Tuesday, 8 May 2012

So Much To Read... So Little Time...

The mayhem is (temporarily) over: I have submitted my assignments for my taught modules and shall now be focusing on writing my MA dissertation. The dissertation consists of 15,000 words of fiction, plus a 5,000 word contextualising essay, with 10% leeway in word count. I'll be writing Gothic short stories linked by the theme of identity/self-perception.

Most of my short stories tend to be 2500-3000 words; it seems to be my natural groove. When I try to write shorter stories, they often come across as rushed or over-orchestrated. It depends on the story/subject, of course, but I expect my dissertation to consist of 6 or so stories.

The Problem:
I know nothing about Gothic fiction!

Okay, that's a lie. The truth is, I've read a lot of Gothic fiction and fiction with Gothic elements. But compared to the range of Gothic fiction that exists, I know nothing. My reflex ,when I feel like this, is to read - so I have a huge pile of books and am now anxious about not having the time to read them all!

So now I'm wasting time worrying that I don't have enough time!

Yup, I'm mad. But also, I've found that procrastinating is usually a symptom of lacking confidence - for me, anyway. So the real problem is the usual, banal, utterly boring one:

I'm afraid my writing won't be good enough.

Ugh. I hate that. I hate being an anxious mess, I hate doubting myself and I hate the fact that the only possible response to this problem is to write.

All I can do is write a lot (and make sure I read enough). Keep writing, keep rewriting and hope I can either be confident about my writing, or be content with not being confident and keep writing anyway. So screw that big pile of books - I need to concentrate on producing a big pile of stories!


  1. Well done, Hayley, for submitting all your assignments for the taught modules.
    The dissertation is a mammoth task, but sounds much more manageable as a series of several short stories. I'm sure reading is a brilliant way of giving yourself a feel for the theme and genre. If I feel uninspired or lacking confidence, I always sit down with a book, often one I've turned to before. I usually emerge with a need to accomplish some writing that lives up to what I've just read.
    The hardest part is just before I begin writing. That part is way more disconcerting than the actual writing itself, because at least the act of writing means I'm being productive and I'll have something to look over in another day or two. And at that point, I often discover some gems lurking, even if not all the material is workable.
    I'm sure that once you're deep into it, you will feel better. You'll still have doubts, but at least you'll have something you can work on and change if necessary, rather than a blank screen/page.

    Plus, I think all the insecurities we feel are part of being a writer. I'm not sure we could do it without those fears and lapses in confidence. They show how committed we are to getting it perfect.

    Very best of luck. While you're doing that, I'm staring in terror at a crucial part of my novel-in-progress. (I ditched the last one after 80,000 words!)I intend to get past the fear of writing rubbish and just launch in and write from the heart. x

  2. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this comment, Joanna. It's full of great advice and has made me feel more confident :-)