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Climbing the Mountain

Every time I moaned about the difficulties of writing, my father - a horny-handed son of toil - would say, 'It's not like you're working down the pit, you know'. Suitably chastened, I'd slope off feeling like a limp-wristed milque-toast.

I know what he meant. Coal-mining is back-breaking, dangerous work. My grandfather, another miner, was missing several fingers and had blue skin from impacted coal dust in all the tunnel collapses he'd been in. (He also used to delight in telling how the doctor popped out both his eyes - while conscious - to wash the coal dust from behind them after one such near-disaster).

So writing isn't that dangerous. But any aspiring scribe who thinks it's a luxurious alternative to real-world employment is in for a shock. The dreaming up stories bit is heaven, make no mistake. But shaping your creativity to a publisher-imposed deadline is back-breaking. When you know you have to turn out 2-3-4,000 words a day to keep your editor happy, it really can feel like a production line.

I'm just starting out on my next book, as yet untitled, and I'm already behind schedule. I can see how this is going to pan out - the same as every year.

...I've got twelve months. No problem.
...I need to take it easy for a while to refresh my creative juices.
...any day now, just do a bit of research.
...&%^**&%! I've only got five months left! Aaargh! 14 hours a day writing - how am I going to do it?

Year in, year out. You think I'd learn.

You need a good support network, which is hard to come by when you're stuck in the back room/office/shed with just your computer for company. Other writers help, and the internet is a boon (as well as a time-killer). There are places like this or this. But be warned, reading stops you writing.

My social life has atrophied. I'm developing RSI and I spend more time with my characters than any real, breathing human being. I can understand why many writers turn to drink.

But, yes, it is still better than being down the pit...

Mark Chadbourn

Comments

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markchadbourn
23rd Jul, 2006 17:56 (UTC)
I've got first dibs on the extra hours!
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