Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Method madness


Mslexia magazine runs a regular feature called 100 Ways to Write a Book. It takes a a given author then sets out exactly how they work. This includes stuff like how they plan out their novels, where they write them, and where and when the best ideas tend to strike.

The sub-heading is The Hilary Mantel Method, or The Ali Smith Method or whoever is featured. You get the picture. Now much as I love to read this stuff, all this talk about ‘method’ makes me feel as though I’m looking at the Grown Up Table.

The sad truth is, even though I’m currently writing my fifth novel, including a first attempt that should have stayed in a bottom drawer, I don’t have a clue what sort of writer I am. I’m neither a plotter nor a panter. I seem to be a strange mixture of both. I don’t always make notes in a notebook, nor on the computer. I don’t tend to get my ideas when I walk the dog or have a long bath or do the gardening. Although I do sometimes. I don’t have any half useful tip for coping with writer’s block. Heck, I don’t even know what my preferred writing snack is, and that’s a question we at Strictly Writing ask in all our questionnaires.

I love the idea of being so comfortable in my writing skin that I can hold forth on my methods. But somehow, I have a feeling it's not part of who I am.
I guess this extends to life beyond writing too. Despite being middle aged [see, even writing that makes me want to look over my own shoulder to see who I’m talking about] with a house and two kids and an estate car and life insurance, I don’t entirely feel as though I’m grown up yet. When is this magical feeling of adulthood going to happen? Is there something missing in me that it hasn’t happened by the age of fortysomething? Am I, in fact, just really, really immature?
Maybe it’s why I write for children. It gives me an excuse to inhabit worlds where mortgages and estate cars and life insurance don’t play much of a role.

I like to tell myself it’s a good thing because I never forget that I still have an enormous amount to learn, both in terms of writing and life in general.
But I do wonder when I’m going to feel I’ve earned a place with the grown ups.

11 comments:

Bernadette said...

I actually had a conversation with my husband at the weekend that used many of the same comments about being (or not) a 'grown-up' as your post. (You weren't listening, were you?)
It reminds me of a training course I attended many years ago, where the trainer started by asking if there was anyone in the room who felt as though they didn't know what they were doing at work and it was only a matter of time until they were found out. Almost all of the women put their hands up - and quite a few of the men, too. I had thought I was the only one who felt like that.
So I've given up on the grown-ups table and decided that all the fun people are the ones with the jelly and ice-cream.

Anonymous said...

Part of being a writer is hanging on to your ability to use your imagination, and that requires hanging on to a bit of your childhood. I think us writers take that for granted in a way, it's a wonderful gift, even if it doesn't pay the bills:)

Interesting post. Pass the jelly and ice-cream:)

Sam

Debs Riccio said...

I've only recently realised that this is true of most adults. We might look like 'grown ups' but inside there remains the tremulous teenager. It's a spark I never want to lose. Maybe that's also why I like writing YA stuff - they don't have the 'baggage' that adults tend to think they need to enjoy their life. Good post!

Gary Baker said...

I hear that - I've no method, only madness. And with a fifty-*cough* birthday coming up, I seriously need to figure out what I'm gonna do when I grow up.

Dream it, then do it said...

I'm so glad to learn I'm not the only one that feels like this. My mum used to have my first school photo on the sideboard from when I was 4. I still feel like that little boy, wondering what the world has in store for me.
I'm 58 and still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

Caroline Green said...

Thanks so much everyone. Think there is an error of some sort with the site as I tried to reply then and it wouldn't accept it.

Great to know I'm not the only one who feels this way! And Sam, pass the jelly this way when you're done with it.

Caroline Green said...

The link is working for me, Oliver...hope you can access it. if not, here it is again

http://strictlywriting.blogspot.com/2009/06/plotter-or-panter.html

Luisa Plaja said...

Oh, I know the feeling! Wonderful post - thank you. :)

Susie Nott-Bower said...

So, so true. It's like the old story of the Emperor's New Clothes: maybe we're the kids who see that Being Grown Up is, on the whole, a facade.
Susiex

Rosy T said...

Great post, Caroline - very comforting! After all, not having a method is a sort of method, too, isn't it?

Fionnuala said...

When I grow up, can I come and play with your group of grown ups?
We can all be grown up writers together. Yes, we can.