I’m talking to myself here. I’ve just realised it’s been well over a month since my last blog. I’ve only written a few thousand words of my novel in the past few weeks and not even started some of the articles I had ideas for back in January. Why this lack of activity? Well, since taking on my guiding job at Shakespeare’s Birthplace, my days off have become a bit busy. Working every other weekend means that I now have to cram all my visitors into the weekends between work. I seem to have had one load of visitors after another. During the week I still work at the Royal Shakespeare Company one morning a week and occasionally other days when I have other duties with them. I still owe loads of invitations. Every weekend is now accounted for up until the end of January. Sometimes I long for a chance to sit and do absolutely nothing.
Yet I do call myself a writer and run a writers’ group with the aim of encouraging others to get on with it. Hypocrite!
I’m really struggling with my historical novel. I naively thought that having done all the research for my dissertation, I could just get on and write, creating wonderfully imaginative prose to bring my characters to life. This is what I learned:
- Historical fiction requires much more research than factual work, you need to know every last detail of the character’s lives; what they’re wearing, eating, looking at, how they’re talking…. there’s so much to it.
- Even when you know very little about a real character you cannot just create them like a sculptor would, taking a piece of stone and chipping away until it becomes what you would like it to become. There is always a clue to your character in their actions, their circumstances, the events that take place around them. They are not a blank slate – you know certain facts about them and they may turn out to be quite boring and unlike-able. Unless of course you aren’t going to stay faithful to the historiography… but then there’s little point in creating historical fiction with real characters. You might just as well make up the whole thing. I wanted to tell the story of someone I came to admire. If I’d known how hard that was going to be I might have given up that idea when my MA was awarded and just felt satisfied with that.
- I think I’m inherently lazy – given the choice between reading and writing, I would reach for a book every time. Unless I happen to be in one of my manic writing phases (no I’m not bipolar but I do get suddenly keen every so often!) and then there’s no stopping me.
So, I am a little disillusioned with myself and feel I need a kick up the rear end. But at the moment, I’m feeling too lethargic to even do that.