June 2, 2011

Finding my writing space

I don't like writing at home. I find it hard to muster up the motivation to sit down on my bed or in the sitting room to work on my novel or a short story. I always get distracted by something or someone or I just end up saying, "I think I'll watch Absolutely Fabulous instead." My usual favourite is to write in cafés; sometimes sitting there sipping absinthe but usually you'll find me with my usual poison of choice, coffee, while I feel like a bohemian cliché. However to my disadvantage I end up spending money. I've recently been wondering if I could find a place where I could go to write, where I might remain both focused and inspired, with the added benefit of not spending a mini fortune on caffeinated products.

A colleague in my writers group pointed out one useful advantage of my new doctorate (yes, I am now a Doctor in Physics with summa cum laude!) is that the National Library of Spain would grant me a library card with "access all areas" to the archives, purely because I have a doctorate. I decided this would in fact be an fantastic idea and potentially could be very lucrative. To get a standard library card is not really an issue, but why go for a standard library card when I can get the special "exclusive" research status one?

The National Library is a beautiful building, designed in dramatic neo-classical style it's unmissable if you go down the Paseo de Recoletos. I realised having the opportunity to take my MacBook and just sit down and write without distractions in a beautiful building surrounded by books is not to be missed. I applied online this morning, I submitted all my documents electronically only to receive an "OK" for my application and that my card was ready to be collected.

After lunch I packed my computer and went down to this gorgeous library. The security was tight, and the building was stunning. I sat down to one of the mahogany desks in the main reading room (more like a reading hall) and edited two chapters of my novel and finished my short story set in Venice. The place was a delight to work in, and I imagine I'm going to make it my new home shortly.

Sometimes it's good to find the right space. Cafés are great if you don't mind spending copious amounts of money on coffee or wine, but the library is free and focusing. I don't think I'll give up my café lifestyle completely, but my wallet would thank me for picking the latter. The place you write in is important, so make it the best you can get - and what better than the national library?

May 6, 2011

A creative hiatus - lack of commitment or a necessary evil?

I've been a bad writer during 2011. I have edited a small segment of my book, wrote maybe one and a half short stories and lately I feel I've lost my literary va va voom. I could tally a list of excuses, one of them being I wrote a 200 page PhD thesis on the "Magnetic Moment Measurements in Stable Sn isotopes using the Transient Field technique after Coulomb Excitation in Inverse Kinematics" which I suppose counts... maybe, and then went galavanting round Venice and Córdoba, hosted a bunch of guests, and am now preparing for the final 100 yards of my doctorate by getting my defense talk prepared for May the 16th. Oh and of course trying to find the answer to the dreaded question of "what to do with my life now" which is better not to even to ask.

I didn't write much but I did take pretty pictures of Venice!

Suffering from this non-Catholic guilt, I continue to beat myself up over this writing hiatus. Maybe it was a whim? A trait in my fickle personality just waiting for my next big fad. It doesn't matter I published a short story or wrote a 100,000 word novel in 3 months, am I really a writer? My friends all tell me I was exhausted; I had bigger fish to fry and writing a PhD thesis and publishing a scientific article still counts. But one useful piece of consoling advice came from another writer friend of mine on the other side of the world: All artists need to rest at times

Following in the footsteps of Byron, Thomas Mann and Hemingway counts!

Writing involves putting a lot of yourself into your work, it's an exhausting feat both physically and emotionally, and like any form of dedication everybody needs to rest at times. Like the act of dreaming processes the thoughts and events for the day like a defragmentation program, a break from writing is a necessary evil to rejuvinate the little grey cells. Opera singers can stop for a year and come back with a vengeance, so why should I waste energy feeling deflated because I lost my motivation to write? When the right moment comes I'll be ready to do it again. Forcing myself to edit a novel I don't enjoy editing will not result in a good book; forcing myself to write a short story I have no inspiration to write is futile. I have to love writing, and while discipline is good I shouldn't do it till I hate it, especially when I'm not being paid for it (yet!).

Adventures in Córdoba are inspiration. 

A friend of mine, a professional soprano, felt the same when she had a down time with getting jobs. Her mother said: "Go out, walk and swim, take care of yourself because it's all part of the job!" Living is key to the writer. Travelling as a lone woman in Venice is material for a short story; taking my mother to Córdoba on Easter Sunday adds flavours the atmosphere of my prose; going out with friends and observing people is material for writing. If one walks down the street and drinks in every gesture or describes the places they see with words of detail or even down to describing the scent of a place - they're still a writer. A writer is more than a scribe, they have the ability to bring life to words and colour them from experience. 

Details are important. 

So I took a hiatus to write a PhD thesis and to travel, maybe they'll appear in future work. So I took a needed rest to recover my exhausted brain, it's better then persisting and writing like some 17 year old on Urbis. Life takes over sometimes but it's just as important, the same goes for rest.