A Fortuitous Prize


After my last post, I might have given the impression of being worn down to a nub. But this weekend dropped the perfect book into my lap to turn my mood around.

I had entered a blog giveaway on a whim; the challenge was to give the best piece of advice you’d ever received, and then the winners would be chosen by high-tech randomising technology. I won, giving my favourite piece of advice from my supervisor for the PhD – which was to have characters touch one another, themselves, the world around them. It is such a simple notion, but having someone adjust the rumpled collar of another character, or refuse to, speaks volumes about their relationship, and it helped me create characters who rather than standing separate on pillars of earth are mired in or grounded on the same wet earth.

Anyway, the book I won arrived on Friday, and I started reading it through the weekend. It’s  The Forest for the Trees, by editor-turned-agent, Betsy Lerner (who blogs at betsylerner.wordpress.com). I highly recommend it for the tremulous writer.  One quote in particular is of relevance:

” Imagine the anxiety level of a job that requires you to start from square one every day. This is the writer’s predicament. Every day you start from scratch, even when you’re in the middle of a project. Will the muse, as Milton beseeched her, bring your roots rain? Remember, too, that the writer’s uncertainty about the quality of his work is another reason to develop an arsenal of neuroses. Unlike the mathematician, who knows when he’s solved a problem, or the scientist with his burden of proof, or the lawyer who tries his case before a jury, the solitary writer works in a vacuum, where it’s easy to lose all perspective. Judging one’s own writing can be like looking in a mirror. What you tell yourself about what you see in the reflection has far more to do with how you feel about yourself that day than with how you actually look.”

Although, to this sound reasoning, I would add, that on some days your face does indeed have a big canker sore on it, or your left eye has started to wander out of focus from the right. Some days the writing is not charmed, and and might be best to go back to bed and hope that a bit of beauty sleep might set things right.

At least some baffling forests are pretty

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Filed under consolations of writing, Theory

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