A snippet of my writing process, by Sydney Smith

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writingI’ve been writing WOLF ANGEL for a year or so now, sometimes writing intensively, sometimes letting my imagination work things out in its own way and its own time, This is the creative life. After a burst of galvanic activity that lasted about three months, slightly wrung out, the end in sight yet my feet plodding, I gave my completed draft to Kathryn Ledson for editing, and she came back with some suggested changes. These are good suggestions. My imagination responded immediately to some of them. If I had been under contract to a publishing house, with a deadline to meet, I would have taken a week or two’s rest, cleared away all distractions, crawled into my den for a spot of hibernation, and come back to the novel with fresh energy.

But I am not under contract. I am under the whip of a harsher taskmaster – my own driven personality. On the one hand, I know I have to rest. I have to clear my mind and give my imagination a week or two in a lonely hilltop monastery. Only then can it revitalise itself. On the other hand, the end is so near and I want to get this novel finished and published. On the third hand – I so often need three – I want to start work on another novel. This one is a hitch-hiker that keeps trying to flag me down.

There are other pressures – my paid work,  my commitment to Pilyara Press as it takes shape as the brainchild of four writers. Overarching all that is the fear that I’m a terrible writer who will never accomplish anything worthwhile. I am not a terrible writer. Quite the reverse. But I need to wallow in the fear that I am. It’s part of my process. A lot of writers have a similar process. It hurts to feel this way, and yet it’s good for me.  It’s like an infected wound – self-doubt is the stinking yellow pus, and by letting myself feel it, I free that pus so that the wound can heal.

Surely one of the benefits of being part of a publishing collective is that I decide when I am ready to write. I have such a horror of confinement within the needs and expectations of others, such a strong urge to find escape routes that will reassure me I’m not trapped, that I’m surprised it hasn’t occurred to me before that a publishing collective, where I decide my pace and my output, is the ideal solution.

I started this post in the hope that I would write myself into a decision – rest or revise. I have not.

I firmly believe in my subconscious as the arbiter of my choices in life. It will tell me what to do when it’s figured out what it wants most out  of the options that lie before it, jewels winking in a brightly-lit display window.