Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Jane IS obsessed with Jane

A good friend of mine - who didn't realise that I was predominantly blogging about Jane Austen - recently told me that she thought the title of my blog was profoundly narcissistic. "Jane Obsessed with Jane"? Oh, how I laughed. Before deleting her number from my phone.

But seriously, while the purpose of this blog is mainly to help me coordinate the research I'm doing on Jane Austen before writing my next novel, "According to Miss Austen", it is also to help me to chart my own progress while writing. You know, one has to "grow" as a writer, and that sort of thing. ;)

Anyway, I put a major growth spurt on today. The title of a blog post by @BubbleCow (read all the details on www.bubblecow.co.uk ) made me come over all peculiar. The post was on the subject of blogging every day if you want to really develop your "brand". As such, it is good advice, as is most of the advice from BubbleCow; but for me, it was the final straw.

I have, of late, missed much sleep and been plagued and vexed by a constant feeling that I've forgotten something - the feeling you get when you've left the iron on. It's been exhausting. Finally, today I realised where it was coming from - myself. I have been lapping up every piece of advice on writing I could find; when, where and what to write; when to blog, whether to tweet, how to network. The end result was guilt and inevitable failure and - you've guessed it - that "left the iron on" feeling.

Overnight, I have entered writing adolescence. F*** you, I won't do what you tell me - and all that. I have rebelled. No more will I slavishly attempt to follow every bit of advice out there, like a biddable eight-year-old. No, I have become that most loathsome of creatures, an adolescent writer! Sure, I'll make mistakes, but they'll be MY mistakes, Goddamnit.

Is this a stage every aspiring writer passes through? Oh boy, I hope so. Please don't let me be the only one - all teenagers might want to be rebels, but only if their friends are too...

With any luck this period of obnoxiousness will be brief, and will culminate in me turning into my mother, as it has in real life. Then I will counsel newbie writers with sage advice, and tut to myself when they don't follow it.


  1. In the early days of my Twitter obsession I read every link that promised to improve my writing, blogging, querying, submitting, tweeting. I was terrified I'd miss the one bit of advice that might make my published writer dreams come true. But soon you begin to realise that these can do more harm than good, especially when it starts to get contradictory. Let's just relax and do what we can. As Jane Wenham-Jones says, all that matters it that you write - NOT how you do it! :)

  2. Yay! Go you! I don't think any writer, any truly great writer has gotten to where they are by blindly following "how-to" lists. Surely being creative means breaking free! So, long live the obnoxious teenager stage, I say!

  3. I'm glad you said something about this. I am currently in my early days of breaking into publishing. I have spent entire days doing nothing but reading links off of Twitter in the vague hope that I'll find the magic trick that will keep me from having to slog up the learning curve like everybody else. Then I realized that I was spending so much time reading blogs that I wasn't writing. Not good! So now I'm thinking along the same lines you are: I'll take the advice I want, when I want. We writers are meant to be contrary folks anyway.

  4. I am so relieved to read this. I was getting rather fed-up of reading all the advice. Not only was it adding to my feelings of inadequacy, but it was taking up soooo much time. Leaving little time to actually write. Delight in the obnoxious teenager stage, and I will be looking forward to all your sage advice when you come out the other side of it!

  5. O-M-G!! I couldn't agree with you more. I've hit that stage lately too, though I'm not clever enough to put a name to it.

    I am so sick of all these friggin rules, that MUST be followed lest our finger nails get ripped out or worse, we're sniggered at behind the wine glass of an agents and publisher's party.

    I've been reading them dutifully, but have recently begin to think that they're trying to turn us all into smiling, perfect little robots who NEVER use weather to describe moods, NEVER have our protagonist wake-up in the morning ever, let alone in the opening of a book, and GOD FORBID we EVER use an entire category of grammar, namely the dreaded ADVERB!!!!

    Whew, I feel so much better now I could go out and burn my bra. Except that I like my bra. The padding suits me. So I won't.

    Great post! Kristi

  6. Jane ~

    I think you're right - there is so much information/advice on writing that it is easy to feel swamped. Or left with that 'left the iron on' feeling.

    I think what we need to do is learn to filter. We don't need to read *every* word ever written on how to write. We need to write.

    I think sometimes that this advice etc. is written for people who are stuck or who are seeking a specific piece of advice. So, until I am stuck, or until I have a particular problem in my writerly journey, I won't be reading any 'how to write' blogs. :)

    Keep writing!!

    Hazel x

  7. Brilliant post. As so many of the others have said, I end up marking every link on Twitter to read in case it contains the 'secret ingredient'. I don't even get to read them all, there's so many. And you really do feel inadequate for failing to meet all of the demands.

    You keep on doing what you are fab at, which is writing with your own voice, because people love to read your stuff and will keep on reading it as long as you keep writing it.


  8. Thanks all for the lovely comments! So glad to know I'm not the only confused, resentful, hormonal adolescent out there. :)

    Now, lets have a party and trash the gaff! :D

  9. Hello Oh Wise One... I don't think you are a teenager rebelling at all. Rather I think you are a canny and wise woman who is reacting from her heart at something that just does not feel right. And like all the others who have left comments I applaud you. Twitter, blogging, websites for writers are all relatively new. Are we to believe that all those great books that have been written for decades and decades were published by accident. I think not! Good on you Jane for being brave to shout ENOUGH ALREADY!

  10. Hi Jane, I really agree with you, one of the reasons I like your blog is that it is cleverly written, distinctive and really stands out, so follow your instincts.
    The only minor successes I've had are when I wrote pieces directly from my heart, and I'm very bad at following rules,
    A piece of advice I got was to write stuff that people might like to read, rather than what other writers might think is well written or technically brilliant,
    Keep the writing faith,
    Brigid (formerly @sortofwriting)

  11. Thanks Barbara and Brigid!

    One thing I would like to point out - since I'm feeling a little more reasonable today - is that we are the very ones who have created this monster. If we weren't trawling the internet looking for gems and nuggets of advice, the secret hint that would make everything work for us, we wouldn't end up being so inundated.

    Bloggers etc. who bombard us with writing "rules" are only playing to their market and filling the demand that we, ourselves, have created.

    From now on though, I'm going to do my damnedest to only read posts that are immediately relevant to me; ones that answer a question I'm asking at that very moment.

    I think I've just made a new year's resolution.

  12. Hello Jane,

    As a regular blogger and follower of every single piece of advice every given out on t-internet I strongly object to your...the HELL I do! We are creating a treadmill if we feel we have to keep up with everything and especially as mothers we just can't. Our place is in the here and now, being real for our kids and doing our best at the same time to create a space for our own creativity and peace of mind. Yes we need over time to make connections, to share our work with readers but we need to do it in a way that is true to the way we are and the way we live our lives. I don't want to become part of a frenzy of competitive blogging. I don't want that left the iron on feeling. There is too much emphasis these days on personal success and fulfilling ambition as the key to happiness. We need to find our happinesses along the way, through balance and companionship and real sustainable relationships with our friends and with potential readers. Your personality and enthusiasm comes across on your tweets and in your blog and that is what draws people to you and makes us interested in you and your projects.

  13. The cheque is in the post, Alison! ;)

    But back at you. We've connected well and gotten a sense of each other not through blogging, but through Twitter.

    The reason Twitter works well for us, I think, is that as busy people we can jump in and out as it suits us, make contacts and make an impact. Blogging is something we can do then when we have a precious block of time, and aren't actively writing.

    Blogging certainly has a role to play in building a profile and a reading audience, but if I start becoming a slave to it then all the joy will go out of it.

    And all the readers too, no doubt...