What about when we don’t heart writing? – Nicky Pellegrino

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By Nicky Pellegrino

So what about the days when we don’t heart writing? Because let’s be honest, there are times it feels like dredging up your entire life force just to put words on the page. I’m not talking about writer’s block; mainly because I refuse to believe it exists. I can always write something, but pushing my way forward through the story involves so much more than producing sentences. Wrangling the characters, getting them from where they are to the places they need to be, understanding them deep down in a way I don’t even understand myself, finding the right path, the one that shines most brightly and won’t lead to a literary dead end or take the whole thing over a cliff. ♥

For me the writing doldrums never strike in the beginning when it’s all fresh and exciting, or at the point where I can see the finish ahead. It’s those pesky middle chapters that still my fingers on the keyboard and make me want to throw the laptop out the window. That’s when I start feeling as if I’m driving in the dark and my headlamps just went out. My characters are no help. They’ll hole up in a cafe and refuse to leave. Or start a conversation about something that doesn’t seem remotely relevant. I lose control of them completely.

Perhaps it would help if I were one of those people devoted to rigorous plotting and chapter breakdowns. But I’m not a great planner in my life or writing. The thing keeping me interested is that I’m telling the story to myself as well as the reader.

So on the days I don’t heart writing I try not to panic about not meeting my 5000-word goal for the week. Because I know the only thing to do is free the part of my mind that lets my imagination take flight. And to manage that I need to occupy the practical part that keeps tugging it back down to earth.

It can be as simple as getting up from the screen and putting a load of laundry on, sweeping a dusty floor or scrambling some eggs for lunch. In those few moments when I’m not trying to write, the way forward clears, perhaps only a short stretch of it, but that can be enough.

Driving a familiar route can also help, taking a walk, riding a horse, pulling weeds from the vegetable patch. This isn’t an act of procrastination or wasting time, however. It’s not the same thing at all as checking in on Facebook to see what everyone is doing, or phoning a friend, or listening to the radio, or reading a magazine, or Googling ideas for the novel I’d like to tackle next. None of that helps me to write, never mind to heart it.

I’ve been an author for well over a decade and my ninth novel is being published. Each has been more difficult than the last but then I don’t think writing is meant to be easy. For centuries people have wrestled with words, sentences and paragraphs, trying to tame and shape them; creative and solitary people struggling to make something from nothing. The world will continue to change but that won’t; at least I hope not.

There will always be days when we don’t heart writing. It’s the thread that links us all I think.

Nicky Pellegrino is the author of Under Italian Skies, published in trade paperback by Orion this month. She works as a freelance journalist, loves cooking and lives in Auckland, New Zealand.


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