Tuesday, November 24, 2009

In the Beginning

Now that Alzheimer's:a love story is published, it feels - even to me - that it wrote itself. I've had lots of calls and emails from readers telling me they couldn't put it down and that they read it in one or two sessions. I know that I worked hard to achieve that effect, but I can't remember now what I spent all that time on.

Yesterday I found a journal from the summer of 2007-2008, which is when I began the book. At that time I didn't really know what I was writing and what it would look like when it was finished. It's fascinating to me now to read about my struggle. I'd completely forgotten those early days.

29th Jan '08
Today I printed out the first instalment of the book I'm beginning to write about my parents. I don't know even if I'll keep any of this in the first draft but I have to start somewhere.
Yesterday I read an article in Island magazine by Kevin Brophy and Sue Woolf about the mind's role in creativity - an attempt to look scientifically at the process with which I am familiar. You need to start writing and then the mind will give you what you need. But you need to get going first.

1st Feb '08
I want to include all those letters I wrote to my mother that I knew she'd never read. Today I made a chapter out of them so for now they're all in the same place. One thing I could do is write the whole book in that way, as letters to her. Another thing would be to keep all the sections separate, and a third would be to interweave the letters with my journal entries and emails.
For the moment I'm just collecting everything I've got in separate files and when it's all there I'll perhaps experiment.

4th Feb '08
I feel a bit stuck on my Lucy book. I've got a lot of my material transcribed and together and now I'm just waiting for the structure to leap out and hit me over the head.
I think I have to begin the book with a letter that explains what the letters are for. Then move to the eating, then to a beginning and so on.

5th Feb '08
In the end, Chapter One of my new book went so quickly I felt as though I'd cheated, even though it's taken two months of work to get to this point.
I'm nervous about how I'll go on but at the same time so excited. I think I've begun the impossible - the synthesising of a book about my mother, my father and me.
It feels odd to know more or less where this book is headed. Usually I begin by stepping off into the unknown.

11th March '09
Now I've written two chapters about Mum for my book I want to turn to some of the old stuff. Like their backgrounds and how they met. And then I have to turn to Dad's career. I feel pregnant with it - it's all in there, weighing me down, but I need to see it because I can't imagine what it looks like.

7th April '09
It's difficult, but thrilling too, to watch it take shape. I pick up the dropped stitches, change my mind about whether I'm knitting a jacket or a coat or maybe even a rug to cover the bed.

There's masses more. It's good for me now to see how back then I was pushing ahead in the dark with no firm idea of what exactly it was that I was writing. A finished book can be a daunting thing because it seems so inevitable and effortless.

I'm glad I found this diary, so I can see that it wasn't magic: I got there with courage, belief in myself and my project, and sheer bloody hard work. It wasn't easy but I did it and I think anyone else could too. I hope I'll be able to do it again.

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