Pull Your Finger Out

The best piece of writing advice I ever received was ‘Pull your finger out.’ It was delivered by a mentor, someone with whom I had enjoyed a positive and fruitful relationship, writing and appraising each other’s work. While I always enjoyed our time I often found it difficult working with him because his work could, annoyingly, seem so much better than mine, so much funnier, so much more relaxed, so much more engaging. Of course that was because he pulled his finger out and made it seem so. Making writing appear easy is very hard work, but it all starts at the same point: writing. Pen to paper, fingers to keys, whatever suits you best, just pull your finger out. I write, you write, we write. I am a writer, you are a writer, we are writers.

Or so I tell myself. And you, apparently.

That starting point, the moment when the finger is eased out like a dead mouse from behind the skirting board is a difficult moment. The blank page, the impossibly white screen, the temptations of Facebook and Fifa 15 pulling at the eye and the mind. Writing isn’t just difficult it’s pretty boring next to checking likes and signing Bale for a lower league side like Plymouth Argyle.

As a side note, I still keep my copy of Fifa 10 so as to play with the might Mariners. Signing Bale in that game gets you a pretty solid but not outrageously good Welsh wizard. Immobile turns out to be very interesting though…

Anyway, distracted already. Writing. Here we go…

That’s two ellipses in the space of two lines. Not a lot of writing going on. I find the use of the ellipsis particularly frustrating; students seem to think that they’re a magical device that immediately makes their work so special, almost as if they replace actual effort on their writing, which of course they do. I can almost hear the DUH, DUH, DUH! in their heads as they cleverly construct a dramatic moment that will see so much tension for the character that the fictional he/she will leap off the page simply to read what will happen to them. The student is so confident about their casual creation’s certainty to engage that the paper itself will melt in the teacher’s/examiner’s hands. It never does. Write, don’t skip. Pull your finger out.

Anyone thinking, is he going to finish this post with an ellipsis? Can I be that predictable?

Advice easily given, harder to put into practice. A year ago I managed to negotiate a new contract at work: I now teach for four days a week. I promised myself (and my wife) that I would not waste the day on Fifa or Facebook, committing myself to three thousand words per week and setting up a schedule that would see the first draft of my second novel finished by the end of February. To the surprise of everyone, myself and my wife included, I stuck to it and have now finished that first draft. It’s been read and appraised by trusted friends and now waits for the second draft treatment. And waits. And waits.

I have considered that a blog may be just another distraction, a literary Facebook or Fifa, but it is writing and it does require me to pull my finger out. The fact that it’s whimsical, write-as-I-like fare doesn’t mean it’s any less important, not at all, honestly. Well, maybe a little.

I’m making another promise; weekly blog updates on happenings and the second draft of that book well under way. Maybe fortnightly updates, and maybe a more solid target for the redraft. End of May? Best pull my finger out…

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Pull Your Finger Out

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