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What is Addictive, Irresistible, Satisfying and Won't Make You Fat?

February 1, 2012

The process of creating something that did not exist before you put brush to canvas or fingers to keyboard. That's my answer to...

It's well said: 'If there's any way, short of shooting yourself, to stop you from writing a book, do that thing!' That famous directive hasn't made a dent in the production of books since the invention of writing. I think the explanation is obvious.

  • Writers make books for the same reason painters make pictures: we can't help ourselves. We have to do it. And if you ever go right off your rocker and start writing a book, you'll discover how the process takes over.

I'm forty-thousand words into my second novel - working title 'Sugar Planter' - and here's how I feel as I end each day's work on the manuscript: 'I can't wait to read this book!' It's a story of three pioneers - a young woman doctor, the plantation owner who wants to possess her, and the aristocratic migrant who challenges them both. Set in the tropical paradise of North Australia, the story brings to light the little-known French connection to the era of vast sugar-cane plantations, worked by Chinese and Islander crews.

  • It's not as though I don't know what happens to each of my characters, at every stage of their journey through the story. It's just that, as in a painting, the process is liable to the 'happy accident' of combinations and connections the creator had not planned at the start. Colours can blend in ways a painter hadn't envisaged, and characters can begin to resist the novelist's plans for them.

I estimate it will take about a year to finish this first draft. After that, estimating time to get to the finished manuscript is like asking 'How long is a piece of string?' All my professional life, as a painter and a gallery owner-director, has been spent reaching self-imposed deadlines.

Now, I'm enjoying the freedom of writing without a publishing goal. I find it interesting to see how the writing craft itself has improved - or so I hope - in the years since my first, self-published novel. Because of that pleasure, I've been as dubious about taking the time to start writing a blog as Alice was when the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle invited her to join the Lobsters' Dance in Wonderland. 'Will you, won't you, will you join the dance?'

  • The Web is clogged with puff and twaddle, so I wondered why I should add my two cents-worth to it. Then I found some of the multitude of inspiring blogs that are exemplars of the principle I passionately believe: that Story is the oldest and most basic art, the foundation all art.

These writers have have made me feel ready to say 'Yes! I will 'Come and Join the Dance.' So, this year sees my debut as a blogger. Whether it proves to have anything of value to readers is something I'll only learn as I go along. My plan is to write brief posts here once a week, on Thursdays. I'll be having fun writing it and I hope people will enjoy reading it.

The process of creating something that did not exist before you put brush to canvas or fingers to keyboard is addictive, irresistible and satisfying beyond expectations while you're doing it. Yet the results of your labours are never completely satisfying. You always feel there must be more you could have done to improve the work. I think that's why there never will be an end to books or blogs.

Share your own writing experiences, your art-making, or any subject related to art, writing and Story.  I'd love to hear from you, so just leave a few words in the Comments box.

©Dorothy Gauvin

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