11th December 2012

A writer or a story maker?

storytellingThere’s a slight irony about the title of this week’s blog post, given that my now completed co-written novel is indeed called ‘The Story Maker’.  It’s easy at times, I think, to get submerged in all the writing malarkey that now exists, the marketing, the networking… and so on, and forget what we are and why we do what we do.  Recently, I have been reminded of this.

Having completed The Story Maker, an adult contemporary novel, which I started with co-writer, Mark Darlington, in February this year, and having also completed five children’s manuscripts this year, I decided it was time for a break.  And by this, I mean a self-imposed-no-writing-new-stuff-break.  My time, I decided, was going to be carefully balanced (do not scoff!) between home, the kids, teaching, editing for other people, a couple of wee research projects, and getting my completed stuff ‘out there’ to publishers and agents.

I honestly, seriously, had no intention of writing, or even thinking about writing, anything else until at least next Spring.  I’ve been juggling ‘other jobs’, writing, home and being a mum for a number of years.  My first two picture books were published in 2006. I had one published in 2010, two in 2011 and a mid-grade this year.  So, I decided it was time to not write anything new and focus on the things I had completed.  Fine.  In theory!  You know what’s coming don’t you?….

Last week, an aquiantance told me about Old Uncle Arthur.  Oh yes, Old Uncle Arthur! cogsAnd the little bit she told me about Old Uncle Arthur and his situation, got a few cogs turning… but I was on my self-imposed-no-writing-new-stuff-break, so I let the cogs turn for a little bit, then moved on to other thoughts.  The same day, driving home, I noticed a few lorries heading towards me on the other side of the road.  I decided to look at the drivers… I have no idea why.  I have various ways of amusing myself and this is one of them.  When I looked at the first driver, I got a wave of something, a sense of something about HIM.  I saw something that he’d done.  This thought made me ask a question – what if I really had seen something that he’d done? And answering that gave me an idea for another story.

Feeling a tad hacked off, and admitting semi-defeat (if that’s possible) I turned on the lappo when I got home and created the dreaded… wait for it…. IDEAS document (oh no!!!) and made a few random notes about ‘Old Uncle Arthur’ (adult novel) and ‘the other story’ which was definitely going to be YA, I decided.  I couldn’t leave it there, however, because I’d already been battling to ignore an idea that came to me in a dream the previous week, for a mid-grade novel, and a logo for it which had crept in with the title… so, what the heck, in for a penny and all that.  I wrote some notes on that one too!

Oh, I wish it had ended there.  But it didn’t, because today, driving home from work (why do my ideas come to me when I locomote?) I saw something graffitied on a bus shelter –  two words.  Sadly, I cannot divulge the two words as they are now the title of the next book idea which is definitely mid-grade and which took over my annoying-won’t-take-a-writer’s-break-mind for the remainder of the journey home.  I asked myself two questions.  Who does that refer to? And who painted it on?  Needless to say, it has been added to my IDEAS list.   Not only that, I have started writing it!!!  Properly writing it.  I could kick myself.

The thing is, and I guess most of we writers are like this, even when I don’t want to write, I can’t help but make up stories.  I spent half of my childhood and teenage years doing it – living in my own head, wondering why and what and where and when, submerging myself in some other world.  How can I stop this habit of a lifetime?  And why would I want to?  Isn’t it just the way I’m made?

I have another novel, started and abandoned so that I could write The Story Maker.  Sadly, it will, yet again, be abandoned.  The Graffiti Story needs to be written, and in the New Year, it will be, because more than writers, we are story makers and story tellers.  And this brings me back to the beginning of this post – the reminder of what is important… not getting published, not the book reviews, not the fact that so-and-so is friends whith so-and-so and wouldn’t that be helpful, and isn’t this a useful marketing too… nope! None of that.  What is important is that those cogs keep on turning and that we retain the enthusiasm and curiosity that makes OUR lives worth living.



About Abi Burlingham

I write children's books and paint pictures inspired by nature, animals, trees etc, mostly in acrylics. I am a crisp addict.
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12 Responses to 11th December 2012

  1. Jo Carroll says:

    I can’t imagine anyone disagreeing with you, Abi – it’s certainly the stories (and the travels) that keep me going. All the networky thing is fun, but stories are what gets me up in the morning and can keep my awake at night!

  2. The stories just keep coming…and I don’t think we’ll ever be on top of them, in the sense that it’s time to stop, and I wouldn’t want it any other way!
    We story-tellers are the type of people who ‘see’ everything – like your lorry driver – and create from what we see without even knowing we’re doing it half the time. It’s a compulsion that I’ll never completely control!
    Keep them coming Abi!

    • Aw, it’s lovely to hear you do that too, Lisa. I think you’re right. We are quiet observers aren’t we? Watching, thinking and questioning. And I actually think a lot of people are. Perhaps the distinction is that we write things down, while others choose another means of expressing their take on life? I think that could be a whole ‘other’ blog post!

  3. I was just thinking about this very thing today! And I agree that it’s the stories that keep me going, too. I still want to be published (or self published) but mostly I agree with this: “What is important is that those cogs keep on turning and that we retain the enthusiasm and curiosity that makes OUR lives worth living.”… especially because like you I can’t seem to turn off the ideas!

    • We’re definitely in syn at the mo, Julia. I think being published is confirmation that what we have written is thought to be worthy by a particular group of people and will, therefore, reach an audience. I was initially a bit sceptical about self-publishing, but I’ve recently been converted. If it keeps us writing, and gets our stories out there, then that has to be good doesn’t it? Loads of luck with it!

  4. Jenny Alexander says:

    Lovely post! It made me realise that I think of myself as both a writer and a story-teller. At least half of what I write – and most of what I read – is non-fiction, but I find beautiful ideas can be as creatively intriguing as stories. I play with them in my mind in exactly the same way, and feel just the same excitement. Who would want to take a break from that?!

  5. Aw, you’re so right, Jenny, it’s being able to create something tangible from our ideas that’s what matters isn’t it?

  6. Emma Pass says:

    Great post! Without the story-making, none of the other stuff could even exist, so it’s definitely the most important bit – it’s at the core of everything. And, err, good luck with the writing break… sounds like it’s going well… 😉

  7. Nadine says:

    That’s why I love your blog…and you, Abi. You always come with timely, relevant, thought-stimulating posts. I needed this at this particular time, so THANK YOU! xxx

    P.S. Don’t mean to be wicked, but may all sorts of inspiration continue to flow. 🙂

  8. Aw, that’s brill! Thank’s Nadine, so glad this was pertinent to you at the moment. Hee hee… I kind of hope it continues to flow too 😀 xx

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