Pure Time? Pure Nonsense

Lisa Davison is an editor by day and fiction writer/Kingston MA student by spare time. She is currently writing her first novel and was published in the 2012 edition of Kingston’s student anthology, Ripple. She blogs at www.thegreatepuzzle.co.uk and tweets as @LisaJaneDavison. She loves cats and paper.

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I have a confession. My name is Lisa Davison and I am leading a double life. By day, I am a mild-mannered (sort-of) professional copywriter and editor who meets deadlines, turns up for meetings on time and generally manages to sift through the ‘to do’ list in a sensible fashion. By night (and early mornings and weekends), though, I turn into THE PROCRASTINATOR.

My weakness? TIME MANAGEMENT.

Because it turns out the only superpower this title bestows upon me is an extraordinary ability to do the washing when I should be developing character, building plot, or – I don’t know – writing. I have a few theories on why I spend so much time avoiding the thing I love but I’ll save that for the therapist.

The thing is, I don’t know anyone who feels that they have enough time in their life to sit and write, and let’s face it the mild-mannered (sort of) copywriter/editor is paying the bills right now. I also realise I’m not the only one with pressures and deadlines; in many ways I have fewer than most friends since I don’t have kids. I know they’re capable of being distracted – I can see you on Facebook and Twitter so don’t pretend – but they appear to have mastered the art of balance. Or at least, they don’t moan about it as much as I do. I, on the other hand, appear to have created a whole series of convoluted, deeply-held beliefs about the way I should manage my time.

Example: I have a free Sunday coming up with hour upon glorious hour of free time with which to sit and write. Perfect. Because I have told myself I need hour upon glorious hour in order to be creative. The procrastinator likes to call it ‘pure’ time. Only, when Sunday arrives I quite unexpectedly discover I need to tidy my desk first, put the washing on first, hoover first (it’s pathetic how little has changed since I was last at university – although a lot more alcopops were involved) and once all that’s done I’m left with only one hour. And I can’t possibly sit down for an hour to write because the procrastinator has declared I’m out of pure time.

I’ve also wasted a lot energy asking other writers how they manage their minutes and hours, as if there is some Holy Grail of time management that I don’t yet know about. The answer is often terribly dull: planning helps, sitting down at your desk and doing it helps more.

So, as I enter the thirty-seventh year of my life I’ve decided 2013 will be the year of GETTING ON WITH IT. Like any problem, identification is half the battle. Now that I’ve spotted my insane pure time theory I can go about dismantling it. Already, I have spent a weekend away with writing friends doing nothing but story plan and character development. As it turns out, planning really does help. I’ve also started to identify – and more importantly use – the odd hour here, the spare fifteen minutes there to just put something, anything, down on paper. Award-winning it ain’t, but then that’s not the point. As Philip Pullman said in an interview with The Guardian in 2011: “if you only write when you want to, or when you feel like it, or when it’s easy, you’ll always be an amateur.”

Me, My Voice and I

Lisa Davison is an editor by day and fiction writer/Kingston MA student by spare time. She is currently writing her first novel and was published in the 2012 edition of Kingston’s student anthology, Ripple. She blogs at www.thegreatepuzzle.co.uk and tweets as @LisaJaneDavison. She loves cats and paper.

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I was having a drink with a friend a while back when the subject of my blog came up. I’m always surprised to discover that someone has willingly read my online ramblings, but it prompted an entirely unexpected conversation that got me thinking about voice.

Although complimentary about the blog itself my friend said ‘It made me think I didn’t know you.’ There was a hint of sadness in the way she said it, as if we had somehow drifted so far apart that the person she was reading bore no resemblance to the person she thought she knew.

It’s natural that people glide in and out of your life, especially as you get older – life has a nasty habit of getting in the way. What threw me was that this is someone I speak to every week and while we don’t see each other as much we would like, we do manage to get together at least once a month.

I couldn’t get her comment out of my head. Was I so different now? Had I kept more of myself back than she realised? How had I not noticed this happening?

Meanwhile, a few days before, my sister had been on Facebook and posted the following:  ‘Who says you can’t learn something new about someone you have known 34years… an end of book dance?!? I never knew Lisa Davison did that!’

I repeated this to my friend as a way of saying ‘See! Even my own family hasn’t a clue!’

But as we sat chatting, it struck me – the person she and my sister are reading isn’t precisely me. It not that I’m lying when I write – I’m afraid I did indeed do an end-of-book dance as a child – it’s just that I’m choosing to highlight certain aspects of my personality in order to create a role.

And the more I considered this, the more I realised how much of my time is spent creating these roles through voice. The me on Facebook is not the same as the me on Twitter. The professional corporate journalist me is not the same as the fiction writer me who is busy trying to get in the head of a 20-something man living through the Second World War as a conscientious objector. None of these voices are ‘me’ and yet cannot help but contain elements of me-ness since I created all of them.

So, with all these voices in my head, I was particularly interested to watch the latest series of the BBC arts show Imagine, which interviews artists, writers, musicians about their creative processes. I love any programme that peels back a little bit of the mystery around how other writers write, and so the interview with crime fiction writer Ian Rankin was of particular interest. What fascinated me most was his relationship with his fictional detective Rebus. He has Rebus grow up on the same street as him and locates his detective in an Edinburgh that clearly Rankin knows very well, and yet he told Imagine presenter Alan Yentob that if the two men ever met, they would not get on. They could chat about music and beer for a few minutes, he said, but ultimately, Rebus would want to pick a fight with him. Rebus both is and isn’t Ian Rankin.

Because in the end, we’re all multiple voices. It’s what makes us interesting and complicated as human beings. The trick for any writer is, of course, to blend just the right mixture of those voices in order to create truly three-dimensional characters that readers care about as if they were real.

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