2013.02.23

This post is nearly four years old, and I think about it nearly every day. Every day when I make the clackity noise and especially the days when I don’t.

Your keyboard will have different things in it than mine does, of course. But, it’s impossible to know what’s in there until you’ve made the clackity noise for a few minutes. You think you know what’s in there. But you don’t. It’s not your brain that makes the clackity noise, it’s your fingers.

Little stories come easy for me. I’ve written little stories my whole life. But the bigger they get, the harder they are to write. The secret is to break the big stories into little stories. 250 words in ten minutes, scene by scene, and if you work at that long enough, you’ll find you have a novel. I used to feel like I would never write a novel, like I couldn’t. I’ve long thought that I’m more a poet than a prose writer.

The first time I read a Harold Pinter prose poem, my brain went, yes, yes, yes. It was about cricket, and I don’t know anything about cricket, so I wrote one about hockey, dissecting Pinter’s structure and style. This was before I started writing on the internet, and when I did, I recognised it as poetry immediately. I use whitespace and line breaks the way poets use whitespace and line breaks. It’s my punchline, my rhyming couplet. I had been going about this novel thing all wrong. I was trying to write a novel like the ones we read in school. But what I was writing online wasn’t anything like that.

The only way I’m ever going to write my novel is to write it my way: making the clackity noise, telling little stories, clicking them together into bigger stories, and knowing where to put the line breaks. It’s been a quieter month than I had hoped for. I always know I’m not writing when I’m making too much of the wrong kind of noise, the whining instead of the clacking. I needed to read this again today, if only to remind myself that writing doesn’t happen in your head. It happens in your fingers.