Thursday, 25 October 2012

Disney. Fact or Fiction?

The Only Thing That Stands Between You And What You Want Out Of Life Is The Will To Try And The Faith To Believe That It Is Possible.

Hey, it's me again.

Well I'm well on the way with version three. I'll be honest though, I thought that this time round it would be a lot easier than the other two versions.

With the other two, I wrote them from scratch.  I started with a blank page and let my finger do the talking (so to speak). But this time, I basically copied version two in to a new folder and decided that I would read through what I have written and just start fiddling with it. Take some stuff out, put some stuff in, move it around a little, that kind of thing. Turns out it's not that easy though.

I have been working on version three for about a week now and whilst I took yesterday off and didn't go anywhere near my laptop, I try and work on my writing for at least a couple of hours every day. The way I see it, if I spend a couple of hours just writing a single paragraph then at least I have added a little bit more to my story, rather than do nothing at all.

I know it sounds ridiculously silly, but these things don't write themselves, no matter how much you think about the plot/storyline and I think about mine all the time when I'm not worrying about other things. I usually figure things out when I'm out walking my dog Gibson (named after my favourite guitar, not the actor).

(Gibson.  My Devil Dog)

The thing is, I feel, and I'm probably wrong to do it this way, but at this stage I won't move on to the next chapter, paragraph or line until I am happy with what I have previously written. The main reason for this, as I am quickly learning, is that by just changing just one line it can alter the whole feel of the story/chapter. So if I decide to skip ahead to another chapter if the one I am currently working on becomes too much of a headache to process and then I go back to the original chapter later on that I originally skipped, I find that I'm having to re-write what it is I have already re-written as it doesn't match what it is I have just changed previously. Does that make any sense to anyone else?

I think my biggest problem is I have no idea how to write a book properly, I'm not entirely sure if you can learn to write a book or if you have to have it in you to be able to do it. Either way, it's bloody frustrating. On Monday I must have spent the better part of two hours writing and re-writing the same line until I was happy with it (and I'm still not 100% convinced that it's write).
So today’s question is this:-

Can you be a writer because you want to be one or do you have to learn to become one?

I understand that if you want to do something well, anything really, then there has to be some kind of learning curve. But if I was to join a writing group for example and learn everything there is to know about how to write a book, would that make it easier to write? I can only assume (Yes I know, never assume as it makes an ASS out of U and ME, very clever) that by learning anything about something you want to do is beneficial, building blocks, foundations, etc. But I haven't done anything like that, it never really occurred to me to do that. I had been thinking about writing a book for several years and had tried a couple of times, unsuccessfully I might add. And then I had the idea for my current story and the words just seemed to appear on the screen, kind of.

At times though I had to push through, as sometimes it became difficult to keep motivated, but I continued to work, despite the figurative road blocks that would pop up more often than not. And now here I am working on version three and I can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel, it's still a long way off, but it's definitely there. But it doesn't mean that what I have written is good or that others will like it. If we met and had a bottle of Jack to drink, I could bore you for a couple of hours with my story, in my head I have crossed all the T's and dotted all the lower case J's. But just because I think I can tell a good story does not mean I can write one. I mean, I have seen people jump out of a plane at 20,000 feet but I know that doesn't mean I should grab a chute and go out and do it myself.  That’s what training and learning is for.

I'm aware that this is a ridiculous analogy, but to a certain extent, for me it isn't. I have told no one about writing this book, because I'm frightened that people will laugh at me. Stupid I know, but confidence is something I am sorely lacking at the moment in all aspects of my life. It's one of the reasons I am writing my story/book.

I have watched dozens of films, whilst sitting with my two beautiful daughters where the message is, if you want something bad enough, you can have it, if you work hard enough. I fully support this message and encourage my girl’s everyday to work hard and enjoy themselves whilst they do whatever it they are doing. But for every success story you read/hear about, how many people don't make it? How many times can you be knocked down before you start to believe that it's not worth getting back up?

Well all I can say is stay tuned, because knowing my luck, together we'll find out.

I apologise if I sound depressing, it's really not my intention to be like this, but these are genuine concerns I have. One day I hope to look back at these posts, perhaps in a couple of years (if I'm still writing them that is) and laugh at myself. I'm actually looking forward to that. But at the moment the fear that I am doing all this for nothing is a very real concern for me as I genuinely believe that for me, this is my last chance at making a difference in mine and my wonderful families life.  But if Disney is to be believed all I have to do is have faith in myself that I can do this and work bloody hard and one day, (hopefully sooner than later) I can start to enjoy whatever may hopefully follow.

I have probably bored you enough today so it's time for me to go.

So as always take care, but above all stay cool

Pip x

P.S.  It probably doesn't mean much but I have finally joined the human race and joined Twitter.  Feel free to add me at @pipconnor.  Hope to speak to someone soon.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The X-Factor Paradox

Hey, It's me again.

It has been over a week since I have even touched my laptop after completing version two of my story/book. I decided I needed a break away from the never ending flashing cursor on my screen, but now I'm back and ready to do it all over again and this time I will be working on version 3 of my story/book.

Just for my own benefit as I'm not entirely sure anyone reads this, but below is a page count of both versions.

Version 1 - 391 Pages - 26 Chapters
Version 2 - 359 Pages - 22 Chapters

I'm not sure if this is consistent or even the correct way of doing things. To be honest I have only just really started to research the art of writing and other writers, as I wanted, no that's wrong, as I needed to make sure that before I started trawling the interweb for help and guidance I had to make sure that the idea of me writing was more than just an idea. And now, whether I believe it or not, I think that I have shown sufficient commitment for me to perhaps look at asking someone else to read what it is I have written.

The idea of giving it to someone else to read genuinely fills me with a very serious feeling of dread. What if what I have written is shit? How do I know that I could have made just as good an effort by repeatedly writing the sentence 'I am a mole that lives in a hole.' I have tried to imagine what I would do if someone I knew asked me to read something that they had spent months working/writing on, only to discover that I didn't think it was very good. How do you tell someone that?

The X-Factor Paradox

It was for that very reason that I haven't told anyone, except now, what it is I am trying to do. My wife didn't really know until a few months ago just how serious I was about trying to achieve whatever it is I am trying to do, I'm not even sure myself if truth be told, what I hope to gain from this experience/experiment.

I remember a few years ago a very good friend of mine told me that she was thinking of auditioning for the X-Factor and would I mind listening to her sing to see what I thought. I'll admit that I was flattered that she would ask me for my opinion, in the past I had played guitar and sung in a few bands, nothing massive, but I loved doing it. Gigging was amazing, the feeling I would get when I knew that the band was performing well and that the crowd was really enjoying us. I would recommend to anyone and everyone to take up an instrument and get on stage with it, just once, (something else I can tick off my bucket list), anyway, I guess that because she had seen me sing and play in my band a few times, she must have thought I would be able to advise her.
Now I don't claim to be any kind of expert when it comes to music, (although I abhor chart music, sorry), but I will happily watch anyone play and sing live, for no other reason than it takes bottle to get up on stage in front of people and give it everything you've got.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, my friend turned out to be not as talented as she may have thought. I listened intently for three and a half minutes as she belted out her favourite song and whilst I applauded her conviction and obvious passion for singing, how was I supposed to tell her that I didn't think it was a good idea to audition. The only reason I thought she shouldn't audition though was because I didn't want four apparently professional music moguls (Louis Walsh? I shake my head with bewilderment) tearing her off a strip and telling her she was no good.

When she had finished singing her song there was a deathly silence as she waited for my opinion. What was I supposed to do? Here was my friend asking for my honest opinion and I knew that if she auditioned she would be devastated when she got the four 'No's' that I knew she would receive. So I did the only thing I felt I could do, I chickened out and told her that she wasn't bad, but she could do with some practice. I showed her a few exercises that I used when I was in my band and told her to practice every day.

And that's exactly what she did, practicing almost religiously. A few months went by and I had forgotten about her audition if I was to be honest, when she came back and asked me to critique her again. In all fairness she had gotten slightly better, this time she was almost in time with the tune and her pitching, whilst not anywhere near to what it should have been had improved, but still I knew what was eventually going to happen. I tried to convince her to give it a year, see if she could get in or start a band, allowing her time to get experience, etc. But she was very keen to audition. This time I promised myself that I would be brutally honest and tell her what I thought, but like most blokes I bottled out.

My friend went to the audition; I was unable to go with her. She got the four 'No's' that I knew she would, Simon Cowell even commented on just how bad he thought she was and asked her why her friends and family would allow her to embarrass herself like that? She was devastated and has since never tried to sing again. My friend never blamed me for letting her go (although I wouldn't have been surprised if she had), but the way I see it, if you enjoy doing something that doesn't hurt anyone who has the right to say whether you are good at it or not?


And I think it's a big but, what if you're wasting your time chasing dreams that never become anything more than that, a dream? To Spend hundreds of hours working on something that will eventually turn out to be nothing more than a waste of time, time that could be put to better use. And that's how I look at this writing experiment. Singing, for example, is something anyone can do and most people do do it, some without even knowing that they are. How many times has a tune come on your MP3 player or the radio and you've found yourself singing along to it. It takes no effort really, not unless it's your lively-hood then I assume it takes up quite a lot of your time, but if you're singing for a living, then that normally means that you are one of the lucky few that has managed to do what you love for a living.

What if what I am writing/doing is ridiculous and stupid and all I'm doing is burning through hours that I could be using for something else. And all because someone I asked for help doesn't feel they have the heart to tell me what it is I'm doing is shit and a waste of time? I suppose I could spend the rest of my life blaming that person, LOL.

But like my friend with her X-Factor audition, I suppose I won't know unless I give it a damn good go, I just hope that whatever the response is, it doesn't ever put me off writing for good. I take rejection quite badly. I suppose there's only one way to find out...

Oh and by the way, my friend with the X-Factor audition isn't me I swear. I wouldn't put myself through that kind of turmoil. I'm afraid I'm a bit old school like that, it's only my opinion and we all know what they say about opinions, they're like arseholes, everyone's got one, but the way I see it, if you want to be good at something and reap the rewards, you have to put your time in first and pay your dues. How can you appreciate what you've got if you've never had to earn it?

Anyway, enough from me today at this rate I'll never get started with version 3. Wish me luck.

Take care, but above all, stay cool. x

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Two drafts down, I have no idea how many more to go...

Okay, so here goes.

On February 10th 2012 I found out from my current employer that I was one of many of a list of people lined up to have their jobs unfairly taken from them through redundancy. I know it's something that, especially with the way the current employment climate is going, most people have to watch out for. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I have since been told that to keep my position in the firm I need to move almost 200 miles away to a new office they have built.

I turn 36 in less than 3 weeks and do not relish the idea of having to fight for new employment, with a new company and having to get to know new people and new procedures and everything else that goes with it. But I am also a husband to an amazing woman and a Daddy (Not Dad yet, there's a day I'm not looking forward too) to two beautiful and wonderful girls. My wife and I have discussed the idea of relocating, but for us it's simply not an option. The girls are settled in school with friends, my wife has family local to us, all the usual stuff. So I decided to come up with a backup plan and a while ago started to mess around with an idea for a story, it was nothing serious, just a thought I had about a story I wanted to tell, so whilst I was still being paid by my soon to be ex-employer I decided that I would give writing my tale on to paper a proper go.  (Question 1: Is it paper if you’re using a computer to write the story?)

I was going to write a book, how hard could that be?

Turns out, very. I wrote my first draft, in about 6 months and to a certain extent I was very pleased with myself. Not because what I had written was any good, because it wasn't, but it was a start. Without any hesitation I ploughed on with my second draft, which I finished this week. Hurrah for me! Now I have to start on Version 3.

The weird thing is, when I started this project I didn't really think that I would get past the first chapter and now, after writing over 800 pages of the first 2 drafts collectively I find myself slightly underwhelmed. I knew that I would have to write what I suppose I could call a book at least 3 times before I would be ready to let someone read it, but in all honesty, I really thought that with every draft I would be a little bit closer to realising my dream of hopefully being called a writer.

I originally started this venture as an experiment really. I wanted to know if I could take control of my own destiny and change my way of thinking and feeling, knowing that you are going to be made redundant can be a real weight and worry, but if nothing else, if I wrote a fictional book, it was one thing I could tick off of my bucket list. Now here I am, having written, essentially, the same story twice, ready to embark on it for a third time and it struck me that at some point I am going to have to ask someone to read my work and critique it.

It's not the feedback that bothers me; I believe that any and all feedback is helpful as long as it is given constructively.  No, what I think is freaking me out is actually handing over to my wife or a friend, something that I would have spent over a year working on.

(Question 2: At what point do you know that what it is you have done is good enough to share with another?)

What happens if they read it and hate it? Or worse still, what happens if they read it and hate it, but tell me that they think it's amazing, fabulous, original, thought provoking to save me any embarrassment or heartache. I don't want to be one of those people on the X factor who take their loved ones along with them and watch as a member of their family stands up in front of thousands of people to audition and then murders a well known hit song. I wonder why it is their friends and family let them do that?

Anyway, I suppose at some point I'm just going to have to bite the bullet and see how it goes and hope that whoever reads it for the first time at least likes/loves me enough to be brutally honest. I just hope I can be brave enough to give it to someone and not freak out after I have done so. I'm sure that there's a metaphor in there somewhere, but I'll be damned if I can find it.

I have to go, so until next time my imaginary friend, stay safe and above all stay cool.