Stagnant… but reading, learning, and writing once again!

By Stephen Francis Foley on Saturday 22nd October 2016.

It’s been a difficult few months but not because of anything that might resemble the dreaded ‘writer’s block’. I don’t believe there is such a thing anyway because if one can write a single word then one cannot be said to be ‘blocked’. No, this was something entirely different, bordering on procrastination, that other problem that writer’s endure and need to overcome, but it wasn’t quite that either. On reflection, I believe it was a deep-rooted unhappiness in the quality of what was being punched into the keyboard and displayed on the screen. I don’t have fat fingers so it wasn’t a typing problem and, as far as I can tell, the neural connections between brain and fingers are in working order (others may disagree). So, I can only assume the problem lay at source.

To remedy, I did what all writers did and continue to do; I took a few months out #amnotwriting and #amreading instead which turned out to be the best medicine. I’d a variety of unread novels laying about the place and a wife who frowned at the amount of dust they were gathering, so I jumped right in. I started by reading several chapters from several books by several bestselling writers, but none really commanded my attention. And so, I reverted to type and continued my journey with John Connolly’s ‘Charlie Parker’ thrillers: I was glad I did.

Engaging, captivating, dramatic, each book a standalone gem with wonderful narratives, and a magnificent blend of rich characterisation and description. But I didn’t just read the lines on the pages, I studied. I wanted to know why John had said some things, what connected those things to the story, and what pushed the story along. And then, a revelation! I discovered he hadn’t written anything superfluous and inconsequential to the plot or movement of the players. On paper, for a I prefer to read paperbacks, it looked simple, each book a river of fluid writing but more importantly, nothing wasted. Everything written was there for a reason. I turned to Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ next (a book I’d read a few years ago) and low and behold, he discusses what I’d discovered in John’s novels. I can only assume therefore that I’m a very slow learner, having not picked up on the instruction the first time around.

So I returned to my own writing once again with renewed enthusiasm; I think I know now what I’ve to do and, more importantly, how I’ve do it. It still requires hours at the keyboard, a head filled with frustration and doubt but at least I’ve learned and am back writing. I can’t say for sure how long it’ll take to write ‘An Act of God’ but at least I’m starting at a better place than before.

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