Recently I read an interesting comment about this writing process made by English born Australian author Elizabeth Jolley:
There is a terrible restlessness that accompanies writing. It is a prowling in the heart and the mind and the body. It is a kind of pain, a mixture of elation and a melancholy for which there is no remedy.
I wonder if you can relate to these feelings she has described? I certainly can. Just last week, I finally finished the novel – well, the first draft at least! I had wanted to get to these final chapters for so long, but I found that even though I loved the whole process, I was strangely restless. I would physically have to move after every few sentences, perhaps getting up to stretch or walk around the room. I wanted to shift my characters forward, to have them say and do the things they obviously wanted to – but on the other hand, I somehow wanted to relish the moment, to hold onto them and not to close off their options. And I most certainly did not want to say goodbye to them! What would I do without these characters in the back of my mind, working through their various dilemmas?
And I also experienced the very real elation and melancholy that Elizabeth Jolley talks about. I was exultant at various stages as I began to weave the final threads of my novel together. Wow – this particular character really is going to make some wise decisions in his life! Oh, this other one has expressed herself so well there! And I never thought the conversation between those two characters would take that particular turn! At times, it seemed I was being carried along on a wave of inspiration, simply enjoying the ride. Yet at others, my experience was the exact opposite. I would sit staring at a sentence I had just created, changing this word and that, before deleting it entirely. I would puzzle over how on earth I could move the characters through the impasse they had reached in a way that would not sound unrealistic or trite. And I would read over my previous paragraphs with a sinking heart, wondering if I was completely wasting my time. Was I writing rubbish after all? Would anyone ever want to read this? Perhaps I should scrap the whole novel altogether.
And yet here I am, having survived another perilous journey of writing a novel. I have finished that first draft – and whatever the stops and starts and highs and lows, I would not have missed the experience for the world! And I have stayed the course, I believe, because God has been with me every step of the way, urging me on, helping me persevere, giving me inspiration, comforting me, reminding me that he has gifted me and called me to write.
And that’s all that matters really.
How about you? Do you resonate with Elizabeth Jolley’s words above? Does your writing journey resemble my crazy one in any way?
Jo-Anne Berthelsen lives in Sydney, Australia, and has four published novels, ‘Heléna’, ‘All the Days of My Life’, ‘Laura’ and ‘Jenna’. For more information, please visit her website, www.jo-anneberthelsen.com.