.
Starting out, my focus was on the end and finishing, and the new career and even accolades it might bring. I admit that. But what makes writing so frustrating and so impossible to stop altogether, is the realisation that it is everything that comes before the ending that counts. Working out an ending sets you free to focus on the meandering middle, whether it's the ending to your story or simply an acknowledgement that all things end.
And looking at that balloon, or that bottle, there's a part of us that hopes the outcome might be different, though we know it won't. That's where story is.
I suppose that's a very convoluted way of saying I am back in the saddle, getting back into my story again after a break, and trying not to beat myself up too much that the end is not so much nigh, as certain.
Here's another rule from the Pixar animator:
"You admire a character for trying more than for their successes."
So basically, I'm saying this blog is flying and I'm Buzz Lightyear. K? To infinity, and beyond!
Word count this week: 0 First draft: 127,812