Friday, 28 November 2014

The Thing in the Gap

A post that started life out at Author Allsorts.

You may already be familiar with Ira Glass’s beautifully expressed insight into the thing he calls 'the gap.'

If it’s new to you, I’m glad – you’re going to love it. I’m just standing on the shoulders of giants here, but for those of you who’ve never seen the quote, witness. Ephiphany, choirs of angels, glory and splendour, etcetera etcetera…

And if you want to hear the great man speaking, and watch a lovely film to go with it, go here and spend a very special couple of minutes.

It’s this gap – between what we imagine and what we end up with – that’s the hardest part of being a writer for me. Because for me – like you guys too, I guess – it’s not just the gap, but the bad things that live in there.

Really bad things live in that gap; bad things with insistent voices – our inner critics.

I was in London last weekend meeting up with some writerly types, lovely people one and all, and after a couple of drinks we fell into talking about the gap and the voices in it. There were folks there that admitted to crippling bouts of insecurity. Guys and gals who shared terrible tales of wrestling their inner critics, fighting the voices who told them they weren’t good enough, or it couldn’t be done, or the last book was better, the last chapter was better, the last sentence was better. There were folk who’d ditched whole novels; burnt them up or ditched them.

It happens to the very finest of writers. John Le Carre once set fire to a whole abandoned novel on a clifftop. The guy's got a flair for ceremony, clearly.

That day I met writers with novels that were a chapter away from complete, but the victorious voice in the gap had convinced them they weren’t worth finishing. There were tales of battles with subconscious demons that had prevented the putting of pen to paper for weeks on end.

And there didn’t seem to be any relationship between experience and exposure to the voice in the gap. First-timers like me were fighting it, sure, but people three or four books in were having the same trouble. It doesn’t seem to be something you simply grow out of.

What can we do about it? 

Keep going, I s’pose. Like Glass says; “It’s gonna take a while. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

So here's to all those Nanowrimo-ers who've done just that. Whatever your 50,000 look like by Sunday night - there's 50,000 that weren't there before.

And that's got to meaning something, right?

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