BLAME IT ON THE WORM
(a writer’s day)
Patricia Feinberg Stoner
My writing day began today at 3 a.m. I blame the worm.
If you are a writer, you know the worm. It’s that little voice that pipes up just as you are drifting peacefully to sleep or – worse still – when you suddenly find yourself awake in the small hours. Here’s an intriguing plot twist, it murmurs seductively. Here’s a snappy bit of dialogue. Here’s a character you never knew you needed.
Of course I fought it. How I fought it! I played word games, I tried to recall what my Spanish teacher said about imperfect subjunctives – that usually does the trick. All to no avail. I was wide awake, and I just had to get to my computer.
My writing day, and it is a fairly typical one, goes something like this. I wake, as I have said, in the small hours. Ten minutes’ wrestling with the worm convince me that I simply have to write. A further ten minutes are wasted hoping I can sneak out of bed waking neither husband nor dog.
I silence the dog with craven promises of food, and we tiptoe downstairs together. I am careful to shut the bedroom door tight against later canine incursions. I switch on the kettle, feed the dog, open the kitchen door for the dog to visit the garden, make a cup of tea. All the time the worm is nagging at me; my head feels like a hard-boiled egg as I try to retain all the deathless prose that is forming in my brain.
At last I am seated at my desk. My fingers fall over themselves with urgency; they fly over the keyboard, spellchecker galloping behind me waving its fist. I ignore it – don’t bother me with details!
I type without stopping. This is the time to be indiscriminate, to put down everything just as it comes to me. I bounce from thought to thought, putting down here a snippet of dialogue, there a vivid description, there a note about how a plot could develop. I know that most of it will be dross, but I am hoping that at the end there will be the occasional small nugget as well.
Time for a coffee break: fifteen minutes or so with the local news. Then, with luck, another hour to work before the household is stirring. This second tranche of work is a lot more serious than the earlier, heady session. It’s time for a critical read of what I have been writing. Sometimes it will surprise me by being better than I had hoped. Often, though, it’s a case of reaching for the figurative blue pencil. Over-writing is every writer’s joy and bane. It’s fun to do, but it’s tedious for the reader on whom it is inflicted.
I spend an hour or so structuring, tightening and often re-writing. By this time there are definite signs from above – the bedroom, that is, not divine inspiration – and I know it’s breakfast time. The morning routine is set in stone: breakfast, then out for a walk with the dog. The day is filled with other demands, so I don’t usually get back to my desk until around 4:30, and then with none of the fine careless rapture that informed the morning’s efforts. The last push is the hardest. After a few hours away from my desk I come to it with a fresh eye: I polish and cut ruthlessly and, if I am really lucky, by the end of the day I have something I am reasonably pleased with to show for my efforts.
I count myself lucky that I am not a novelist. Short stories, articles and the odd bit of comic verse satisfy the writer’s itch in me, and I doubt if I would have the stamina for a sustained effort. My writer’s day over, I can go to bed with a sense of accomplishment, and so to peaceful slumber… until the worm bites again.
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About Patricia Feinberg Stoner
Patricia Feinberg Stoner is a British writer: a former journalist, advertising copywriter and publicist. She studied French and English at Trinity College, Dublin and trained as a journalist with the Liverpool Daily Post. In 2003 she and her husband became accidental expatriates in the Languedoc, southern France, and lived there for four years. It is here that her award-winning Pays d’Oc series is set. She is also the author of two books of comic verse.
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