SOMEBODY ONCE TOLD ME THAT I should never get rid of an old idea, or even an early draft. And even though I've heard so many tid-bits over the years, this remains one of the most valuable pieces of writing advice that I have ever received.
Why? Because you will always find a use for it. Sometimes all an abandoned manuscript is good for is a laugh and sometimes it reminds you how much you've grown as a writer. But I know that I often feel inspired when looking over the remnants of old ideas.
If you've visited my blog before, you might know that I've been struggling to write since finishing my undergraduate degree. Revisiting the unfinished documents clogging up my folders has helped me chip away at that issue. Every old idea is a reminder of what I can achieve when I ignore fear and let my passion take over.
Last time I posted a writing update, I hadn't really attempted to push past my fear. This time around I have. Part of it is just having this voice at the back of my head remind me constantly that I am my own audience and that the first draft is allowed to be a tangled web of nonsense.
Another, surprisingly effective method, was opening a word document and forcing myself to write literally anything. I didn't have an idea - I didn't even have a character, a setting, an inciting event. I had a small mental freak-out over what I was supposed to write. And then I wrote this opening:
Charlie could always judge how well the day was going by how many cups of tea she had drank. One or two cups was relatively normal – something to wake her up in the morning and something to clear her head after lunch. Three cups was hardly a sign that things were bad: she liked her tea milky, so a cup later in the afternoon would easily stave off the pangs of hunger. Anything more than that and something was wrong.
Today, well, today she was on her fourth.
It felt incredible. And my thought process went a little like this: write about tea - write about a girl who likes tea - the girl should be bookish and have a neutral name - the girl is called Charlie - when I'm having a bad day I drink more tea - Charlie does the same - today is not a good day for Charlie.
Now I still have no idea why Charlie is having a bad day. I thought maybe it would be because of a break up with a long-time partner. Or maybe she is in post-graduation limbo and job hunting isn't going well. I haven't settled on any one idea. But what I do know is that I like Charlie and I want to discover more about her, about her world, and about what she does.
What do you do when you're stuck in a creative rut?
"Sure, romantic love can be an overwhelming and powerful experience but, you know, so can desperately needing the toilet..."
Why this book?
I’d just been rejected for a summer internship because I was more interested in fiction than non-fiction so I decided to browse Amazon for intriguing non-fiction. I bought this because I thought it would provide some interesting insight and I wasn’t wrong.
I’d never heard of Sara Pascoe before reading this books (my knowledge of comedians is poor) but I respect her so much for writing this that I now get quite excited when I see her guest star on panel shows. It isn’t as biographical as I expected it to be but I’m more than okay with that as biographies and memoirs aren’t my cup of tea. If you’re someone who reads to learn and to expand your understanding of topics then you’ll love this book.
It’s incredible just how well Sara manages to engage topics like infidelity from such a neutral viewpoint. She goes into the evolutionary and biological reasoning for certain behaviours and certain physical traits and presents a lot of well-balanced arguments. Please don’t think that this means the book is simply educational, or even that it lectures the reader. Sara Pascoe writes in an entertaining and engaging way that ensures you enjoy the experience (and that your brain isn’t frazzled by the end).
I have to say that I really couldn’t get on with her frequent use of all-caps (shouty text). I understand it is only to underline her passion, or occasionally her anger, but the nature of this book means there’s a lot to get passionate and angry about.