Writing in the Bubble

Where have I been?  I’ll tell you, shall I?

I’ve been over at Jim Murdoch’s blog ‘The Truth About Lies’ reading some of his archived material. 

He’s a great writer and there’s lots of really great stuff over there.

In fact, I recommend you head off over there immediately and never mind about this old guff.

Come back later if you like.

One of the things I found over there resonates with me a lot. It was a line buried in the comments section of his Dec 2007 posting which was called ‘You’ve never had it so good.’ I hope he doesn’t mind if I quote a line from one of his comments here.

What Jim said is this;

"… since I never share my works in progress and I rarely talk about the specifics of what I'm writing, I still choose to live with a level of creative isolation if not exactly social loneliness."

See, I thought I was alone in this. It’s great to know that I’m not.

Here’s the thing;

I cannot talk about whatever I am currently writing.

I just can’t.

Even when I go to visit with my friends in Castlebar Writer’s Group - and I listen to and comment on their precious work-in-progress - I often have to offer something in return that was completed some time before. Even there, among the people who would best understand, I have to keep my secrets.

And this seems to annoy some people quite a bit. (Not the Castlebar Writer’s Group, I hasten to add.) I think some people think that I’m a bit of a pretentious git who is trying to weave some kind of literary mystique about himself.

But it’s not like that…

Over the years I have learned that I need to write inside a little bubble that contains nothing but me and my current idea.

On several occasions, I have made the mistake of getting into discussions about my work-in-progress. After I do this, the bubble is invariably burst and the work, when I return to it, is somehow tarnished and lessened by having being oxidised in the public arena.

Jays… maybe there is a bit of the literary mystique crap about me after all!

But, no, I don’t think there’s anything mystical of clever about this need. I need to be able to continuously reassure myself that my work-in-progress is ‘simply brilliant’ in order to keep up the momentum necessary to get it done. If I go and tell somebody about it and they immediately don’t fall on the floor writhing in ecstasy at the beauty of my concept then I’ll start to wonder what the hell is wrong with it anyway? I’ll lose confidence in the work, possibly drop it and go and find something else to scribble.

It’s like finding a lovely polished black stone on the beach, keeping it in your pocket and thinking how great it is until you show it to your pal and he snorts and says, "it’s just an old rock." It sort of takes the good out of it, you know?

And, besides, inside my bubble is such a fun place to be. My idea is in there with me and it’s spinning around and swelling and shooting out pseudopodia (eh?) all over the place then pulling them back in again. It’s a mad place really.

So if we’re ever shooting the breeze – like on the street or something - and I don’t have too much to say about my current writing ‘thing’, please understand…

… it ain’t you, it’s me.


Anonymous said...

There's a bit of this in me too. I won't even let my husband read a blog post until I've determined I'm finished and it's ready to be posted. :)

Jim Murdoch said...

I've read all my guff. Thought I#d read some of yours. I think what's bothering me about my current book (which I am seriously thinking of scrapping and starting over for the second time) is the fact that I've mentioned - felt obliged to mention the gist of what I'm working on. I have done that before in vague terms just to bounce a few ideas off someone but now that there are people out there who know I'm working on a book I feel duty bound to produce the damn thing. I don't like that.

Dave King said...

I can relate completely to your take on this. I find it very disrupting to let anyone in on the work I have in progress, whether it's a piece of writing or an art work. I found art school a great trial at times, having to work (and plan work) in the presence of others. It is only partly the fact of needing reassurance, I think more to do with not wanting to be deflected: "I don't think that bit works, why don't you try..." I certainly enjoyed reading your post, though.

C M RAJAN said...

You are right about Murdoch.

Catherine @ Sharp Words said...

I'm not the complete opposite, but I am a very social writer. Every November when I'm being the Irish Municipal Liaison for NaNoWriMo, I have to keep reminding myself that not everyone wants to be social and meet up or join in the forum chat - some people just want to Write. And good for them, definitely!
But I do possibly better when I have other people to talk to. Even though I don't tend to discuss the specifics of what I'm writing (not until I'm in the editing stage, anyway), I do like to talk about writing with other people who are writing too. It makes me feel part of something rather than plodding on alone and disheartened (particularly when we're all trying to churn out 50,000 words in 30 days).

Ken Armstrong said...

It's comforting to know such accomplished people share my foible - 'wouldn't want to share my foible with just anyone!

And Catherine (that's Catherine) I think I'm a very social writer too - I love an audience for my stuff and love to hear honest feedback about it. It's just the 'current thing' that's eternally up-me-jumper :)

Akemi Ito said...

Jim is great to read, isn’t he, Ken? Strangely, given the way I write about writing, I am identical, I can’t talk about what I’m writing about to my friends or family or anyone. What I’m working on is a bloom closely guarded lest talking about it sap off some of its vital life energy. Every time I’ve talked about the first draft of anything to anyone it’s always died horribly, and left me to scrap it completely. First drafts I keep locked away, when it’s time for the fourth or fifth to roll out, then I start showing the kin folk.


NathanKP said...

I understand what you mean about not being able to talk about what you are writing. It feels like doing so will ruin it somehow.

Very nice blog.

NathanKP - Inkweaver Review - Book Reviews and Cover Art

Fiendish said...

I used to love talking about whatever I was writing, especially to my sister. We'd make up long spin-off scenes of the characters doing funny things.

Now the things I write don't have storylines, and I tend not to talk about them because they're awkward and difficult to "explain". (Well, there's this guy... in a room... and he's sort of thinking... Yeah, great).

But I love talking about stuff when it's finished. Obviously.

Lovely post.

Laura Cousins said...

I often find that if I talk about what I am writing, or what I am wanting to write, then I lose the urge to actually DO the writing itself. It's as if making the words come out of my mouth is somehow enough for me, and it dilutes the 'need' to express myself through the written word.