By Teri Terry
"A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." - Thomas Mann
This is so true. Every word must be the right word, the only one that in combination with all the other right words, sentences and paragraphs creates a chain that leads all the way from page one to ‘the end’ in an inevitable, flawless jigsaw, where the ending isn’t suspected but gives that satisfied of course when it is reached. At least…. that is the plan.
And some days, it flows, and all is right in my world. Others, not so much. And those are the days I’ve been having lately.
Last Tuesday I was lucky enough to attend the Reading Agency’s Teenage Kicks at Random House in London. Led by Bucks this year through High Wycombe Headspace and Children’s Reading Partners, authors Malorie Blackman, Bali Rai and Jenny Downham were there to inspire and answer questions. They were wonderful, warm and approachable, and generous with their responses.
Bali, Malorie & Jenny
One question they were asked is: what is the hardest thing about writing? And since I’ve been finding it hard going myself lately, my ears instantly perked up.
Answering the tough questions
For Malorie Blackman, the hardest thing is reworking. The most fun is the first draft, just getting the story out. But after that? She admits to a perfectionist streak. She prints it out, goes through it again and again, makes changes and prints it again. This happens six or seven times before she lets her editor see it. She finds the dedication to get through this is hard, as by then she just wants to get on to the next thing.
Jenny Downham never plans. She writes much like a stream of consciousness for weeks and weeks. Months can go by before she knows where she is going: so for her, the hardest thing is going down the wrong path.
Bali Rai said his hardest thing is much like Malorie’s. He also has trouble keeping other ideas out of his head. Always while writing, he is thinking of other things, and getting excited about stuff he hasn’t written more so than what he is working on. Keeping those things separate is difficult. Though he also said he doesn’t find any of it particularly hard hard, because writing was his hobby before he started getting paid for it. He feels privileged to do it, and enjoys it most of the time: apart from being plagued by too many ideas. Can you have too many ideas?
Through the evening you could see they all had the joy: that feeling you can only get from creating characters and the world they inhabit from nothing but imagination and desire. And they reminded me why I put myself through it.
Sharing the joy!
Writing isn’t easy. But it is so worth it.
And what did I think of the Reading Agency’s Teenage Kicks at Random House?
As thirteen year old Katherine summed up when asked what she thought of the evening: it was awesome.
Katherine meets her hero