A few weeks ago I spent six days by myself in the Achterhoek, a rural part of the Netherlands, to focus on my writing. I am (perpetually) in the middle of writing a novel-length story and since I find it difficult to find the peace and focus I need to properly work on it, I took some time by myself to work on it. No kids, no husband, no obligations.
It was – of course – lovely. I recommend it. I was writing for hours on end, and when my concentration broke I took a break to bike to the village nearby to do a bit of shopping: 20 minutes there and 20 minutes back. An hour later I was back at the picknick table, local friendly chicken underneath sometimes, to build on my story again. I had a friend on standby on Whatsapp to serve as my second brain so I could have conversations with someone/myself without going nuts, and she is a brilliant researcher so I could go on writing while she got my facts straight.
Effin’ great, eh?
For four days, yeah. What I should have seen coming was the backwash on day five. Because whatever wave you’ll be riding, there will be backwash at a certain point. And it came on day five and it went something like this:
“Gods, this story is really average innit? I mean, you can see where this is going from miles away. Not an original thought in your head, is there? This plot has so many holes in it, it’s like a bloody colander – which is exactly how inspiring it is, by the way. Like, not at all. And the characters are flat like pancakes. Who wants to read pancakes? Eat, yes, but read…” – My head, speaking to me
Which, let me tell you, is not a good point to be at the day before you head back home and into the real world where there is little to no time for writing or conceptualising or plotting the course of your ‘novel’. It means that chances are pretty solid that this story will never be finished, because you effectively paused in a valley. Anyone who ever biked or ran between dunes or hills knows that it is very hard to get any kind of momentum going again once you’ve stopped at a low point.
But I did. Well, sod.
This story will see its completion at some point. And the inspiration for my work will not be that I know I can make it a great and beautiful piece of art if only I work at it. Nope. It won’t be brilliant. It may never be read by anyone other than me. And that is okay. Because you know what it is? Amateur art.
There is no inspiration to finish the story. There is only the unblocking of something that’s holding me back.
There is a certain idea among free-time writers that their work should be publishable. The next step after writing and editing should, for some reason, be submitting it for publication. Or finding an agent.
But honestly, it doesn’t have to be. Anyone who ever knits a sweater (or a scarf, let’s not get too ambitious here) probably doesn’t do it to sell. They probably do it for the sake of knitting a sweater – perhaps to gift it, perhaps for themselves.
Regarding myself an amateur writer allows me to just write for the sake of writing. I don’t care what anyone out there wants to read – it is only relevant what I want to write. I have no ambition to be An Artist. I want to know what happens next.
Any other self-proclaimed amateurs out there?
PSSSt: I am thinking of doing a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style NaNoWriMo and need YOU to join up so you can tell me where to go! So subscribe to this blog and keep me on the right path.