Tiptoeing through my words

I don’t know about you, but I find writing a story an exhilarating, but somehow unnerving, experience.

What if I tell the story all wrong? Miss the chance to commit something wonderful to the page and end up with an account that is merely satisfactory? In some ways, the blank page of the empty book is so reassuring, because, in it, anything is still possible, nothing is committed, fixed or final.

I’m not a commitment-phobe, I hasten to add, it’s simply that I worry I have the wrong story, when there are so many out there to locate and try to frame with words. One might feel a certain sympathy for youngsters starting out in the world, where their horizons are so broad they too, might be wary of taking the wrong paths, a detour – or a derailment? – that might alter one’s whole course.

And in some ways, that’s how I feel every time I start a new novel. My characters will of course help me to write what they want me to – they are usually quite clear about that – but there is still this sense of embarking on a new, smooth path, which, if I am careless, might end up all crinkled and awkward.

A good friend says I have a habit of deciding that it is better to do nothing, rather than the wrong thing; what she calls a ‘clever delay mechanism’ though I suspect she is being kind. If in doubt, I do nothing; which is something my mother used to say – “If in doubt, do nowt.” So that I have very often done nothing.

Perhaps that is a little bit defeatist, and perhaps a better way when I am unsure is to inch forward with small steps. Hopefully, that will get me used to the idea of constant momentum, even if by tiny degrees; a small step is better than a stand-still.


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