Sunday 20 November 2016
So, today I watched just over two hours of interviews/lectures by Sally Wainwright, the writer I’m currently enamoured with, in awe of, totally respect and admire. I’ve written of my admiration and respect for Sally in a previous post called When I Grow Up, I Wanna Write Like Sally . . . so I won’t dwell too much on my writer crush. What I do want to cover in this post though is something that smacked me in the face today whilst I was watching the interviews, and some of the words of wisdom that I took from listening to what Sally had to say.
It’s inevitable that when you admire someone in the field that you see yourself working in, that you try to emulate them to some degree. I don’t know that I could ever successfully emulate or imitate Sally’s work because it is location specific, but also because the intricacies within her dialogue are so brilliant, so real, that at this time, I really can only hope that I might one day be able to be considered anywhere near her skill and talent. And maybe one day, just throwing it out there for the Universe, I might be able to work alongside Sally on some rather brilliant show. Anyway . . .
My blog has been active for a good many years – six or seven if I’m throwing numbers around – and I’ve always been really focussed on continuing to produce posts for it. This year, though, things changed and I found it increasingly difficult to create fiction. I wondered if I’d completely run out of ideas. I wondered if I’d come to the end of a short writing excursion. I wondered if being a writer was all just a pipedream. I wondered why I actually bothered writing anything when so few people bothered to read it. They’re things that all writers go through, I’m sure. But today something clicked.
Today, whilst watching Sally Wainwright talk about something that I used to love – writing – I realised that I still loved it. My love of writing hadn’t disappeared, hadn’t deserted me. It was still there but it kinda got hidden under a pile of cr@p . . . actually, it was hidden under a steaming pile of depression if I’m honest. Things happen in life, and we all deal with it in our own ways . . . or not. Anyway, today was like a lil revelation – I still love writing. I’ve been considering that for a couple of hours now, and I think I’ve reached a sort of impasse. I’ve either got to give up writing, or I’ve got to jump right back into it, and perhaps approach it from a different angle. So that’s what I’ve decided to do. Approach it from a different angle. I’m not sure yet what that angle is or where I’ll find it, but I do want to write. Even if only a few people ever want to read what I write, I want to do it.
So I’m putting it out there again: I’m going to write. I’m going to get back into writing. And I think this time, I might just be doing it with a lil more purpose. I’ve got a feeling I’m going to be more serious about it. Not necessarily writing novels or short stories, but writing whatever the hell it is that I feel like writing on any given day. At the moment, I’ve got a couple of ideas milling around in my head, and they revolve around writing projects for a specific actress. I’m handwriting a lot of dialogue at the present, and handwriting isn’t something that I generally go for. Lord knows, anyone who has ever been subjected to anything written in my hand will know that even I find my handwriting difficult to comprehend at times. Bit of a risk, I know, but it’s what’s getting me going at this point. Pages and pages of dialogue between two characters, written for a specific actress who will likely never see any of it, but that doesn’t matter an ounce to me right now. It’s all about exercising that writing muscle so that it gets stronger, and so my dialogue improves.
The following writing advice given by Sally Wainwright comes from a variety of sources, some of which I don’t recall. I simply remember the gist of the quotation.
Advice given to Sally by Tony Wood:
- Don’t write the first episode, write the third episode. Hit the ground running so that the stories have already started.
Advice given to Sally by Paul Abbott:
- It’s clear from the way you’ve written, you haven’t written the first thing you’ve thought of, the second thing you’ve thought of, or the third thing you’ve thought of. You’ve written the seventh thing you’ve thought of.
Advice from Sally (as interviewed by Dr. Michael Stewart, University of Huddersfield, and George Costigan and Judy Holt in Halifax):
- She doesn’t believe in writer’s block, but rather she believes that the writing stops because the writer hasn’t done enough research. A ‘block’ occurs when there’s something in the story that doesn’t work and the writer hasn’t yet clicked that there’s a problem, at least they haven’t consciously clicked on to it yet.
- We all have backstories. People’s past will always inform the present.
- Good writers write about what they want to write about. They don’t do it because it’s what’s popular.
- Women are heroic. Women are emotionally articulate. They talk about their feelings more.
- Comedy is a really important tool of communication. Human beings are funny.
- However dark things get, the more we as human beings try to keep each other going and buoy each other up.
- Setting is important to drama because being real is important. The more you can ground your drama in a real place, the more real it feels.
- Less is more.
- There’s no drama in happiness.
- Drama is about people and relationships, and the most intense relationships are with family because you can choose your friends but not your family. They’re the people you know the best because you’ve grown up with them, and often, they’re the people you have the most intense arguments with.
- Keep writing.
- Anyone who writes compulsively is a writer, whether they show it to anyone or not, whether they make money from it or not. If you have the compulsion to write, you will write.
- Anything a writer writes is a portrait of them.
- All your characters are you. All your characters come from you. They’re bits of everything you’ve ever known or inherited or seen, and intrinsically what’s in you.
I put this out there for any other writer facing that doubt that they’re really a writer, or who has lost their love of writing, or feels like there’s no point to any of it if they don’t have millions reading their words. You’re still a writer, you’ve maybe just lost your way a lil bit. Find it again, however you can. Find it, and get writing. Watch interviews and lectures by writers you admire. Read and study those you respect. Remember why you loved it in the first place.
Remember why you love it.