I usually know almost everything about a book or a film before I sit down to enjoy it. Word of mouth, reviews online and even the blurb can give away so much of the content that you can sometimes predict exactly how the story is going to go.
I recently watched ‘What Maisie Knew’ without knowing anything about it. It was one of the best films I have seen in a long time, it was moving and sensitively shot from the child’s perspective. Without knowing anything about the story I was riveted to the screen and I really connected with the characters.
The same thing happened when I picked up a book that a friend had left for me to read. She hadn’t mentioned what the book was about and the blurb didn’t really give anything away. Within the first few sentences I was hooked and I couldn’t put it down. I often thought of the times I had been looking for something to read and had picked it up and put it back on the shelf.
In a way, that can be a good metaphor for life. Sometimes I feel I’m too scared to try the unknown until I have read enough reviews, or too scared to go anywhere new until I have mapped out the entire route. I rely too much on second hand knowledge, until I forget how to trust my instincts.
I need to stop trying to second guess the ending and just enjoy the story!
I sometimes feel like I have a secret identity. ‘The undercover writer’
During work hours I sit in the office and dutiful work for my paycheck.
But in the quiet moments, maybe during a rainy lunch break or while on an extended tea break, I write.
While I type, the grey walls disappear and the harsh florescent lighting fades and I can create my own world. Even if it is only for a few minutes.
In amongst my office paperwork, I keep notepads with scribbled stories and sticky notes of ideas.
Everyone should take the time out of each day to do something they enjoy, even if it isn’t particularly constructive. Five minutes reading my favourite book is better than five hours typing spreadsheets in my opinion.
Everyone should have another identity other than their job, even if it doesn’t pay the bills.
I never feel like I am wasting my time when I am reading.
I can sometimes feel like I am creating ‘dead time’ by browsing social media, internet window shopping and watching another boring program on TV, just because I have nothing better to do. But when I read, I feel like I am gaining something and creating my own world from the words on the page.
I interact with the story and try and second guess the outcome. I am involved with the characters and I care about their lives.
I think about the story after I have closed the covers and put it away for the night. I wonder about the twists and the clues that lead up to the grand finale. I feel like it is a personal journey that I am taking, where only I know about its secrets – you can sit and watch a film with someone but you only really ever read a book alone.
Plus, it always feels good when you have finished the book and you can tick it off your reading list.
I have always thought writing to be a lonely career. I envisioned great writers to be social pariahs, shunning social events for their craft. I imagined them scribbling away all hours of the day and night at desks in dusty rooms filled with books.
But while this may be the case for some, many famous authors would spend hours talking and working with other artists, poets and writers. An example would be the ‘Lake Poets’ Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey who lived and worked together at the turn of the 19th century.
This is also true in the present day, where we gain so much from a sense of community as writers and artists. Whether it is meeting face to face for writing groups or sharing our stories online, we are able to connect with each other and learn from each other.
Most people write to share with others, to entertain or to connect through similar experiences. By reaching out through a story you create a bond between yourself and the reader.
Writing is far from being a lonely endeavour, it is what brings people together from all manner of different backgrounds and allows us to communicate with each other.
Without the support, the inspiration and even the criticism that other writers give me, I would probably watch a lot more TV.
“The Austen Project pairs six bestselling contemporary authors with Jane Austen’s six complete works: Sense & Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Persuasion and Mansfield Park. Taking these well-loved stories as their base, each author will write their own unique take on Jane Austen’s novels.”
When I found out about the project I thought that it was a wonderful idea, to take a well loved classic and re-write the story from a different perspective. I think it will breathe new life into classic tales, that are at risk of becoming merely ‘ornamental’ features on the bookshelf . Personally, I’m guilty of collecting Jane Austen’s works and letting them gather dust, as I am often not in the mood for the Jane Eye after a long day at work.
The fact that other brilliant writers will take the time to lovingly craft another passage in each books story shows the lasting legacy of Jane Austen’s appeal. I believe it is a fitting tribute.
However, there are arguments for leaving a classic work alone and leaving the characters within a book unsullied by another authors touch. Some comments on the project suggest that it is ‘just an attempt to cash in Austen’s popularity rather than any serious literary venture.’ Or others suggest we are ‘dumbing down’ brilliant novels in an attempt to modernise the story. Or that it is merely laziness to take a story and wrap it up in different packaging.
But to this I quote another classic literary genius;
There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of coloured glass that have been in use through all the ages.
– Mark Twain, a Biography
I am suffering from post-project depression.
I have been consumed by my novel for months, writing at full steam every day. Now that it is finished and I have half-heatedly attempted to edit it I am lacking in enthusiasm. Without the daily process of creating the story I feel a bit lost and bored.
I hadn’t realised how much fulfillment I had gained through writing the novel and I feel like I am mourning the loss of a friend now that I have completed it.
I need to find another writing project.