The geyser is leaking. Fortunately it is still under guarantee, so a new geyser may be delivered tomorrow morning. The bad news is that the steps up to the loft are falling to pieces. They may need to be replaced with a new wooden staircase before the geyser can go in. The big dog doesn’t like the sound of strange footsteps in the loft over his head, so he is running around looking as if the skies are about to fall. My small foxy dog has begun chewing her paw again and may need to go to the vet. The kettle is switching itself off before the water reaches boiling point.
Everyday life, the ups and downs. Had some brutal criticism on my fiction which left me more exhilarated than downcast. All the faults I knew I had as a writer and many more I didn’t know about. Back to the drawing board, that familiar sense of beginning again. My feeling is that if you don’t hate the criticism you’re getting, you’re not getting enough criticism.
Very apposite then to read AL Kennedy on the myth of the suffering artist, akin to the myth of the alcoholic genius:
I have been trying to write for at least a quarter of a century, and I can say very firmly that in my experience, suffering is largely of no bloody use to anyone, and definitely not a prerequisite for creation. If an artist has managed to take something appalling and make it into art, that’s because the artist is an artist, not because something appalling is naturally art.
Just try kicking your bare foot really hard against the nearest wall. In your own time – I can wait … And now tell me how creative you feel. Just bloody sore and mind-fillingly distracting, isn’t it?
Outside there are black storm clouds massing behind the mountains, rain predicted for the Easter weekend. Good weather for staying indoors and rewriting fiction, bad weather for walking dogs or getting geysers fixed. The texts to be rewritten are all printed out and sitting in one pitiful pile on my desk, next to a cup of green tea going cold. Once I was paralysed by rejection or harsh criticism, would just give up, retreat inwardly and dull my feelings with wine or daydreams, pretend it didn’t matter. I didn’t have the courage to submit work because that involved risk and I hated risking rejection, couldn’t face that assessment of what my writing was worth. That slippery abyss of low self-esteem and alcoholic escapism.Now the sense of failure still stings, but I do my share of beta reading, critiquing and mentoring and I know that pulling punches is no help to the writer. If a piece doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Helping the writer figure out why it doesn’t work is the most perceptive gift to offer.