Thursday, 26 January 2017

On writing a book

Not sure where I’m going with this blogpost, so if you’re looking for something concise and to the point, you’re going to be disappointed – it’s a bit of a brain dump, bear with me…

Some of you may know, some of you may not know, that I’m trying to write a book. I say trying, because I’ve been trying now for years – I mean, literally, more than two years. Every New Year I say ‘I’m going to write a book this year.’ And every year, I don’t.

It’s not because I don’t have a plot – I do. It’s not necessarily a plan, or not a firm one, but it’s a plot, an idea, and I have characters, a setting, and whole chapters, written. I feel like the plan wriggles and won’t fully settle, and I can’t quite get it straight in my head, but I don’t actually think that’s what the problem is. I haven’t been able to put my finger on exactly why I can’t finish it. I also don’t know if this is normal.

I’ve been reading the poems of Dorothy Parker recently, and she wrote this line, ‘I hate writing – I love having written.’ It struck a chord with me because that’s exactly how I feel about it, all the time. Not so much with little blog posts, which are fairly effortless, but with anything big – an article, an essay, or even more so a book. It feels painful, like drawing blood from a stone.

My husband and a couple of my friends know I'm writing a book and they get frustrated. One of my friends said to me the other day after a couple of glasses of wine, 'Where is your book? God Cat, just write the book.' I couldn't help it - a bit frustrated, I replied, 'Why don't YOU write a book then?' It's becoming slightly maddening. 

It’s hard to explain, but when I was younger I found writing exciting. I loved creative writing lessons, the thrill of a blank page in a notebook or on a Word document, and now I find it intimidating. I think almost the longer I carry this book around in my head – honestly I know the characters so well now that they almost annoy me – the harder it gets to put it down on paper, because I feel like I’m not doing it justice, somehow? But then I’m not going to do it justice if I don’t write it at all, am I? And what if I got hit by a bus? I swear my last thought would be 'I wish I'd written that bloody book.' 

Part of it is fear of failure – fear of writing something and nobody liking it, nobody thinking it’s any good. I know the saying ‘If you never try, you never know,’ but equally, if you never try, you never have to know, do you? Having your writing picked over by people, rejected – it’s horrible. I don’t have an especially thick skin about it. My husband is the only person I let read my writing – even my short stories. He asked to show his mum last year and I said no, which he thought was really silly, but I just – it’s like showing somebody the inside of your head, and giving them the opportunity to say ‘ugh, not sure about that.’ Is it like that for everyone? I don’t know.

Blogging is different because in a sense it’s deliberately light-hearted, especially lifestyle blogging. I mean, if you don’t like my review of a restaurant, or if you think my Friday favourites are stupid, I don’t particularly mind. But when it comes to my book, I mind. I mind so much that it’s choking me.

Someone recently suggested changing up my working space, so this weekend I’m going to take myself to a coffee shop, leave my phone in my bag (Instagram is NOT a writing tool) and just try and get some words on paper. But if anyone has any advice on how to get back to writing like you’re carefree, I would really appreciate it! 



  1. I have no real advice about how to get the words out of your head and down on paper because I struggle with that myself. And yes, it is exactly like showing someone the inside of your head and that is scary. But I do have this to say-you obviously have a way with words and I would happily read a book you had written. Sit down and do it, you will always, always regret it if you don't. Write it for yourself. If you never want to let anyone read it that is fine but write it. Otherwise it will always be there trying to get out.

    1. This really means a lot, so thank you! I'm going to try!

  2. last year I wanted to write a book (not a novel more a snippet of autobiography of a few years of my life that may be of interest to others or if not then to my kids when they grow up) and half the year went by and i hadn't made a start, then i started a new job and had no spare time, then I quit my job and realised it is fear that is holding me back. This year I have decided I AM going to write it. I have actually made a start and for me I know I draft and plan things better with a pen and paper in my hand so that is what I've done even if it means more work later typing it up. Then I started to tell people I am writing it - that way I am making myself accountable. If it is rubbish then who cares. I absolutely HATE to fail in anything i do but I'm feeling the fear and doing it anyway. My other breakthrough has been to follow my dreams career wise where fear has been holding me back with lots of 'what if's' my friends told me 'what if you don't do it and regret it for the rest of your life' 'what if you do it and it turns out better than your wildest dreams' and I've decided to go for it and it is terrifying but I'm taking a small step towards it everyday and I know in my heart it is the right thing to do.


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